I mentioned previously that I would be working at The Wayfinder Experience, and just last week I finished up my first time working there as Story staff, running the game Adventurer’s Rest. I had a marvelous time, though I was frazzled for the first half of the week and teetered between mild euphoria and continued anxiety for the other half. I’d do it again in a heartbeat, and I think I’d be far better prepared for the incipient chaos and drain on my personal energy the second time around.
Now that the game has actually finished, I’ve got some good stories to share with you. I’ll even spill the beans and let you know how the game worked and came into being, though I do hope that you won’t read it all if you want to be able to play it at some point in the future. It turns out that, despite my certainty that game would be a mess, the players had a great time both getting into character and running around with swords. After the fact, I could see several obvious mistakes that Thom and I had made when it came to balancing the game, but I think that things both went well and still have a great deal of potential for future sessions.
First, an introduction: the game of Adventurer’s Rest was designed to offer several things that I remember being rare in many other adventure games. Most obviously, I wanted to make it possible for nearly every single player to use magic items and magical artifacts with special abilities. Second, I intended it to show off just how completely overpowered specific class options are, in a tremendously underplayed class. You see, Artisans at WFE rarely get much attention, since most people would rather be almost anything else (i.e. Warriors, Wizards, Rogues, or Clerics). Artisans create talismans that are able to empower people, but they generally require very careful forethought and good situational awareness in order to be effective. With those things, an Artisan can take on just about anyone… but without those things, an Artisan is likely to be steamrolled by nearly anyone else in the system. I hoped that Adventurer’s Rest would encourage players to respect the class a bit more.
Finally, I wanted to give people an opportunity to play a newer version of something like the Techna game that I remembered playing for my first intro game at Omega in 1999. There’s something very special about introducing the option of joining the villain’s team and working against the people that you had thought were your allies. On further reflection, it seems clear that the Techna game that I played had been better balanced than Adventurer’s Rest (possibly because it had been run more times). It’s also now clear to me that I’d like to have a chance to play Adventurer’s Rest at a camp where I can tell the villains to go wild without fear of ruining the players’ experience. There are certain things that are difficult to allow when you’re running an intro camp and you need to design the game around introductory expectations rather than simply allowing the fiction to run its course.
Here’s a much overdue page break. After this, I’ll start telling you more about the game’s inner workings.
Careful, this starts with common knowledge but moves quickly into *SPOILER* territory.
Let me start with the premise; the game of Adventurer’s Rest takes place in the eponymous town, a place where heroes have, for generations, both grown up and retired. These generations of heroes have collected a truly large quantity of magical items and artifacts. The young children of Adventurer’s Rest, the world’s next generation of adventurers, desperately want to be able to use and play with these tools, but have consistently been denied the opportunity by their parents because of their youth.
A band of noble outlaws are staying in the woods nearby, ostensibly there just to visit the townsfolk with whom they are friends. In fact, they’ve come under the direction of their mind-controlled leader, who intends to acquire piles of powerful magical loot and additional soul-slaves for the person holding their leash. This reveal should spark a good deal of internal conflict, if the bandits haven’t all been co-opted by the time that the reveal rolls around.
There are two trinket merchants in the game, the DuChevalier siblings, both of whom are Artisans. They are the game’s secret villains, and spend the first section of game (preferably a night game) offering people useful magical assistance, and turning acceptance of that assistance into magical compulsions that enable them to collect devoted and “willing” slaves. One of them starts in each area, one with the bandits and one with the townsfolk. They do their best to ride the confusion of the night game and collect as much power for themselves as they can. There are other elements of chaos that help to complicate things as the PCs run around in the dark: even as players are racing each other to get their hands on troves of magical artifacts, still others are competing to turn on (or turn off) a series of beacons, and yet more wish to stop a marauding astral beast in order to summon back the missing Archmage Teleport.
Once the craziness of night game has settled somewhat, day game sees the various sides separate out somewhat. A Knight of the Feather (an order dedicated to eradicating the DuChevaliers) arrives and warns of their nefarious ways, and then the players break apart in search of a final set of powerful artifacts which will allow them to defeat the DuChevaliers or protect their newly acquired masters. The game should culminate with a fight or series of fights, as each of the two sides tries to gain the advantage for long enough to break the other.
Game went more or less as planned, with the usual messy filigrees that come from giving free rein to 20+ exuberant youngsters.
What I hadn’t expected was for me (as Robin, the leader of the noble bandits) to be rescued about halfway through the day game. I’d thought that I would be with my masters until the bitter end, and I was completely at a loss as to what I should do after I’d been freed from their grip. In addition to the narrative disorientation, I had suddenly moved from a place of de facto game-flow control to a place where I was superfluous to the pacing of the story. My sense of confusion and loss was made unexpectedly more intense by the fact that both of my lieutenants (who had not been enslaved) had died in the time since we had parted ways at the beginning of day game.
Despite all that, the game resolved beautifully. The climactic fight was a confusing mess, but everything pulled together in a final execution scene that hit just the right note of dramatic irresponsibility, with the children of Adventurer’s Rest celebrating their first honest-to-goodness adventure as they put the villains to death.
Alright, that’s enough for now. If you’re curious about awesome LARP camps for kids, you should check out The Wayfinder Experience.