Playing at an open table
Harald runs his bi-weekly game in a slightly unusual fashion. It is an open table where he runs for whoever shows up. That in itself isn’t that unusual and the West Marshes style of running a campaign is based on a similar foundation.
The difference is that he treats the constant exchange of players and characters as a single continuous group. That means that if last week Clara, River and Amy break into the Holy Temple of Om, and this week Clara, Rose and Jack turn up at the game, the game starts with all three having just broken into the temple and are now facing the Dire Weresheep Guards.
„But what about River and Amy?“ you ask. „And where did Rose and Jack suddenly turn up from?“
And to this, Haralds game group will answer: „What? uh.. we don’t care!“
The solution is that we treat this as just a cutting mistake in a B‑Movie. As long as the plot continues and is overall kept intact, we’re fine. So, we ended last week entering the temple and this week starts with the first confrontation inside the temple. Everything is fine. As long as no one draws attention to the fact that there are suddenly swapped-out characters, no one really notices.
The other main reason this works is what kind of game we play at this table: There is no prepared epic campaign where we follow a carefully crafted set of settings and obstacles. Instead, Harald throws us into any one of the dozens of adventure modules he has collected over time and watches our characters try to cope with them, even if they are widely out of our level.
Then he takes whatever exit we take and uses it to throw us right into the next adventure. Example: When we decided to open a portal to escape the Servants of the Cinder Queen, that portal opened to the Broodmother Skyfortress. After having explored the fortress and finally managed to make it sort-of-land, we had to blindly jump from the anchor chain found ourselves on top of a structure on the Misty Isles of the Elk.
At the game table, none of this felt out of place. Harald cleverly chose the Cthonic Codex and a very rules-light interpretation of the Adventure Fantasy Game as the base setting, and it works surprisingly well as scaffolding to hold up and connect all the different and slightly weird set-pieces we visit. Things do not get boring, but stay mostly consistent, as Harald does keep track of when we change things in places or set something in motion that might have a world-changing effect later on.
No, this isn’t something to play if you want to watch your character with their three friends evolve over 20 levels and find out how they save the kingdom. But if you want to have regular fun that still connects to a story worth re-telling, this approach is worth a try.
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