I ran two games at HelgaCon this year, a Warhammer FRPG game and a Labyrinth Lord game. I want to talk about the latter tonight, but I’m always kind of hesitant to write about these things when I know there’s a chance I’ll run the game again in the future. It’s especially keen on this one, given that there are a few twists that potential players would probably want save as a surprise. So if you think there’s a chance you might play my game To the Rescue! at some point in the future, I recommend against reading on.
This is my second attempt to make a sandbox style convention game. The printed notes included a single page outlining the major NPCs and their relationships, and then three one page dungeon style locations. The NPCs have a lot going on in this one. The set up sounds straight-forward, an evil sorcerer escaped from prison and the knight that originally captured him has gone missing. The king wants the knight returned as he is to be betrothed to the king’s daughter. I had forgotten to give any time impetus for finding the knight in my notes, so ad-libbed something about the king being beckoned off to war and not having an heir. Of course, the two events are completely unrelated, and the king’s daughter is in fact in league with the sorcerer and helping him.
My three locations were: the fort where the evil sorcerer was once held, which is now overrun with his minions (a band of hobgoblins and their pet hill giant), a run-down mansion the sorcerer uses as a hide-out, and the hut of a witch that turned the knight into a frog. There was plenty to explore, and plenty of directions the players could take the adventure. I assumed at least one of the locations would be dropped, and indeed the fort was never even approached by the players. Instead they cleverly thought to use ESP on the princess and discovered her involvement right off the bat. Of course, the assumed she was charmed and thus didn’t expose her right away, instead tracking down the knight.
What’s more, they were very diplomatic in approaching the witch, even when they were certain she was holding the knight in some way. Thus they didn’t really explore her hut very much, instead spending more time in straight conversation. I’m not sure how I feel about this outcome. It was interesting, and fun for me to do that much roleplay, but I was concerned that everyone at the table wasn’t really engaged the entire time. I did start the game with the players getting ambushed by hobgoblins on their way to see the king (I figured a quick combat to start would help the party bond), and in the end they rushed out to the mansion to bring in the sorcerer. Still, it felt a bit rushed. I suppose though it could have been the complete lack of sleep.
Anyway, I definitely want to run this one again. I’m very curious to see what direction other groups might take it.