Posted by : David Guyll January 24, 2012

After a brief foray In Search of the Unknown, we decided to start running A Sundered World a few players short. Initially intended to be a delve run, it ended up turning into the "pilot" episode. What happened was entirely improvised, and it was a lot of fun.


Cast

  • Danh (goliath serpent shaman)
  • Lothelle (eladrin bladesinger)

Lothelle travels from the moon in search of something that could help her defeat the fomorians. She ends up hopping a few gates to Hammerfast, and learns that while cold iron is highly effective against magic, it is only found in the bones of corpse stars. That, and it is extremely lethal to fey (ie, her). She heads to the archive, where a mimir informs her of a ruined eladrin city several days away. While not exactly unknown, it is the best lead she has so far.

At the same time, Danh arrives on an Ironhand vessel bringing in a shipment of metal from Thunderspire. He is searching for fragments of the World Serpent's spirit form, and so is traveling to as many islands as possible. He also learns about the ruins, and figures that hey, if the fey lived there then he might learn something. They both team up to split the charter fee and, well, safety in numbers.

They arrive at the island after avoiding a psychic storm and bladeling warship. As they explore the island they find the rusted remains of an insect-like golem, and are attacked by twig blights while examining it. After destroying the twig blights a treant helps them find the ruined city. Danh tries to communicate with nearby spirits, but find that the entire area around the ruins is completely devoid of them.

In the rubble they find another golem, which activates and attacks them while they try to find a way through a door. Unable to harm the construct, Lothelle teleports through the door thanks to a tiny hole in the center, and opens it from the other side. The machine almost kills Danh with powerful blasts of lightning, and they barely manage to get the door closed, trapping them inside an ancient laboratory.

They find a pair of trees, which Danh realizes only grow in moonlight. Both trees house weakened spirit-forms, who are barely able to speak. The machine starts wearing down the door's wards, and Lothelle finds a ritual that opens a portal using the trees as a kind of frame. They search for ritual components, and find an enchanted robe with a silver key inside. The key is a focus for the ritual, but still needs energy to activate. The spirit-forms sacrifice themselves to activate the ritual, begging Danh to "stop them" as the trees crumble into dust.

The session ended with the characters stranded in an unknown wasteland on the moon.

Notes
The combat against the twig blights was ran without minis, and was very easy to handle even with the conditions and forced movement. I will probably not use minis for inconsequential encounters in the future, especially because not having to take the time to draw a map helps prevent the tension from ebbing.

Kiara, playing Lothelle, kept burning through her daily spells to restore the wards on the door, buying them additional time. I just had her make Arcana checks with a big bonus to secretly see how many extra minutes they got to ransack the place. It was an improvised way for her to use her magic not explicitly by the rules, and hopefully it will compel her to try doing it more in the future.

Again everything was made up on the spot, including the twig blights' stats, the robe's abilities, the key, ritual scroll, "moon trees", everything. I also had them roll for loot while searching the lab. Basically I was like fuck formulas, fuck existing magic items. I'm going to have them roll for shit and just see what happens.

{ 3 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. This sounds great. If you can suspend your player's disbelief (regarding rules etc) for a little while, you can pretty much get away with murder. I very much endorse this type of play in my own games. Looking forward to reading more!

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  2. Sounds like it's going really great! I'm curious how you're handling 4e with only two players. I've never run with less than three, and I imagine it brings a lot of challenges not having all the roles covered in the party. What are you doing to compensate from your side of the screen?

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  3. Glad you guys are enjoying it. What has helped a lot was making sure they had fleshed out characters (we jotted down notes similar to Aspects in FATE) and made decisions informed by their personality traits and motivations. Sticking with page 42 helped set benchmarks, and I even used a bit of the advice out of DMG2 on shared narratives.

    Due to 4E's highly modular nature, handling the game with two players is a simple matter of reducing the XP budget for encounters. Lots of minions also helps. Of course, I made sure that they knew that I would NOT be scaling everything back into the "winnable" range. If they go after a creche forge or gith pirate ship, that there won't be a shitload of minions or two "normal" gith.

    That being said, largely what they are doing is exploring. I pretty much ignore XP and just level them up when I feel they should. Keeping the recommended formulas for monsters on hands lets me dole out treasure when I want, as opposed to giving them packages on a set basis. I am often going to have them roll for random treasure, and let them find super-powered artifacts that would "normally" break the game.

    Because, frankly, this improv shit rules.

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