About two years ago I started my ongoing OpenQuest Empire of Gatan campaign. We play online every two weeks or so. It’s structured like a modern TV series (like Deadwood, Rome) but in keeping with OQ being an Adventure Fantasy Game. Season one lasted 20 sessions and was based in the Eastern Imperial Borderlands and kicked off with the adventure that is the OpenQuest Quickstart. Season two is currently ongoing and took the game to the imperial capital of Sotan and then out into the provinces. If season one was a typical borderlands campaign with the added bonus of taking tentative steps down one of the magical paths that the setting allows, season two is all about impressing the great and the good and getting a foot in the murky world of Imperial power politics. Not that the players would give you the impression if you watched them play. They enjoy the adolescent escapism of the pseudo-Dark Ages quite a lot. It’s in keeping with their characters, who are a band of twenty-something males, honest 😀
Copious notes, that will become at least one supplement, probably two (one for each season of play), have been written. But I’ve always felt a nagging sense of guilt that I’ve never done any actual play posts for the games. Then it hit me that one of my favourite Dark Ages sources is the Anglo Saxon Chronicle. This is a year-by-year listing of what happened in Anglo-Saxon England, which Alfred the Great originally commissioned and was continued to be maintained until the mid-12th century. It was written by the monks of several monasteries, so it varies widely in tone and style. Some entries are single sentences, while others, of more eventful years, are short paragraphs. There’s a certain bluntness, combined with a bit of poetic style, that I admire.
So the plan is for each game session is to write up a brief entry, with a quick Explanation section afterwards.
Here’s a taste, with a combined entry for this and last week’s session.
Season 2 Episode 11/12 The Great Goblin Hunt Begins
Bleak season 52 AU. The Great Goblin Hunt begins at Castle Uprising. The Emperor is overseeing the necessary rituals. The night before there is a great Hat Dance in celebration. Many nobles shamed by it. A party of Elves are expelled after it is discovered they went beneath the Caste trying to rescue their friend lost in the Outer Dark
Castle Uprising is a new castle, a square keep made of gleaming stone with a magnificent outer wall, built five years ago and raised up by the magic of the Builder Cult, at the command of the Emperor. It’s a hunting lodge, designed so the Emperor can retreat here and enjoy hunts, about half a day’s journey by coach, horse or canal barge (yes the Empire has a system of poorly maintained canals, inherited in part from the Old Empire). There’s a Vale of the Hunt right next to it, which is artificially stocked for the hunts. It’s loosely based on the real-world Castle Rising in Norfolk, and Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire.
The Great Goblin Hunt. Goblins running wild in the Empire of Gatan has always been a problem. Either feral packs from population explosions in their native lands or organised raiding bands led by their Orc brethren from the Goblinoid Strongholds beyond the Empire’s Border. Ten years ago, Emperor Ilmar got so fed up with them that he made an Imperial Proclamation that town criers across the Empire readout. The proclamation classified Goblins as vermin and decreed by law that landowning nobles should appoint a Master of the Goblin Hunt. Their job is to coordinate the local peasants to exterminate any Goblin infestation found upon their lands. A bounty is payable upon the collection of Goblin heads, and the formation of a professional class of Goblin Hunter was encouraged throughout the Empire. Every year the best Goblin Hunters, sponsored by the five Dukes of Gatan, assemble at Castle Uprising in the Imperial Heartlands, near the Imperial Hunting Forest. After a great feast, attended by the Emperor, they enter the Valley of the Hunt, carefully stocked with Goblins and other related creatures. Whoever brings back the most goblin heads at the end of the day is declared the Great Goblin Hunt winner.
The Hat Dance. At this fifth hunt, the Emperor has commissioned a new dance that is to be performed at the feast the night before the hunt. No one knows what steps the dance will involve, only that they should wear their best and most elaborate hat!
Elves. Not going to say much here about Elves in the Empire of Gatan, but they are from a big forest beyond the Brightspire Mountains, that they stole from a group of Dragons. They have a treaty with the Empire that allows them free passage around it, and settlement in small “Watch Woods” which are effectively part of the Elvish Confederation. In real-world terms, this gives the individual or small groups of Elves diplomatic immunity. Oh, and they are gits. Posh entitled gits, whose long lives give them license to have fun (as they see it) at the expense of humans (who they see as children). Most Gatanese see them as mysterious hooded strangers who sit in the corner of the local tavern, nursing a drink that never gets drained,
The Outer Dark. According to the Imperial Revelation, the source of all knowledge in the Empire of Gatan, the Underworld is made up of three layers, which are in order to closeness to the surface world.
- Undersurface, the caves, passageways and chambers directly beneath the surface.
- Near Dark, a layer deep in the earth where the Real World starts giving way to the Other World of the…
- The Outer Dark, a hellish Other World of Darkness where the deities of corruption known as the Lords of the Outer Dark hold court over their demon minions.
So whatever that “lost Elf” was up to in the Outer Dark, you can bet it was not good.
Also of interest: any house rules you have at your table for your home game.
Just to avoid any disappointment on this front.
1. I tend to run using the rules in the main rulebook and companion. You could argue (and some folk do) that OQ is my set of d100 house rules.
2. The only thing I have ever so slightly house-ruled is how some bits of magic work within the setting, and that I’m saving for the setting books 🙂