Modiphius.com  |  Modiphius Shop

Adventure, carousing and campaigns

My group just successfully finished the Pit of Kutallu yesterday and outside of some quibbles with how the system runs, they had a lot of fun playing the game. They went back to the beach afterwards and cobbled together some repairs on the dinghy and got picked up by a merchant ship once they were a couple of days out at sea. They rescued and have a grateful Delia (the Aquilonian noblewoman) in tow as well and they will be landing in Messantia as their final destination on the ship.

So here’s where an issue is going to crop up both for myself and more importantly for my players - carousing. My players are already planning to escort Delia back to her home in Aquilonia and they will probably only stop in Messantia long enough to resupply which means a day at most and with 1 gold equaling one day of carousing, you can see where there really won’t be a carousing phase.

My group is very much used to a different style of game - a much more fluid one. The “adventure” doesn’t stop, pretty much like you would expect in a long running campaign in any other role-playing game whether it’s D&D or World of Darkness. The adventure continues until the campaign is over. I know this game is not set up that way - it is set up how Howard wrote the Conan books, it dealt directly with one of his singular adventures and hand-waved pretty much everything else in between. That’s not how my players play role-playing games. This isn’t multiple unconnected sessions for them and the moment I tell them that the game runs as “random adventure, carousing, random adventure, rinse, repeat” they are instantly going to get turned off. They want connective tissue between the adventures, they want story and they want a tapestry-like plot, all of which I plan on delivering. I just need to figure out how to fit the carousing phase into all of this.

So now I ask you fine people here for any advice you can give me in smoothing out these transitions and being able to fit carousing into the whole thing and making the adventure to carousing back to adventure more fluid (especially when they want to just keep going) so I can seamlessly present it to my players. Thanks in advance for any advice or help you can give me in this situation.

I understand your issue. It bugged me to as well till I noticed D&D has carousing just much shorter. in D&D we would get back to town after a session or two to rest in town heal and resupply, then “some” thing happens and we go on the next quest, search, or deal with the town guard. Just treat Conan the same way. Just role play the carousing, After the adventure It does take longer to heal in Conan so i just ignore those rules, and say a day or two with bed rest and good food heals you much quicker. But I roll the “what happens” during carousing and turn those in to “mini” adventures, and not worry about the money part. If the Patron need the player they get a note and choose if they want to answer the call. Say they lose the social roll and are out of money, the tavern owner roughs them up and kicks them out so they get the penalties for the next adventure.

Just don’t tell them they are doing the carousing phase and they may not even know it happened. When the rules are to hard to do in the style of play, I just skip them or make something up on the fly.

I know that may not be the answer you want but that helped me.

1 Like

Real short, no carousing phase until they deliver Delia to her home. Then they carouse there for a few weeks as her guests. Inevitably, they get itchy feet or they offend someone and have to move on to new pastures. Handwave to start new adventure.

1 Like

I like the idea of connecting the different adventures as opposed to separate non connected scenarios. As mentioned above the carousing session is a great way to make and run mini adventure within and adventure and stich together your gaming sessions. When starting my group with Conan after character generation we began with a carousing session which the players enjoyed. I’m tending towards the kind of REH approach, where the players nearly always start either broke or already embroiled in something…seems in keeping with the setting.

2 Likes

Thanks for the responses. I will be taking a bit of all the advice presented here.

Plan so far - the PCs will escort Delia back to Aquilonia after a few days of rest in Messantia, basically a shorter Carousing phase to allow them to restock and heal wounds with the trip to Aquilonia being a small adventure in and of itself. Once in Aquilonia they’ll have a longer Carousing phase until the political unrest in the region kind of engulfs them through their newfound friendship with Delia which will spur the next adventure.

2 Likes

Looks like there were two Carousing topics to relaunch. I decided on this one.

First, a query: What is your practice/recommendation/understanding about whether the Carousing Events should be resolved collaboratively, at the table, or in some secret, by the GM? My question results from this dice roll:

16 Made a New Friend Someone attempts to ingratiate himself with the player character … The gamemaster should resolve this event subtly and carefully, and the specific details should remain secret.

Here I am reading this out loud, and my player says, “I don’t think you should be telling me this.”

As far as integrating the Carousing Events into the campaign, I had thought they were to be narrative bridges between adventures, and that’s especially why I wanted to include my players in responding to what I really see as story prompts (which is why the result above blindsided me). Here’s an example of this from my campaign notebook, and it certainly relates to the original question. In the situation of returning Delia to Aquilonia, I would have rolled Carousing Events, to have taken place anywhere and at any point between here and there, and to see how those events interacted with the PCs’ intentions. Here is an example in action:

Conclusion of previous adventure—Phariom and Arik are able to carry Elaith away from the cult of Mordiggian. With the creatures on their heels, they flee, taking time only to shut the secret doors behind them. In the chamber above, while screams emit from the area in which the other three characters retired, Ventronus breaks the top door mechanism to provide themselves with more time for their escape.

Carousing [22 Slumming Nobility]

The PCs agree to accompany Phariom to Luxur, wherein he has kin. Therein they find the city in the midst of revels—the Skin-Shedding of Set—a time of rebirth, resolutions, and fertility. While Phariom goes off, alone, to navigate various back channels to get in touch with the nobility in town, Elaith craves a night within the festival, and she compels the PCs to serve as her guard.

In the midst of the revels, her beauty captures the attention of Rimsin, a cousin of Phariom’s, who currently is out in disguise as a commoner. Phariom returns to the PCs at the height of the Snake Dance, in which Elaith and Rimsin both are participating, a rite of rebirth and sensuality, in which the participants’ clothes are shed throughout a striptease. Phariom finds Elaith and Rimsin sinuously entangled. Enraged with jealousy, Phariom is about to slay Rimsin, when he recognizes the face of his own cousin.

Rimsin soon helps Phariom secure a footing in Luxur, through which Phariom develops a river enterprise. This leads the PCs to boarding a trade trireme.

Next adventure—“The Satisfaction of the Sea-Witch”

We’ve finished the above adventure, and now I’m mulling over the Carousing Events for two PCs’, 16, as mentioned, and 23, Night in the Stocks, which I’ve already narrated in accordance with the character’s Trait.

My campaign doesn’t run exactly as intended. We often go straight from on adventure to some rp and then to the next. Carousing is to bridge those gaps. As such I don’t use it often. Usually when I do it is to determine what might have happened while one party member gets separated for an extended period. That being said, when I do use carousing I usually do it in secret and share what happens with the pcs after the fact.

1 Like

Don’t forget - their plan to not carouse but to get on with the serious work of finishing the job and getting everybody home safe is just that - a plan. And plans go wrong.
The main reason plans go wrong in real life is because despite their honourable intentions, good ideas and plans, people are unreliable varmints. They get bored, they get tired, they get distracted. And they get drunk.
I have similar way of running adventures - where they all sort of blur into an episode of 24, only much, much longer… But if my players were to seriously tell me that after however many days at sea, they didn’t want to get drunk, I would call them lying, yellow-bellied, cheating hobos and to get out of my house! And that’s just the players, never mind their characters…
Seriously, that first couple of nights in port are going to be wild
And in another game, that’s where you have to come up with something creative and dastardly to turn their otherwise boringly sensible stopover into something a little more fun. But in Conan, you have Carousing…!
Its literally about how, despite the plan, they got drunk, lost all their money and got into trouble.
Now, come on, get a grip. No more nonsense about plans and rest

2 Likes

I’m realizing that I have to look at my Downtime Activities more carefully. It now has occurred to me, because of the mentions of PCs starting each adventure more or less broke and on the run, that I have overlooked the Trouble table.

Those of you doing downtime according to perceived intentions, do you have players roll both on the Trouble and Carousing Activities tables? Having overlooked the Trouble table, till now (perhaps), I’ve been using Carousing Events alone.

I think the larger consideration that I’ve been pondering, looking at Downtime and bridges to the next adventure, is player agency. Twice now, after constructing a Downtime narrative, I’m going to be telling players that their characters have boarded a trade vessel and… adventure! It might not be a problem, they might be acquiescent to this kind of expectation, but I’m wondering if they might secretly be thinking, “But I didn’t want to do that, my character wouldn’t do that.”

I’m thinking that, after running one more “traditional” Conan episode with them, I might ask them their preferences. I can see localizing three adventures or more, allowing them to explore some long term goals after Downtime activities, and then leap locales if the narrative ground ever grows stale. But right now their characters appear to lack motivation; they quite literally follow every whim of the GM, me.

I just ran a 2 session adventure based on a heist, in the style of the Thief supplement. I’ve tied it to the locale (Magyar, Corinthia) and local NPCs including some high-rollers and some fixtures of the community. It’s the second one I’ve run like that and although it’s building more slowly than I think Conan is imagined to play by some, my group are enjoying it and the city is growing more real.
If Carousing doesn’t fit I skip it. Or turn it into a new subplot. I don’t want to let a game’s style spoil a good campaign!

2 Likes

Do you have the 2 part heist as a pdf? Would be keen to look over it

Oh, I absolutely agree. The thing is, we end up roleplaying a lot of that out too. I can’t tell you the number of sessions that have evolved out of one or more character wanting to cut loose and party/drink themselves into oblivion. Of course we don’t always rp it out but the players usually really enjoy the lighter fair of things now and then after all the tension that the campaign can bring. For instance the party decided they wanted to join the fights in the arena in town. After some digging they began to find out that there was more than just fights going on and while two players duked it out in the arena, providing a great distraction, the other two did a fair share of rping and digging through plots. There was a lot of intrigue going on behind the scenes which the players greatly enjoyed messing with. The pair that was fighting had a blast because the fights were both challenging and fair. They even made friends with the pair that they lost to in the final round. After it was all said in done, everyone was exhausted be it from physical damage or psychological stress. They used their winnings to pay a local bar owner to rent out his place for a two night ■■■■■■ of a party. The party lead to so much rp it took up an entire session in and of itself.

2 Likes

Krieg - I’ve just posted Part 2 on Fan Resources. Part 1 is called Kidnappers in Corinthia dna Part 2 is called Collusion In Corinthia. It isn’t a PDF, actually, just word. I may PDF it when I get a minute.

I strongly like the Carousing tables. There are a lot of reasons for this but I will try to stick to some more relevant to this post.

First is I am very experienced GM. I have been doing this in some form or another since grade school and I am 40. I enjoy the challenge of improvising and you’d better believe those Carousing tables make me do just that!

Second, is I can get stuck in certain patterns. You can only do this kind of thing before it begins to feel familiar, shall we say. When some random die rolls at the end of the adventure throw you some surprises out of left field, you need to make something new which is great for my players too!

Having run two adventures now, the players do feel you loose control of your players during the Carousing phase. Reading through this post, I think I need to RP it more.

1 Like

I think this is an interesting thread, so I’m going to try to revive it.
I’m now a few more games into my campaign and understanding more about haow all the elements fit together. I thought I’d offer an update on my perspective of what works and ask others to share theirs?
As a recent adventure came to a close, I turned to the carousing table for the final half hour of the session. I had all the PCs roll separately as I thought it would be a good opportunity to develop their own lives a bit, between ‘adventures’ and it proved worthwhile. I fairly abstracted ‘imprtant visitors disrupt your characters’ plans came up and i had to ad lib: basically the arrival of a diplomatic entourage meant one of them couldn’t get out of the slum quarter to meet friendly NPCs they had planned to see. Another got drunk (got a tattoo) and introduced a handful of NPCs i can now abuse with mishaps and 2 partook in a festival I didn’t even know existed. It was a little seat-of-the-pants but it he end my campaign setting is better for it.
I’m now going to try to develop all those threads a bit more and tie them into whatever happens next.
What are other people’s experiences?

1 Like

Thanks for rebooting this! I’ll contribute, too.

By now, my group has experienced many sessions of Downtime. Overall, I believe, they proceed with elegance: we seem to know, intuitively, which aspects of Downtime we should “roleplay” and which should be resolved procedurally. However, the use of Momentum and Doom, as a normal game mechanic, begins to feel artificial, potentially problematic. What I mean by this is that we all are aware that this is Downtime, and, consequently, the usual ebb and flow of Momentum and Doom is not normal. For instance, paying a bunch of Doom to get a better price on some traded gear or to stalk a target down a street seems liable to be either a sure thing of no consequence or to come swinging savagely right back at you in the very next moment, because what else is the GM to use that Doom for, in the last few minutes of game time?

My personal instinct is to disallow, during Downtime, Doom being paid to the GM. Any Doom generated should result solely from Complications. Moreover, any Momentum earned from dice rolls must be spent immediately and be tied to the actions that generated it.

My next observation is probably more idiosyncratic.

Last adventure, my character rolled under a tumbling pillar, dropped both bow and scimitar into the sand, sacrificed both Turanian helmet and cuirass in deadly competition with a worthy adversary, and had to flee a sandstorm lest he be engulfed in its choking waves. I entered Downtime wholly ready to:

A. Remove both bow and scimitar from my character sheet. After all, I had to leave them buried in the sand. There was no time to recover them.

B. Purchase a new cuirass and decide if I wanted to replace my helm. After all, I had sacrificed this to prevent myself from being Wounded, on two occasions. Loss of equipment was the exchange for sound body.

But then my GM read me the following:

Upkeep isn’t just food and lodgings. It encompasses anything and everything that allows the player character to maintain the existence to which they are accustomed. In Upkeep the player characters can perform routine and mundane daily tasks — such as cleaning weapons, repairing armor, practicing skills, and replenishing lost supplies and ammunition.

I argued that these words were misconstruing the intent of the game, but, while composing this today, I find the suggested meaning doubly articulated:

Upkeep assumes the player character enters the next session with all ammunition replenished, food restocked, and missing items replaced and/or repaired. Upkeep essentially allows a player character to maintain the same equipment from one session to the next without having to perform further bookkeeping.

My GM told me that I can roleplay any way I want, if unnecessarily “penalizing” my character appeals to me. But to do so, playing at variance with the other players’ normal procedure, feels odd to me, as if I would be engaging in my own private game within a game. So I’ve decided that I somehow still have my scimitar and hunting bow, however unsatisfying and “gamist” this simulation seems to me.

When I am GM, though, if I think that PCs should have lost or permanently damaged equipment resulting from their adventures, I will spend Doom equal to the item’s availability to make its loss resilient.

(I do this, similarly, spending 1 Doom per Resolve damage from Fear effects, to make Resolve “resilient.” Otherwise Resolve tends to be mild and ephemeral, lightly shaken off between Scenes, of no real consequence to the PCs.)

I get you. I think there’s an RP element to this.
My players would instinctively have the same expectations as you, due to a long history of playing d20 games. But they also recognise that ‘shopping’ in said systems is dull and some of us actively hate it. I believe the intention here is to cut out the boring stuff and move forward. So I interpret this upkeep rule as meaning that your upkeep expenditure allows you to replace you normal gear. I.e. you have a cuirass and scimitar, but not necessarily the same one. This has the followng implications:
You can usually pick up your characters and just play, without ‘faff’.
In many games, PCs begin with their standard kit, but not the heirloom scimitar they got in character generation.
If ‘downtime’ takes place in a foreign location or a poor location, the exact kit may not be available.
If downtime doesn’t happen, they might have to wait until they reach civilisation or get a chance to replace kit.
Special, ensorcelled or other unusual items can be lost.
This is how I GM it. Personally, I think anything that undermines the illusion of the game should be questioned. Part of the GM’s role is to support your ‘immersion’ in the world, by adapting the rules when necessary. My PCs wont want the kit they lost. BUT if kit is described and given character and is part of the PC story, losing it can still be meaningful, even if its replaced.

2 Likes