Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tears of the Dinosaur Sausages

Time to run a post-mortem on the session I ran at NTRPGCon!

A rather evocative storefront in historic Fort Worth.

Months ago, when I finally knew for sure I was going to Dallas and running a game, I needed a session's worth of adventure.  On a lark, I crowdsourced out the title of the thing, requesting the standard "A of the B C" format, and got lots of fun (and some bizarre) responses.  Here's a list, in case you need a title to riff on; you'll note the G+ crowd has thrown some real ringers into the hopper, some of 'em resorting to random tables:

Misery of the Intolerable Hulks
Garden of the Arthritic Mecha-man
The Recovering Taxidermist's Last Hope
The Ginger Hand of Glory
Mad Dog's Pies & Sausages
Things to Do In Sodor When You're Dead
Attack of the Cloven-Hoofed Hellhounds
Bitter Flint of the Questing Spelunker
The Enchanted Novelist & the Black Ziggurat of Sundar
Midnight Jungle of the Starving Mercenary
The Courageous Lancer & the Unholy Challenge of Wurp
The Coachman at the Broken Crossroads
The Lonely Death of Gregory Weaselear
Beneath the Tundra of Sighs
The Lighthouse of Spiral Possibilities
Arena of the Languid Youths
Tears of the Lich
Unspeakable Rites at the Pleasure Palace of Braggaral the Fat
Krals of the Dinosaur Khan

Using these like a random table, I rolled some dice for the first, second, and third elements, came up with Tears of the Dinosaur Sausages, and we had a title - and a pretty Wampus-y one at that.  Minutes later, I submitted the game description to NTRPGCon.

It was the best of times, it was the wurst of times... when a popular sausage-maker cuts corners to keep up with demand, his use of strange snollygoster meat draws the attention of a sleeping saurian divinity. Can the PCs defeat the animate dino-sausages and deal with an angry prehistoric lizard-god? Danger and humor abound in equal measure in this unusual adventure, the title of which was randomly generated. It's sure to be a "meatgrinder" of a session... 'Wampus Country' is a whimsical setting of tall-tale action on the fantasy frontier - bring your rifle and coonskin cap!

The session filled up on the first day of registration, which was pretty exciting.  I could see from the registration emails that it looked like three married couples had signed up as my six players - so I made sure my pregens were evenly split male/female.  I could have done genderless pregens, but by this point I knew I was getting some art from Theo Evans, and wanted to employ that artwork on the pregen sheets.  The pregens were done up at 5001 xp, which put everyone at third level save the thief (fourth) and the fish-man (second, since he's an "elf").

The basic gimmickry of the session had pretty much written itself; once you have the concept of dino-spirits animating the meat in a sausage factory, you have a handful of monsters to go with it.  My main concern was ensuring that the location - the factory & meat processing plant - had plenty of "toys" in it.  I put the factory on the river so I could slap some big water-wheels on the side of the building and handwave whatever gear-and-spring-driven factory stuff seemed fun - in this case, conveyor belts, a giant meat-grinding machine, some sausage-filling machines, etc.

The program had me scheduled from 1000 to 1500, which is downright crazy.  We ended up going til about 1330.

We ended up having only three players due to the vagaries of "Sunday morning at a con", but it worked out great.  Rachel grabbed the thief, Nick took the fish-man, and Shawna asked to play two PCs, the wizard and the frontier-scout fighter.  This amused me greatly, as it perpetuated the Wampus Country "tradition" of caster-heavy parties.  I did a quick summary of what Wampus Country is "about", accenting the comedy, tall-tale action, and It Gets Worse aspect, and we jumped right into the session by having each player tell us something briefly about their character.  It was fascinating to see players take characterization cues from the poses and costuming in the illustrations, and I have to wonder how different things might've been if the pregens hadn't had pictures and names, or their equipment described in characterful fashion (wizard The Great Conundrum doesn't just have a three-piece suit, he has a "dashing formal suit"; fish-man Ichabod wore seersucker, etc).

Nick and Shawna roll initiative (Rachel's taking the picture).

The party pulled off the road for a bite to eat and followed pig-shaped signage to Bindlebum's Sausage Factory (west of River-Town, for those keeping geographic score), where they quickly discovered things had gone horribly awry.  Once in the factory, they engaged the steak-o-saurus and found factory proprietor Barney Bindlebum, but poor Barney was carried off by the baconopteryx.  The thief, Penny, got horribly mauled by the steak-o-saurus - pinned by crushed conveyor belt machinery and ventilated by the beast's thagomizer repeatedly, and we had a PC death.  I wasn't worried, as I knew that by the parameters of the scenario, the obvious It Gets Worse in an "animated meat" situation was to, well, animate the meat.  So Penny soon rose as a kind of zombie and continued, advancing the session by having a sense of the force which had animated her and leading the group into the hills on the trail of the baconopteryx.  It was fun to use a battlemat and actually draw stuff out by hand - that's an experience I've been missing, running online.  

The baconopteryx reveals itself in the factory rafters, while the steak-o-saurus prepares to charge Penny the thief (the die at the top by the conveyor belt).  In the upper left can be seen the casing-machines, animated sausage-link serpententacles, and the approximate range of their furious whipping-about, blocking the stairs.

The baconopteryx makes a swoop at Ichabod and Millie; the brave fish-man attempts to grab its neck and swing himself onto its back, but its greasy hide causes him to slip right off.

Locating the cool cave where Bindlebum stored salted and preserved sides of beef and such, they found a recently-exposed entrance to another cave - one which contained obvious signs of dino-sized excavation.  And beyond that, a secret door to the tomb of the dinosaur lord.  Sorry, that wasn't quite Kirby enough: THE TOMB OF THE DINOSAUR LORD!  

Beyond the salted sides of beef lies an ancient mystery...  The salted beef did not animate, and I wondered if PCs would begin to hypothesize that salt somehow blocked the dino-lord's animation power.  Which it totally would have; I wanted multiple good options for "dealing with" the ongoing issue.   With a different party, it would've been "We drop a hundred pounds of salt on him and stab him repeatedly!"  I'm lookin' at you, Malice.

The dino-lord was a massive saurian humanoid who had a long-necked apatosaurus head, but he also had a triceratops head for a left hand and an allosaur for a right hand; as parley continued, it seemed likely to the PCs that the triceratops was perhaps Lawful, the allosaur Chaotic, and the main head Neutral, but in charge of final decision-making.  Tons of fun miming all the heads talking - I should've used hand puppets for added goofy effect, but having the carnivore continue to chime in with declarations like "I'll eat your entrails and poop on your homes!" in mock-conqueror tone was highly satisfying.  The PCs (smartly) cut a deal with the dino-lord by which they will fastidiously return every scrap of meat (which was mixed with mummified snollygosters etc etc) to his possession, and the dino-lord would return to his long sleep.  Barney Bindlebum, who started the whole mess by desecrating the burial-cave of hyperintelligent offworld saurians, was eaten by the allosaurus hand.  Penny would live on as the dino-lord's eyes and ears, animated by his will so that she might live a full life...always wondering if she would experience something in the future that might re-awaken the ancient saurian.  Ichabod took an oath to always respect and protect the snollygosters, as they were the (poor, dumb) descendants of the dino-lord's fallen people.  All's well that ends well, and a good thing, too - had the con game gone poorly and ended with an enraged dino-lord, we would've had some serious trickle-down to deal with in the online campaign.

A huge thank-you to everyone who played, and also to the folks on Plus who brainstormed episode titles!  Kudos to Nick, who is now the second Wampus Country player to have his PC ride a snollygoster (the steak-o-saurus), even if it was only for a few rounds while stabbing it in the head.


  1. Is that you on the left in the second pic? Anyway, I love the whole concept for the adventure. i think the naming thing must hace happened during one of my periods away from plus.

  2. Yep, that's me, Gib. I need a haircut!

  3. I keep mine miltary short. It is easier to keep clean in the field.
    So I haven't been to a con in decades, it has got to be weird playing in a big ass room like that. It looks kind of sterile, really.