My players have just plunged into the heart of the vast, ancient, perilous forest (Mirkwood, to be precise); their goal is to find a rare flower, in order to save the elf maiden’s beloved from death by poison.
The question is: how do I convey (verbal descriptions apart) the dangers and the length of such a journey, without calling for multiple “travel” (Orienteering?) rolls and without having hostile creatures popping out from behind every tree?
Let It Ride prevents multiple rolls for the same intent, and I don’t want to turn the game in a kind of dnd hack’n slash.
Please, help me find a good way to let the players feel the long, strenuous days and the constant lurking danger!
And thanks in advance for every suggestion!
I’d start off with a single test that makes sense first: Orienteering, Survival, Firebuilding, Foraging, Hunting - all good things to test for [once], then if they fail introduce a complication which will hopefully spin off into other interesting situations.
And since this is the BW-forum: do any of the characters have travel-Beliefs?
But if you really want them to encounter a giant spider, or whatever, go ahead. Or perhaps the flower is guarded? Difficult to find? Hard to get to?
I think it’s by design that the game is pointing you away from using multiple rolls to address this situation. Have one significant test to find the flower–e.g. orienteering with lots of forks, help, and linked tests–with an interesting consequence in the event of failure, and then present the players with a new situation once the flower is located. If none of the characters have Beliefs related to the elf maiden and her beloved, this quest doesn’t need to take up more than a few scenes.
And slow the pace of the game down by using descriptions and narration. Don’t call for the Orienteering test right away. Start of with descriptions and throw some cool little obstacles in their path. Then, once they’ve got a taste for the place, give them the Orienteering obstacle.
Irminsul, Daniel: the characters have no travel-Beliefs, but they do have Beliefs which either bind them to the elf maiden’s quest or to finding the flower for their own purposes.
The flower itself will be hard to find, and I have prepared some interesting complications, rooted into their BITs, to use in case of failures.
Since Mirkwood is going to be a recurring location in our campaign, I’d like it to be rightly feared (and I suppose the characters will be traveling more than once through or into it).
Michael: that thread is quite instructive. Thanks for suggesting it!
Luke: I’ll follow your advice and prepare the Ob setting with some descriptions, followed by some more (and nasty) if they fail their roll and find themselves stuck into this huge “Perilous Forest”!
If it’s going to be recurring, you need to flesh it out beyond “ancient, dangerous forest”.
Who lives there? Monsters, indigenous races, creatures thought to have been extinct?
What’s the terrain like? There are more to forests than trees. Rivers, waterfalls, undergrowth too dense to pass. Magical, poisonous, rare vegetation. Ruins from past civilizations.
What are the dominant predators here? The weakest link? Would either be interested in the party? Including a chase scene between the two is a nice little detail that gives the location some flavor that doesn’t lead to combat.
What changes between day and night? If your party is going to be spending some time here, varying their expectations based on the time of day is good for keeping them on their toes.
I would develop scenes based around these features. The ruins located next to a waterfall where the party saw a deer get chased down by a bear has a lot of potential to impart some knowledge about the forest to the party.
The more detail you add, the longer the players will spend engaging that detail and this will make the forest feel bigger.
Oolaa: I thank you for your interest.
Here are the Beliefs and Instincts more closely bound with the present situation.
It’s worth noting that some of them aren’t yet well focused (and some Instincts look like Beliefs), but we are still rather new to the game (we’ve been playing for few months) and we still have much to learn. Nienor the elf maiden:
• I want to find a cure for my beloved (Finrod, a Relationship of hers and relative of King Thranduil; he got poisoned by orcs during a skirmish).
• I want to devote my life to the study of healing techniques.
• Fayette is still for me the child I met years ago, and I want to protect her.
• I always try to protect my weaker companions.
• I have no pity for renegade men.
Fayette the Woodland girl:
• I want to help Nienor to find a cure for her beloved.
• I want to become a famous hunter, even more famous than my brother (Sigibert, a relationship of hers; he’s the chief hunter of their village).
• I want to find the source of the darkness that is spreading over Mirkwood.
• I trust my companions.
• My curiosity sometimes leads me astray.
• I always try to help animals, children and old people.
Óin the dwarf of Erebor
• I want to earn the right to wear a Mask of the forge (and he pointed out that helping a relative of King Thranduil’s could help gain some status among the Dwarves).
• I always reach with my hands towards my Greed’s objective.
Steinhald the barding of Dale
• I want to become a living legend, and just now I want to gain the Elves’ gratitude.
• I want Nienor to remain with us and resist her urge to sail West.
• When in danger, I draw my sword.
• I always spare the life of an enemy who surrenders.
As for my preparations for the future: the small area where the flower is said to grow is known only to a forgotten tribe of men, the corrupted remains of a Northern people, who by now have lived a bit too long under the influence of Dol Guldur, and can easily be classified as “renegade” in Nienor’s point of view. Will her lack of pity towards renegade men prevent her from killing one (a prisoner?), knowing that he could lead her to the flower? This lack of pity could be in conflict with Steinhald Instinct (the one about sparing lives). The flower could be found, but one only specimen; this could be used to cure either the ailing Finrod or Fayette’s people (who are coping with several cases of a mysterious disease, the consequence of a previous failed Circles roll). Who is going to get the cure? The necessity to kill the wolves (responsible of the above disease’s diffusion) could be in conflict with Fayette’s third Instinct. Fayette could bring the cure to her people, but her brother somehow gets all the glory, or maybe her companions’ protection diminishes her in the eyes of her own folk.
All these complications are just ideas to be used in case of failed rolls (and each of them should be somehow related with the nature of the roll). I am still jutting them down for future usage, and this should be considered a work in progress.
Vanguard: I’m basing my Mirkwood on the excellent work contained in The One Ring’s handbook; I prefer to let many details remain undefined, in order to allow my players to fill the gaps with their own ideas.