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Krampus Adventure, Part II

Well, I wasn’t thrilled with how this adventure turned out, but I’ll give the rundown anyway.377px-Gruss_vom_Krampus

Between the last session and this one, I drew maps of Baron Tannenbaum’s keep– there were plenty of blank spaces, but they never really got addressed. I made a note about where the vault access was, since it was a detail the PCs already knew. I had detailed a number of cool dungeon details about the keep… which were never used. I had also made notes about what crimes the PCs needed to atone for. Of the three PCs, Alanna was going to be the easiest, since she’d only done two things seriously wrong. Mith was second, though he was the least repentant, in the end. And Clement the thief had 7 murders to atone for, in addition to the ruination of a noble family and at least one broken heart.

We started with the party being given rooms in the kids’ wing of the house, a collection of rooms for the children of noble guests and such. The idea was to have a kind of dormitory-style location they could return to, as well as a cast of kids they might recruit to help them.

They holed up in one of the rooms and discussed plans. Eventually, Alanna and Clement went down to dinner with the other kids– Mith stayed in the room. At dinner, Alanna made her move. She confessed to Clement about having turned him in, and she went up to the baron and asked to see him privately. Clement followed. In the kitchens, she confessed to the theft and returned the Medallion of Peace. The baron was overjoyed to have the medallion back, but took a lot of convincing that she, Clement, and the elf boy they were with had been the perpetrators. But, eventually, he was convinced and said that if they were who they claimed, he could not share bread with them. He banished them to their room.

They discuss and eventually go to bed. At midnight, Krampus visits the boys and plays another round of “tit for tat.” He even makes a few mistakes, asking them meaningless questions, which gives them a few freebies. Krampus hints to the boys that they need to make amends in order to not be taken “away.” It is very clear that “away” is somewhere awful.

Alanna, meanwhile, sleeps lightly and wakes when she feels a weight on her legs. It’s a box! A package wrapped in green paper! Inside is a green cloak, sized for a teenager. In the morning, her roommate, Shirley, is happy for her and says they should go outside to play. Alanna instead stays in her room, as do the boys. Around mid-morning, the governess comes through and is surprised that these children are still inside, when they should be out playing. Alanna says they’re being punished, but the governess doesn’t know anything about it. She accepts Alanna’s offer to help with chores. She’s also surprised to find the boys still in their room, but they eventually leave to go try and figure shit out. Alanna joins them, mainly to keep them out of trouble.

The party goes downstairs to try and talk to Baron Tannenbaum. They get lost on the way (Santa’s elves playing tricks on them), and Alanna catches sight of a diminutive, creepy-eyed elf (similar to Elf on the Shelf). The kids eventually find the baron’s office, but it’s locked. Alanna wanders off, ending up in the great hall, alone. On the Yule tree hangs the Medallion of Peace. As Alanna watches, an Elf steals it and runs away. Alanna runs after it, but stops when it darts outside.

Clement sees the livery of the Head Jaoler and starts to have a breakdown. He picks the office lock, hearing what sounds like a “lock fairy” that may have been holding it shut (this is actually one of Santa’s Elves, trying to keep him on the naughty list… breaking & entering is naughty). Clement and Mith go into the office and leave a not and the magical lantern that Mith stole last year. While there, Mith can’t resist stealing a gold pen. This is why these guys are on the Naughty list, by the way. Not because of what they did, but because they can’t stop doing it!

Through all this, the children periodically run into Johanna, the nice older woman who brought them here (secretly the Snow Witch, who also transformed them into children.) She emphasizes repeatedly that the Baron is probably just upset with them if they have somehow breached his hospitality. I’m trying to instill in them the fact that Johanna considers hospitality to be super-important, but most of the players missed it.

Eventually, Alanna is outside, near the sledding hill, being encouraged by Shirley to come sledding. She has none of it– won’t play, just stands there in the snow. A boy hits her with a snowball. She ignores it. He hits her again. Ignore. He hits Shirley.

He is immediately tackled by Clement, who has circled around. Clement and two boys get into a fistfight, there in the snow. Their fight is broken up by the kennelmaster, who orders them to come work off their energy by cleaning the kennels. Clement defiantly says “NO!” and the kennelmaster cuffs him. Then apologizes, because the kennelmaster isn’t normally a bully who hits children (Clement’s Bracers of Strife, which he is still wearing, have made a move).

Eventually, Clement is resigned and goes to the kennels. Finally someone is going to pick up one of the clues! Clement discovers that the kennels house reindeer– reindeer which have names like Donner and Vixen. He’s a little excited, but also full of dread as he realizes with dawning horror… We stole from Santa Claus!

The Baron is not Santa Claus. The Baron is more like… an aide to Santa Claus.

Another evening passes, and Krampus shows up. At one point, he even says “Even if I could turn you into children, why would I ever turn you back, since I would have no power over you?” I was thinking this would prompt a follow-up of “Wait– did you transform us into kids?” But it never came! I was wracking my brain trying to figure out how to tell them: Krampus didn’t transform them into children! It was the Snow Witch/yeti/Johanna!

Late that night, they catch Baron Tannenbaum as he’s walking around the halls. He takes them to the kitchen for a midnight snack and talks to them honestly. They confess everything. He shares a plate of cookies with Clement. At this point, the Baron has knowingly shared food with Clement. The bonds of hospitality are formed. Clement is free of the Snow Witch’s curse, but he doesn’t transform immediately into an adult. A snowstorm is raging outside, but the baron tells the PCs that they can borrow whatever they need if it will help them make amends for their past crimes. At one point, Clement says that the cookies are like magic, and the baron looks at him frankly and says “no, I’m pretty sure that’s just the fruitcake.”

Clement bundles up some food, including magical fruitcake, and they head out. The reindeer look like regular reindeer, but one of them comes over to Clement and practically knocks him down for the delicious fruitcake. As Clement is bitching about the greedy animal (and also kind of morose because tomorrow night, he’s going to hell), the other two PCs see that the reindeer is floating a few inches off the ground. Alanna tries to speak to them with her druidic knowledge, and I decide these guys need as much help as they can get– she’s able to talk to the animals to a limited degree, and they agree to help. The PCs go back and get more fruitcake, borrow three reindeer, and hurry back to the main city, where they try to make amends.

Mith goes back to the son of the guy he had Clement kill for the lantern and gives him the trophy/locket that the guy was wearing, explains all. He doesn’t apologize, just repeats “I did this thing… have I made amends yet? So… do you forgive me, or what?” The son at first doesn’t believe him, then takes the locket and angrily yells at Mith to get out of there before he calls the guard.

Clement, meanwhile, has been trying to figure out how to get himself arrested and in jail for the past day and a half. The resistance at the kennels was to try to end up in jail, but the keep doesn’t really have one. He turns himself in, has things confiscated, including the Bracers of Strife, and is chilling in a jail cell, hopeful that, at the very least, he will be in jail instead of hell tomorrow night.

Alanna keeps an eye on the reindeer through all this– she wants to make sure they make it home safely. Of all the PCs, Alanna is the only one no longer in jail. If she’d had cookies with the baron, she’d already be an adult.

At this point, out of character, I turn to Brian and ask him whether he wants Clement to wake up as a boy in the keep tomorrow, or as an adult in jail. Either is an option at this point in the story. Clement has shared bread with the baron, so he can now be returned to adult form– but that puts him in jail, after all. Or, I can say that a plate of cookies doesn’t count “enough” and he’ll stay a child until they sit down to a meal. Brian chooses to be a child at the keep. I’m not sure he realized I meant he would still be Clement….

Written into this story, I have the beds the kids sleep in as basically beds of returning. No matter where you are, in the morning you awake safe and snug in your bed. Clement wakes up in his bed at the keep and mutters “I’m in hell. This is hell….” before getting up.

They spend the day playing in the snow. After all, this is Yule, it may be their last day before Krampus takes them away. The future is uncertain, etc. They sled. They throw snowballs. Life is surreal, but good.

The children are all invited to eat at the high table with Baron Tannenbaum. As they do so, they feel their clothes shrinking! They are transformed at the table into their adult forms! There are presents under the tree for each of them– Mith gets a mundane lantern. Clement gets a magical mirror– to everyone else, it functions as normal, but for Clement, it shows him as a 14 year old boy. Alanna gets a magical doll with curly blond hair (similar to Shirley) who comes alive at night.

The party levels up to 3rd and I give them XP for the session to start them towards 4th. They rewrite some bonds– Clement is now beholden to Alanna.


The first half of this adventure is somewhat linear, but the second half was supposed to be more freeform. What I discovered was that the players were so resistant to action after the first half, I needed to pry them out of their rooms with a crowbar. It was odd and frustrating for me as a GM. There was a lot of good inter-party roleplaying, which was great. But in terms of actually solving their problems, I couldn’t get them to move. I’m not sure what would have helped– in Dungeon World, the GM makes moves when the players look to her for what happens next. I tried to make dungeon moves (the elves, the jaoler’s livery– reminds you of something guilty, etc) to engage them, but they mostly wanted to stay in their rooms and not go anywhere. Even when Alanna chased the elf to the door, she wouldn’t go outside! I was frustrated, and I’m sure that played a part in my own poor performance.

This week, we’re playtesting a DW adventure I wrote called I Give You My Heart, which I’m running on Valentine’s Day at Strategicon.  I’m using the Gumshoe structure for crafting the story, and adding a mechanic in DW for using investigation skills to get the core clues.

Bunnies and Burrows

We played Bunnies and Burrows last night, Fate Accelerated style!270px-Rabbit_in_montana

Bunnies and Burrows is an RPG written in the 1970’s, one of the first RPGs to get away from heroic fantasy and into something non-human. In it, you play a rabbit, as if in Watership Down, and your role is to protect, defend, and help your warren.

One of our players (Tara) had her GMing debut last night, and chose to run a Bunnies and Burrows game. She had read the setting and came up with a plot, but hadn’t bought the game system, so couldn’t run it by the rules.

Thankfully, because of our Wild Side games, our whole group is familiar with the Fate Accelerate Edition rules. And even though I didn’t have my Fate dice with me (this will be rectified– I won’t walk to game night without 4dF again…. or I might just leave some at her house for the future), I did have the rulebook on my Nook, which was in my backpack. We improvised the dice by rolling 2d6 and subtracting one of the dice from the other, then adding our relevant Approach.

Tara’s plot was to start us in Sunset Park, which is a local park that has a desert preservation area called Sunset Dunes (I run there a few times a week, March through October– it’s one of my favorite places in Vegas). Sunset Dunes is crawling with bunnies in the real world, so it was a natural fit for our game.

Brian played Chunk, a released hutch bunny whose description was “The fattest rabbit you’ve ever seen.” Chunk was also “like a rock” in both his immovability and his cleverness. He is looking for a new mom (Shadow) and ridiculously loyal to Twitchy. Good at Foreceful, Mediocre at Clever.

LeeAnn played Twitchy-Whiskers, an OCD rabbit who was voted “Most Likely to Die of Fright.” Good at Careful, Mediocre at Forceful.

I played Shadow, a motherly sort who had had 23 offspring, only 3 of whom were currently living (one of which is Twitchy). Shadow believes she can do magic, and there was some discussion that her spells always seem to require one of her offspring to die (also: Shadow cannot actually do magic… we determined there is no magic in this world). Oh, well– she’s a rabbit, right? She and Chunk had kind of a “thing” a while back, but since all the offspring from that litter are gone, she’s kind of annoyed by how clingy he’s gotten. Good at Sneak, Mediocre at Quick.

So, our adventure starts when a large hawk shows up to decide who to eat today, and Twitchy takes off in one direction, Chunk bolts towards and into a large black labrador, and Shadow hides and burrows down into what is not her warren. Chunk gets into a tangle with the dog and the hawk veers off after Twitchy. Twitchy barely outruns it and ducks into our home warren. Shadow…. fell into the enemy warren!

Twitchy and Chunk: Challenge for Quick to outrun the hawk. Shadow: Combo challenge for Sneak and Careful– she succeeded at Careful, but failed to sneak, which is why she landed on top of an enemy warren bunny.

The enemy, Shadow knows, is dominated by a deranged “queen” rabbit who demands the death of any female in her domain. She lands on top of a male bunny and, somewhat startled, says “Uh… hey, I’m just dropping in. The queen would never know if you and I, uh… y’know…” She shakes her bunny-maker.

Cue Barry White music.

After he falls asleep in a post-coital daze, Shadow uses his body to leap up out of the burrow and head home, carefully and with some stealth. This is described as the Hop of Shame.

Shadow rolled a static Clever check to “seduce” him, and I argued to tap an aspect on this NPC that he has to be pretty sexually frustrated.

Meanwhile, Chunk has finished with the dogs and is now looking for a place to hide, himself. Home is all the way over there, and Chunk doesn’t like to run. He drops into the recently-vacated hole and finds himself whiskers-to-whiskers with the enemy burrow!

Chunk self-compelled to stop running, because one of his aspects is “What do you mean, ‘Run’?” So he had a Forceful challenge with the black lab, and then a second yippy dog, both of which he won. Basically, he back-kicked the dogs in the face, to their severe detriment. 

After some chest-thumping and pushing around, Chunk is cornered and yells “oh, yeah? Well… I claim this part of the warren, right here!” And he plops himself down to be all territorial.

This was a Forceful contest of wills against the lead enemy-warren bunny, and he tied so he succeeded with a cost. The cost was that he was cornered. OK, fine. But he won the social challenge, so he was able to stake a claim to that part of their warren.

Bewildered, the other warren bunnies send a scout to our warren (who happens to be Cottontail, Shadow’s most recent paramour) to claim a 2 foot section of that warren.

Cottontail shows up and tries to stake a claim, but Twitchy is having none of this. She cries the alarm!

Twitchy uses Careful to alert the rest of the warren. It’s a static roll, and she  gets a very high result (succeed with style), which means she has a bunch of loyal bunnies willing to listen to her.

At this point, Tara realizes her plot has completely gotten away from her and is at a loss. Out of character, we discuss some things about warrens and, in particular, Sunset Park, which uses cannons to destroy gophers and gopher holes. Tara decides she likes this idea, but turns it into a bulldozer impending doom on our warren. Mostly, she wants to mow down some bunnies.

Shadow is still heading home when she sees the bulldozer, which has started up. Frightened, she “casts a spell” (if we’d been thinking more bunny-ish, this might have included pooping and eating it or something, but instead we just handwaved and said “this is probably going to kill one of her remaining children”) and then bolts back to the enemy warren, which she thinks she can probably convert over to her side. Shadow drops in, says hello to Chunk, and tells the remaining bunnies that she’d like to be their queen, and asks who wants to have an orgy.

We don’t have mechanics for magic in this system, so there’s no roll for casting a spell. Because it’s not actually going to do anything, right? Similarly, offering an orgy to bunnies is a no-brainer.

The bulldozer is imminent. Chunk asks Shadow where Twitchy is. “Oh, back at the warren,” she says nonchalantly. Chunk takes off, because his aspect is ridiculously loyal to Twitchy. He finds Twitchy and saves her from the collapsing warren and they bolt across the field towards the new warren.

Self-compelled, Chunk risks his own life to go to the old warren, which now has the aspects of “collapsing” and “chaos/scared bunnies!” He finds Twitchy, who is overwhelmed and nearly catatonic (self-compelling her fear trouble). He carries her (I think this was a Careful roll, but I’m not sure) out of the warren, and the fresh air reminds her to RUN. They run.

The hawk returns, seeing so many prey to choose from. Shadow’s spell “goes off” and only two rabbits are caught by the hawk– both of her remaining children (besides Twitchy).

I spend a fate point retroactively for my “cast a spell” to be effective, killing the offspring and letting most of the rest of the warren escape to the new warren.

The bunnies from the old warren join the new warren, and Chunk heads off to kill the queen. The females of the old warren are very popular and many bunnies are made.

Forceful contest for Chunk. We tag every aspect we can, from the sexually frustrated warren bunnies, to the presence of a lot more estrogen in the burrows, to “my mom said I should do this” for Chunk (who is affectionate towards Shadow cause he sees her as a surrogate mother).

And then nuclear bombsrocks fall and everyone dies.

Tara wasn’t satisfied with only 3 official bunny deaths and decided that a true bunnycalypse was needed. So we ended with “and then the world ended, because reasons.”

Tara’s first game went really well. We were ridiculous and freeform and made a lot of jokes and puns.

Update: I forgot to mention when I wrote this originally. This is the kind of night it was. We ordered pizza and wings and such. I put special instructions to “draw a bunny” on the box. Pizza Hut delivered, both the pizza, and a drawing! I’ll try to get a picture of it before the box goes into the trash tonight. The only way the night could have been more gamery is if I’d woken up with a Mountain Dew hangover this morning.

Doll – Is there a way to run this game in a non-creepy way?


I don’t think so. The game lends itself to creepiness, but in a good way!

Doll by Josh Jordan/Ginger Goat Games is a very short minigame that plays in 20 minutes, between two players. One player is the Doll, one is the Child.

Last night, due to a series of unfortunate circumstances, I arrived at game night to shortly discover that I had 1 player for the game.

But I had my copy of Doll in my satchel, so I pulled it out and we played.

In our first game, we played basic Doll. I played the Doll, and Carl played the Child. The child’s pet has died, and the events in the card are fairly basic– the pet died, the parents fight, the child has a nightmare, and someone goes on a special trip the next day.

The game’s central question is “are the parents evil, or wonderful?” Notice it’s not “evil or good,” but rather “evil” or “wonderful.” As though, if your parents aren’t wonderful from the child’s (or doll’s) point of view, then they must be evil.

Events are narrated by the child, from the child’s point of view. The child then asks the doll questions about the event, and the doll answers.

The doll knows the truth of what’s happening.

The doll isn’t always honest.

That last point is important to the creepiness of the story, and we ended the first session of Doll with the following chilling exchange:

Child: Well, how can I die so I can go live in the magical place with Rusty and the other children?
Doll: ....Your daddy has a gun under the bed.

As I said… creeeepy! You can also have supernatural events happen or be added in by the doll. About 2/3 of the time, the doll *can* lie (but doesn’t have to), so the interplay between the child not knowing what’s going on, and the child’s perspective on the world, is really remarkable.

For the second session, I played the child, and picked events from the Advanced Doll game card. I used the “mother’s funeral” event, and Carl decided that the mother had been murdered by the father, and that the child was killed mid-game while running across the street to play. For the second half of the game, I was effectively a ghost.

I think I may need to buy the PDF for Doll, which would allow reprinting, because I think I want to run a Doll game at Halloween. Basically, half the guests get a creepy doll (party favor!) and the doll instructions, and half the guests get a set of Child questions (which would vary quite a bit, so they wouldn’t be repetitive). Play for 20 minutes, then trade dolls and cards and circulate around a bit to find another partner. I wouldn’t run this more than two or three times in the course of a night, but I definitely think it would be a great game for a Halloween dollhouse-themed party.

All Out of Bubblegum

they_live1-540x275So, last night, we were scheduled to  play part 2 of the Very Holiday Dungeon World Special. And then, about 15 minutes before the game, I saw on Facebook that one of my players had had a death in his family of someone he was close to and loved very much.

This did not bode well for the night. Grief is a profound emotion, and we can use gaming to process it, but when it is raw… it is best to take your cues from the player and see if they’re ready to process, or if they need a little escapism.

He needed some escape, so 10 minutes before the game, I threw my notes into a drawer and went for Plan B.

Continue reading All Out of Bubblegum

Krampus in Dungeon World, Part 1

377px-Gruss_vom_KrampusLast night, my Thursday night group got together for A Very Holiday Dungeon World Special. It’s a one-shot adventure (really 2-shot…. we started super late, plus there was the fire), which I wrote as an homage to holiday adventures.

We started with character creation and bonds. Our characters for the evening:

  • Alanna – a female human druid with mossy green hair
  • “Razor” (née Clement) – a male human thief, very athletic, kind of a tough guy
  • Mithrandril – a male elf wizard, with crazy hair and eyes

Some of their bonds:

  • Razor and Mithrandril are running a con, the “eccentric elven uncle,” on a nobleman.
  • Razor has a secret: he plans to set Mithrandril up for a fall if the con goes south
  • Alanna and Mithrandril have a kind of mutual-disdain going for each other. Neither one thinks the other is capable of much.

Continue reading Krampus in Dungeon World, Part 1

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