The hardships lead players to push desperate characters towards considering crime or taking more risks
¦ Dialling in from the Sky Bunker ¦
I ran a session of Yellow Dawn (The Age of Hastur) yesterday.
Great game and very different flavour to the high-tech, big action, thunderous magickal power play that’s been running for the past few years: a previous set of characters who rapidly established a settlement of their own (using rules in the game book for renovating damaged structures) and went on to accumulate a lot of wealth, technology and experience.
All a lot of fun, but it usually meant the characters (and players) were able to side-step many of the issues and hardships of survival. They had a vehicle. They had access to fuel and food and water. And they had equipment that made life comfortable
This new character group have started dirt poor, starving and stuck in a rut. No transport. Low survival skills. Hemmed in by wilderness, the danger of the Infected and the threat of dying from exposure if they try to get away.
The soft pace of the session really allowed me to build up strong visuals of the area in southern France that I know and love, personally. The medieval crusader fort of Aigues-Mortes, a location I’ve used in the Yellow Dawn novel, Dog Eat Dog and the massive, globe-spanning campaign Shadows of the Quantinex. It was great to bring it to life in the mind of the players.
But also to indulge in the full background of the new characters; why are they in Aigues-Mortes, what do they want; how will they get it?
I guided them into a simple, small scenario that required them to travel 30 miles to collect goods from a remote settlement. It was a chance to properly use the Wilderness Survival rules (consequences of fatigue and not finding food or water; risk of exposure, dangerous critters and bad weather), and I was very pleased by the result. The characters, not experts, survived, but were uncomfortable, in pain and becoming thirsty. They players experienced vividly the shock of how “at risk” they were to falling foul of the elements, because of their low skills. It meant that when they found their destination, the remote settlement, and were treated to hot food and warm beds – there was a tangible sense of “enjoying such simple luxuries”.
It’s a good case in point, that keeping the characters poor and hungry for the first few sessions really builds up the tension of survival.
Their low ability to cope with Wilderness Survival also served to reinforce how trapped the characters are, eking out a hard existence in the grubby market outside Aigues-Mortes. Forced to sleep on the dirty floor of the stall every night, no money for proper accommodation, and actually starving because of not having enough money to pay for proper food (one character suffered a reduction in STR stat over course of 6 weeks due to poor diet)… the players are now discussing desperate measures to try to break the vicious downward spiral. If they stay here, they’ll just waste away, starving, until they grow so weak they can’t do their jobs and then they’ll be tossed out into the mud with nothing.
It really was a bleak experience.
Rather wonderful to have it come to life so vividly. *smiles* Both with narrative, and the hard numbers of the rule systems, showing their lack of funds against the cost of living; and the system generated consequences of not eating enough over time.
You can read the scenario write-up here.
It was also a great chance to use the “map of the land” system, where the GM can fairly quickly generate an expanding route littered with ruins (for scavenging), settlements and other rare oddities. Plus the ever-present danger of encounters with people, wildlife and things that should not walk the Earth at all.
It’s been a great case study of getting back to basics. Seeing how players begin to shift their characters towards crime or high risk strategy’s in order to progress; and this creates more tension, more drama and more opportunity for GMs to weave in further plots for the game.
Just had a text from one of the players who was here yesterday:
“Forgotten how tough it is just to survive. I wonder how the others will fare.”
Result. And they’ve not even encountered the Cthulhu Mythos yet.
We typically play one Saturday every three weeks. Bookmark this link to read further updates on the character’s exploits to survive – or delve back into the bigger action plots the players went through with previous characters.
Primary Rulebook (2.5) This book is crammed with everything you will need to create characters and run scenarios.  Features narrative examples of key themes • The Influence of Hastur • Medical theories on the Infection • Zombie surges • Dead Cities • Wilderness survival • Comprehensive scavenging system and how to repair or build things with resources • Backgrounds and motivations of government bodies and corporations • Computer hacking and drug abuse • High-tech immortality options • Non-human characters • Enhancements through cyberware and bioware • Weaponry, equipment and armour • Complete character generation and development system • Complex political, corporate and quasi-religious tensions • Schools of Elemental Magick, occultism, demonology, and the alien horrors of the Outer Chaos – the Cthulhu Mythos.
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