Today's game session had the PC's leaving the city proper hot on the heels of an adversary. I was prepared for the PC's to get bogged down in more street to street action but the random encounter I rolled gave them a slight advantage and they were able to allude the major confrontation which threatened them at session start. With increased freedom of movement the action quickly outstripped any prep I had done. Going on vacation soon so truth is I really did no prep for today's game.
We are playing Renaissance but I include many LotFP adventure modules in which to build my fantasy English Civil War world on. I'm not too worried about spoilers here because I chop up all the published materials I use to obfuscate what will come next. These are all seasoned gamers and have tons of time in CoC adventures so I know I have to work to keep things interesting. Including making encounters mysterious even if the players have read the material.
Saying I did no prep is not actually correct either. Because I like to purchase quality stuff that meant I had just what I needed on my shelf. Scenic Dunnsmouth was about to see its first game in live fire!
Now this adventure module by +Zzarchov Kowolski is not one to use unread. But I had read through the module when I initially bought it and even used the built-in prep sequence to see what I had. Therefore I had some idea how I was going to use the content. I just didn't remember it all. What I did know was the module was filled with detailed NPC's and locations and should give me enough hooks and seeds to keep the hunt lively. The trick is what to cut away. Not every NPC can be a psychotic nut-job devil worshiping cannibal. Not every location can be fraught with danger, otherwise “suspension of disbelief” gets eroded and the campaign's uniqueness is diluted. This just makes the module the center of attention, not the PC's. The other trick is to deftly incorporate the ongoing game events the players are concerned with seamlessly with the written material in front of me. So the events don't seem forced or the PC's feel shoehorned into situations and their agency has been stripped away.
Scenic Dunnsmouth performed admirably. I was able to scan locations quickly and decide what would be encountered first. Followed by the laundry list of NPC's I could populate encounters with vivid personalities. This gave the PC's buttons and levers to push, get some environmental feedback as they figure out what to do. This also gives me time to make picks. Who is false, what are the dead ends, and where would the big bad go in this situation. I'm not saying walls of text and endless detail are what is found inside. No, just that Kowolski provides people and places which are interesting. With my random name generator I made earlier I was able to use the tried and true technique of changing names. But not always. Because in the rush of gaming I sometimes forget which name was assigned to which NPC. Peoples & Places and Miscellania were the two sections of Scenic Dunnsmouth I relied on the most. PC's got folks to interact with, their suspicious of everything which moves, I got only forty more minutes of game time to fill…
I don't want to make it sound like my whole game is one random table after another, but random tables are an essential tool to keep me from bogging down. Consistently LotFP adventures have given me these essential ingredients; 1. Interesting stuff for PC's to engage, and 2. Interesting stuff for me, the Game Master, to mull over and what it could mean for the PC's future fortunes.
I also don't want to make it sound that whatever comes off the LotFP press is useful to me. If adventure material does not fit my vision I'm not going to use it in the game. My players deserve more than just filler. But as I run more games not in the dungeon, without those reliable thick walls to contain a session's activities, I find this companies output gives me stuff to use immediately which interests me at the table as well as my players. This is also the easy part. Now things are set in motion. Now I need to drill down into my ideas and my originality to tie what was started by the PC's together into horrible climaxes where all hangs in the balance!