Josh, Kate, Ali, Ryan, Ryan and Heaven joined me for our last session of Group 2 for the school year. We had a great time!
I entered this game wanting to show the kids something they hadn’t seen before. Specifically, we had done a lot of diplomacy, investigation and combat in our games so far, but not a lot of puzzle solving. I wanted to make the puzzle central to the narrative.
Ever since I’ve played one of my favorite video game series, the Professor Layton series, one of my favorite puzzles have been grid based “coverage” puzzles. An example from on the Layton games is that you have to place a limited number of lights across a city street grid to illuminate all of the grid using limited resources. I wanted to bring one of these “light coverage” puzzles to this group, because I thought they might enjoy it too. Plus, it would break up the near constant combat in this game, while still also matching the story.
The recap: This group had just finished defending The Monument against the betraying Lieutenant Fache of the castle’s cavalry. They successfully suppressed the berserkers attempting too damage The Monument. We picked up immediately where the last berserker fell.
Fache drew his bow far back and aimed it not towards the PCs, nor the castle, but towards the mountain tunnel that leads to the castle. When the arrow was let loose, it took a high arc and landed between Fache and the tunnel entrance. A portal opened in the ground as the arrow struck and a similar portal opened beside Fache’ horse. He jumped off his horse, into the portal, appearing out the other. He ran, making a beeline for the tunnel.
Spinnet became deadly serious and explained to the PCs that Queen Ulz was in danger. Despite being a potent hand-to-hand combatant, the distracted Queen would be no match against this assassin’s arrow from afar. Fache’ plan was clear: to kill the Queen. Spinnet, in her first real moment of seriousness in the game, urged the players to follow him.
At this point, I used game paper to draw a very large series of gridded tunnels. It was roughly 7 X 11 intersections with tunnels connecting all of them. There was the one entrance they started at and three other exits that they had to prevent Fache from reaching. The tunnels were dark, but for the purposes of this puzzle we assumed that the PCs would have knowledge of the grid. Each turn of the game (in initiative order) players had some options. For movement, they could move one intersection and use two light sources or a single intersection and use one. In addition, they could also take standard actions to attempt to affect their visibility or environment with attacks or creative choices.
Their choices for lighting were as follows:
Personal darkvision, unidirectional, one intersection
Torch, multidirectional, one intersection
Lantern (there are three at the entrance): unidirectional, four intersections
OR, multidirectional, one intersection
Light spell: unidirectional, four intersections
Other choices based upon creativity
One final “rule” was that once they got more than two intersections away from a party member, the acoustics of the cave prevented them from communicating with each other!
The NPCs movements (including Fache’s) were tracked by me and were hidden unless revealed by a light source.
We also cut out single intersection and four intersection links of paper to represent the light rays so we had visual markers for where light was in the grid.
The ultimate goal of this puzzle was to try to reveal Fache in the dark and corner him. Once cornered, the puzzle is considered solved and Fache surrenders.
They all started in one corner and began to spread out. They were quick to think of other creative ways to generate light. Josh had barrels of a flammable substance that he had procured from his prior game. He lit the first one on fire and attempted to roll it down a corridor, but it caught on a rock. The barrel became a “permanent” light source for the purposes of the session!
As Ali and Kate spread down a corridor, their lights revealed an angry ogre! Ogres had beset on the party in their first adventure as they first chased Fache. Ali, knowing they were outmatched with just two people so playing a Minotaur Barbarian, she picked up Kate’s Elven Cleric and carried her away from the danger. Of course, the Ogre got a nice javelin throw on her before she could escape.
They also revealed several assassin’s as they got deeper into the level. Josh hit one of them with a flaming barrel and knocked him down. Josh also hit the Ogre with a barrel and set it on fire, removing it from the fight. During this time, Heaven did a good job of searching with light sources.
Ryan C did a great job of “covering” the northeast corridors. Together with Ryan B, they did a great job of predicting Fache’s movements and revealed where he was. The group also figured out that Fache was moving three intersections per move. They used their logic skills to keep the lights on him and cornered him!
The Queen was very pleased with the player’s efforts. A rescuing army chased the besieging army away in front of the castle. In lieu of a monetary award, the players accepted an estate for next year! Their secret base will be a multi-room home with a stable. They will also start next year with a magical weapon, that I have not decided on yet, but I told them to write this “promise” on their character sheets. We’ll start next year at Level 5.
I also requested feedback via email. What did they like about the puzzle? What could be improved? How could we fairly select participants for next year and have a schedule that allows for other games? Ali has suggested the possibility of GMing a second group, at the same time as mine, with help and advice. I hope she decides to do it. She would be great and it would be better for everyone in club because on the off weeks we could do tactical games, which a lot of kids have really missed this year. I think I was successful in giving this group a good second semester experience with role-playing!