As you may have worked out from the title, this post contains spoilers for the first Starter Set adventure. It also contains my advice on running it for a new party. I’ve just run it with three people, over Discord, and had a session that would be maximum 3 1/2 hours long1Minus tech problems. Yes, there were tech problems.. One of them had played RuneQuest before, one of them had played a lot of D&D, and one had played a tiny bit of D&D. I gave them the choice of characters.
Well, that’s not quite true. I did tell them not to play Dazarim. His geas to challenge Darkness Creatures to first blood on sight would have messed with the troll problem which is the introduction to how to roll dice. It would have made it complicated as I had to explain rules AND explain why someone’s sheet meant they had to fight all of these creatures, or their champion.
In the end, we had Mago the Storm Bull, Nathem the hunter, and Jorrim, a scholar about equivalent to Sorala, but one with whom my not-new player was already familiar. I considered sending an NPC with them, but I knew Mago would be meeting Chaos, and so they would have an impressive warrior. Sending an NPC complicates things, so in the end I didn’t. If the group hadn’t had a central warrior, though, I would have.
The set-up was that Jorrim was the employer of Mago, his bodyguard, and Nathem, a scout. They were returning from a trip that Jorrim had commissioned. So, the very first roll of the game was Nathem rolling Survival to find out how well he was looking after his boss, who was definitely a City Scholar. As it turned out, that was a pass. It was also the first time that Nathem had ever rolled a D100, and made for a nice gentle introduction to finding out how to do it.
Then there were the trolls. They got a bit excited – Nathem wanted to shoot someone. I had Jorrim roll INTx3 to remember that they were in a city and shouldn’t snipe at enemies. Jorrim has an INT of 19, so that was fine. If he’d failed, I’d have assumed people got carried away, but as Nathem didn’t know the underlying rules of the world like ‘do not shoot people for property damage’, I felt it was right to give them a mechanical chance of remembering that. Just telling him that he shouldn’t would have felt like telling someone how to play their character. I gave them a few rounds of rolling Fist and Dodge for practice, then Jorrim got pushed over by Hungry, and called a retreat, and I made Mago roll Listen. Nathem was less into the fight so he just heard. The retreat happened – then the guard arrived.
After that, they didn’t really get the idea that they could BE talking to the trolls, but they were amused by Hungry eating the straw and a blanket. However, they don’t know yet how they can interact with the world, so that might have been a point to see if anyone had a high Harmony score, or to get Jorrim to try to take notes on their side of the story – he takes notes all the time.
In the morning, realising that the trolls could not speak for themselves, Mago stood up to Orngerin and said that there should be someone who could translate for them. Jorrim, who is a bit more comfortable with the world, made up some city ordnances about justice, and I judged as a GM that they were right. A merchant was sent for, and translated, and so the trolls got off without a big fine or banishment. I had asked them all to make an INTx3 to realise the trolls were not able to put their side of the story, and to give them an OOC understanding that might be important. Mago passed, I explained they didn’t know the trading language very well, and then he told Orngerin what to do. It was funny. It also worked.
I had the briefing all given by Jorjera – sending them to go do investigation and ask other people would have slowed things down a lot, and really just muddled up a group of newbies who were not sure of the IC and OOC limits of the scenario. By this point we were an hour into the session, and they were happy to go along with what they were told to do, in particular once Jorrim was assured his fine would be wiped out as well as the group being rewarded. He’d actually taken notes instead of fighting, so there was a surprisingly good record of the whole thing, and Orngerin was glad of that.
I cut them to Mernyr’s Landing, and they made straight for the Temple. They didn’t know what to do as soon as they got to a sandbox area, so I gave them the choices – some farms, the old tower up that way, the old temple place’. That narrowed it down. I could also have given them the choice of investigating the general area, but instead I just told Nathem to make a track roll. He’s a tracker, it’s the sort of thing he’d do, and they all had a confused rabbit in headlights look to them. So, they knew about the tracks. Jorrim even guessed that there might be giant spiders around, but none of them knew about scorpion men or krarshtkids. They passed Scan rolls to see there was SOMETHING hiding in hedges, but didn’t see what.
They decided to go to the Temple because it was the biggest place. I rolled Sense Chaos for Mago there, and told him that he had that headache and the tightness across the shoulders that indicated the great enemy was nearby. Jorrim, who was lightly armoured, decided to go into the Temple first. I gave Mago the option of going first because he was the employee in armour, or staying back because that could be funny. I let the player decide, having flagged up what I thought was a very stupid move, and Mago decided to let Jorrim be the meat bait. Nathem hung even further back. Jorrim discovered two scorpion men inside.
Given they were divided and Nathem was going to have to shoot into combat, I then narrated what Jorrim saw, got a statement of intent from him, and then had Nathem roll Scan – he spotted that there was another scorpion man outside. That way, everyone had an enemy.
Jorrim was very lucky right up until the last stinger, and he fell, but that gave Mago a chance to cast Berseker. I hinted at him a tiny bit, but he already knew that he was facing something horrible, so he was primed for this. Nathem got straight-up told what Speedart would do. Everyone else had a simple Strike Rank to remember, and he had S/MR on his sheet, so I reminded him of what he would be doing when. I’d recommend writing that out in advance. Nathem ended up relying on me, instead of keeping track for himself, and I prefer to be able to just count up the numbers and let people jump in. The How to Play Nathem info is more general, and Nathem needed specific help.
I let the shadowcat do melee fighting for Nathem, because then he’d have a chance out there. He and the cat chipped away at one of the enemies, and Mago went through the other two like you’d expect. I threw in the Karshtkid to have Jorrim make a Scan roll and see that the ground was moving, and to keep Mago from turning on anyone still standing – like Nathem – when he ran out of enemies. Jorrim had been poisoned and I actually got those rules wrong – I applied poison damage to his leg, not to his system, and made him fall over. Sorry, Jorrim! He was aware that poison couldn’t be cured by heal wound (because it has no location) and I just messed that up. However, he didn’t really want to stand up into the middle of what Mago was doing anyhow.
Jorrim managed to roll 100 then 100 again as he tried to attack the scorpion men from the floor. I ruled he’d fallen over on his axe, sliced a lot of his own armour off, and then was lying on his weapon. ‘Blew it badly, roll three times’ is slang in our group for having messed up in Real Life.
After the Krashkid was dead, Mago managed not to kill Nathem, but Jorrim was covered in chaos goo… I’d elected to let Jorrim use Divine Intervention, and he confessed that when he asked he had forgotten he was not playing his Humakti, so we had a successful DI roll lying over the group. Mago’s INT roll should have brought him back to himself, but I made it be only half a success so that Jorrim could effectively call for Silence in the Library – making everyone calm, in the voice of a god. It was a bit of a stretch for Lhankor Mhy, but calling people to intellect seemed to work, and it also made for good drama.
After that, I summed up. They’d won, they didn’t know much about how to tell people what they were doing next – there were a lot of NPCs they had to talk to, and they haven’t yet really got the hang of being in their own characters. Walking them back home and having them talk to Orngerin again could have been good, but we’d just had a Storm Bull get glued to the floor as he came out of his holy rage to find himself falling prey to the pratzim he had previously shrugged off. I couldn’t really beat that.
So there you go. They enjoyed it, they want to play more, and I found that the easiest thing to do was to set out a series of options they could take. Jorrim was a bit more inventive, as he’d played before. I’m going to give them at least once more session, and in that one, I’ll try to give them individual RP and conversations where they all have to be themselves in-character. We’ll see how that goes.