Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Meanwhile, In Quasquetherion

This past Saturday was a break in my normal Swords & Wizardry schedule (a break that unfortunately means that the game won't be picking back up until December, which is a bummer for my newly-minted druid, Milosz), and Sunday would have been a bust for gaming for my and the "new to old school" gamers, so we moved Sunday night to Saturday night and rocked out in Quasquetherion instead of not doing anything all weekend. Since other parties may take their turn in Quasquetherion, I'll try not to give away too many details about specifics of what's where and what it's like to face it, but... yeah, there's still stuff to talk about.

When last the party had left off, they'd managed to find Harrowvar the Ironic and Zonn the Mind-Breaker's throne room, wherein they had a nightmare-inspiring encounter that I'm being purposefully vague about. The kids set about looking for treasure, but had a hard time recognizing it when they found it; apparently, giant objet d'art don't seem like treasures to the newbies. I guess they expected coins and "100 gp gems" and such. Well, suck it, kids, the valuable stuff is stuff that you have to sort out how to get back to town. Several of the next treasures that were found were similarly ignored because, I guess, it seemed more like setting-dressing than treasure. Yes, they asked for detailed descriptions of the tapestries to be found in Harrowvar the Ironic's bedchamber (especially his freaky lady with her too-long neck, wrong-way hands and shark-style doll eyes), but the didn't even think about taking them down, not as far as they told me. So, the search continued for obvious treasure, which they eventually found in a chest full of (as-yet-uncounted) silver coin and wooden statues.

Let's Talk About Xp For Gp

I've talked before about my personal relationship with "xp for gp" systems, and the Quasquetherion game is one in which I feel that such a rule is not merely justified but necessary. Necessary to instruct the kids in the OSR maxim that defeating opponents is not the best nor most efficient way of earning advancement. Necessary to reinforce the idea that the characters are adventurers, ne'erdowells and opportunists whose bright idea for a way to get ahead in the world was to climb into some dusty tomb to see if there's anything inside that's worthwhile to steal. So yes, xp for gp.

But the question remains, when do the PCs get the xp?

How many xp am I worth?
If the PCs get the xp when they find the treasure, it's usually accompanied by a valuation of the treasure found ("you find an awesome gem that is worth 100 gp," but with better description), even it it's a valuation that's just a potential reconstruction from an xp award ("so, there are 4 of us and we each got 300 xp from treasure, so our treasure must be worth 1200 gp, but we only got 1000 gp in coin, so those gems must be worth 100 gp each..."). I'm not suggesting that many players are this meta-gamey (or that my "new to old school" kids are), but this is the sort of behavior and unfortunate convention that I want to avoid falling into in the Quasquetherion game. The players shouldn't know how much stuff is worth until they take the time to find out. Until they count the coins, they don't know how much they're worth, in gp or xp. Until they've got an offer to buy a treasure, they won't know it's value, either, nor will they gain any xp for it.

Thus, we're getting to Uncles Gary & Dave's (and Cousin +Matt Finch's) concept that getting cheated on the value of a treasure is worth getting cheated on the xp, whereas getting more gp than the thing is worth is obviously an opportunity for a greater xp gain. Xp for gp is awarded when the "value of a treasure is realized." For coin, this means once it's counted. For other treasures, it means once they're sold and reflects the amount they're sold for.

An Adventure Within An Adventure

But first, a history lesson. Back in the 90's I lived in the college town of Kalamazoo, Michigan, known to most of the world because of it's inclusion in the lyrics of a Glenn Miller song. There, Western Michigan University had the amazing WIDR radio station, named at the time the 3rd best college music radio station by College Music Journal, and rightfully so. One of the strangest programs on WIDR was a program called "Swag," hosted by a guy who called himself "Bat Guano" (turns out, he's still out there, recording Swag, and broadcasting at 9p EST on Wednesdays, just like back in the good old days). Mr. Guano plays an eclectic mish mash of stuff, primarily anachronistic, ranging from mid-20th-Century exotica to commercials for children's toys and grindhouse flicks to proto-punk surrealist beat music (look up the Monks, kids, your brain will thank you for it). Every episode, Mr. Guano would take a break from his program for his "program within a program, Green Slime!" wherein all he did was play the theme to the 1968 sci fi flick The Green Slime. It was awesome and, probably the only time on Swag, everyone who listened regularly knew all the words. Here's how awesome it is.


So, during Saturday night's Quasquetherion session, the kids found the infamous Pool Room. They set about exploring each of the pools and ultimately the green slime pool was found. Suddenly, the players had discovered their own "adventure within an adventure, Green Slime!" I played the movie's theme (and accompanying fan-made music video) on the big TV in our living room and the kids had to fight a slime monster (NOT your standard, run-of-the-mill D&D green slime, but, indeed GREEEEN SLIIIIIIIIIIIIIME!) with sparklers at the end of its tentacles.

My favorite part of this "adventure within an adventure" is that I didn't plan it, it just happened. One player asked "what's in this pool?" and my inner Guano took over when I read the description. That's not a sentence I ever thought I'd have to write. "My inner Guano." I can say, though, that with each session, Quasquetherion gets better and stranger.