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Game Design: Escape to Thorn Valley: pt.3: Negotiate


This week we do our third part of Game Design for the adventure “Escape to Thorn Valley”. This is based off of a FATE Core hack for Secret of NIMH that you can find here: https://taoofchall.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/fate-core-secret-of-nimh/

The first week we talked about the Escape.

Last week we talked about the Trek

This week we talk about the next step in the adventure:


The third scene, NEGOTIATE, is all about social interaction. Fans of the NIMH series will recognize the Great Owl as both wise and scary. This should give them hope for moving forward despite being frustrated about how hard things have been so far. Whether they find the Great Owl, or it snatches up one of them, he is willing to speak once he realizes that they are NIMH creatures. Deceive can be used to convince the owl you are not tasty or hide anything you’ve done. Empathy will determine the truth of what the owl is saying and his intent to not eat you unless provoked. Rapport will be most useful in finding out about Thorn Valley and the rats that came before you. Will allows you to resist the owl’s passive mental attack.

The Great Owl Finds You

The more likely way this works is that the player characters, and perhaps the players, start to get a little frustrated at the difficulty of things. So instead of having a monster kick down a door, you have an owl swoop down as soon as it is dark and snatch up a rat or mouse in the party. Have everyone roll a Notice check and just snatch whichever character got the lowest score. Alternatively you can simply snatch the character that you feel the rest of the party will be most likely to try and rescue.

The owl’s tree does not require any skill checks to climb up since mice and rats can scurry naturally. Feel free to let anyone roll Investigation or Notice checks to assure them that they do not see any traps or anything else on the way. If the caught character’s player wants to try and escape, they fail the check. If they wish to try talking to the owl, let them role play the conversation while the others climb the tree. Skip down to the actual conversation when the party arrives.

You Find the Great Owl

If the characters found out about the Great Owl through the field mice, or if they are NIMH fans and randomly decide “Let’s go ask an owl for help!” then let them make a check to see what they can figure out. Many skills will work: Lore, Investigation. Survival, Notice, Contacts, Empathy, Resources, etc. If the players can justify it, let them try. They only need a Good (3) result to succeed.

Try to make the approach to the owl’s tree as scary as possible. Rat and mice bones littered about. Get caught in a cobweb for a round. Have the wind howl a bit, sounding like it says “turn back” if you wish. If the players start to feel like you are driving them off and want to retreat, compel them to keep going.

Negotiate With the Great Owl

I recommend watching the scene with the Great Owl in the movie before you run this scene. Granted you probably watched the whole movie to get in the right mindset, but since this scene portrays an actual character from the movie then you really want to watch it again to help get the character right. “Come In, or Go Away!” if the group sought him out. “What strange behavior!” if the group is coming to rescue an ally.

The Great Owl will not eat any of the characters once it realizes they are NIMH rats and mice, which they can learn with a Great (4) empathy check. The owl does not freely give information (they are not Mrs. Jonathan Frisbee, after all). A Rapport difficulty of Good (3) needs to be met for the owl to direct them to Thorn Valley. Each point of success above this (or additional success from another player) will reveal more information: there are other NIMH rats there, they are forming a self-supporting community, it will take you 2 days going that way if you do not rest long, the rain storm today has probably left a great deal of mud in your path, be wary of snakes along the way, and there is a tinker toy truck along the way.

Next Week: Part 4: Quest

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.

2 thoughts on “Game Design: Escape to Thorn Valley: pt.3: Negotiate

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

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

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