Rough Night for a Red Wedding

So this was the title of my scenario for TobCon 3. At some point I’ll write it up, but I just want to put my thoughts behind it here, as well as some notes as to how I think it went and what I might do with it, given my experience.

The original idea came from a combination of several which I had brainstormed. I had difficulty working out how any one of them might be developed into a con scenario, and hit upon the idea of using Rough Night at the Three Feathers, which had just been reissued for 4e, as a structure. In that scenario, a whole bunch of separate storylines come together over a fixed period of time. There’s a Keystone Cops quality of escalating problems that I rather like. I figured that by putting the PCs in a limited space and hitting them with a bunch of different storylines over a limited time period, I could combine plotting and PC choice in a one-off that could be done in four hours.

This was the summary I sent in:

Winter has come to Kislev, but you are on your way to a celebration. You are streltsi, musketeers of Erengrad, proud symbols of the new, modern Kislev. But to bolster his claim to tradition, your boyar has decided to marry off one of his nieces to a prince of the estranged, country-bumpkin line of the family somewhere gods-forsaken in the oblast. Your task is to make sure she and her governess arrive safely at her wedding, and that it happens without a hitch and in a manner befitting her high station, all while making a good impression. It is a dull, ceremonial mission. What could possibly go wrong? In a Slavic-tinged, swashbuckling riff on a WFRP classic, much kvas will be drunk, much glass will be broken and much more than just the happy couple will go bump in the night.

It was run in WFRP4e.

Like my other recent TobCon scenarios, then, this one was set outside the Empire. I like using the con has an opportunity to do things that are a little different. I’ve been interested for a while in doing Russian-inflected games, and this looked like a good opportunity.

Without giving too many spoilers away, I threw in a few ideas for different scenarios: a Dark Family Secret, Star-Crossed Lovers, Social Unrest and, yes, a Chaos Cultist, and let them play out over the couple of days meant for the wedding. I’d set up the ‘tradition vs modernity’ theme in part to give me a way of having to explain the weird customs of rural Kislev to the players in-game, since they were all set up as modernising city-folk, and in part to give a framework on which to hang the rather disparate story threads.

I should perhaps have taken a leaf out of the original Rough Nights and put together a proper timetable for things to happen, but to be honest I’m more comfortable with improvising and I think things worked out well. Certainly, the feedback was good. Toby praised it for communicating a sense of place, which was very flattering, since that’s precisely what I was looking for. It’s why I included so much background in A Bitter Harvest that might never get a look-in during the game: I always want the background to feel real, and for me, less than descriptions of landscape or weather, it’s traditions and personalities that achieve that.

That is, I think, what I would work on further if/when I write this up. I knew which NPCs were which, their backgrounds and priorities, but more detail can’t hurt. Online, a lot of people think that background info that isn’t immediately usable is a waste, but I am absolutely of the other opinion. Not everything in the world can exist solely for the PCs. And as a GM, I riff on my notes: the more different ideas I can cram into them, the more life the world takes on, and the more I can bring that to bear in the game itself.

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