5 thoughts on “Jason Lutes”

  1. Hi Timothy Stanbrough — I have none! The way we play, things are randomized as much as possible. Sometimes the PCs run into monsters that are way out of their league, and the session becomes all about survival; sometimes they plumb a dungeon without any opposition to speak of, and hit the jackpot. Sometimes they sell valuable artifacts to collectors, then steal them back in order to sell them to rival collectors. One time, after they inadvertently flushed all of the treasure out of a Sea Goddess Temple, someone asked if any valuables might have been left behind. He made his Get Lucky roll, I rolled a random item on my temple treasure list, and he noticed a violet gemstone lodged in a corner. He pocketed it without anyone noticing and sold it later for 600sp.

    In that way our games are more “simulationist” — I disclaim decision-making to the dice whenever possible, and the PCs cope with the results. The game world feels much more volatile and dangerous, and a jackpot really feels like a jackpot. Which is not to say chaos rules the day — I strive to interpret the dice according to logic and in such a way as to maintain the coherence of the setting.

    I much prefer this style of play over “an adventure for characters level 1-3” style play, where XP and treasure are carefully gauged, and I wrote Freebooters to reflect that. There’s nothing explicit about treasure and difficulty level in the rules themselves, though, so the question is a good one.

  2. Thanks for the reply!

    I’ve got some follow up questions, If you’ve got time of course 🙂

    How do you prep the game with this approach?

    (Edit: actually you might have already answered that, mostly randomized right?)

    And, are the players able to inform themselves about the world in order to make meaningful choices? If that’s even a goal of the game or needed element. 

    An occasionally empty dungeon might be realistic, but is it fun at the table?

  3. How do you prep the game with this approach?

    We establish the campaign setting using either the Freebooters method or the method outlined in The Perilous Wilds. This gives us the immediate surroundings and a number of sites to explore right off the bat. I ask the PCs questions about the world according to what they might know, and this helps make sure the named adventure sites are interesting (“What terrible thing is said to dwell beneath the Bone Spire?” “What magical treasure is rumored to be in the possession of the bird-folk tribes of the Red Cliffs?”)

    At the end of a session, if they’re not in the thick of something, I ask them where they plan to go next, and I prep to their intentions. I generate stuff randomly until I get some good ideas and start to see connections between things, then riff on that stuff until I need another random prompt. there’s a lot of weaving back and forth between randomization and conscious creation.

    The “plumb the dungeon and hit the jackpot” example I mentioned above is a bit of an exaggeration. In that case, on their way through some mountains, a random encounter resulted in them stumbling across the entrance to a long-buried temple to a god of balance. Luckily they found the entrance at the end of a session, so I had time to prep the dungeon from scratch before the next session. The main theme I rolled was “unspeakable horror,” which led me down a path of figuring out that the priest-lords of the god of balance had captured and imprisoned horrors from another dimension in the temple. Combining that idea with the temple aspect, I came up with a logical layout for a 3-level dungeon, the lowest level of which contained the sealed well that held the horrors (a host of terrifying starfish-like creatures). The first level of the temple had almost nothing dangerous in it (as determined randomly), but in one area there was a silver moon disc and golden sun disc which could be taken without mishap. The idea was, give them some easy treasure and see if they would push their luck by going deeper or head back to town. They pushed their luck until the party got split by a trap — two of them abandoned their fellows to die. The ones stuck in the temple eventually found their way to the well of horrors, killed the well’s guardian, and opened the well because they were sure it held treasure. At that point it became a bit of a survival horror game for those PCs.

    Long story short: part of “coherent setting” to me means every dungeon should be interesting. I don’t try simulate to the point where they’re actually exploring empty dungeons.

    And, are the players able to inform themselves about the world in order to make meaningful choices?

    Absolutely. They can ask around and do as much research as they want. They encountered some weird stuff in the Bog White, and later spent a fair amount of time interrogating a village elder about the stuff they saw, so they could make informed decisions the next time they ventured that way. They learned that certain creatures they saw were harmless, but others they had only seen the tracks of should be avoided at all costs.

    Scouting and reconnaissance play a huge part of staying well-informed, thanks to the Undertake a Perilous Journey move. I rolled up a crazy behemoth at one point when they were exploring a jungle area, but the scout got the drop on it. There were enough clues — the ground trembling underfoot, trees getting knocked over as it approached — for them to take cover and hide until it passed. Well, until the halfling decided to act on his “Reckless” trait and shoot it with his shortbow.

  4. You have to be clear with your players, of course, and make sure they’re up for it. For our Freebooters games, I’m very clear at the outset that all dice will be rolled in the open, and they will reap the consequences of their actions in full. If your players are more interested in playing badass heroes and less interested in the thrill of simply surviving a hellish ordeal, the approach outlined above obviously won’t work as well. 

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