So, we started playing OSRIC last Tuesday (see the pertaining post), and it went pretty well, as starts go. There’s always a bit of confusion when a new system is tried, however I can say that we had far less confusion with OSRIC’s rules than we have with any other system we’ve tried so far. That, alone, is pretty good praise for it.
Everyone adjusted pretty well, though none of the party are very used to coins having weight. When confronted with a chest filled with about 60 pounds of money, the party spent nearly 15 minutes determining how to split it up and who was to carry what. Of course, this was made much more complicated by the fact that someone had to carry Kiokri’s unconscious form, and there was an inescapable time limit. Oh yeah, these are the moments a GM lives for: when the simplest task becomes an epic dilemma.
Why was Kiokri unconscious? Well, first he was hit by a stray bullet from Barry’s sling (played by Zophor). Then he had to face a dire wolf alone in melee combat as the fighter and cleric were put to sleep by Greg’s (played by Jverb) only “helpful” spell. If not for Barry’s quick slinging (and high initiative roll) on the next round, the party probably would have been killed before they even left the introductory dungeon I had set up.
Yeah, it was fantastic!
Eventually and periodically, we’ll put up tales of the party and its adventures, assuming the members live long enough. However, I’d like to take this post to discuss the campaign and its set up.
Setting up a new campaign is, I’ll admit, on of my favorite parts of being a GM. It’s a great chance to flex the creative muscles while nurturing something from a mere inkling to full realization. Add to that the joy of world building, character creation, and political intrigue, and it’s the perfect free time activity for me. If I could come up with a way to make money constantly building new worlds, I would quit my job yesterday. It would be spectacularly awesome.
Now, one of the problems with creating a whole new world for a campaign lies in the investment of energy by the players. Some players absolutely love to read about the backstory and descriptions provided by the GM for this new world, and then incorporate them into their novel-length character biographies. Others prefer to glance over them just enough to write a useful backstory, but leave enough unknown so that they have something to explore. The last set of players pretty much reads nothing, writes a short and generic background, and plays everything off the cuff.
Frankly, all three of these styles have their merits, and I wouldn’t dare judge one superior to the others. The only problem is that if a party contains all three of these, it can create some awkward situations as the players have disparate levels of knowledge. The off-the-cuff guy gets bored and reckless as the in-depth-studier is having an argument about the local lore with an NPC. It only takes one badly timed stabbing to make a party’s experience in town go from great to terrible.
So, how did I overcome this? Easy: I didn’t tell my players anything about the world. Nothing. Don’t get me wrong, I did tell them enough about some locations that their backgrounds would make sense, but those locations are nowhere in the campaign world. They’re unique to each character, and as it stands now, are completely inaccessible.
Here’s the introduction they received to the current campaign world: “You all regain consciousness in a dimly lit room.” That’s it. Everything else they want to learn about the world they have to go out and find, and it’s already become pretty apparent that knowledge beyond the immediate town’s business is not held by most folk. In fact, learning about their new surroundings has, effectively, become the first adventure hook for the party.
How did the party get to this new place? Well, they have no idea, and it may take quite a while before they figure it out. Tension has already mounted between party members because, to their chagrin, they’ve never met each other before and are having to learn to work together while the pressure’s on. It has already created some great conversations, especially when Lluc (played by Cassyus) was grilling Greg about his poorly targeted sleep spell.
My purpose in being sparse with the campaign details is to give my players a sense of wonder as they explore something completely new. Sure, there are some inescapable tropes laid down by the rules (Dwarves are greedy miners, Elves are aloof fairy-folk, etc.), but the construction of the world around them is brand new and completely unknown. I want the party to learn about the world together by experiencing it, rather than just reading about it.
There’s one more perk to this idea: immersion. Because the characters were dropped into this unknown world just like the players, they, too, have no idea what’s going on around them. My least favorite question from a player always starts with “Do I know…?” However, in most settings, this is a necessary evil as a character has lived decades in a world a player may have only read about an hour ago. Now, though, my players and their characters are on the same page. If someone asks “Do I know who is married to the king?” I can respond with, “Good question. Do you?” This common level of knowledge between character and player helps to blur the line between gaming and immersion and will, hopefully, provide a much more enjoyable experience for everyone.
How will our plucky heroes fare in this new and unknown world? Who can tell. One thing’s for sure, they better learn to work together, because they’re in this for the long haul.
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