Race against the clock, journey conflict?

Hi all,

I came up with a cool idea for a mission that involves a race against the clock and I’m a little stumped on how to go about it. Suggestions welcome! Here’s the skinny:

My patrol is currently in Windselm, after escorting an NPC architect, from Barkstone. On their way, they fought a weasel spy, and found a previously uncharted Dark heather entrance. Realizing that the new-founded town of Windselm is not that well defended after their weasel scare, they wanted to dig in their heals and help plan the town’s defenses. (The patrol leader is a military strategist type, who’s personal goals in involve upholding MG presence in all of the towns, so this is really important to him). They sent word to Lockhaven about the Weasel and the Dark heather. However, I’m not planning for them to stay there long - They were out of checks, and it’s time to move on. Brings us to the next session.

It is late spring/early summer. They are going to be pig-headed about wanting to leave Windselm, but orders are orders. So here’s the plan:

A fellow panic-stricken MG patrol leader is going to find them in Windselm with an urgent message. He arrives by rabbit, with a few other rabbits in tow. There’s a raging fire in Whitepine! Things are bad. Burning pine trees are a disaster, as the sap acts as an accelerant and also behaves a bit like napalm. So, you could imagine the potential carnage! (Whitepine is an undefined town in the book so in my setting Whitepine is a source of food (pinenut harvests) and sap. This sap is different from the sap harvested in Sprucetuck. This sap is used for waterproofing (boat-crafting) and glue (construction, tool-making etc.) Whitepine is well sheltered from the elements, as it is built under the sheltering branches of low-growing pine bushes and trees. It is well hidden and insulated in the winter. Making it a great place to start a family.)

The desired effect: a bunny-riding mad dash to Whitepine. If they get there sooner than later, the fire will be easier to put out and less injuries to tend to. If they are too late, They will have to deal with a much larger fire, and many more injured/dead and really pissed off townsfolk (maybe even gaining them a few more enemies).

My initial thoughts are to run a journey conflict, but it’s not a race against the elements, it’s a race against time. Since I’m not beating them down with the elements, what should be the Journey’s starting disposition? Or is it simpler to just use the season’s rating?

Suggestions? I’m all ears.

I love it!

But, I would disagree about your conflict. I do agree: Use a Journey Conflict! That is an excellent way to personify the travel and the urgency of the travel between Windselm and Whitepine. (also I love that you envision Whitepine in approximately the same way I do–forest fires every year!)

So, Journey Conflict.

Mouse patrol with rabbits willing to brave the forest fire as mounts must arrive and do so with enough time to warn, assist, and serve residents. So, what’s to stop them?? You say time, but how would their time get used up?? Wilderness or Weather conditions would cause delays, force alternate routes, and other such issues.

I’d say the patrol is facing off against the Wilderness, which takes its dice from the season. Is it a Summer wilderness? Great! Think about the Summer’s rating, then use wilderness ideas from pages 167 - 172; just choose 3-4 wilderness features. Begin the journey by establishing the primary weather they will experience during the journey, then consider how the season will throw those wilderness features at them and as what: attacked by brambles, outmaneuvered by swampy paths, feinted by open ground (secretly stalked by hawks or foxes).

In each case, the wilderness feature might even have Gear to call on. For example, I’m thinking a run across open prairie is a good feint: the patrol sees a good chance to drive out across open ground, but are unaware of a soaring kestrel overhead; the wilderness feints and uses the predator as +1D just like a piece of gear. If by chance, the team chose Attack against the Feint, I’d congratulate them on the caution of skirting the treeline instead of breaking out over open ground.

The team needs a goal; they will set that on their own. The season needs a goal; you will set that as GM. It feels a bit odd to imagine the season acting, but it has a goal (it doesn’t make the season sentient, but it might feel that way).

Perhaps the goal is: “I will prevent the mice from arriving promptly by tiring their mounts, driving them backwards, and slowing their rush.” You can makeup what you want, but make it a heavy duty, verb-filled goal.

Now a Journey is great for the season; the season just uses its rating for all actions–it has no skills. That is why occasionally calling on a terrain feature like gear is a neat trick. You can even have the weather change for a single action, then return to the primary weather you established before the conflict got started. The team of mice will use Pathfinder, Survivalist, and Weather Watcher (if those are present in the team). Those are excellent choices for the presentation you expressed.

To get the opening Dispo for the season, roll the rating and add successes to the rating. Summer has a rating of 4. If by chance you were using a heat wave or drought during the session, bring that up early and consider whether that adds a helping die to the Dispo roll. I’d probably use drought as a Helper for the Dispo; then, the season and the drought make up a team together and I’d have them trade off over which is taking the primary action; they would always help each other in each action too. It is a bit cheesy to have the season and a seasonal wilderness feature helping each other, but with a rating 4, I kinda think the season needs the help to intensify the conflict.

Now, adding a wilderness feature or a weather event also improves the choices for the compromise. At the end of the conflict, not only could the team check on the time spent, but also can wrench in a change of weather. Wouldn’t it help if the team were often using Weather Watcher for Defends and each time was predicting a positive change in weather? Then they can negotiate in the compromise that the predictions were accurate and shift the weather in a positive way!

Another key you can inject is using the Box Set supplement which includes ‘weapons’ of other conflicts, like Supplies, a Map or Guide, and ‘the Right Stuff’ for the team to consider. The rabbits as mounts could be just the right stuff for a quick run across open ground.

Thanks very much! These are great suggestions. I’m running my game tonight, I will let you know how it went.

Just to play devil’s advocate - why do you want to rush them out of the town that the player(s) are invested in helping out? Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what happens as they try to bolster the town’s defenses? What other beliefs could tie in to that? In what ways could you challenge their belief that it’s a good idea to help defend this town (other than rushing them on to another adventure in a distant town).

Your adventure idea sounds awesome, but maybe it can wait while the players explore this idea of defending the town they are in first.

I know it is not really directed toward me, but I’d like to give my perspective. The short answer is to avoid giving highlight time to the NPCs.

To better explain: the patrol got info about a spy and a Dark Heather entrance, but that doesn’t dictate their relationships (parents, mentors, artisans, friends, enemies) are under threat or in need of contact with the patrol members. Additionally, while weasels are a credible threat, just having the possibility doesn’t take higher priority than other duties.

I attempt to maintain a rule that a cameo NPC may not appear in more than one obstacle of the GM turn or two checks of the Player turn. When looking at the interaction of a cameo NPC, I don’t want to give them more stage time than that in any given session. When using relationship NPCs, I attempt to follow a similar rule; the alteration is that relationships can be present for more obstacles and twists, or for more checks; however, they can only require tests for one obstacle of the GM turn or two checks of the Player turn.

I chose to build this rule for myself (which I might break in the future); because, the PCs are primary protagonists in the session/campaign. If I’ve got an NPC who keeps showing up, and their related obstacle doesn’t go away, I’m cheating the players based on the, “Fun Once! Let’s Not Do It Again,” rule. Just as they can’t retry failed tests, I can’t rehash NPC arguments. From any given interaction that PCs roll a test, the NPCs must be influenced for the future. If the NPC remains unchanged, I’ve cheated the players.

Considering that, if an NPC (cameo or relationship) shows up in an obstacle or twist, the players will test, and the situation must drive toward resolution. In the next opportunity to provide stage time for that NPC, I’ve got to have a new, credible situation.

Now, after all my explaining, I can’t say that defending against a group of weasels would be all that bad of a challenge. The initial event was a weasel spy, the following session could be a scouting group looking for their spy. That’s legitimately another cameo spot for a different NPC(s). I would shy away from it in the thinking that weasel danger was already highlighted for a moment, so I would want to highlight something else in the following session instead of highlighting weasel danger again.

All of that is a showcase of my perspective.

I’ve been a player on the wrong side of a recurring NPC group who would not be influenced by our tests over a conflict and player checks. It was infuriating that we were taking conditions without successes, and facing twists without resolution. It split the patrol and broke up the players. These NPCs were not part of our relationships in any way. They didn’t deserve the stage time.

Thanks for coming to my defense Kenneth :slight_smile: Those are all excellent reasons.

Though the real reason is that I’ve known my group of players for a very long time, and I know how they can get. This group tends to fixate on small insignificant things and derail entire plot lines. They don’t have orders to bolster Windselm’s defences, so they don’t get to stay. Now I’ve torn them away from someone who I made them care about, an NPC, and I’ve got them with butterflies in their stomachs about the perceived impeding doom of Windselm. It’s lurking at the back of their minds - but duty calls elsewhere.

As for how the session went, not bad. The journey/chase, when a bit too quickly for my taste, as my players have a hard time describing their actions in terms of A,D,F & M. So sadly, it got a tad glossed over.

On the flip-side, the firefighting in Whitepine was awesome! There were 2 other NPC MG patrols already helping, and they came into reinforce. There was planning, and plotting, and daring rescues of some younglings, getting the towns people involved etc etc. A whole nice mix of skills rolled -and just to keep things nice an traumatic, when they screwed up, they got to watch some unfortunate mice burn to death… (I’m evil.) Total mayhem, screaming townsfolk, the works. They eventually put out the fire, but not without some losses. One of those bitter sweet moments of a hard earned victory.

So, next session is tomorrow, where they will be dealing with the aftermath, and a report back to Lockhaven where they can have the opportunity to report to Gwendolyn their findings and travels thus far. She will give them another mission, this time to investigate a string of seemingly unrelated thefts of supplies, which ties into my greater overall plot, and some of which they’ve already encountered, but didn’t realize at the time.