The bulk of this week’s session was the race! Our little fantasy Iditarod. One of our goals in having a race was to find a way for the results to not be scripted. There’s nothing at all wrong with scripting events like this in your games. In fact a strong argument could be made for scripting events like this. Scripting things like big cross-country races, large battles, natural disasters (like a earthquake or volcano that destroys a city, or even attacks by foes above the character’s pay grade (say an ancient dragon attack or a visit from the Tarrasque) can keep the flow of the game faster and more fun for your players. With a scripted big event you can then focus on smaller scenes where your players are dealing with mini-challenges that are caused by the bigger event: Dealing with a single opponent in the race, repelling attackers on one part of a wall, evacuating orphans as walls crumble around them, dodging falling buildings as the ancient terror wreaks havoc…
So why didn’t we choose to just script it out and do a string of meaningful scenes with the party? There’s a lot of prize money at stake in this race. Enough prize money that a high finish can change the party’s lives in-game. Right now they are scraping by. Winning the Deepwinter Chase could give them the capital to strengthen their business and really establish themselves instead of living meal to meal. We wanted their actions and efforts to really matter. If they win big it’s because they did really well. If they loose its because the day didn’t go they way they had hoped.
So we built a system (that’s what we do haha). In this system there are 3 checks that need to be made.
1) An Animal Handling check: This represents the team’s effort to keep the barely trained Dire Wolves under control as they race across the snow.
2) A Navigation check: This represents the team’s efforts to navigate their way with accuracy through the wilderness. Since Jung is a UA revised ranger who literally cannot be lost except by magical means the party can take an “auto success” on this for +1 speed point (we’ll get to that). They can still choose to make the check, this represents the gang looking for a short-cut or a faster route and involves some level of risk.
3) A Nature check: Ahhhh, the least used skill in 5e! This check represents the team’s ability to interpret the landscape at high speeds as they race along. Spotting softer slower patches of snow, or icy conditions that could make it hard for the Dire Wolves to find the best footing.
When these checks are made we consult the following chart to determine the value of “Speed Points” the sled earns for that segment of the race:
5 & Under: -5
Above 20: +5
There are 3-4 segments per session. The players were smart and placed two characters on each check meaning that the most skilled characters were rolling with advantage. (their opponents are doing likewise, good for the goose good for the gander we always say!)
We did write in a few encounters, many of which the party completely avoided by rolling REALLY well and getting out to a lead early on. This put their competitors behind them and thus the pitfalls they may have encountered were avoided. One point of interest: the first sled through the Frost Giant ambush later on would get… well ambushed! We were sweating a little as the party held the lead for so long but another sled managed to snatch the lead from them and thus they became the victims of the ambush. Leaving the party to come upon the ruined sled and deal with a single Frost Giant.
That’s how the race is working!
A few points of interest:
* Torrik is a Totem Barbarian: Way of the Eagle so he has crazy move speed and is unimpeded by difficult terrain while dashing. That is what allowed him to take the mad dash for the flag.
* When Magnus lost control of the Dire Wolves in the rhino encounter that cost the team a speed point. Which helped the other sled get out in front of them and thus… they all died!
* Torrik’s disappearing scene… well, all that will be revealed one day (unless he dies) probably in the Campaign Diary.
That’s it till next week! Can’t wait to see who wins this big ugly race!