Designing an adventure for an all grog party [Ultima Thule look away]

I am part of a group which has always relied on one person to be the story teller, however it has been offered to me to try running an adventure, since we are stuck at a cliffhanger which needs all the players to be there. The idea is that I while the magi are away (Marching some Guernicus dick and his new Covenant), the grogs have an all grog adventure.

While I could just design a dungeon crawl, this is not DnD, and I want to run something a bit investigative.

In our troupe, most of the magi are going out on each adventure, so really don't know what a grog centered adventure might be like. I have gone through many books and read the adventure seeds, but I just cannot seem to find good ideas...

I have a vague idea of one of the companions having gone missing and grogs setting out to find him, but with the focus more on simulation than narrative, I am wary of creating some kind of bottle neck which would rest on a skill check that the players might just fail...

Having never designed an adventure in ArM, I am at a bit of a loss and I would appreciate hints.

One of the first Ars Magica adventures I ran was an adventure of grogs, who discovered a plot against their charges, apprentices ready to be made magi in a foreign city.

Would the Guernicus plot to plant evidence against the magi marching him in their own covenant by using mundanes or even covenant staff? What if the grogs find hints, follow them and unravel such a plot?

In our case, the Guernicus had a marched called on hin at the last local Tribunal, and the PCs are off in Finland battling him and his goons.

I am thinking more along the lines of something a bit more light hearted "The Finnish Companion has disappeared we must find him", and it turned out he just got drunk and seduced by a faerie in the woods.

I specifically want to run something disconnected from the usual overarching plot of the game, so some kind of minor fetch quest seems fine.
Of course the avenues are more limited in our case because the magi are practically at war with the Livonian knights, the Bishop of Riga called put the Covenant under anathema. So the social interactions are limited to fellow Osellians (vikings) or the German settlers would are very much our enemies.

What I am more uncertain of is how to plan an adventure for ArM, especially an investigation focussed one.

I'd say that idea works.
And that you've done 90% of the hard work by now. :slight_smile:

A really good idea I think. And if someone can tie it back into the main plot later, well, that's a bonus.

At a glance, you mainly need

  • a faerie (strictly speak you don't need stats for her, but those might come in handy).
  • Some kinda obstacles, these could be anything, including
    • Bad Weather (Storm, rain or snow, depending on season, even in Finland)
    • Terrain (snow covering tracks, a path leading across a barely frozen lake, even just mud could work)
    • Lesser fae, helping out our seductress
  • Some sort of clues to make sure the players actually have a chance of solving the quest. In my experience, this is the hard one. You may want a superabundance of clues. And even then, prepare to have to wing it with a few more. Players never find the same things obvious as you do, in my experience.

Finally: Don't worry about fudging things. I'm not so much thinking about dice rolls, more about the actual challenges. If the lesser fae turn out to be waaaaay too difficult a challenge, have them giggle and run away. If the blizzard is ruining things, winds will die down.
Relax and focus on the experience.

Oh, and ...
Don't Panic.

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As said, you already have the basic plot. Other games centered less in magi/supernatural characters would have good ideas for an all grog adventure. Pendragon, for example, would be a good place to look for grog adventures. Sub rosa has a few of those as well iirc.

Regarding "the adventure fails for a roll", do not allow it. Fail forward, and put at least 3 ways to obtain a vital piece of information if it is really important. Some games even recommend that the basic plot elements are given to the players without rolls, and they get extra stuff if they get the successful rolls, but the basic element is already there for them.

Recommended, the 3 clue rule from The Alexandrian. I recommend the blog in general, but this specifically for your investigation case. The examples can even be your adventure with minor modifications.

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Other possible things the grogs could deal with:
A lot of covenants work to make vis sources grog-harvestable instead of requiring magi every year. A problem could arise with a Vis source, that needs immediate resolution (and NO magi are around! oh no! Time to borrow the wand of fireballs they left in the lab!)
A missing covenfolk or companion could also cause problems. A young daughter of a grog disappearing could definitely require investigation immediately.
An investigation involving local courts and politics might have non-combat grogs involved.

but it does sound like you have a few basic plot ideas already.

Oh! I forgot! I have 2 adventures for ars màgica saber on my blog that might be useful. They are not mine, but I have them there for reference since I found they were great for a single session play. One is about dealing with a giant and his heart's love. The other is about a curse that you can break with some thinking. Both are better with grogs than with mages.

They say it takes one hour to play, buy they tend to me o e session. One hour is extremely optimistic.

There is a third adventure in the blog (blood on his hands) but it is less suitable for grogs onlyn since it does not pass the 3 clue rule from the previous posts.

I have played all 3 adventure at least once and they work well. Going home is none of my "going to" easy prep adventure when I have to improvise something, since it works the same regardless of the rules system you ar le using. It can be complemented with an early or late combat against ruffians if your party wants some action. It could also be tied to your investigation for the list companion: have the companion wake up with the ring in his possession.

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Considering that 1) what I consider simple most people view as hopelessly complex and 2) I don't design things to be easy I suspect that for me it needs to be the 9 clue rule..

My previous troupe found this and it gave birth to a slew of grog-only adventures: http://leadadventureforum.com/index.php?topic=59977.240

The Knights of St. Lazarus make for a fascinating history.

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So I still have not run an/the adventure, but I was recently shown around the Narva area and I think it would make a cool setting for a Grog adventure. I am leaning towards a custos telling a bunch of Grogs to go and explore because the magi told them that they heard a rumour while visiting a Novgorodian Tribunal.

My problem is that I don't really know what the players would have the grogs do while there. I don't want to just show the gaming group a tapestry of scenes with nothing to interact with. I want to have the grogs partake in the local Midsummer feast (Jaanipaev) so I'd set the session that week. But I feel that just letting the grogs drink and sauna with Balts and Russians doesn't really make a session... I have free reins to make grogs since our Covenant has grown fairly large, with Families of Finns, Estonians, Russians and Danes numbering among our grogs. I would generate at least some of the grogs, but in the absence of Magi, I don't really know what to do with auras and who to have detect them.

Here are the location I found relevant and some ideas about what to do there. I spoke with a friend who is a local historian to try to be as accurate as possible and her answer was "if there were historical sources, my job would be easy". The grogs would arrive by boat, following the Northern coast of Estonia, since that is by far the best way to reach the area.

  • Narva-Jõesuu / Ust-Narova

The fishing village (50-ish people) at the mouth of the river. Good fishing means that the locals mostly rely on this for their subsistence, with a little farming done by the women while the men are off fishing. The population is 70:30 Estonian/Ingrian:Russian. The population is split about equally between Orthodox, Catholics and Pagans who pay lip service to Catholicism due to their Danish overlords. There are two small chapels, each with Dominion 3, one for each of the Christian branches. The village overall would be Dominion 1, and maybe Faerie 1 at night.

  • Heron island

The first island at the mouth of the Narva river, it is inhabited by countless herons, both grey and white. Each pine tree is inhabited by exactly two, a male and a female. The whole island is ringed by dense reeds, higher than a man.
I am tempted to make it a magic aura 2-3, inhabited by an Animal spirit / Great beast, (which would tie in with one of our covenant members being a Raven Bjornaer). If I go the magic aura route, the island would never be visited by humans, despite its proximity to land due to the spirit attacking any intruder. But considering that it is only 50m from shore, I find it a bit hard to rationalise it remaining untouched short of a very aggressive bird... Though it is the edge of civilisation.

From a meta PoV, this location could be interesting for a Bjornaer Heron and the info could be traded. But also if the Heron spirit/beast aggressively removes visitors, three Grogs would not stand much chance of exploring the island. And just having it there while stopping the PCs from going onto it seems like a waste. unless I just use it as scenery while they sail downstream.

  • Tõrvajõgi (tar river)

A healing water spring about halfway between Narva and Narva-Jõesuu, not far from the river. Past the source, it forms a small muddy rivulet that throws itself into the river. The water is (still in 2020) attributed magical healing property. The place does not have an official name, but considering that the church loved to slap saint's names on nice things and reatribute pagan stuff to a corresponding saint, having the local German priest declare it to be Saint Gangolf's spring seems just right.
So long as one drinks a glass of it daily (or bathes in the source for at least 5 minutes), it will grant +1 to recovery rolls. Probably should have an aura and maybe even offer a pawn of Divine-Aquam Vis per year when collected right.

  • Narva-Joala / Narova / Narowia

This is the "village" itself. Its first appearance in written texts is in a Danish census in 1241 (the current year of our game). It is about half a day's walk from the river mouth

  1. The Village

About a 100 people live in Narva permanently, the majority are Estonian/Ingrian, followed by Russian working in trade. A dozen or so Danes keep the peace along with the local Knight, a Holsteiner by the name of Hermann. His friend, the only other German, a fellow Hosteiner, is the parish catholic priest Petrus. A catholic church dedicated to Saint George was built out of wood is on a hill close to the riverbanks, about 20 minutes walk from the loading docks.

  1. The Hill

North of the city, on a hill almost 30 m above the water, the Lord of Narva has a manor, a longhouse and a watchtower ringed by wooden palisade. It overlooks the thinnest part of the river (ca 75 paces) leaving even the other bank within bow range. The lord is named Holgr, an aging Danish cadet from a noble family whose longhall is close to Lund. In addition to the garrison in town, he has a further two dozen men at arms always at the fort. He collects taxes for all of Ida-Virumaa, a region which extends some 40 miles or so to the west of Narva. He is wealthy and can command the mostly German knights of the region to his banner should the need arise. His loyalty is to the Bishop of Reval and the King of Denmark. He was present at the battle of Lindanise and fought bravely as part of King Valdemar II's army. He has yet to make a trip to make his personal allegiance to king Eric IV.

  1. Kreenholm(Litt. Crow island)

The island has its name from the large number of crows dwelling there. This island has an infernal aura of 3 tarnished with avarice. The island is covered exclusively in unhealthy looking coniferous trees, their needles seeming sharper and darker than nearby trees. Plenty of crows live on the island, with floor littered in pine needles, guano and the bones of small animals devoured by the crows. By days the crows are merely menacing to humans and cawing aggressively. By night they will attack humans pecking at them until there is no flesh left on their bones. The evil spirits of the island are locked at war with the neighbouring spirit of the waterfall.

  1. The Waterfalls

Massive waterfalls, almost 10 paces high, they make a torrential sound and split the river preventing further shipping from lake peipus down to the Baltic sea. Instead cargo must be disembarked and carried down along a wide path to be loaded onto new boats 200 paces downstream, after Kreenholm. The waterfalls (one of the largest in Europe before being dammed to supply power to the factories build in the 19th Century on Kreenholm) are a magnificent sight and the area immediately under the waterfall has a magic aura of 3. A magic aligned nymph lives there. She is unconcerned with human affairs but has a longstanding conflict with the crows. (If needed, I would use the stats from the Loreley.) Aquam Vis is produced here, however any attempt to collect it will anger the Nymph who uses it to maintain her near-eternal youth. She will see this as the greedy crows trying to steal from her, through some new pawn.

  • Fields

Nothing special mechanically, but all the rocks from the upper soil layers of the fields were dragged together at the centre of the field into a roughly circular shape. A small gnarly tree grows in the centre of this rocky-earthy-mossy mass. The spirit of the field is said to inhabit this tree.

Cow herding is mostly seen as a Danish affair, with the locals eating mostly pigs and fish for proteins, and dark rye bread to fill their bellies. Apple trees are the most common orchard trees.

  • Sinimäe (Litt. Blue mountain)

This hill takes its name from it being covered in unusually blue needled pines. It is about half a day's walk due west from Narva. The base is a faerie aura 1, rising to an aura of 3 at the top. The forest is ruled by the blue pine king, a cold-tempered faerie with a longstanding grudge with the mightier magical spirit of the forest who rules over the huge mixed aps-spruce-pine-birch forest that stretches all the way to lake Peipus and the Narva river to the south and Rakvere/Wesenberg to the West. The forest is inhabited by animal shaped faeries, who are mostly benign.

  • Kurtna lakes

The series of lakes (for pics, see here), about a day's walk west then south of Sinimäe. This series of lakes surrounded by mostly birch trees with a few pines and spruces are peat bottom and have clear water but look dark. Local peat harvesters work to extract it as it is closer to the coast than some of the bigger peat marches. The Russians near Narva say that Rusalka inhabit these waters and are a great danger. When asked, a local Estonian fisherman will say that when the first giant climbed out of the sea, he grasped at land and that the lakes are the holes where is fingers raked the land. The lakes have mostly weak faerie auras 1-2, though the largest has a regio accessible at the bottom which leads to an underwater longhouse where water faeries dine and feast all summer long before returning to sleep for the other three seasons of the year.

  • Kingisepp/Jaamaa/Yama

Half a day's walk due East from Narva, on the banks of the next river along (the Luga) lies the Ingrian settlement of Jaamaa (in Ingrian) which the Estonians call Kingisepp and the Russian Yama. It is officially enfiefed to Novgorod and has a large parish church there. The village itself has a Dominion aura of 3. The village has a disproportionate amount of shoe makers for its size, thanks to a large supply of deer leather from local hunters. Everyone in Narva wants to have shoes and boots made there. The population is a majority of Ingrians with a few Russian monks.

So far the plan is to have them arrive by boat in Ust Narva, from there they can either walk or try to hitch a boat ride upriver to Narva. There they can participate in the Midsummer's day festivities (which are being christianised as Saint John's day), carouse and sauna with locals. After they recover, they can set off to explore the region. At the end, they grab a boat back to Reval, then to Riga and back home.

I welcome feedback and ideas.

If the grogs haven't been designed yet, give one of the grogs magic sensitivity to they can detect auras, or second sight so they can see ghosts and spirits.

For the heron island, you could use it as a horror scenario - the birds ferociously and scarily attacking mundane intruders. Alternatively, as herons are well known for emptying their bowels and flying off when scared, you could have a comedy scene of grogs getting covered in heron excrement when they scare the birds.

The healing spring is a great thing for grogs to investigate - they can speak to locals and hear about its powers, and as they aren't gifted people can willingly show them the well and talk about how it makes a modest difference to disease sufferers.

If the local lord speaks to them, maybe he will tell tales of how they defeated the Estonians' cunning use of magic to sneak up on Lindanise (descriptions of the battle make it sound like the Estonians managed to cunningly move troops into position so they could attack from multiple directions. The historical answer is either the Danish troops were caught being lazy, or the Estonians used stealth and detailed local knowledge to move troops around unseen. In Mythic Europe, you can use as much illusion and invisibility as you like)