In my perfect world, published adventures for games would be teaching tools, examples of the game as a Platonic ideal. Holy wow does pretty much every published adventure ever written fail on this count.
So I’m looking through Tales From Wilderland, right? Thinking the “Don’t Leave the Path” adventure looks pretty straightforward, probably a good way to get my feet wet and teach the game to my players. Start with a fight, do some traveling, have some encounters.
Structurally the adventure does exactly this. But seriously, in pretty much every example of how to resolve a situation, the writers have decided to just kind of go with whatever their gut says. I guess that’s because that’s how you run RPGs.
The most egregious one, the one that made me want to throw the book across the room, was a little scene where the company is dealing with a mad hermit in the forest. If the characters fail their encounter, basically they have two shitty choices: either the company can leave his home and go into terrible weather or they can kill the hermit. Going out into this terrible storm makes the characters gain Fatigue; killing the hermit in his own home is a misdeed, and gains Shadow.
That’s all fine but the Fatigue-gaining bit? Totally made up. That’s not how your Fatigue goes up. I looked end-to-end in the rulebook (The One Ring Revised) and the only places I see Fatigue go up are as the result of a failed Fatigue test during a Journey, and one of the outcomes of a Hazard (again, during a Journey).
Buuuuut did they really just make it up? Am I reading too closely? As far as I can tell, I see only two scenarios:
1) They made it up for the adventure. There are numerous other little examples like this throughout Tales but that one stood out.
2) There are unstated assumptions (or unwritten best practices) behind the application of the task failure rules that include the GM’s ability to impose mechanical as well as fictional consequences.
If it’s the first one, that is just lazy development. If it’s the second, it’s a huge but understandable blind spot: well of course the GM can do that (and literally anything else, rocks fall everyone dies). But leaving failure consequence guidelines unexplained strikes me as singularly sloppy.
The first scenario, lazy development, has merit as well. There are lots of little and not-so-little contradictions throughout the books, which always scares me when you’ve got a mechanically intricate game like TOR. The big one that jumps out at me is that the trigger for Hazards during a journey is different in TOR Revised (any fatigue test that gives an Eye) and in Hobbit Tales (any failed fatigue test that also includes an Eye). Maybe, maaaaaybe, Hobbit Tales came out after 1E and things changed. Still.
I’m not in ugh never mind territory yet, but tomorrow is our first session and I’m proceeding with extreme caution.
(FTR I’m choosing to go with the “impose mechanical and/or fictional consequences as the fiction demands,” AW style, because that really is a more functional approach and lets me use Tales without gritting my teeth because I’m teaching the players the wrong game.)