An Unfortunate Ending

Please note: This article contains spoilers for session 4 of our OSE campaign Smoke & Snow, so–if you’re at all bothered about that–you may want to skip this until you’ve watched session 4.

Last night’s OSE game was a night of unfortunate endings in more ways then one, just before the session started we found out that one of the players has had to drop out of the game for personal reasons, which is a shame, but these things happen and we will push on with our current roster. I’ve not spoken to the other players about whether we want to recruit a fourth person or not yet, given the events of the session we didn’t really have time to go into it. We wish our departed player well and hope–if things settle down–they’ll be able to game with us again soon.

The second unfortunate ending was our first character death in the game, the players are first level and–as anyone who’s played OSR games can tell you–it can be pretty deadly, particularly in a sandbox/hex-crawl style of game like ours where encounters are not calibrated to be appropriate challenges for the party.

Our heroes made the acquaintance of two warriors from an almost forgotten holy order than originated in Valkonen and noticed that their heraldry bore a striking resemblance to that worn by the undead of Witch Isle. After some discussion they found out that the two knights had been travelling to the site of an old abbey that was once the seat of their Order’s power, in the hopes of finding a relic called the Sunsword that might lay the undead of the island to rest and perhaps end their curse. Unfortunately the eldest of the knights has been savaged by insects infesting the abbey and his young apprentice had to drag him free.

The player characters were able to find some healing herbs and help cure the old knight, but he was in no position to travel up the mountains to the Abbey so–getting directions from them–the PCs decided to seek out the artifact. Unfortunately when they went in they encountered and infestation of giant fire and tiger beetles. Young John Cameron the ranger of the group found himself surrounded and was torn down by the clicking mandibles of the creatures, his companions were able to recover his body (killing many of the insects) and withdraw to consider their next move.

We had a small funeral scene where they rendezvoused with their trader friend Hercules Bucchanen and buried Cameron with a grave marker, this point has now been marked on our hex map.

The gravesite of John Cameron marked on our campaign hex map.

Although death is a necessary–and some would say inevitable–part of old-school games it’s unfortunate when it happens and present some challenges, people can need a few moments, new characters need to be generated and then you have to work the new character/s into the party and the game.

To his credit Rob–who played John Cameron–was fine with his character dying in a combat, he started generating a new character while the rest of us played out the short funeral scene for his old character, we then had our scheduled rest break to give him a bit more time to work on it. One of the advantages of an old-school game like OSE, particularly using the excellent Roll20 sheet, is that it doesn’t take a great deal of time to generate characters in terms of the stats. By the time we got back from our break Rob was ready to rock and roll.

I recently made some additional character classes available to the players in the campaign, these are:

  • The Friar from the playtest Dolmenwood Players Guide from Necrotic Gnome.
  • The Hunter from the paytest Dolmenwood Players Guide.
  • The Merchant from Lost Classes: the Arnesonian Classes by R. J. Thompson
  • The Sage from Lost Classes: the Arnesonian Classes by R. J. Thompson

Rob was quite enthusiastic about the idea of playing a Hunter and so rolled one up using the guidelines from the Dolmenwood playtest material. He chose to make his character one of the Elves, or Wald as they are known in our campaign setting; a shunned people with bloodline connections to the ancient mages of Valkonen who we blamed for the great Ice Age that originally forced humanity to flee the shores of Valkonen over a thousand years previous.

Wanting to get Rob back into the game as quickly as possible, we had a quick out-of-character chat amongst the group and settled on the idea that he had been hired on as an extra hand by Hercules Bucchanen the trader. Perhaps not the most original way of getting a new character, but it meant Rob wasn’t sitting around for the rest of the session, something I was keen to avoid.

They risked another foray into the Abbey but were again forced to withdraw when the number of the heavily armoured giant tiger beetles they encountered proved more difficult than they were expecting, luckily the PCs were able to outpace the insects and withdraw. We ended the session with them licking their wounds and trying to concoct a plan of how to get through the Abbey and into the catacombs below to retrieve the relic.

It was a very enjoyable session and–having a group that are up for a laugh and really throw themselves into the game meant that–despite the unfortunate death of a player character there was minimal disruption to the game session and we were all able to jump back into the action.

I’m looking forward to seeing what plan they come up with next time.

RIP John Cameron, died Shrineday, 21st of Snowmelt 1286 AE

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