The Evils of Illmire Session Zero

Spoiler alert: if you plan to play The Evils of Illmire, don’t read this!

It’s been a while since I have written game reports; the last was Better Than Any Man for LotFP which finished in 2018. I’ve run plenty of games since then, but just not had the inclination to write session reports. This really is as much for me as for my players and anyone else who’d like to read; for Night’s Dark Terror (an old B/X adventure I’ve been running for two groups concurrently), I’ve kept a handwritten journal of each group’s progress – this has been essential as with alternating groups it’s easy to lose track of who has been doing what, and that I have found a bit of a bind, so there’s no guarantee I’ll keep this up.

When GMing one game a week isn’t enough

These sessions have only come about because the stars have aligned. As well as my regular Night’s Dark Terror game, I wanted to run something else old school, ideally early in the week as I’m usually knackered come the weekend (hence why I put my fortnightly Barbarians of Lemuria game on hold). I had decided on Monday evenings and reluctantly dropped out of @DissectingWrlds‘ rather brilliant White Dwarf/Adventurer/Imagine magazine inspired old school adventures using the Black Hack 2e. I’ve been reading the brilliant Castle Xyntillan and desperately want to run it, but that would be a big undertaking and I know there were some players who want to get onboard with that but can’t make the Monday slot. Then fate played a hand in the rather timely landing of an early version of The Evils of Illmire which really caught my attention and a quick read through showed it had great potential; a tight hexcrawl with tons of content and great ideas. I figured that would be a good fit for the adventure…

Not the most interesting cover, but it does the job

Then there’s the system. I am spoilt for choice with a ton of D&D retroclones and am really enjoying using Old School Essentials for Night’s Dark Terror, but there were a couple of games on my radar which I had also recently read; the brilliant The Whitehack (I say that based on a couple of read throughs and reviews, I’ve yet to run it) and the lesser known Saga of the Splintered Realm which is (in my opinion) a really neat take on B/X D&D with some modern rules… nothing hugely innovative, but pretty clever and tidy. That was the choice then: Old School Essentials, Whitehack or Saga of the Splintered Realm. In the end I went for Saga of the Splintered Realm…

The penultimate piece of the puzzle was the tech to use for online play. I’ve been spending a fair bit of time getting to grips with Fantasy Grounds Unity after going in deep with the kickstarter. It’s been a steep learning curve, but seems to be paying dividends with The Evils of Illmire. And so with that final decision preparation began. I built a Saga of the Splintered Realm module for Fantasy Grounds Unity with a template character sheet and other rules content, and an Evils of Illmire module with all the game maps, NPC’s and content. In fact, I’ve put a ton of work into this…

The final stage was rustling up some players and after a couple of posts on Twitter I had an elite group of roleplayers lined up, @chrisesharp, @Dragongirl74, @Hastati100 and @MozleyJim. This is how the first session went down…

Character Generation

Saga of the Splintered Realm chargen is simple. Stats are between 2-12 (although 3d6 are rolled and the lowest number dropped); each stat gets a modifier but that actual stat is used for rolls. Everything is target 20, so a Dex roll is 1d20+Dex vs a target of 20, very neat. Stat modifiers are used for attacks and a few other bits. Classes are similar to B/X but can be customised with Talents (from level 3) and Callings which specialise classes. We’ll see how it holds up over the coming weeks. The characters we have are:

Dodgy beginnings

Our party start as members of the Free Company of Adventurers and Vagabonds (yeah, a crappy name, but what the hell), called up in front of the Baroness for botching their last job. She wants them out of her hair and sends them to Illmire while things cool down, with a request to assist an old friend, Lord Crellmont, who has sent a mysterious message stating that there is trouble in Illmire and he needs help. If they do this, she will make the problems from their last job go away…

Esmeraldra

A few days travel to the remote area sees them nearing Illmire, the stench of the swamp caught on the wind and snow capped heights of the Klepperhorn in the distance. Their wagon is approached by a band of circus folk, acrobats and clowns who tell them of the big top up ahead, and of the fortunes that are told by the mysterious Esmeraldra. The party head on to the circus and spend a little time there while their impatient wagoneer Grelland grumbles… he wants to be in Illmire before dark. The circus is lacking in the energy and colour associated with such places, the only stand out being Esmeraldra who offers to tell their fortunes for 100 gold coins, way more than they have between them right now. Maybe they will come back to watch a performance or have their fortunes read, but for now they climb back on the wagon and continue on to Illmire.

A couple of miles later they arrive at a scene of carnage, another wagon overturned and the horse pulling it full of arrows. There are no bodies, but clear signs of a struggle and a trail heading northwards. Grelland grumbles once more, if they want to follow the trail they can make their own way to Illmire, still a good few miles away. Feeling duty bound not to abandon the innocent victims of whatever happened here, they follow the trail, heading towards the hills in the distance with a the small silhoutte of a watchtower. It’s a bright spring day and moving at a good pace the road to Illmire is soon miles behind; fortunately our sharp eyed heroes spot an ambush up ahead… we will find out what they do (and most likely how combat and magic works in SotSR) next time.

An ambush is spotted, will our heroes be able to turn the tables and surprise their ambushers?

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