AAR: Old Bones and Skin

17 Jun, 2020, updated 25 Aug, 2020 map aime hex-kit

This post contains spoilers for the named adventure in the Bree-land Region Guide for Adventures in Middle Earth, by Cubicle 7 馃檲.

It does also have some maps I drew for the encounters in Hex Kit - maybe it’s worth you peeping?

Okay this happened back in mid May, height of lockdown, but I’ve written it in August, so my memory might be slightly fuzzy. Seems nice to write it with my other posts though. Old Bones is the first adventure in the Bree-land Region Guide. The party hear of rumours of a monster in the Bree graveyard, and chase it to find a Troll. Turns out the reason the kid reporting the monster is in the graveyard is because he thinks the Troll took a body with a treasure map…

This took three 2.5hr sessions to play for 4 PCs.

Tools

Plot

The players had fun chatting in the Prancing Pony, meet the local (“Zummerzett aggsent”) hobbits and blow some smoke rings. I love the Eaves of Mirkwood smoke-ring-blowing game! I pinched it and brought it here. Basically it’s an auction, pick the hardest skill check relevant to pipe-smoking you think you can manage. Highest one carried off wins the round.

They then get told of hijinks in the graveyard by a crying Tomas (young boy). They skip over asking any further questions and go looking for the monster, which they fail to see in the dark.

The adventure as written insists they wait a few nights before they see the Troll again, just to ensure they’re Exhausted. Seems a bit mean for the first encounter of the characters. Then the troll scarpers.

Next session was the Journey to chase the Troll. I can’t decide if I like or not the Journeys where nothing can go right. It feels very thematic for a journey but basically in real life I’d be arriving somewhere and going “nope I’m exhausted and I ain’t fighting shit”.

Journey events:

The players still want to fight when they arrive though, and basically tackle the Troll straight off. It goes about as well as you’d expect and their scholar is flattened. Gr贸r comes and saves the day, and the fight rapidly turns the other way. The slayer rages, the scholar is healed with a healing potion Gr贸r “happened to have”. The Troll is defeated and the treasure map is found.

Ho boy, the party is cross with Tomas for not telling them about the treasure map. After some hints they could return to Bree and level up, the party cheerfully take another Journey straight to the source of the decoded map. Gr贸r takes a diversion to get backup.

The party have a much more succesful Journey and have a swim in the Marshes. They find the tomb, and explore it for treasure. They roll very badly and only find some handfuls, and get Exhausted from swimming. A lot of rolls in the adventure as written handed out Exhaustion, and I ended up skipping quite a few of them; but not these ones.

The party then hear Gr贸r approaching with goons, and get up to the top of the tomb again before they’re sealed in. I had them pick an order and only join the fight one at a time as they hadn’t had a guard outside looking for this kind of situation. It made things interesting! Each PC had to choose between fighting enemies and trying to stop them closing the door preventing the rest of the party getting out. This last battle-map was from 2 minute table-top. Technically it’s a bit too hilly for a marsh but 馃憢.

Lessons

  1. I like playing in Discord. I like Sidekick. I’m not quite good enough at Theatre of the Mind to be able to do without a VTT entirely though.
  2. I need to read adventures more carefully! I didn’t run this one correctly. Read ahead, take notes. Regardless of whether I’m deviating or following the story! Stops me slipping when I’m juggling a few things 鈥 such as the end of a Journey and an encounter at the same time. That’s not the best time for me to improvise.
  3. This adventure feels quite hard for four level 1 players. Admittedly not helped by them continuing to make decisions along the lines of “oh yeah we can just attack this troll”.
    • I need to develop less subtle ways of hinting “don’t do that”
  4. This adventure feels unnecessarily complex for a level 1 story. There’s journeys with extra rules, the troll is fought a few different times
  5. I haven’t use Hex Kit for encounter maps since. It’s been easier to get pre-made ones, and get on with the game. This requires tweaking encounters to fit the maps though…
  6. I need a plan for “what if the party are Exhausted and annoyed. It happens a lot and “NPC just rocks up” will get feeble quickly. One thing is to hand out more “you’re Inspired” or “your Exhaustion slips” due to some marvel.

Maps

For this I tried making encounter-scale maps in Hex Kit instead of the more continent-scale ones it’s designed for. Or rather, the artwork that people make for it is designed for.

A hex map of a graveyard

Here’s the Bree graveyard with only one mistake that we won’t talk about. I was trying to add fog pooling at the bottom of the hill and burial mounds. In the distance, the beginning of a farm.

Really pleased with that one.

A hex map of spooky valley

The approach to the troll’s cave in a boulder-y area. He is snoozing on hex 1407.

Hex map of the valley, showing the inside of a troll cave at the top

Same map showing the troll cave

This is supposed to be a valley with piles of skulls marking the lair of the troll. I don’t know, this one feels a bit more boring. Could just be the hex numbers on it - they didn’t help.

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