Hoo-kay! Let’s see if we can’t wrestle this into something workable. Sandboxy, with a little temporal structure and direction. Looking for hooks and leads and shit to do and maybe, just maybe, they’ll stumble into the Darkening storyline here and there.
The more I read Tales the more dismayed I get, but also the more obviously an early work it is. Honestly just stripping out all the special case weirdness fixes almost all of it, and makes it much easier for me to manage at the table as well.
18 thoughts on “The One Ring: the Derpening of Mirkwood, Pt 0”
Honestly, if you’re gonna make it a sandbox, you’ve got more than enough with Darkening and Heart of the Wild… it’s kind of a daunting task, given the sheer amount of material. Looking forward to what you do with it 🙂
Super curious to see how you manage the sandbox! My group is about to start Tales,* but given that it took us like four months to get through the intro adventure in the core book, I’m not expecting much.
I only have Darkening and Heart in PDF, which makes them a bit of a pain to work with, but I love the idea of opening the whole thing up as a quasi-hexcrawl. Hopefully, my experience with the very linear adventures in Tales will give me enough confidence with the rules to try something.
*Edit: just the four linked adventures, I think. I ran the first two for them long ago, with different characters.
For me, the crossover to sandbox happened when the PCs started going on quests on their own volition rather than taking quests they were given. But I did use a couple of more linear adventures as an entrance ramp, partially so they know more about the world.
Now my players are weighing up options of different quests, and have formed close relationships with a few NPCs. It’s become quite easy to manage. I need a few locations and Journeys, along with the occasional “bang” to keep things interesting, all of which I can either take from those three books or use them as inspiration.
I’m also putting together some custom Fellowship undertakings based around the holding one of the PCs has claimed on the Dwarf road, right in the middle of Mirkwood. That location works for the “bangs” too.
Though it might tumble down since owing to circumstances outside the game we’re on a long break. We’ll probably need another long entrance ramp when we’re able to start up again.
Aside: How the heck do you find time to digest TOR and then scour through three sourcebooks to compile a “sandplot” campaign? I’m lucky if I can build a one-shot over the course of three months.
Mark Delsing my wife and I exchange bedtime duties so I get a couple hours to myself every other night.
Also I’m an insomniac. Plenty of reading time.
Sandplot by the way is an excellent turn of phrase. Don’t know if it’s yours or not but I like it! It’s the Other Impossible Thing Before Breakfast, right?
For the record, here’s what that prep looked like last night:
* Reread Stay on the Path in Tales from Wilderland. Rewrite it as a one page outline, including the key conflicts but stripping out all the bullshit special-case rules. Underline NPCs for future reference.
* Reread year 2947 in Darkening of Mirkwood. Add that to my outline. Underline other NPCs.
* In sidebar, note possible new Sanctuaries (there are tons of them, between Darkening and Tales). Pass back through Heart of the Wild for each region through which the PCs will pass. Add more NPCs to my list of maybes.
(At this point it’s feeling like the more interesting “sandplot” isn’t the map features they may run into, it’s the NPCs they may run into.)
* Oh hey, Path ends at Forest Gate, which is the correct side of Mirkwood to continue south with the NPCs to Woodland Hall, where all the important 2947 action takes place. Not sure if this is brilliant design by Hanrahan but whatever, I’ll take it. Make a note and read ahead to 2948 for possible implications.
* Look back at Heart one last time, but now at the second journey the PCs might take if they head south to Woodsmen territory after crossing Mirkwood. That is my only real possibly-wasted research time, if they give no shits about heading south. But if that happens, that means the first few years of Darkening won’t matter at all to them since it’s all in the southern half of the map.
And that’s kind of it for now.
I feel like if I can keep ahead by a year or two, at most, that’s all I really need to do. I’ve already read through Darkening so I get the general shape of the action. I’ve read Tales so I get the general shape of that action. Really, keeping ahead of their journeys and brushing up on Heart content is the only hard part.
I fear this is probably too much prep work for the long term. Ara Kooser, you said you tore down the TOR campaign content for your own purposes, too, right? What are you doing different? Where can I be saving or maximizing effort?
Paul Beakley “Sandplot” was me! Seemed apropos.
That’s a lot accomplished in one sitting. Could be I’m just slow.
Mark Delsing dude you don’t even count as sentient ’til your child is 2. No worries, it gets better!
Mark Delsing One thing I like about refactoring the Tales adventures is that, once they’re boiled down, they’re really not complicated. A lot of that is me looking at sequences, saying “oh bullshit,” and making some calls about what to leave out (example: there’s a whole sequence of stuff in the last act of Stay on the Path that strikes me as really fiat-y or just overcomplicated; leaving out details because spoilers). I may be making mistakes! In fact I probably am.
I’m a master at making mistakes. Been practicing my whole life.
Paul is an inspiration to gamer parents. And apparently, my god I am awful with my time.
Ara Kooser dang…now I feel like I’ve underprepped.
Also really liking your read on Tales. That wasn’t at all my read, but I kind of got hung up on how terrible the elf-dream scenario was and stopped looking for larger overarching things.
Really good call on making sure their cultures and cultural obligations stay tight. We have three non-humans and only one human and I confess I’m a little worried about that — everyone’s shit is happening so far away.
I think I just want to play in your campaign. Man that sounds hot.
So, Standing, right? That’s just a matter of spending Treasure to build that up, yeah? Do other things drive Standing? I didn’t think so.
I’m super torn on what to do with Callings. On the one hand, they feel like just like…packages of tactical capacity. You get your stats and your shadow weakness from them. But are you also using Callings to, what, imply things that need to be done? Wardens should feel obliged to protect folks in the forest, Scholars should feel obliged to do research? How do you do that? Is there anything to that other than framing the fictional leads up in Calling-related ways?
Since I’ve only run the fairly railroady “The Marsh Bell” adventure, I have so-far used Callings to make my players complicit in their own buy-in: “Gloin tells you that his brother and cousin have gone missing; as a scholar, why would you accept his offer to go find them?”
Ara Kooser okay, so I’m not forgetting anything.
After that insane-o flowchart thing I did to tear the system apart, I’m dreading discovering some…interaction or procedure or something that I’ve completely overlooked.
Adam D yeah, I’ll probably go about that far with my players as well. Like, they’re known to be their Calling by their communities. This dwarf is a slayer, that hobbit is a wanderer, and so on.
Oh I totally need to work out the culture/calling matrix. I still have time! Game in 3 hours!