Saturday, December 27, 2008

Policy Decisions

I am conflicted.

Here is the situation (I'll try to keep it brief). The party, without going into reasons, has itself stuck in northern Russia, on the banks of the Pechora river, during the last week of October. They are about thirty hexes, 20 miles per hex, from what you could call "friendly" civilization. With the heavy snow, the taiga, the tens of thousands of gnolls, ogres and orcs blocking their way, they move at about two hexes a running. The adventure has been interesting, what with their being pursued (last Saturday it was gnolls on mastodon-back), but it has been about seven runnings since this hell started and I'm thinking I need to do some kind of deux-ex-machina to get them the fuck out of their circumstance.


The region they're in basically comprises of a large map, 30x35 hexes, representing what is today the Komi District of Russia, centered on the Timan and Ural Mountains, with parts of the Perm Oblast, the Archangel Oblast and lands east of the Urals. It was interesting to map...but it is hideously empty. In the middle ages, about the 11th century, the Novgorod traders called it "Bjarmaland," which of course is what I call it. It's importance is the furs it exports.

Now, why bother going to all the trouble of making a map, accurate in detail to real Earth, if I'm just going to boost the party out of it because it's too BIG? It's not like the party is ever going to come back here. It's pretty much the one time and that's it.

The purist in me says, make the poor bastards drag their miserable asses across the snow and muskeg and through the brutal weather conditions until they finally reach civilization. It will make them appreciate, for once, being in a town. Maybe they might settle down and let the game circulate a bit more around politics, if they get tired of hacking and slashing and cutting their way free from the endless hordes of bloodthirsty half-neanderthal races that dwell there. Why feel sorry?

On the other hand, it's supposed to be fun.

Oh well. I don't think the party will quit playing. I have plenty of ideas up my sleeve to keep it from just being about combat and occasionally stripping them of supplies (everything is running low). And if they get bored and uncomfortable, perhaps then I'll think about having them encounter some friendly mage or someone who can jump them home. We'll just have to see.


clovis said...

seven sessions tests a dedicated player's endurance

EIGHT is enough ; - )

my idea,
save a child
and her wizard grandfather
sends them home

Norman Harman said...

1 rule: do what is fun, avoid what isn't.

But here's the thing, you're the Game Master and have Ultimate Narrative Power! Endless Tundra does not have to equal endless game sessions. Example of UNP:

Next session you start with asking/telling players "Look I think we've wrung all the fun there is out of being chased across the endless tundra. Instead of spending the next ten sessions gaming it out in detail or Dues EXing your characters out I'm gonna narrate through weeks of game time. A few dice rolls to see how well you evade pursuit. Maybe play out an especially important combat but most I'll just hand wave. This'll continue until you reach civilization or run out of supplies and TPK, haha whoops."

So, instead of running action in terms of rounds and hours, scale it up to weeks. Ask group were they're headed and what they do, roll one encounter/pursuit/whatever for an entire week. Then interpolate results, describe them, apply supply loss, move characters on map. Repeat.

Should be able to churn through weeks of play in an hour of real time.

P.S. 2nd rule: Never evade Russia in the winter.

Will Douglas said...

I agree with Norman.

I would hope, though, that the important lesson has been learned: Actions have consequences!

It's simply amazing to me how many players refuse to grasp this simple concept.

[And, off topic but amusing to me in this holiday season, the word I need to type to prove I'm not a robot is "forkspie". Tell ME these things are random! I haven't forked nearly enough pie as yet...]

Alexis said...

I appreciate the comments, I really do. I should elaborate by saying that no, it hasn't been remotely boring, and they have been jumping from one frying pan to another for some time...very cerebral panic-driven episodes. But forget that, because the last thing I need is to give details, nothing would sound more boring.


It isn't that I couldn't "speed it up"...the problem with that is, again, why have a very large world with deep, lost wildernesses, if you're not going to use them?. Since I play the actual Earth, if it does nothing else it will teach them how big the planet really is.

Small point. Not tundra. Taiga.

"Wrung all the fun there is..." Interesting philosophy. I must tell you, I've hardly wrung all the fun out of hundreds of miles of snow forest. I'm sure I could continue the fun wringing another four sessions, easily. Between that and not wanting the campaign to be eternally walking, walking, walking (Lord of the Muther-fucking Rings), both choices seem equally appropriate.


Yes, actions, consequences, EXACTLY!

My instincts say, this is the world. Don't, as a DM, fiddle with it once its working. My job is referee, not cruise director.

Oddysey said...

If you do end up going with the teleport out option it might be interesting if that option ended up being even more unpleasant than the 30 hex slog. Leaves the party in the debt of some unpleasant entity, or they get dropped in the middle of a crime scene with the guards about to show up, something like that.

Not that I'm necessarily advocating that, since "getting chased through 600 miles of taiga by angry gnolls" sounds like the kind of thing you do well and most other DMs don't do at all. But if the players ever get grouchy about it, could be a way to change scenery without giving them too much of a break.

Anonymous said...

Man... That is an experience I've never had as a player.

I tend to agree with Oddysey. Go with it. Talk to your players, and make that land something they'll want to return to. Rare furs, legendary monsters, what have you. A lot of land there to hide all manner of adventure.

The only thing I would bend towards cruise director on is don't let the weather kill them. That just doesn't sound like fun. Run out of supplies? There fault. Run afoul of the mother of all gnoll hordes (and the image of snowy white gnolls ambushing from snow drifts is just fnkcing awesome. thank you.) Well, that's just bad luck. Roll new characters.