At the end of last year I attended the Dragonmeet event in Kensington. In previous years, I attend purely as a visitor; but, on this occasion I attended as a guest of Arion Games. I have been writing for Arion for the historical adventure game Maelstrom, so planned to do my bit running an adventure. I have to admit, I went there having never run a game at a convention before. If anyone involved experienced any trauma as a result, I can only apologize. I don’t think it went too badly in the end. I did have a bit of a struggle choosing an adventure to play. There book includes an adventure – but, anyone with even a vague knowledge of Maelstrom will have played and read it. The sort of person willing to play a Maelstrom game may very well have some foreknowledge of the game. Both Graham Bottley, the man behind Arion, and I have written short adventures for Maelstrom, but I didn’t necessarily want to run those either. If I could get someone interested in the game, they’d want to download some material – and knowing those adventures in advance… I don’t know – it just didn’t seem right.
So, instead, I opted for writing something completely new. My making that decision presented a new issue, because I had only a fortnight to write and prepare that adventure. I could write something from scratch or see if I had something lying around the house already. My mind settled on my incomplete Avignon supplement for PARANOIA. I had the skeleton of an adventure written for that. Admittedly, the adventure – and campaign – set events in 1397, and the standard Maelstrom game happens in the middle of the 16th century, but this would be a one-off con adventure, so it didn’t matter.
I wrote several pages of notes, sketched out a bunch of maps, and created characters of a non-combative nature to keep the game entertaining without resorting to a sword to solve everything. The character’s would be pilgrims visiting Avignon seeking forgiveness for their sins. A cardinal would offer then forgiveness if they simply completed a single night of babysitting for the 6 year old son of a high ranking noble. I imagined medieval ‘Home Alone‘.
I knew I wanted to add some intrigue, so taking a PARANOIA leaf out of the book, I created secret missions for everyone and secret equipment, too. To simplify communication of the secret stuff, I wrote everything on stickers and put them on the front of ordinary playing cards. I could give each players a hand of cards that they could reference throughout the game and I could, maybe, reuse later on.
The adventure worked out well. I don’t think anyone zoned out or lost interest. I tried to keep my focus moving around the table and opted for a less serious stance to keep the energy flowing. I didn’t try to simulate accents and claimed the characters had enough grasp of the basics of French not to need to struggle with language. The 6-year old proved to be an irritating pain in the butt. I’m reasonably certain kids in the Medieval times did act this way, though kids of nobles might have done. I’m sure spoilt and demanding translates through the ages. In the end, two characters almost achieved their objective and another did, but suffering serious personal injury in the process – almost losing his right arm to a lucky sword swing. I spent a lot of time screeching as the 6-year old and being a right little shit. I suspect the adventure went well without necessarily promoting the actual nature of the game – though, Maelstrom promotes simplicity of mechanics and I definitely displayed that by hardly touching the dice at all. I also identified a definite gap in the market for a Maelstrom gaming screen.
So, I now face the question – should I take all the work I did for the Avignon supplement and rework it for Maelstrom?