Post-Game Report: Modified Skogenby via Play-by-Post

Hi, I ran a session on Role Gate (a play-by-post platform) using a modified Dread Crypt of Skogenby from the Scholar’s Guide content. I’ve read the earlier 1e module and this 2e rendition, so I felt confident. It was the second attempt at GMing TB, but I’ve had a few experiences as a player also.

Setting
I treated this as Middarmark’s Skogenby as described in the Scholar’s Guide, and all content for stocks and classes from the 2e preview content was allowed. I did not attempt custom-brewing 1e Elf Ranger to fit as some sort of Elf Sorcerer (but I was tempted).

Using the Middarmark setting, I included a personally concocted link to a festival of story-telling known as the Tales of the Crimson Boar for a backdrop on why the player characters were traveling near Akstoft and chose to pass over the ford to stay in Skogenby (thinking to avoid the ridders of Lady Gry for the night). So, this placed the group, allegedly traveling southward to Hoytvann, in Skogenby to hear rumors.

[Aside: The Tales of the Crimson Boar is an event held by a local Meetup.com group hosting game sessions from many different systems all somehow related to the tavern known as the Crimson Boar. I did not create the overall concept but used it as a point of interest and reason for travel. I could give more background into that in comments.]

I selected three rumors to serve as hooks and described the story of the young field workers discovering and exploring the barrow. The three rumors were Crypt of Secrets, A Barrow Overflowing, and Honor Guard’s Bounty. The crypt of secrets linked to legends of Sakki lore and the immortals. The barrow overflowing linked to a description of the potential loot in the barrow. The bounty was a ridder of Lady Gry willing to pay for the death of Jora, considering her a bandit-in-training.

No one seemed interested in the bounty, but the loot and lore were somewhat appealing. Also, finding or recovering Jora became a goal for two characters.

The Stone Dolmen
I began the group at the stone dolmen, having been escorted by a related character, who also gave them the silver arm ring. Our skald chose to wear it. The huldufolk burglar was clever, and attempted searching the exterior of the mound, but a twist sent him back to the group swiftly without discovering the hidden entrance. It was a smart move as well for giving them awareness of a group of young ridders of Lady Gry nearby–their purposes remained unknown.

The magician was willing to study the engraved scripts and learned about the individual within as well as more info about the site. I revised this portion of lore quite a bit. The site was once a tribal community center that became a shrine and crypt; it was plundered once by a rival who claimed to have cursed the barrow-shrine. It also claimed the tribal matriarch had become the tribal aettir, but gave the name of a young immortal, Ondurdis. So, it was a layered bit of lore to discover and left some confusion about the true nature of the site.

The Barrow-Shrine
Within, they were overly cautious, and I was not surprised. Two players knew the module, so they were worried about a death spiral. They did search the entry corridor, and roused the tomb guardians for a swift melee; they rolled quite well against the tomb guardians. With a bit of calm, someone searched the corridor for loot and found the niches of skulls each had copper coins–it was about a small sack’s worth of coins to gather. And, no one wanted to disturb the deads’ money, so it was left. They did get silver torcs from the guardians.

Searching the chambers went slowly. They looked over the chamber of ablutions and chamber of orations (of vigils), but very little was tested. The skald was kind enough to attempt studying the religious idols with a Beginner’s Luck on Theologian. I had some loot selected (spell and prayer books, ritual and spell supplies) and some loot rolled for the chambers, but they didn’t search for any.

We did have a brief camp phase. They left, made a trailside camp sort of between the barrow-shrine site and the village of Skogenby. With only two checks, the magician failed when trying to recover from Angry and the burglar prevailed creating a map on a Beginner’s Luck test of Cartographer. It was a safe camp.

The Good
I enjoyed it! I felt good about the modifications to place more context around the site with ties to Ondurdis and Vanskr the Stout (mentioned in the Bjorningsaga and namesake for the Vanskrdal region). I kinda feel glad they didn’t have a death spiral from poor decisions or too much risk too fast.

The Bad
Knowing all too well the module, they played so safe that they didn’t trigger much happening. They didn’t find much loot. They didn’t drive far on the goals. Jora was not found. So, it all ended too early and without much engagement. Although they had fairly good BIGs, those were not played into hard enough to make trouble.

The Ugly
The fight against the tomb guardians was not a Conflict, though it would have been at a face-to-face session. I was trying to be cautious about the PbP format–it runs predictably slow for Conflicts. So, it opened with a versus test on an intent to drive off the guardians. I would have preferred they just said, “We’ve got to destroy these things!”

The chambers had environmental elements that seemed unenticing and uninteresting. Having the skald willing to test Theologian helped, but it was only one element of the room. The search for Jora began, but didn’t keep up whilst they all were cautious not to trigger something undesirable.

One player left following the combat citing the distinctly mechanical table chatter about how to optimize the attempt and avoid the greatest risk–death. I was similarly frustrated in that moment. They were largely all Fresh, so a fight was not likely to cause death. I was just surprised at the overwhelming anxiety of their caution.

Another player was decidedly not going onward after the camp phase, so that was a key point to end it and leave it. I know they were on the cusp of finding a secret door or of triggering a trap, but I wasn’t going to play out two characters on behalf of the two players leaving.

The Silver Lining
I got through one adventure phase, one camp phase, and end-of-session rewards. I might like to have completed the module, but I can see how knowing the module caused too great a worry about what could go wrong–they knew what happens when something goes wrong in the dread crypt!

I’ll be running another single-shot on Role Gate, but I’m quite tired of play-by-post format. I think I might quit altogether until I have face-to-face games again if this next single-shot goes poorly too.