Monday, December 11, 2017

A Night to Remember

Last week, I finally saw James Cameron's Titanic (in theaters, no less!), and can honestly say it didn't live up to the twenty years of hype preceding it.  (Despite perhaps being a technical masterpiece, the script is terrible.  And James Cameron makes a woman the main character despite clearly not knowing how to write women.)  But we're not here to talk about movies; we're here to talk about role-playing games.

I got through the atrocious writing by focusing on how D&D-able it is; specifically, the modern-day salvage story.  (You could also make a very strong case for Traveller.  I mean, the salvage crew feels like a Traveller crew in the way the doomed crew of Nostromo also feels like a Traveller crew.)  If you're like me and have been living under a rock for the past twenty years, a salvage crew heads down to Titanic looking for a legendary diamond set in a necklace.  They don't find it, but they find an old drawing depicting it on a woman.  The woman, now 102 years old, gets in contact with the salvage crew and tells them her story in the hopes that it will enable them to determine where the diamond landed during the shipwreck.

The setup would be a bit like Zzarchov Kowolski's Thulian Echoes: the player characters catch wind of the fact that some notable treasure is locked away in some dungeon that used to host regular life, like a castle or a shipwreck.  (I immediately thought of Palace of the Silver Princess, which contains a ruined palace and the promise of a giant ruby.)  The environment is so inhospitable that the player characters want to gather intelligence before delving the dungeon, so they seek survivors of the place's doom and interview them.  (You could also do written accounts as in Thulian Echoes, but I think I like the unreliable narrator aspect an interview brings.  Like the "lucky breaks" from Thulian Echoes, except the players may or may not know about it.  Essentially, the challenge of Thulian Echoes comes from the unintended consequences of revisiting a dungeon centuries after the last adventuring party passed through it.  And maybe the fact that it's all a lie.  The challenge of this theoretical Titanic adventure comes from the fact that the interviewee might be lying or suffering from dementia.  Or maybe it's also all a lie, and you get lured to the shipwreck just to be eaten by deep ones.)  Once you've found a suitable survivor, the players get to play through a mini-adventure as the people living in the place before its ruin.  (Depending upon how you want to run it, it might also be a good chance to try out another system, like Hillfolk or Bedlam Hall or whatever.  Although if your players are fine with playing level 0 common folk, then just stick with D&D.)  Track where the treasure ends up, write down whatever parts of the map the interviewee mentions, and then the current party goes and makes a surgical strike trying to find the treasure.  You might want to come up with some ground rules, something like:
  • If the treasure leaves the dungeon, it's lost.  You might still be able to interview people and track it down, but it's not in the shipwreck/manor house/wherever you expected it anymore.
  • If the treasure is too close to the door, it was stolen by grave robbers in the intervening decades.  It's fine if all the treasure is in the same room, but not too close to the exit.
Although maybe those things don't bother you — after all, if the location is difficult to reach (like a shipwreck), then even being inside the door is a challenge.  And if the treasure leaves the dungeon, maybe the PCs can figure out the interviewee is lying and still has the damn treasure.  (Wouldn't it be something to see Bill Paxton shaking down Gloria Stuart for the Heart of the Ocean at the end of Titanic?)

It also occurs to me that if the player characters track down multiple interviewees, you could play through the flashback adventure multiple times and get some sweet Rashomon action happening, where the truth ends up being somewhere in the middle.

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