Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Senex Campaign 1: First Day in Dachau

After much thought, I've come to a decision about the Senex Campaign, which I took off-line some weeks ago.  I have decided to write it out, so that it can be preserved as I feel it ought to be preserved.

This gives me an opportunity to properly edit the content.  First and foremost, to remove immaterial content, such as comments about availability or status.  To clean up the grammatical and spelling errors.  To sort out discontinuities, particularly the temporal problem of players happening to comment long after a question was asked or already answered.  I can remove comments that went nowhere.  Or rather rude comments that added little to the overall experience.  And I can clarify wherever that might make the message clearer, even if the players at the time were forced to suffer my limitations.  Hell, I can even replace old diagrams with better, more aesthetic versions, if I so choose.

So here I start that process, with the player's first days in 17th century Dachau.  And slowly, steadily, I can complete the whole campaign, beginning to end.

Starting the Campaign

Note: "OOC" = Out of Campaign

It is early afternoon on a Sunday, May 5, 1650. Four of you are resting yourselves on the porch of a town gasthaus, The Pig, at the corner where a narrow lane meets with the town square. You’re waiting for your friend Kazimir to arrive. Not long ago, you watched the usual scattering of most of the citizenry from the town cathedral’s doors from your usual place across the square…whereupon the gasthaus threw open its doors for business. A number of stalls and tables were quickly erected by teams of young boys in the employ of their merchant masters, a goodly number of them against the side wall of the church, where you can the usual piles of vegetables and sacks. Various less blessed members of the town are picking them over, haggling with the sellers and stuffing their bought wares into sacks to be hauled off to the various common quarters of the town.

The bartender, Helmunt, fills your drinks at no charge. Upon an agreement, the four of you have been given the privilege of drinking free in exchange for your endorsement, your willingness to put an end to any trouble and the simple fact that you represent the higher end of Helmunt’s clients. He has hopes that your presence on his front stoop might expose the quality of his kitchen to a few of the better members of the town.

You’re bored. This has been the routine for nearly two months now. You four, Tiberius, Josef, Delfig and Anshelm, met on a cold morning in mid-spring (for the region), finding yourselves all stranger, fairly compatible with one another and equally of the opinion that many of the vicissitudes of life are unappreciated by most. At the moment, however, you could stand a few more changes than there have been.

But it is a fine day; May Day celebrations were four days ago. The Bishop of Friesing, the nominal lord of the town, along with Dachau’s burghermeister, gave a fine festival--and since, all of you have been fairly restless. The discussions around the table have suggested a number of reasons for this…that you can’t stay in this dull town forever. That it is these ridiculous Catholics with their fascinations with guilt and sin. That a small taste of the outside world has whet your appetites. But what to do now is left to your minds to conceive. So far, there has been little luck there.
Delfig Kôlhupfer, the Bard: Has anyone visited The Pig that would have given us reason to think they might have something interesting to talk about? Was anything said or done at the May festival that would have be interesting to follow up?
Is there anything interesting in terms of other ‘strangers’ being in town?
I’ll most likely be idly strumming my lyre and humming, seeing if anyone is interested in a song (and parting with a few coins in appreciation.)
DM: No, no and no.
Anshelm Helbelinc, the Thief: I spit and gesture at the marketgoers. “Like little rats, out and back to their holes.”
I reach for my snuff box. Is there anything unusual going on among the merchants and common folk? Any unusual people? Even if it’s not unusual, does anyone look like they’re casing the crowd for an easy mark?
DM: No, no and no. Gentlemen, this is not a ‘story’ campaign. There’s no rule, no plan, no set-up. Nothing will be handed to you on a plate. You will have to make a decision about what you, as a group, want to ‘do,’ and then set about doing it.
I know you’re not used to that. But sadly, there are no ‘unusual’ people. You might see the church’s head deacon poking about the chicken cages at one of the stalls.
Josef Mieszko, the Cleric: I’ll ask Helmunt the next time he comes to the table if he knows of any legends or rumors of the town or vicinity where profit might be gained by adventurers such as ourselves.
Tiberius, the Mage: “Gentlemen …” I take a slow swig of my drink. “We’re all bored. No disrespect to our fine patron for the free beer, of course.” I salute the owner. “But, why don’t we hire ourselves out to one of those merchants and see if we can’t see some real action?”
Anshelm: “Eh, why shouldn’t we? It’s better than chasing errant rats back to their hiding holes. Should we wait for friend Kazimir?” I continue scanning the market crowd while speaking. “Not sure I like the look of any of ‘em, though...”
[OOC: This doesn’t mean that Anshelm’s against it; he just doesn’t like people in general]
Delfig: I nod to myself as I remember a request. I dig into my pouch, fishing out four silver pieces and tossing them to Josef. “I know I’ll see that again ... especially when we get off our collective asses and start seeing what we can see.”
Josef: “Thanks, Delfig.”
Delfig: “Lets wander about and see what is happening.”
With that, I will stand and start walking about the marketplace, strumming my lyre. If any seem interested, I’ll greet them and play a bit if they seem interested. I make sure to approach the various merchants, nodding and smiling, calling out a friendly greeting. If any seem inclined to talk, then I’ll start a conversation with them, inquiring about any local news or if they have any sort of interesting work to discuss.
Anshelm: “Well, I guess Delfig’s made our decision for us. A pretty song, at least.” I follow the bard into the crowd.
DM: People show a vague interest in Delfig; but of course, they’ve seen him before, doing exactly this most every day; and frankly, there are better bards in the town.
Delfig: If there’s nothing of interest around the market and everyone seems boring, I’ll go back and join Josef and Tiberius and suggest that perhaps we go for a walk away from town along one of the roads. Maybe it’s time for a road trip to Ingolstadt.

While Delfig and Anshelm wander out and back, Josef and Tiberius make their own plans.
Josef: I’ll go to the grocer and purchase some rations, and then return to the gasthaus.
Tiberius: I get up as well, and search among the merchants who have the more expensive wares, asking if they need any guards for their caravans.
DM: Helmunt the bartender, having overhead Tiberius’s suggestion, will stop Josef and Tiberius just before they go.
Helmunt (npc bartender): “Are you bonded to the merchant’s guild? Would it be possible for me to post a small notice in favor of my establishment?”
Tiberius: “An excellent idea, my good man.”
Josef: We’re not bonded, no. But perhaps we should go to the Guildhall then to sell our services instead of frightening the fishmongers and fruit vendors!
DM: Helmunt is confused by Tiberius’s answer. He looks askance at Josef.
Helmunt (slowly): “Would you be hired if you were not bonded?”
Josef: My guess, Tiberius, is that we’d be on our own with the Merchant’s Guild. There must be a guildhall somewhere. I’d not be opposed to hiring on to a march to Nuremburg, either.
Tiberius (not answering Helmunt): I ask Helmunt the location of the guild hall and start there.
Josef: “Tiberius, wait! I’m not certain that such a place exists. Thinking about it, it seems that perhaps we’d have a better time talking to one or a few of the shopkeepers who provided us our gear of late. It seems it would be one of these men, who actually deal in goods brought into town, that might be inclined to bond us.”
Tiberius: “Okay, let’s do that.”
DM: You need not ask. The merchant’s guild hall is the large three-story building across the principal square from the cathedral.
Josef: Perhaps the apothecary is in need of some materials - I used to engage in similar activities in my youth. Or we could go hunting, and sell pelts to the furrier. Oh heck. “Let’s you and I, as learned men Tiberius, inquire at the Merchant’s Guild.”
Tiberius: “Then, we’re agreed.” Setting down my cup, I walk over to the guild hall with Josef.

The details of the characters’ actions are interrupted as the players have a discussion about merchants and their interests, learning something about the trade in Dachau.
Anshelm: How often do merchant caravans enter or leave Dachau? Is anyone selling any sort of luxury item, something that might attract the attention of highwaymen, etcetera?
Josef: I wonder. The roads here seem safe - I wonder how much need there would be for such protection as we might provide. Still, money is money - and I have precious little.
DM: The principle trade route reaches from Italy through Innsbruck in the south, to Northern Germany through Nuremberg, north of Dachau. Beer, precision tools and metals tend to move south; fabrics, spices, incense and perfumes tend to come north. Everything attracts the attention of highwaymen. The roads are not that safe.

continued elsewhere ...

This is just a small part of the first day, and the first of many such posts.  I am going to divide them into posts of 10,000 words or so, and put that content on the Master Class blog.  After all, the primary value of these posts to me is as source material for those deconstructions.

To see the rest of this post, you must pledge at least $3 to my Patreon account. This will enable you to see all material to date on the Master Class, but you must do it soon if you wish to see this post before waiting another full month until August 1st.


Tim said...

Seeing the post laid out this way, I'm curious to hear more of your thoughts on how it compares running a campaign online in text form versus in person. One thing that has struck me repeatedly about the Senex and Juvenis campaigns is that the format allows you to give quite a great deal of description of a place, or in this example have multiple NPCs piping up at once.

Those strike me as harder to convey effectively and while holding the players' attention out loud than in text, but perhaps that's not been your experience. In any case, do you ever find that for a face-to-face game you may adjust the pace of the dialogue to accommodate the fact that the players are responding immediately (and you are witnessing their response immediately)?

Alexis Smolensk said...

In real time, the ebb and flow of the dialogue is hard to gauge; you can't turn it over and look at it, like a blog post. On a blog post, I can go back to see what a player said, to understand what they meant.

At a table, however, the process is faster and I don't need that back check. If I want to know what you said, I'll just ask, "What did you say?" On the blog, I'll look to see what someone said was their hit point status, if it is going to be a twenty minute to hour wait to get the answer. At table, this is a two second ask. As are most things at table. This is the biggest difference; the fact that the blog makes it so hard for everyone to get on the same page as far as sharing information.

YOu say that the blog campaign allows for a great deal of description, but I disagree. If you measure it, the longest descriptions will be 7 or 8 hundred words. I can speak 130 words in a minute, pretty easily. If I go off on a description of a village at table, I can easily talk for three minutes without thinking; and then for another minute after getting a question, and another two minutes if someone needs a clarification, and so on. To explain this in text, it takes me ten minutes to write the comment. But adding body language and expression, plus images I can flash at you from a book or as I draw them on a white board (which I can use while playing at a table, but not conveniently online), responding to your questions instantly as we go, I can pour out the equal to thousands of words in five minutes.

Written words are very inconvenient, in all aspects save one. No one else needs to be around for me to communicate with writing. This is the only way in which writing is really valuable.

But what a value!