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  • Writer's pictureLambert Behnke

Spreading the love - choices choices choices

So you have decided that you want to spread the word of The Dark Eye, and the logical choice is to show others, that might be interest, the game. Where do those people hang out, well everywhere, but lots of us come together, at conventions.

Living in Scotland I have a few of them open to me. Once this has worked, I might well take the same game to some others. First though, we needed to select the first outing. The choices really were between Tabletop Scotland, the biggest convention around, but where role-playing games are only one part of the show, Conpulsion, the friendly convention arranged by Edinburgh Universities Games society in the gorgeous Teviot Union, and Cymera, Scotland's festival of Sci-fi, Fantasy and Horror writing, which apparently has a solid role-playing side to it.

For me the choice was simple. Tabletop Scotland was the last convention I attended, as these days with adult responsibilities I no longer have the luxury of being away every weekend to role-play around tables or in a field. I had good experiences playing Feng Shui 2, Blood on the Clocktower (not a role-playing game) and the wonderful Liminal there. Therefore, I have a good idea how things are organised. And (even though I have not done it yet), my advice to you is, when you start something that is going to be stressful (running an adventure for complete strangers in unfamiliar surroundings with time pressure): "Minimise the amount of things you need to think about."

By that I mean, I will hopefully use my resources concentrating on the adventure, the NPCs and the story, whilst keeping an eye on the clock. That is likely more than enough for me. If I also had to worry about where the rooms are, where I need to register, what kind of table situation I am going to have, where to get water and snacks from etc. than it might make my game suffer.

Having chosen Tabletop Scotland, I know that I have a 3 hour 30 minute slot to run my game in. While not doubt I will speak in a later post about timing, and what I need to do to actually finish my game in that period, that roughly means 30 minutes introduction (people, system, background, setting, and the adventure hook) and then 3 hours to actually play the scenario.

So the next choice, and of the core choices, which scenario do I want to run. There is more to the question than first meets the eye. Because clearly my game is likely the only real touchpoint the players will have with The Dark Eye. So I want the players to not only have enjoyed themselves, but also ideally be tempted to try the game itself with their friends, and have similar experiences. For that reason, I want to use a published scenario, one the potential new players could buy and run themselves. 1) Needs to be a published scenario. 2) New players need to be able to finish it in 3 hours.

Next I looked at what it deliberately targetted at new players. The quick starter scenario. While there is nothing wrong with the scenario, I feel that it doesn't capture what makes The Dark Eye different from other RPGs. I feel most groups will fight the orcs (never discovering that there were other options) and get back the kid and maybe find something linking them back to the village, but that is it. I think it is great to see the system run, and work out how skill checks work, and the like, but it doesn't sell its charm or the fact that it isn't combat focussed to the nth degree. The recent English translation of the French scenario, The Spring Festival is a little better in the above problem but depending on the players you are going to get it might seem a little low stakes and unimportant. The standalone main adventure written for new players, Revelations from Heaven, is far too long for a one shot. Even the shorter adventures in the anthology Tales of Dragons and Thieves are likewise too long. Hence, we need to look at the series of Heroic Works, a group of short adventures to run as one-shots, or between other pieces of a campaign as a change of pace or scenery.

Currently translated in English we have 8 regular scenarios, a Kickstarter only scenario and two special convention scenarios. Giving me a list of 11 to choose from. While I like the Kickstarter scenario, I am not sure whether it is actually available for people, and so it was discarded. So where also everything which had a complexity above "low", because more complex scenarios take more time to establish and do justice. That left me with, #1 Witch's Dance, #4 Kibakadabra and #7 Legacy of the Dike. All three excellent choices, and all three I had already run or experienced as a player. Kibakadabra plays off the main continent of Aventuria where literally every other English product is set and hence being so atypical meant that it was out for a first experience. Legacy of the Dike was a serious contender, but it contains sections which I would have to gloss over in order to keep things within 3 hours. The first time I ran it just the part in Trondsand, where the players are looking for aid, took an entire session and ended with an extremely lucky player winning a merchant vessel against a crooked local merchant in an infamous game of Boltan. (When the three ones come out you have to go big).

That all left us with The Witch's Dance a cracking adventure which is closed in locality, has limited NPCs and encounters and best of all, has a built-in time constraint. Either the players stop the ritual before midnight or not. The weakest point of the adventure is the beginning, but if I am running this as a convention adventure, I can cheat and write some pre story to means the PCs are coming there, in order to help with the situation, rather than randomly being at the right point at the right time. But more about the adventure and the preparations later.

Next time I will focus on the application to the convention, including what I would do differently next time.

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