So it begins. Having already married the superb Maze Rats and the illustrious Hot Springs Island together in this new ruleset of Maze Rats for Tabletop Adventure Game/NSR/OSR junkies like myself, the next campaign for the semester has started.
The first session went down with three players. It’s a soft start to a big game, but it won’t be as intense with super-serious stakes and super-serious time limits as the Campaign of Skorne. I’m starting out small with this one.
Character generation was a breeze. No major hiccups or annoyances. One player after said he really enjoyed the process. You can roll or choose literally everything about your character, which is so important to me. And the game does well for it. We had two Vagabonds and one Disciple.
Honestly, I don’t have a lot to say about how well the rules were after only one session. I pretty much ran it like the previous version of Maze Rats, just with different character creation, and lower armor. We’ll have to see how it all pans out.
Music has already been very important. The last big open table campaign used a lot of soundtracks from Darkest Dungeon (like this track) and spooky ambient music from Cryo Chamber on YouTube (like this track). This game of Hot Springs Island has been using those same tracks when marching around the island. The jungle has a hostile, oppressive atmosphere and the music supports that.
The city, Hot Springs City, is a totally different matter. I’ve really leaned into the “dilapidated elven resort” nature of the city. It feels like a foreign abandoned theme park. Totally different from the rest of the savage island that doesn’t give a flip who you are and whether or not you die. Hot Springs City is an empty place with some future-tech and lonely people. So there’s island-y, resort-y music with some electronic lofi to make up the bread and butter. It feels weird, and it should. The adventurers, with their swords and scrolls and thieves’ tools should feel out of place. They’re in a different culture, now gone to sleep.
The music has been heavily inspired by 8 bit games and its retro cousins. I’ve been pulling music from Pokemon (like this track) and Adventure Time (like this track from the video game), and Final Fantasy (this one). Other video games like Undertale, Kingdom Hearts, and Animal Crossing have helped out. This channel from Adam Haynes has been an awesome resource (here’s a cool playlist of his 8-bit and 16-bit music).
I’ve been having a fun time with music. I am also in search of more pirate-y, island-life tracks. Always on the hunt, I am. Yo-ho!
I’ve made it pretty clear that two-hour games with a specific order of things is the best thing for an open table game. The entire party should start and end the session in the same place to uphold the idea of a “party stable.” In this game, that’s the role of Hot Springs City. The Martel Company is based there, so that’s where the party is.
Last campaign, I had a strict “one-hour downtime” in the City of Skorne and “one-hour exploration” in the wilderness outside of the city. Because that’s how long the magic portal that let them leave the city in the first place would last. Done and done. This time, it’s different. I had to make up an outside threat that would keep the PCs locked in Hot Springs City between sessions.
Enter Sky Tide. It’s this pervasive blue fog that mysteriously settles on Hot Springs Island. The problem is, see, it’s unpredictable. No one knows when it’ll come back and swallow the island whole with it’s insanity-inducing mist. The solution? Lightstones. A lightstone is a basketball-sized floating crystal given to expedition parties by the Martel Company. They start transparent and get redder and redder when Sky Tide comes closer and closer. The PCs have until it arrives to get back to Hot Springs City. How does the city stay safe? The city’s center has a giant lightstone that protects everyone and everything within its walls.
What does this mean at the table? As soon as the PCs leave town I set a timer. The amount of time given to them is however long it takes to get them to two hours. So, leave the city at the first hour mark? You have one hour to explore the jungle. Leave in the first fifteen minutes? You have 1 hour and 45 minutes. And vice versa. Now, there’s not a lot of action and adventure in the city, but there are interesting people to meet, secrets to discover, and mysteries to be solved there. So you could just spend the whole two hours in the city. You could spend most of the session in the jungle. BUT you have to come back.
If you travel 4 hours out, do you have to spend 4 hours traveling back?
Nope. So long as you’re not in combat, you simply have to say “we go back to Hot Springs City” and it’s over, unless you roll a random encounter coming back. Then you have to take care of those hostile forces first before you can come home.
What if the timer runs out and you’re still outside the city?
Bad things. Damage and insanity.
What about the people out in the jungle? Aren’t they affected by Sky Tide?
Yes. They are all already insane. WELCOME TO HOT SPRINGS ISLAND!