As discussed earlier I have granted the players a lot of narrative power in our current the Door of Shadows-campaign. One of the more surprising twists that I certainly wasn’t prepared for was that the characters decided to take part on an expedition to Egypt.
Though this post will be mostly about describing the events of an actual gaming session(s) it includes a couple of (more) interesting points about GMing – even if you are not into reading about other peoples sessions. I must also add that this post is a bit lengthy.
The PC group had delved deep into the mysteries of the city of Rapid Falls, SD and had faced the fact that reality was about to be ripped apart. They had secured a document called simply Bruno Kowolski Fragments and by reading it they had gained the impression of deeper secrets being buried in the sands of Egypt. One of the players decided to use a “Good Sigil” to introduce the Rapid Falls Egypt Expedition to the storyline and after some discussion it was apparent that the whole group was keen on following that path.
At first I was totally lost. This one time I had made my campaign fronts and was aware what was going to happen next. As I trust my players not to follow any railroads anyway I usually do not bother. But this time it seemed that they needed a little help. And naturally they decided to go off the road…
I bought some time letting them to tie up some loose ends and even introduced new threats to force them to make a hard choice – should they leave to Egypt Rapid Falls was going to have a hard time. And naturally they more or less ignored these warnings (which didn’t surprise me at all).
During earlier sessions we have established that the gaming world allows travel in time. PCs have had access to such “power” only through psychedelic drugs but they have encountered out-of-time objects as well as bumped into a time-traveller on several occasions. As I knew my end game plans for this campaign had been endangered by the change of location I needed to reintroduce them and make them more relevant for the story. I just didn’t know how.
Then Peetu did me a service using another Good Sigil and declared that he gained an important information that allowed a PC to survive his death in the future (which had actually already happened during another storyline). Seems a bit complicated but it was actually just the thing I needed to get the whole story back on the tracks.
I used a wealthy patron (actually father of one of the PCs) and he presented Peetu’s character, Ryan Europa, with “Grays Sport Almanac” a journal of the mysterious time-traveller the players had encountered on some occasions. Once we had had this clear reference to time-travel we were ready for Egypt. And I knew what I would do.
Most GMs have had the unpleasant experience of forcing the players to reach a certain point in the campaign. Skipping time planning on a major event can be a drastic measure but sometimes it is the only thing that helps to keep the players from spending several sessions trying to figure out how they should approach the said event.
I knew that if I let them my players would have done just that. They would have cataloged everything they needed for the trip, made contacts and contracts and when they had finally managed to get going they would like to spend at least one session at the ocean liner to get into Egypt (not to mention the haggling for guns and favors at Luxor etc.). And on the top of that at least an hour of our time would have been “wasted” on thinking what had happened previously.
Last Tuesday I informed the players that the game would start precisely when I arrived to Santtu‘s home and that all who came in late would have to play accordingly. On the road I bought some cinnamon and was all set up for the session.
Getting Timey Wimey
As we sat down for the game I didn’t allow the players to discuss about past events but went straight into business. I told them that their characters were in an ancient tomb with a sarcophagi standing before them.
The players were a bit slow to react at first (most likely they thought I was only joking) but quite quickly they got the hang of it. They were searching the place for clues and did not suspect anything when Kuha‘s character just appeared there (he arrived late). They found Sami‘s character unconscious and noticed that the way they had arrived to the tomb was sealed by a enormous stone door that could not be opened.
Then Sami arrived. I advised all players to smell the cinnamon (quite forcingly for some) and introduced a waiter asking them what they would like to drink. I noticed some puzzlement but luckily all players were on board on this (Sami didn’t actually even know that their characters had been in an ancient tomb only a moment ago). We spend some time on the ship and the players (and their characters) began to wonder what was happening.
Then it was time for another cinnamon round. And suddenly the characters were dealing for guns in hot Egyptian warehouse.
It was one of the best sessions I have GMed and I was glad that we had postponed it for a couple of weeks through busy schedules and tired players. This session needed all players at their best.
I gave all players paper and asked them to take more notes than normal. Some did some didn’t. But during the next three hours their characters realised they were stuck in a time-loop. And quite quickly they learned that they had to do something or else their characters would perish in that weird tomb.
It was nice to see the players getting deep into the whole thing. They were confused and eager to jump into any safeline. I managed to sneak in some previews of the future as well as introduce a couple of key-NPCs.
I also made sure that any time anyone would just smell the cinnamon their character would shift in time for a moment. This caused a couple of weird moments and I actually took the cinnamon cup for myself at some point. I’m not sure how many of them saw the connection between the smell and the shift but I needed to keep some reign over this whole time hopping.
At the end the characters had managed to save themselves from the tomb and managed to anchor themselves in the “present” of being at the excavation site with the power of strange sigils carved to their flesh.
In essence we managed to skip a lot of “needles” role playing and went straight into the juicy stuff. It was established that even though they did not remember it they had been well prepared for the mission, got to the place safely and found out a lot of weird stuff already.
Even though I wasn’t quite sure how it would work this whole timey wimey business was really entertaining. I think I managed to keep it relatively simple (they didn’t really venture that many different times) and it helped to make it more enjoyable.
The use of actual smells has been something I have wanted to do for a long time but haven’t really got around to do. I think that in future my players will be aware of what is going to happen when I bring forth the cinnamon.
I must also add that once again Sami managed to draw the Good Sigil (I’ve lost count how many times he has picked it) and once again used it in very entertaining manner – his character had shifted from the reality of the tomb into parallel reality and through that reality he (and Santtu’s character) ended up in ancient Egypt.
We ended the session in a “scene” where all characters exited their quarantine tent and saw the great statues of pharaohs of old and saw the faces of their friends.