Thursday, June 28, 2012

[RPG] Wonderland Session 1

Last night was the beginning of my Wonderland campaign.

I had more players than I expected, which was a very good thing. I explained the world and background to them, and answered a LOT of questions from a player that is new not only to the system, but roleplaying as a rule. It was really fun being able to explain things in a way that made sense, but gave the sense of mystery and uncertainty that a "new world" offers. I started them off on Miracle City, one of the islands in the ocean of the void. The city itself was Steampunk/Victorian in overall setting. 

I had them roll up characters, and I wound up with the following people: A Sorceress, A Drunk Cop, The Ghost of a Samurai, A Crazy Explorer, An Engineer Plumber and a Miming Clown. 

I had several possible ways to open the game and bring everyone together, but intended that I would adapt according to what kinds of characters I got out of my players. With the group I got and their subsequent stories, I made my decision and got things rolling. 

The setting includes a ferry between Miracle City and Mirage City, twin islands floating in the aether. This aether is known as The Void. Those that attempt to travel the Void generally do not come back, and those that do are completely insane when they return. The exception is The Ferry, and its operator, the Ferryman.

The ferry is different in that it is an absolutely reliable and safe way to travel the Void- but ONLY to the other island. (Mirage City to Miracle City and vice verse.) The ferry offers trade, continuity and the ability to traverse to another island for change of pace/visit family/whatever. There is a person who operates the ferry in some mystical fashion, and the person is somewhat venerated in society for the role he fulfills. He is known as The Ferryman (imagine that). There are three scheduled trips- morning, noon and dinner time. The ferry is always on time, and everyone has come to depend on the ferry as a part of life. As the characters are interacting with the world, I let them know that the ferry is late. 

[The Explorer has as part of his "back story" made a trip through the Void without the Ferry, to somewhere other than the opposite island. He returned with no ill effects, but no one believes him. ]

There is a large courtyard where the ferry is supposed to dock, and the boat is nowhere to be seen. (It's more of a skiff than a boat, but regardless it is still missing.) The crowd of people in the courtyard are notably freaked out by the missing boat, and the PCs decide to see if something is wrong with the Ferryman when a servant to the Ferryman comes out of his tower and starts babbling about how the Ferryman is sick. 

The cop gets hauled inside the Ferryman's tower to help. He can't do anything to help, so he starts asking for a doctor. The sorceress and the plumber go with the cop inside the Ferryman's tower to see the Ferryman, and the clown, the ghost and the explorer make their way inside as well. 

The Ferryman is bleeding from the mouth and his eyes are bulging and bleeding. His skin is a terribly pale color and his breath is very ragged. It is obvious he is near death. The sorceress tries a healing spell, which does seem to help the Ferryman at least a little. The explorer has an intuition that the Ferryman needs to wake up, and the group uses the seltzer water from the clown's kit to help roust him. 

The Ferryman is barely awake and trying to talk, but whatever he is saying doesn't come out right. It's finally determined that he was saying "The Gods Live Here", and the group slowly helps him come to a little more. 

He tells the group in ragged, confusing sentences that the Gods who have been AWOL for a very long time are "stuck somewhere" and that they can't send good messages. They want to come back, but they can't and he doesn't know where they are. 

As the group is figuring out what he means, a small selection of them hear the voices of the Gods talking directly to them. The Gods say that The Ferryman is about to die. They talk about a door to "other places" and that the door is opening, and give the group a definite sense that the group should find the door. 

The Gods stop talking and The Ferryman passes away. The group goes to find a priest at the local temple, and they talk to the head priest. They inform the priest that the Ferryman is dead, and that the group is on a "mission from God" to go find the Gods. The group asks for a brave adventurer to go with the group to be a representative of the Gods as well as someone to operate the ferry.

The Priest sends a young man who can become the new Ferryman, but won't give up a worshipper to possibly be lost forever. (The group was very upfront that they wanted to travel the Void; a place people generally don't come back from very often and those that do are absolutely bug nuts crazy.) The priest gives the group several holy books to help them understand the lost Gods more fully. Then, the priest heads to the tower plaza and prepares the body of the fallen Ferryman for the ritual funeral procession.

The new Ferryman takes his place in the tower and begins bringing the ferry to the dock. The ferry was "stuck in transit" until a new Ferryman could bring it from the Void into the dock, and the people on it are very freaked out. The new Ferryman talks to the Explorer and they bring over another ferry by working together.

The Explorer uses this experience to learn how travelling the Void works more fully, and decides he needs to build a ferry of his own for the group to use to travel the Void. He gathers the group and tells them his plan. He begins to collect the items to build the ferry as well as items for an expedition.

The Explorer and the ghost go chop down trees that "know they are supposed to go on this adventure" and begin the building process. They realize they do not have any building skills so they hire someone to do it for them.

The group travels to the other island (Mirage City) to gather the last of the needed supplies, and then realizes the newly built ferry is on the other island (Miracle). They go back to Miracle City to get it, and the Explorer decides to try traveling across the Void back to Mirage City on the newly made ferry without the help of the Ferryman. Someone wonders why they didn't build the boat on Mirage City if that's where they need to find the new door to the Void from... the group is figuring out problem solving very quickly.

[Much of the game will focus around travel through the Void, so this was a monumental experiment and a crucial one for the group. They worked together to aid the Explorer get across the Void. This willingness and cooperation will become important later in the campaign.]

The group heads off to the area where the Explorer claims he travelled the Void before, and they make their way to the "tunnel" which is found in the Void and allows someone to go places other than Miracle City or Mirage City.

I called the game here- it was getting somewhat late to try and start an adventure on a new island, and I needed a map of the area they would be travelling and exploring.

Some of the things I took away from this session- 

The group skews very young. The average age of my players is 23; and I am very accustomed to a much older group. This group is a blast to play with and I really enjoy them, but I really have to think about things much differently because they are so much younger than myself.

There are some inherent challenges in the group- trying to fit a 600 year old dead guy into the setting is a big test of my flexibility; but I'm making it work. I also have several people who have not done much, if any roleplaying before. Being a mentor to them and helping them enjoy one of my favorite past times is a genuine thrill, but also really intimidating.

I have the blessing of two very strong players in the group- one is a natural leader while one tends to act as a supporting role naturally and is doing so in this game as well. This built in leader/supporter dynamic has made the game's direction exceptionally easy to push or follow according to the situation.

Lastly, I deliberately did some fudging of the rules to get the group accustomed to me and me to them while I figure out what will work and what won't. I'll be reading the rules again so I have a better idea of how to adjudicate and help tell a great story at the same time. I am aware that this is a learning process for me as much as it is for my players, and I hope they will work with me as I grow into this role.

It was fun and I can't wait for session two....


  1. Lo, what rules are you using? The setting sounds very interesting and it looks like you got the group off to a good start.


  2. I am using Risus, The Anything RPG. It's really fun and works pretty well for my setting.

  3. Is that an Indie RPG? Do you have it at the store?


    1. It's a DIY RPG that is available for free as a PDF. YOU can find it here...

  4. Sounds awesome. You're doing a good job of having the players be movers and shakers from the start, which is something I always struggle with. I'm guessing that the new Ferryman is an NPC so nobody feels bad about leaving him on the boat for safety while they're off having adventures?

    1. Yes, the new Ferryman is an NPC. Sorry this was not more clear.