Burn Everything Gaming

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Game Design: Escape to Thorn Valley: pt.1


I saw this website a while back that had made a FATE Core hack for Secret of NIMH. In his game, you play special mice/rats that have been altered by NIMH. The website is at https://taoofchall.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/fate-core-secret-of-nimh/ if you want to check it out. It is an old post, a couple of years old in fact, but as soon as I found it I found myself wanting to run a campaign in that setting. But since my groups are not eager to abandon the games they are already playing, I settled for writing this intro adventure.

This adventure, intended to be a one shot or an introduction into the campaign, is designed for 4 players running a mix of mice and rat characters. In this adventure, the characters will have to escape their cages, survive their trek through the woods, negotiate with the Great Owl, and find their way to Thorn Valley.

Note that Fight, Shoot, and Provoke are never emphasized as options. This is on purpose, as this adventure does not feature any combat. Mice and rats are small and surrounded by predators. Attacking is always a bad idea in this adventure. Later, when they have crafted weapons and have a better understanding of what they are facing, combat will probably be ok. But that’s assuming that you wish for this adventure to continue into a campaign. As a one shot, definitely discourage players from building characters with these skills at the top of their track.

Each scene is described below with my brainstorming thoughts below the scene name followed by each challenge in this scene. Like all Fate Core games, there is a lot of room for creativity. Feel free to add as you wish. I’m sure your players will! (General advise for dealing with creative players is also included).

Scene 1: ESCAPE

The first scene, ESCAPE, is all about desperation. The animals are all getting injections, and it will eventually kill them. Each night they do not escape, give them another hit and do not let their characters clear any consequences or stress. Or skip right to the escape challenges. Burglary gets you out of the cages. Contacts gets you help from other animals. Investigate will reveal scene aspects. Resources will determine what, if anything, you can bring with you.

Opening a Cage from the Inside

This is a Superb (5) challenge, which is definitely a little high for new characters. Burglary is the recommended skill. Other skills can be used to assist, such as lore or contacts to create an advantage representing helpful advice that an animal has observed when the humans opened the cages. Anyone opening a rat or mouse cage from the outside only needs to beat a Good (3) difficulty. Larger cages will be a Superb (5) from the outside if you want to add larger animals into the mix.

If the player characters get stuck, encourage them to use their FATE points to give them bonuses in order to escape. If a player insists on another skill (Fight or Physique for example), then double the difficulty because normal animals would try this sort of thing, and the cages are built to prevent normal animals from escaping.

Getting Outside

This requires manipulating the aspects on the scene in order to create an exit. The standard difficulty for revealing an aspect is Good (3), and changing an aspect into an advantage is a Great (4). Investigation is recommended for revealing and Resources for changing. Sample Aspects would include Locked Window, Air-Tight Door, Dangerous Air Ducts, or Government Security System. Once an aspect has been changed into an advantage, the free evoke will allow them to escape without a final challenge (though narration is highly encouraged)

Creativity can be rewarded here. If characters want to craft something to help escape, get a big animal to help them out, or find some explosive chemicals then let them know the risks and give it a try. Do not assume anything in the lab is helpful, however, unless they roll a good Resources or Contacts check first. Once outside, any animal NPCs should go their own separate ways.

Next Week: Part 2: The Trek

Your thoughts so far? Ideas? Changes?


Author: Burn Everything Gaming

Website that mostly produces Actual Play Podcast as well as game reviews and other musings on the topic. Hope you enjoy.

5 thoughts on “Game Design: Escape to Thorn Valley: pt.1

  1. Hmm, I like that set up. It gets to the point while giving the GM a ton of freedom.

    That’s pretty cool.


  2. Pingback: Game Design: Escape to Thorn Valley: pt.2: The Trek | Burn Everything Gaming

  3. Pingback: Game Design: Escape to Thorn Valley: pt.3: Negotiate | Burn Everything Gaming

  4. Pingback: Game Design: Escape to Thorn Valley: pt.4: The Quest | Burn Everything Gaming

  5. Pingback: Hacking Fate | Burn Everything Gaming

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