After approximately a month and a half, I got to return to my main weekly D&D campaign and run the next session (the first full session) in the extra-universal domain I built way back in 2020 when I was bored due to only working alternate weeks. I set up a whole mystery thing I was going to unveil for a different campaign since one of my core players loved mysteries, but she wound up withdrawing from the campaign because only doing stuff online became too much for her, so I recycled it into a different D&D campaign. Now, one kidnapping and a side character later, my players have fully immersed themselves in a world of betentacled eyeball sunrises, screams instead of clock chimes to mark passing hours, and a massive mystery to solve before the constant wear of terror and nothingness grinds down their very souls.
To put it another way, I’m super excited to run through all this worldbuilding I’ve done and to mess with my players as much as I can (at the appropriate moments, of course). All of the notes I’ve listed about this place are assumptions my players have made about the world they’re inhabiting and I will go on record at this moment in time as being unable to confirm or deny the validity of those assumptions. I will say, on record, that it is going better than I could have hoped. We’re three screams into their first day in this world, they’ve started to realize something is fucky, and they’ve managed to start things off at Tier 1 of things being messed up. It could have started at 0, but one of them rolled a natural 20 on a perception check with a total result over 25, so they saw something that saw them seeing it.
I’ve been developing and fine-tuning this system for so long that it is excruciating to be unable to write about it. I’ve had players mark down symbols and notes on their character sheets so they can track certain things I’m also tracking, but they have no idea what those symbols mean. I’m sure they’ll eventually be able to figure most of it out since they’re all fairly clever, but right now I’m enjoying the mystery of it all. They already had one NPC–who seemed to know something while denying they knew anything and professing to be an inhabitant of this world whose description did not match their appearance–literally vanish from their grasp. They’ve been cursed by the local populace, spent time exploring a book store, and realized only one of them can understand the language everyone seems to be speaking. It’s wonderful.
I’ve had to take a few lessons from other rule systems to make D&D work for this kind of mystery adventure scenario the way I want the game to proceed, but so far things seem to still be running smoothly. I might encounter hiccups later, of course, but right now this game engine is purring like a kitten. I REALLY want to elaborate, but I can’t since at least one of my players occasionally looks at this blog and you really can’t blab about mysteries since the not-knowing is the whole point of them.
I am, of course, concerned that I may have made this too difficult, that I might have made everything too difficult to grasp or find for this to proceed according to my loose outline. I don’t really have anyone to check my work for me, you know? I am confident I can modify things as the game runs if it seems like they’re proceeding too slowly or like I set the difficulty too high, but I always worry that it might ruin the fun.
Though, at only one session (three screams) into the first day, two players have different unknown marks on their sheets and one of those two characters is “haunted” because he keeps going off on his own/checking rooms out after everyone else has left. There’s a good chance that, should this wind up being too difficult for them, it will have been their fault.