What’s a role-playing game without an adventure?
A bare, boring set of rules, that’s what. You need a story for the characters, something to get excited and thrilled by – then the rules are turned into a game, then the whole experience comes alive and begins to give you what it was intended for: fun.
Role-playing games are, after all, akin to novels, to movies, and not least the make-belief games you played as a child. All of those experiences are about fun – and here you can be part of the story rather than a passive observer.
If you ever dreamed of being a great hero, a savior of mankind, RPGs give you the chance to feel that thrill.
On the other hand, it needs to be mentioned, they can also give you the downcast feeling when your best friend has been slaughtered by a monster – and you have to avenge his death.
So gather round the table, unpack your dice, ready the pencils, and get ready to play!
There are basically two ways you can have an adventure in your role-playing game. One, the game master (GM) dreams up a story, draws the maps and plots the important points. Two, you use an adventure module that already contains a story and the important waypoints that the characters need to cover.
One such module you are currently reading. The Courier’s Oath is the first adventure designed for the Gushémal Role-Playing Game (GRPG) and therefore is intended for beginning characters – which doesn’t mean the players have to be newcomers to the scene. All characters that start with this module are, necessarily so, just starting their lives on the face of Gushémal.
This module is a small story, which probably covers a single evening’s game session. The party should not exceed six characters.
The Courier’s Oath should be your launching point into the world of Gushémal, a chance to familiarize yourself with the environment and the rules. (It should also be a rollicking good ride.)
After finishing this module, you can strike out on your own, with adventures that your GM creates. There ought to be several potential hooks in the texts we have available on our website, at http://www.gushemal.com. Read the stories, read the background information in THE WORLD, and some ideas should be coming your way. (A few hooks are already inserted into this text, your GM might embellish them into a full-fledged adventure.)
What you will probably strive for is to take your characters into several adventures in a row – a so-called campaign -, so that they can gather more experience and grow as characters. As a result, they also require bigger challenges, and who knows? At some point later on, the same characters who took The Courier’s Oath will be ready to save the world!
One important note on the usage of this text: It should only be read by the game master who will run the campaign! (This applies to all adventures; only the GM should know all the twists and turns.)
The reason is simply that the players – and thus their characters – need to be surprised by the events. It’s more fun to keep guessing what is going to happen, to adjust one’s behavior to the expectation – and then to learn whether the expectation was right or wrong.
The Courier’s Oath is sub-divided into chapters, much like a book. In the case of this module, the chapters also equal the different settings, beginning with the small town of Clearspring.
Most of the time we will be addressing the GM directly, since we assume that you, the dear reader, will run this module with a party.
Each chapter has a general introduction and gives you a guide how to take her party through the story. There is no fixed storyline that absolutely must be followed. We have built into the plot a few checks and balances so that the story can be brought back into line with relative ease. (When you’re running the campaign, it is possible that you think differently. In that case, your players have been a tad more wiley – or plain old crazy – than we imagined. Don’t let it get you down; try to go with the flow, and plan a few nasty surprises for those pesky players.)
In every chapter your party is likely to meet people the characters will have to interact (i.e. talk, trade, fight, etc.) with. These Non-Player Characters (NPCs) have their own stories, and we have tried to provide enough information for the GM to portray them believably. Information on the NPCs is generally found at the end of the chapter; when they appear before, the index is shown.
At the end of the chapter, you will also find information on creatures that might appear, a few random appearance tables, and so on. (If you’re a beginner, don’t worry, we’ll take you through the unfamiliar terms and procedures.)
There will be textboxes throughout the book. One kind is titled GM Tips and provides you with a number of clues about alternative courses to run a scene, or go into more depth how to approach it (timing, how to build suspence, etc.).
The other kind is titled Flavor Text. As the GM of a campaign you have to tell your players what their characters see, hear, smell, taste, etc. You will want to make it sound a bit lively, a lot like the colorful text you find in a novel. After all, a bland “You’re standing in front of an inn” might bring the message across, but compare it to “The inn in front of you is not very inviting. Paint is peeling off the walls. The sign with the name has bleached in the sunlight so that you can barely make out the words. It looks as if the owner of the inn hasn’t bothered to clean up in decades.” You create an atmosphere with these words, add flavor to your description.
Flavor Text provides you with examples how to describe situations or people. You may use them at your leisure or create your own; see what works best for you.
This module is primarily written for people who haven’t run any campaigns before. Many notes and tips are geared to ease people into this new position.
Don’t ignore this module just because portions are old stuff to you. There might be a few tricks you haven’t heard of, or you might enjoy viewing things from the old perspective. After all, there was a day when you opened your first campaign as well.
GRPG is a work in progress, and we would like to hear your opinion on the game. What is still missing, what could – or should – be improved? Also, how should it be improved?
Tell us of your experiences with the game, both good and bad, and please make suggestions on how to make it a better game. Be a part of GRPG, help it grow into a game that you enjoy playing!
Of course we will acknowledge your assistance and/or contributions by name!
Regarding adventure modules in particular, we would like to extend a further invitation to you: If you create a GRPG adventure for your party and feel that it would be great to share it with the world, then by the gods, please do so! You are the people who make the game come alive, you are the ones who’ll play it (more than we do, anyway).
Structure it in a suitable way and mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org; we would love to add your module to our site.
(Also read the FAQ on the website, at http://www.gushemal.com/faq.htm. Thank you!)
You will need copies of the GRPG Player’s Handbook and the Game Master Guide. As the GM, you need to be very familiar with the rules – or at least be able to look them up whenever the flow of the game requires you to do so.
On our website, you will find background material on the area (i.e. the Wild Coast) and its history. In the module, we’ll skim the topic shortly, but you’ll find a more expansive set of information on the site, at http://www.gushemal.com/nations.htm. Read the entries on Arrufat Peninsula and The Wild Coast.
The March story Ruins and Hopes takes place in the very same area that The Courier’s Oath explores. In fact the module takes place only a short while later, and two of the characters from the story also appear in the module. Reading the story might give you a better feel for the place, for the atmosphere; and you might get a few ideas on how to run the game for your players. You can find the story at http://www.gushemal.com/stories.htm. (It is also available for download as an Acrobat PDF file.)
The other materials and stories on the site are not required for this module, but we recommend that you read them nonetheless. What information you gather there might be helpful in the game, e.g. when a player wants to run a character who hails from, say, the nation of Cayaboré. You need to know a bit about that area, as well.
Otherwise, you’ll need pencils, dice, a pocket calculator (optional but advisable) and someplace to run the game…