A good mission to borrow from, and writing your own mission is a good way to customize and become accustomed. I like Deliver the Mail; because, the actuall mission is routine. It is a simple task to carry mail, and you can see from the sample mission the obstacles are interruptions along the way. So, this showcases a good pattern: the mission is routine, and the obstacles are partially unrelated to the routine duties.
… delivering the mail to Appleloft. … ensure that the path to Appleloft was clear. … players asked if they could gather supplies … they couldn’t spend time in Lockhaven. They had to get on with the mission!
… supplies wouldn’t have helped too much … accustomed to systems like D&D, so they argued with me … may have been faster just to have them make an easy Resources test. … it may have introduced an interesting twist …
So, regarding the gameplay, I tend to allow players to tell 1 - 2 supply items they want from Lockhaven; so maybe a few loaves fo grabcroon, a warm blanket, a few packets of tea, etc. I’ll do that without a Resources test or a lengthy shopping scene. But, they rarely know all the details of the mission, so they can’t pre-plan by grabbing a specialized tool that would bypass the efforts. Something like a map, almanac, or weapon might garner a test, or maybe I’ll give them a mediocre quality item. For example, a recent Lockhaven start allowed for a scratch map (basically margin notes) from the cartographer–enough to give some general regions of a city, but not individual addresses or streets.
Regarding the post-mortem, I kinda think having a little bit of gear can be creative; sometimes players are really good about making fictive uses of gear. In the case of food/drink, I’ll allow a moment to use up the food/drink to overcome Hungry/Thirsty while out. It serves as an immediate and lasting exchange of gear for recovery which (I think) gives a sense of accomplishment and wisdom for players, such as, “Whoa, good thinking to bring along a little food from home!”
However, I do agree that having a Resources test could introduce a small, but interesting, Twist.
… leader decided to check the weather. … call for a test like that during the GM’s Turn … Weather Watcher is a versus test! … I decided to invoke a weather based twist and have a storm move in. … increase the difficulty of their later Pathfinder test and force them to make tests to avoid getting sick, but didn’t really have any impact on the narrative.
… feels like a poor choice for a twist. … solely in a mechanical manner … players couldn’t really appreciate, and didn’t add anything interesting to the story of the mission. … suggestions for better weather-based twists.
First, I think this is a matter of practice, timing, and meaning. I try to always have some idea what the weather will be when introducing the session, and I’ll allow a WW test before GM Turn formally begins–especially when there is a relatable Instinct. So, I usually think this is best during a Player Turn, but I’ve even run obstacles in which a Weather Watcher test is an appropriate skill to overcome the Weather Obstacle.
The Weather Twist is a good choice; I hope you’ll look back at that a bit differently. In this case, the player took a risk which could have played to great benefit, such as, “My successful test indicates I’ll predict a warm, dry period and gentle entry into Spring weather.” That could have been an easier Pathfinder test later, and avoided Health tests for everyone. Yet, having taken the risk, instead the result was, “Oh my, we’ve got to be on the trail during a final, blow-out storm. It looks fairly bad mates; we’ll need to be prepared for a difficult trek.” Also, though it is a small portion, it is a good portion of story about the natural world which they have so little control over.
I may need to save suggested Twists for another thread. I feel Weather Twists do well as aded challenge or altered challenge, rather than a new test.
Aside, the players could have teased and/or punished their weather-interested mate a bit as though claiming he brought about worse weather by checking–a superstition perhaps among mice.
… to get to Appleloft … a Pathfinder test. To make a long journey over a snow-covered trail while the storm dropped sleet on them, I set the obstacle to 6. Again, they failed, so I gave them some conditions.
I think that this test wasn’t very compelling. Even if the obstacle had been possible, the test doesn’t do much aside from punishing the patrol for not succeeding.
Right, going overland is a tough trek. Feels a little high, yet here’s my take: Pathfinder Ob 6 (short journey, washed out, weather). The factors seem to add up to Ob 6.
But, you didn’t feel it was compelling; I have a thought about that. Was this a Wilderness or Weather scene? Was it just an element of the routine duty? So, here’re some ideas:
- The patrol needs to deal with this Springtime run-off and washed out paths; it’s a serious obstacle (Wilderness)
- From the thaw and run-off, there are areas of total mud; you can avoid some, but you’ve reached a massive patch of muddy terrain to get beyond (Wilderness)
- You started the trek in crisp, bright weather near Lockhaven, but now that storm is bearing down and you’ve got to keep moving despite white-out conditions (Weather)
- Appleloft was a lengthy trek, and moments from arrival, the patrol is freezing, soaked, and needs to get a day of shelter before the final jaunt into the grove (Weather)
- The patrol has to cover a lengthy distance and the trail hasn’t been cleaned (routine)
- The patrol covered a good distance toward Appleloft, but other mice are not so equipped; you better backtrack to blaze the trail a bit (duty)
Now, each of those could be a Pathfinder test; and possibly other tests too, such as Survivalist for shelter or Health or Will for just non-stop morale. I feel the Weather and Wilderness scenes are more compelling than the duty or routine; however, I didn’t check how the BIGs interact with those other scenes.
As the patrol neared Appleloft, … trail was not clear. A beaver had built a dam nearby and the trail was now flooded! The party made a Scientist test (Ob 4 in the sleet) to try to destroy the dam while its creator was away … they took too long, so the beaver returned, resulting in a conflict.
… encountered the flooding, they rolled their eyes. … when the beaver showed up and the conflict began…
See, this is why I was thinking about what type of hazard had prompted the Pathfinder test. If they had passed the Pathfinder test, but then faced this obstacle, it would feel deflating. Having failed, it feels like a Twsit along the way (e.g. “you were doing so well, until this beaver dam caused an issue for the route.”).
As-is, this was an Animal hazard, right? So it’s a proper design, though I would have opened with the beaver and dam closer to Ivydale; then placed the remainder of the trekking afterward. That asks a question of the patrol, “Do you stop the trek to deal with this, or leave it to other Guard who will be running missions soon?”
Further, so what type of Conflict did it become? I agree Scientist is a good test, but a beaver dam is a huge structure compared to mice; breaking it could flood a settlement downstream too. I feel this is a good topic for the patrol to debate and address with locals; the maintenance of a dam could be very good for mice, as far as friendly relations go with the beaver family. So, this allows a Conflict to go one of many ways–Fight Animal, Chase, Negotiate, Speech, Argument, War.
… patrol barely squeaked out a victory.
… teaching my players about conflict goals. … encouraged them to take the goal of destroying the dam … their goal was to drive off the beaver and beaver decided that it wanted to drive them off. … difficult time negotiating a major compromise … because the goals were so diametrically opposed. I think that I ultimately just gave them more conditions.
Sounds like a Fight Animal scene ensued, in which the GM side and Player Side were simply opposed. I like to suggest conflict goals should be askew rather than oppoed. So, maybe the sides could have been like so:
- Patrol: We’ll damage a critical portion of the dam, so the beaver has to spend time on repairs
- Beaver: I’ll drive off these mice, and keep building larger
- Patrol: The dam could serve as a road, so long as the beaver won’t attack mice
- Beaver: Other predators will be attracted to mice, so I’d better drive them away for my safety
- Patrol: Beavers are attractive for predators; we cannot allow it to stay for safety’s sake
- Beaver: Mice often share food, labor, and company; I could have a friendly neighborhood if I can convince them to locate a village nearby
- Patrol: Beaver foodstorage is abundant, and they welcome many into their lodges in Winter; a friendship could benefit a settlement or the Guard
- Beaver: These little mice will become an irritant and will steal from me; I’d better leave this dam and lodge to find a more remote location (thus leaving a pond and dam without maintenance: a flood danger)
Now, those all are varied goals which could serve a variety of conflict types; the BIGs will come into table chatter about how to proceed. But, there are many facets to how the interaction between mice and beaver might play out. Some cases may be a chance for bonding, sharing, and mutual benefit. Also, those have something of a condition that helps frame the conflict and later, compromise.
With the beaver gone, … another Scientist test (Ob 4) to destroy the dam.
… having the patrol trod over the same portion of the story twice! I should have simply narrated them destroying the dam.
… another twist. The patrol succeeded … while they were still on top … Health test … to race off of the dam before it collapsed. … another Health check to keep from getting injured while they were swept downstream. … make a Pathfinder (or maybe Scout, I can’t remember) test to find each other … another to finally make their way into Appleloft, carrying a bag of rather soggy mail.
… went from bad to worse. … called for these tests solely because my experience running D&D told me that players should have to roll dice to accomplish such things. … didn’t add anything interesting … only extended the mission … made the players feel like I was being vindictive. …
Well, a lesson learned. Here’s my take on closing the mission portion:
Compromise: Beaver is driven away, and won’t keep up the dam and lodge (possible flood danger). Patrol finishes task of dismantling the dam while atop the structure–leads to Health test to avoid being swept away and injured (Each PC tests, failure leads to Injured condition). Patrol regroups promptly, finishes journey to Appleloft.
So, that’s one test from the Compromise without forcing Conditions from the Compromise–it allows one final risk of Injured Condition without also causing them to be separated. Then, they complete the success w/ condition of the Pathfinder test earlier.
I agree sometimes I feel like the D&D mantra becomes: Hard things require dice rolls. And some dice rolls will be just that. The Health test against the sleet to avoid Sick; the Health test to avoid being swept away by a flood; the Pathfinder test to trek a long distance; the Weather Watcher test to predict upcoming Spring weather. These are all possibly just rolling dice to do hard things.
But also, the MG (and Burning Wheel) mantra is: Risky things require dice rolls. So, the risk of trekking or working in the sleet is becoming Sick, test required; the risk of dismantling a beaver dam from top-down or bottom-up is there will be a flood of water from the pond, test required; the risk of trekking overland in early Spring between Lockhaven and Appleloft is multi-faceted and too large to list (there are so many risks involved), test required; the risk of predicting the weather incorrectly is multi-faceted and to large to list (so many things are weather related from harvesting, traveling, breeding, to building, storing, livestocking), test required. These are all risky things which deserve a dice roll.
So, a challenge to players and GMs is to address the risks and rewards, have an idea what those risks will cause, get a plan to mitigate those risks, and manage the scope of those risks. Breaking up the beaver dam in my campaign would be a hugely, bigly bad idea! I, as GM, would use that to flood a settlement immediately! The natural world is a big feature, so messing with the natural order is hazardous.
… This turned into more of a session report than simply listing tests. Please pardon my over-sharing. I hope that you guys will have some good feedback and that others can avoid some of my mistakes.
Sounds like a really good opening effort and some great lessons learned. I’d like to get more insight into your mission design process. What is the basic outline you used, and what prompted the mail route to only one settlement? What prompted the beaver dam as a counterpart to the crow from the sample mission?
Some other insights I’m curious about include, how much table chatter went on before the players agreed on a plan? Was there disagreement which had to be sorted in table chatter?