Burn Everything Gaming

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Game Design: Escape to Thorn Valley: pt.4: The Quest

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This week we do our fourth, and final, 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.

The second week we talked about the the Trek

Last week we talked about how to Negotiate

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

The Quest

The last scene, QUEST, is all about awesomeness. This is where the players get to play those mice and rats that feel like NIMH creatures. If they did very well with their conversation with the Great Owl, they will have learned about Toy Tinker, the vehicle with small tools and items that was not completely scavenged from the first wave of NIMH rats. Even without it, the forest is filled with things that can be reshaped for their purposes. Crafts is used to make these things, and should really be fun to use in this scene. Lore lets you know things like how bad mud, rain, snakes, and thorns can be. Drive will allow you to work contraptions that you build to get past the mud. Physique will keep you from getting stuck or pushing a vehicle that is stuck in the big mud at the climax of this adventure.

The Tinker Toy Truck

If the characters found out about the truck, have them transition strait to finding it. Otherwise reward a Great (4) Investigate or Notice check or encourage them to spend a Fate point to ‘create’ the location. The truck has been picked fairly clean by the original rats of NIMH, but a good search will reveal a few tools and toys that were left behind.

Here is where the characters can get creative. Crafts is the skill to use! They can get themselves clothing items for Average (1), packs or belt pouches for Fair (2), simple weapons or tools for Good (3), complex devices that are small enough for them to carry for Great (4), or a peddle-powered vehicle for Superb (5). Do not let this scene get bogged down with multiple rolls. Let them roll one check each to make what they want, and if they would rather build more smaller items then break it down to a pyramid (a roll of 5 gets you 1 Superb item, 2 Great items, 3 Good items, etc.). Just make sure they understand that they cannot roll again and that other players cannot give up their rolls so that others can roll more than once. They can, however, create advantages for another player using Resources for example.

The Muddy Snake Pit

The mud pit is a large obstacle that stands between the party and the Valley of Thorns. They’d go around it if not for the snakes, and they’d wait for it to dry out if it wasn’t going to keep raining or they were better at finding food. If the player characters made a vehicle, they can use Drive at a Great (4) difficulty to simply drive through the mud. If they get stuck, they will have to get out and push with Physique to beat a Fair (2) difficulty for rats or a Good (3) difficulty for mice while at least one mouse reattempts a new Drive check at a Good (3) difficulty.

If they did not make a vehicle, then crossing the mud requires 2 successes at a Good (3) Physique check. Anyone that makes over Good can give their excess to other characters as they help pull them along. If someone fails, they are stuck in the mud and will need to keep rolling in order to get unstuck. Remind the players that there are snakes nearby if they are not acting with enough urgency, but don’t actually bring a snake out unless most of the mice have crossed and you want that epic last-minute rush for escaping. A snake attack deals a 10 point stress hit, so be careful or you will kill your PCs.

The End

Finally, before we get into details, we should talk about the ending. The whole point of this adventure is to get the player characters from the labs to the Thorn Valley community of the original rats of NIMH. But what do they find there? I have left this open ended on purpose, but here are a few suggestions.

  • Thriving Community – this ending makes for a great reward in a one-shot only adventure. The rats succeeded, things are going well, and the player characters are welcomed by fellow rats to join in. Perhaps also Timothy or his children are there as well so that the mice characters do not feel left out.
  • Struggling Community – this is a good transition for a political campaign. The rats have the community, but they are struggling with making it work. Maybe growing crops has proved too difficult, or maybe the rats are divided into factions that do not get along well. The player characters should be seen as valuable assets to the community so that they can quickly become a part of the struggle as well.
  • Warring Community – this ending is for those players that, despite the nature of the game, really want to see some combat action. Maybe they made new weapons that they want to try out, or maybe they want to conquer the world. Have the community under attack by an army of normal rats or maybe a couple of weasels. The party’s arrival should scare most of the attackers away, thinking that a large troupe of reinforcements have arrived. Fight off the baddies for an extra one-shot ending, or leave them with the promise of mass battles for the next adventure.
  • Forgotten Community – this ending is a horrible way to finish a one shot, but it can be a good way to start up a survival campaign. The rats are all gone, or their dead bodies are scattered throughout their abandoned community. Let the player characters pillage what’s left to find a lot of neat things that they will need to start their own community or simply survive where the first rats of NIMH failed.

GM Tool: Quick Reference For All Skills

Skill Name Most Useful Other Uses
Athletics TREK anything physically more complicated

than scurrying up a wall

Burglary ESCAPE stealing or opening a rare locked box

of goodies

Contacts ESCAPE call on help from any other escaped

animals or make friends for later

Crafts QUEST modify a scene aspect, turning it into

an advantage

Deceive NEGOTIATE feint or cause a distraction when

escaping a predator

Drive QUEST ride a friendly larger animal, such

as a rabbit

Empathy NEGOTIATE keep spirits up by creating an


Fight Never when the characters fail a fight check,

be sure to encourage other skills

Investigate ESCAPE find trails or discarded items
Lore QUEST give information about how rats,

mice, or people normally behave

Notice TREK bugs moving towards a source of

food or other roundabout hints

Physique QUEST physical stress, power through an


Provoke Never advise that this will probably get

them killed and see if that helps

Rapport NEGOTIATE chat with other animals for help

or advice

Resources ESCAPE build up a cache or travel pack

when exploring

Shoot Never only non-combat items like a

grapple gun or mouse catapult

Stealth TREK do not get caught, escape by


Survival TREK blaze trails and create advantages

based on instinct and shelter

Will NEGOTIATE defend against fear or create for

yourself an advantage

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.

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