Ah…. the camping trip RPG sessions. Trapped people in the tent in the rain at whoever agrees to GM’s mercy forced to try yet another new RPG system… and usually it works out despite the drunkenness and chaos and insects and general darkness despite everyone having a headlamp.
After playing in Steve’s Lamentations game last year, where my thief nearly died from one of his own traps, I was on deck run something while in the wilderness. I thought long and hard about sticking with Lamentations again this year, since it is easy to grasp and easy to roll up characters when they die. In addition there’s just a shit ton of adventures from DCC to any of the TSR stuff to the LotFP originals available to run, you can just pull one off the shelf and go go go. However, since we only had three players this year, I took a chance and busted out Runequest 6. While I am a stalwart fan of the system, it’s been mostly via reading as I’ve only run it about 3 times, and only once with a big group of players. It worked really well so far, but I am still very inexperienced with it, despite a couple years of Call of Cthulhu under my belt as a youth. I was a bit nervous doing this on the camping trip. Was it too involved with all the skills? Will it be OK without player-mastery of the combat special effects? Animism? uhhhh…
I meant to run the start of the new Mythic Britain campaign, but the initial part of that campaign is very…political. Not exactly what you want to lay down as an intro to the system on a camping trip mostly sober. That left either Early Modern (1600’s) or VIKINGS. Vikings are easy right? I started prepping a couple months ago armed with both Mythic Britain (which takes place during the Saxon invasion but has a ton of info on England and it’s petty kingdoms) and Runequest 2’s Viking sourcebook, which is excellent. What adventures to run? Things get pretty violent and I didn’t want to run any big raids (yet) or mass battles (yet) for the weekend, so worked up a mash up of a few ideas I had and a part of a module. Frankly, I didn’t know if it would work and procrastinated a bit on getting the playing started and was sad that I did as it turned out I had to help make two characters. That took a really really long time in comparison to a lot of RPG’s, so if you are going to play RQ, it goes without saying either have pregens or have characters all made first.
Since characters have to go through three steps of adding points to skills (Culture, Career, Bonus) they may mull it over too much, or not enough and then they want to change it around later. And it’s 300-350 points to skills… As an alternative, I was thinking instead of choosing Culture, then assigning skills then picking a Career, etc., a player would simply choose a class (like Ranger, Fighter, Magic User, Rogue) and then roll on a table associated with that class for your ‘career’ to get 200 points of skills auto added (like rat catcher), then you just worry about your 100-150 bonus points, which at 15 points max per skill should not take to long or break anything in the game. Look familiar? Yeah that’s the way WFRP 1 and 2 handled it. Then you can jump in quick without all the mulling over 300+ points to assign. While Runequest is a very deep game with a lot of potential customization, I would rather hit fast with a quick start.
So what happened? The characters got invited to hunt an elk by their Jarl with a gold armband around it’s horn. In a shocking stroke of luck, they actually found it before the other teams of hunters and after expending all of their ranged weapon ammo (axes and spears) they were able to take it down. While lucky, they were able to get close to the thing because it was moving away from another hunter towards them, so that helped. The first hit with a throwing axe would have toppled it, but it hit it’s horns and didn’t strike home. Dragging the elk through the snow, they got ambushed on the way back by some of Matt’s character’s enemies, but talked their way out of it. Back at the meadhall they had a big feast and their pseudo-Skald critically succeeded a storytelling/oration roll to describe the hunt and so that will have some repercussions throughout the land as it will be on the lips of the nearby viking villages for some time. Trouble was brewing with Matt’s character’s enemies, so his mother suggested strongly a vacation. The characters then headed out to the western shore of Britain to assist with a trade caravan going inland from the coast (a real rarity for vikings who do their business on the shore only, so strange). Turns out Matt’s character’s mother sent them on this errand to unwittingly send a message to his father who was off fighting in Northumbria somewhere. Whether the characters are there to protect the caravan or the caravan to protect them to get across the island, who can tell?
The group got into one big fight with some rather crappy thugs and there was some splitting of heads with a Dane Axe and we had our first full decapitation (11 points of damage to an unarmored head will do it). Matt (the noble) had himself disarmed by one of the shitbirds, so that will be one to grow on. This part of the session illustrated what happens when a person with no action points or taken unaware gets hit by a dane axe. I urged the guys that every fight can be terribly dangerous, and I think that some of the normal murderhoboish tendencies were abated, certainly a lot more than your standard 3.5 or Pathfinder player who wades right into any fight knowing that the adventure path they are in wouldn’t dare have a TPK.
It was a fine set of sessions for me for practice, and I am fond of the RQ 6 system for this type of game. The Viking era seemed a bit limiting at first, but then you realize that’s where all this D&D stuff came from in the first place and matched with some of the Lovecraftian weird and some of the historical maelstrom, it’s cooking with gas!