Old Growth, Part 1

It’s happening! My glorious return to the world of tabletop games if finally happening! Over the last few weeks I’ve managed to run two sessions of my new campaign, “Old Growth.” Today, I want to talk a little bit about how the campaign is going so far and how I’m adjusting to running things again.

First off, I want to highlight my party.

Lionel is a ratfolk Ranger. He’s the son of two renowned warriors who have settled down in the forest village that serves as the campaign’s focus. Lionel loves his mothers very much, but he’s more interested in spending time in the forest than learning how to fight. He’s a nervous fellow, but that doesn’t keep him from joining a fight with his dual shortswords when necessary.

Grell is a shoony (that’s basically a dogfolk, if you’re not familiar) Champion who recently returned to the village after spending a few years away, training to be a better defender of her god’s ideals. She is exuberant, kind, and an absolute monster with a flail.

Valeryn is a kitsune Oracle and is basically the adult of the group. She’s older, wiser, and calmer than the other two party members, and both of them look up to her. She’s also a talented herbalist, with a large garden and a penchant for crafting medicinal potions.

I have immediately fallen in love with this group. First of all, everyone is an adorable animal, which I love; second, they just mesh perfectly. Lionel is frequently scared and self-conscious, but is bolstered by Grell’s unending kindness and enthusiasm; both are kept focused and in check by the comparatively calm and pragmatic Valeryn. They strike a great balance.

The plot kicks off with the group being recruited to track down a small expedition of townsfolk who haven’t returned from their trip into the woods, and—in grand TTRPG tradition—the group responded to this assignment in a way that I had neither thought of nor prepared for. They wanted to go to the homes of the missing people and look for clues about the expedition and, more importantly, get the peoples’ scents.

See, Grell is a Bloodhound Shoony, so she can track people quite effectively if she’s smelled them before.

The idea that they’d go to the houses of these folks had never occurred to me, so I had to quickly decide what each home would be like. It was a good chance to flex my improv skills again!

A lot of the first session was spent going around town gathering information and talking to NPCs—including Gary. Gary is a leshy (a little plant person; Gary is a cactus leshy, specifically) traveling merchant who has been in town for a little while. He had a little bit of info for the party, and he asked them to look out for a package of his that he lost on the journey into town. What was in the package? A cursed mummy hand.

Everybody suddenly got very suspicious of Gary! But hey, he wasn’t going to sell the mummy hand—he was just holding onto it until he could get the curse lifted! No big deal!

The party set out and, thanks to Lionel’s tracking skills and Grell’s nose, they managed to locate Gary’s package, which had been torn open by a wolf that was resting in a nearby cave. Unfortunately, wolves tend to gnaw on bones, and when one gnaws on a cursed mummy hand, well, that’s a recipe for a cursed wolf. Thus we got the first combat of the campaign!

The cursed wolf was a fun concept—I used the Winter Wolf stat block with a few alterations (changing the breath weapon from a cone to a line, and the damage from cold to negative energy, among other tweaks). It was basically a big floating wolf that shot laser beams from its mouth and, instead of howling, made human screams. My players are a bit more horror-averse than I am, so they found this a lot creepier than I intended it to be!

While I liked the idea behind it, I ended up being dissatisfied with the fight. I quickly realized that the monster was a lot tougher than it should be, necessitating some on-the-fly adjustments; that’s my own fault. It also took longer than I’d have liked, and I made the classic mistake of designing a fight where there’s only one target, which always makes things feel like a bit of a slog. Plus, besides the laser beam, the wolf didn’t have a lot of interesting combat options, so it wasn’t doing much more than moving and attacking.

We ended the first session after that combat. Session two went better, I think, but I’ll save discussion of that for next week!

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