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Coriolis: The Third Horizon» Forums » Sessions

Subject: First game report: "Dark Flowers" (quick start adventure) rss

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Trevor Marshall
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On Saturday (January 19, 2019) I ran my first game of Coriolis, for some friends at a day-long RPG event that takes place quarterly in my area. I took four players through the “Dark Flowers” QuickStart scenario during a four-hour session, and everyone enjoyed it. I’ve been looking forward to sharing Coriolis with local gamers and it was really well received.

I won’t delve into details here in case there are members in this group who intend to play this adventure, but I do have some observations to share:

- We used the pre-generated characters and they were a well-rounded party. Well done! As I only had four players, I simply dropped the Courtesan character. He wasn’t missed: the others could easily cover off his skills.

- While preparing to run this adventure I created a bunch of handouts - primarily screen shots of computer terminals, so that I could share information in a manner that the players could refer back to. I went through the adventure and made up screen for things like the results of sensor sweeps or database searches.

- I found there was a lot of background information for the adventure that, while interesting to the GM, doesn’t really come into play. And yet, it would help the explorers piece together what’s happening. So I used that material to craft brief Wikipedia-style entries for things the explorers might want to look up - for instance, the Emir who funded the project. I was careful to not give away everything in one entry - but drop enough nuggets into each that a more complete story could be pieced together over time.

- I also used this technique for notebooks and other materials that could help reveal the events that overtook the place the team explores, and to suggest the motives of various actors in the story. On the module, for example, there are a couple of lines in a scrap from a notebook: I expanded this into a couple of paragraphs. Holo cubes, log entries and other sources can be used too. My goal with this was to do away with the need for an NPC to “monologue” the backstory while the explorers fidget impatiently. It worked really well.

- The notes in the module about creating suspense worked really well. By the time the players entered the place they would be exploring, they were already freaking out about possible threats. Well done!

- That said, there were some obvious gaps in the design of the place they were to explore. For example, some of the areas don’t have maps. There were no general dimensions given: how tall is this thing? How many people would’ve lived here? Etc. I was able to fill in that information on the fly, but for a quick start intended for GMs new to the game it would’ve been helpful to have that info already. Even things like a current date and a timeline of events with dates instead of saying “X years ago” would’ve helped for making up screen shots. (In real life, we don’t tend to talk about things happening, say, “114 years ago” - instead, we say “1905” and then people can figure out how much time has passed.)

- Most curiously, there was no indication of how players would move from one location to another. Detailed “Dungeon Crawl” maps would have been a BAD idea - because not knowing exactly where they were or what the spaces looked like added to the tension, especially if there were passages blocked or hidden. So we played without maps and without minis. But as GM I needed to quickly invent out-of-service elevators and collapsed or blocked stairwells. Both are confined locations that added to the tension: would they be attacked while clearing a staircase? Would they fall down an elevator shaft? Etc. Playing these out was much more satisfying than simply saying “You leave area A and now you’re in area B” so I was surprised by the omission. Some general notes about common areas would’ve helped - so GMs should think about how the various scenes are connected and make some notes about hallways, elevators/stairs, access tunnels, etc.

- My players managed to bring an elevator back online, and it became an opportunity to relieve the tension, momentarily. As they rode up the elevator its bright lighting was a contrast to the darkness they’d been in. I even added in antiquated elevator music - “Tie a yellow ribbon ‘round the old palm tree” played on a zither - and a display showing ads for long-forgotten products, services and media (“I Dream of Djinn” on The History Channel). The light moment made the return of tension that much more jarring.

- While preparing some notes and handouts, I found Arab sci-fi artwork online that I could repurpose as image handouts for encounters. As I prepped these, I discovered there are no stats for one of the possible NPC encounters (“Two”, if memory serves). I used information elsewhere in the adventure to create stats. I also drew up some extra encounters in case they were needed - but they were not.

- My players noted that they were unfamiliar with many of the names of people, places, etc., and had trouble remembering them. So I’ll make up some handouts to cover those. They can be mug shots of NPCs with a space to write in names and titles as they’re learned, for example, or screen shots of database entries. As noted I did some of this, but could use more.

- The module includes a short list of things that the heroes might find as they explore. I will add much more to this list in the future, with image handouts where I can. Some will be informative... others will add context and texture... still others might even be annoying: Imagine trying to sneak about in the dark and tripping over a stringed instrument!

Overall, my players and I found Coriolis to be a fun, satisfying system that was relatively easy to learn, and we all felt The Third Horizon warrants more exploring. I’m looking forward to it!
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Joe Costa
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Great session notes! I am new to RPG’s but picked this up as it seems so rich in suspense and unique story elements.

I want to GM this. It will be my 2nd time GMing anything. Any other tips?
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Trevor Marshall
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Thanks Joe - I'm glad you found the notes useful.

I'll add some additional notes in a separate thread under "GM's only" so those who are playing and don't wish spoilers can avoid them.

Cheers!
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Joe Costa
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You Rock!
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