Well, that was an experience. Some of you may not know that at the weekend I was the plot runner for a Fools and Heroes night site run in branch. It was my first FnH plotline and so, rather than the usual clueless player/monster summary, I’m going to try and reflect on what happened and how it went.
The Mission: The players were hired by the Duke of Berwickshire (the majorly important person for our region) who had recieved reports of villages being attacked and burned after the harvest. Summoning adventurers, they are instructed to investigate and deal with the matter. During the hiring at Carlech, they are approached by a put out merchant who needs to send a small order back to Newcroft but can find no one to take it (*hint hint people!*). After explaining who it needed to get to and shaking on it, the players are sent on to investigate.
Long story short, they encounter the startling truth that the legend of the “King under the Hill” is real, that his daughter did make a mistake in casting a spell upon her ailing father and that her uncle, believing himself king, is hunting for the magic sword she gave to the crown. Aided by a group of dubious mercenaries, he is hunting through the region looking for clues to the whereabouts of the sword and destroying evidence of his passage as he goes. The adventuers also encounter a group of sworn bretheren, fulfilling promises their ancestors swore to protect the tomb of the king.
To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect from the evening. I mean, I knew my route, I knew who had volunteered to act as my monster crew and my key NPCs and I also had discussed the player party with our Liason Officer Gelflingjo, so I have a vague idea of what to expect there. I’d also revisited, rewritten and reworked my mission with one of the branch referees (who for unfortunate reasons couldn’t be there on the night – poor guy) and prepared a small sheaf of papers to remind me of what was going on should the players do something totally wacky – these included things like monster stat sheets, the overall “story” brief, duplicate monster brief encounter by encounter, kit list and a page from the ref’s guide detailing a particular monster. I had spent the last few weeks gluing and stitching insignia and sashes, locating bits and pieces of props and kit and that afternoon had packed and repacked my kit bag to make sure I had everything (matches and all the other little things one might forget).
But I was still hugely nervous, not aided by tall tales from other experienced story writers who were trying to put my mind at ease – thanks guys but hearing how things have gone wrong for you made me feel a little sick – could you tell?
But, having put on my kit, belted my lightly laden belt about my waist and braided my hair in a vague attempt at looking like a princess (braids and all), I was strangely calm. Ish. Vaguely ish.
On paper, eleven players and ten monsters (including refs) does not seem a lot of people, particularly not for a branch who seem to gather lots of people for day sites on a regular basis. But for a night site it’s a lot. A lot a lot!
It took awhile to kick off the monster brief and as I stood, regaling my team with how the night was, theoretically, going to pan out, I saw with dismay faces turning blank, brows drawing down and a glassy gleam to my eyes. The encounter brief was five pages long (though writing briefs are a skill unto themselves) and I wasn’t even half way through. So I kept going, trying to get people to volunteer for certain NPC roles that hadn’t been assigned previously and handed out my pre-prepared NPC briefs to give these special monsters a chance to get to know where their character was coming from and what HAD to be passed along.
“Was that okay?” I ask one of the experienced crew, someone who would have got a real kick out of playing and who I felt very guilty about asking him to monster for me. “Do I need to explain anything?”
“No no” he says with his usual wide grin. “But I’d so love to be playing this”. I feel my stomach tighten with guilt.
“But everyone’s faces were like Uh?” I mime blank faces and staring eyes, only to be told that’s common, they’ll only remember about 2/3rds of the brief and between them, they’d figure out what to do. So, feeling the nerves returning, I send my monsters on to set up the first encounter, kit bags in tow, and turn to my volunteer. And on to the hiring.
The hiring. I’ve never done a hiring before, only listened to the one’s I’ve attended and acted as an associate or additional character (usually from a church where I’ve not listened to the mission and been frantically trying to keep the words of blessing and my sins in my head before I forget the brief brief I’ve been given walking back towards the players). I think my volunteer saw my expression and he quietly took over. And so, the mission began.
A little bit of guild business was conducted before the players set off and we hurry on ahead to see what our monsters had got up to. The tiny glimmer of light from the “shrine” was brilliant to see as I rounded the corner of the building to find my monsters, lounging around.
“We couldn’t find the scales” one says cheerily, “but we’ll make do”. I give a quick refresher of what comes next, direct the PCs on up the steps and down again, check where other pieces have gone and then call time in.
Things didn’t quite go as planned, but then again, it takes longer to move a team of eleven (with only a handful of old time characters doing the leading and shouting and general “get your arse moving at the back!” type thing) and I was grateful when my monster crew decided to ham up their parts of roguish bandits who were up to no good. Hovering with hand above head, hunting for my sword (which wasn’t lost, only a monster had it) and worrying about all sorts of things, do we manage to get the party moving and dash on to the next but one encounter.
Thus began my leap frog event of the evening. Handing out sashes, organising people and generally picking someone running past and going, “You, go and be a guard in So–and-so’s encounter. Look for the candles. You and you come with me” and off we hurry. Eye liner pen was luckily stashed somewhere I could get to easily, candles came in a handy box and with my head torch tied to my waist, I was as organised as I could be and things, though frantic as the party didn’t move then wouldn’t stop moving, we confused and bemused and hinted and plotted them along their merry way, set traps and insulted them until they got to the key moment – entering the tomb of the King.
We had a slight mishap with my description of magic to those who could see auras (I honestly don’t know!) and the scout skills being unknown to me, I just made stuff up and shrugged when I couldn’t give too much info away – at the time it was hugely stressful, but now I will just shrug, *shrug* and move on.
After a pretty inspiring bit of acting from our statues (who I know got a kick out of sending people to sleep) and the King under the Hill rising to his feet and giving major bits of plot away, followed by a surprisingly in the know party (I was supposed to be mysterious guys!!) the tempo of the adventure picked up and soon, monsters and party were charging down to the final mission at a heart pounding pace. Hoping to try and brief the monsters for the final party, I jogged onto the field of battle and realised that it wasn’t going to happen.
The players appeared shocked as from out of the shadows strode the Big Bad (complete with kick ass minions and an army of zombies) and the final show down kicked off.
And I almost killed the party.
About that – not supposed to happen, so I hurriedly dismissed monsters left right and centre whilst keeping an eye on the Big Bad facing off against our very own Lord A384 (not intentional, I didn’t hand him the sword). There were moments of “oh no, pick up the sword!” when Lord A384 was commanded to drop the super awesome sword of the King and the Big Bad made a move to grab it (some gentle shield barging occurred) but was thrust back as Lord A384 got to it first, moments of “No, get up get up get up, he’s about to kill you!” as Lord A384 rolled on the ground with a “wounded” leg and then “Yay! Victory!” as with no small amount of glee, Lord A384 “stood” (as best he could with two wounded legs) and plunged the sword into the Big Bad’s heart. I call out to the monsters and the battle tails off – the players have won, everyone go home!
There are now some consequences to deal with, some more magic to befuddled players with, but all in all, people seemed to have fun and no one died (though I pity the guy with no arms. Sorry dude!)