This article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue.
Last month I mentioned the handouts I’d produced for the Second Scions’ Society adventure: Noble dilettantes—second sons and daughters of Counts and Countesses—and what happened at one of their get-togethers.
I’d put together six double-sided character sheets (standard Mongoose form on one side, biography, servant details, and PC relationships on the reverse). A page on roleplaying nobles, a page for one PC on Vilani. A page on servants. A page on clothing. A page on duelling (just in case!). A map of Core sector marking 91 counties. A map from Core sector of the six PC counties and the adventure setting. A sheet of Library Data. A page of ‘things to do’ for character actions between the main scenes (I’d refrained from turning each paragraph into actual tourist brochures which was possible and tempting!). Table-sized deckplan of a noble yacht part of the adventure would be set on. A booklet of yacht description so the relevant scion could give a tour. Three standard yacht deckplans for other PCs (not strictly relevant). A booklet describing the main highport setting. Four sided booklet of plants* that the highport was known for (some PCs were tasked with collecting a rare plant). An auction room floorplan. Three days of stock market prices for those with share portfolios. A terrorist ‘statement’. A menu. Three sets (news, social and servant) of six rumours. And of course the handout—a 40-page glossy auction catalogue of 66 auction lots, a biography of their former owner and maps of his travels and exploration.
Now, not all of this was given to the players at the start, some appeared as the game progressed. But a fair bit was in the initial set up and I must admit that it was somewhat overwhelming for them. Experienced referees would have seen this coming a mile off but it only dawned me as players began to react to the wealth of information. Indeed, one was brave enough to admit that he wasn’t a great reader and would have loved all this—but a week before! It probably would have worked quite well in a campaign where some of it (characters and role playing notes for example) would have been well known previously, but in a Convention game of six hours it was difficult. Logistically preparing them all and keeping track of them nearly overwhelmed me as well. (And I needed two sets to run the game twice—I hate asking for character sheets back).
However, near the start I’d planned a bit of live-action for each PC in turn, and as they took their turns it gave a chance to graze through the paperwork. That probably saved the day. Also a bonus, the players, once settled down, had a great sense of presence and the feel of a ‘real’ world. I should say that the auction catalogue went down very well with all twelve players taking theirs away. But all told: never again!
* One experienced referee took one look at this and said “this will supply all the plants I’ll need for Traveller games for the rest of my life”.