Gettin’ Back to Town

There’s a sentiment I sense, in the blag-o-sphere, that the adventurers should return to town at the end of the game session.

Rients says so here. OD&D says that Elves choose on any adventure whether to operate as a Fighting-Man or Magic-User, which suggests that “adventures” are discreet operations much like game sessions (arguable). In the game sessions described under the Chronicals of Ryth the sessions are quite clearly discrete adventures and PCs seem to have always returned to town. In the West marches campaign structure the adventurers must return to town after a game session.

Why such a big deal? Well, read the posts above, but in summary, it presents a nice package. A clean slate at the end of the session means one at the beginning of the next. Here’s a simple problem probably everyone has encountered: Eric the Red was here last weekend and we ended in the dungeon. Now he’s not here. What does his character do? Stand there frozen and ignored by monsters? Does a PC or the DM play his character (and what if you don’t have his character sheet and you don’t know what he would do in Situation X)? What if the rest of the group falls under a Geas or buys Rings of Water Breathing? Is Eric the Red just boned? It’s much easier if Eric is back in town for this weekend’s adventure, and next weekend we all start in town so he’s there ready to meet up with us again.

Rients suggests a table of Dungeon Dooms that befall adventurers who don’t get home for supper. I like the table, it’s cool and inventive, but every single player I’ve described it to has totally not liked it. The table is a stick as opposed to a carrot. The goal is to get the players back to town at the end of the session: how can we do that? Nobody else had solid ideas.

Here’s mine. Go with a carrot instead of the stick and use the system’s inherent features to help.

1: Encumbrance. You need to store your loot someplace – it’s probably going to be somewhere secure in town. Or else you hide your loot in a nasty hole in the ground like some ruffian or Hobbit. To access your stash, whether to make a deposit or withdrawal, you need to come back to town. Since town is a safe place, and services you spend money on are there anyway, this is a great arrangement. I typically make safe storage available at very reasonable prices (currently, 10 GP per month for a 10×10 room in a guarded warehouse called the Stone Pens).

2: Training. PCs advance at different rates. This means you typically see some PCs training in town on each trip back. If you need to train, you want to go back to town rather than huddle under a wet tree near the dungeon gnawing on a soft onion like a goblin hobo. My training fees are nominal (100 GP x current level instead of 1,500 GP x current level) but you do have to train.

3: Services. Town offers high level healing, new equipment, sale of loot (see encumbrance), replacement hirelings and war dogs, replacement equipment (arrows, oil, holy water, spell components). You could probably file training under this too but you might not use training rules.

4: Opportunities. I allow Jeff Rients’ Carousing only after coming back to town after an adventure. After each adventure I also roll to see whether any other adventurers in town have a magic item to sell (at some markup!). Participation in the Arena can be done generally at the start of a game session while we wait for a missing player, but only if we ended in town last game. Proclamations are offered every game session but you don’t hear about them unless you check out the town.

5: Division of treasure. I don’t allow anything to be left on a “party treasure” list between sessions. If it’s not on someone’s character sheet it has gone missing (stolen, lost, traded for some “magic” beans). This encourages the appraisal, identification, and division of all treasure at the end of the session. Unless you have an M-U of about level 6+, it’s cheaper to have someone in town I.D. your magic items. Unless someone rolled a secondary skill that would let you appraise a thing, you need to pay a (nominal) appraisal fee to the dude at the trading post or else some merchant.

6: Travel time. Two dungeons are a day’s walk from town. The other two are twice that far. While this admittedly discourages purchase of horses, it encourages frequent trips back to town rather than marathon “been six months since I had a bath and a whiskey” expeditions.

7: Town is safe, the wilderness is not. When you camp in the dungeon, you get random encounters three times an hour. Outdoors, three times a day. In town you get an encounter check only at night and it’s generally just some dude out for a midnight poop unless you’re in the really bad part of town.

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