|The one on the left is the gnome.|
photo credit: Cayusa via photopin cc
The players consist of a Princess, a gnome translator-dimensional illusionist-fortune teller, and a dwarf captain of the guard. We started in media res - the Princess has an alter identity as the "Night Thorn", burglaring rich nobles who treat the poor, well, poorly. It's pure vigilantism with a splash of Robin Hood, as all proceeds go to the mistreated.
When planning this session, I built it as an improv set of sorts, so that I could give the players plenty of latitude while I get to know their characters. I wrote notes on:
The primary setting was the mansion owned by a local noble. I looked up the floor plans to the White House, copied a couple of floors onto graph paper, made a few changes, and put some gardens outside.
Timewise, it's night on a new moon in comfortable weather.
Ahead of time I worked with the Princess's player to decide what the target of the stealing was - she settled on some pieces of a rare chess set. I described it out as a rare and ancient Ionian chess set andd put it in the mansion's Gallery, along with a few other things like a piece of petrified wood with ancient prophetic writing on it (to function as a story hook for the Gnome). She had targeted this noble because he kicked some beggar that was trying to get some coins.
Characters (of the NPC variety)
I made the noble - Vice-Earl Chaucey - along with his son, and then two other folks to use as adventure villains. I focused on giving them a goal or other motivation for the "present time" and, for the villains especially, some notable physical features. I ignored most other aspects of the NPCs except for the villains, who I statted out as they would possibly be in combat.
The Vice-Earl was primarily a collector - not evil, just kinda finds the poor irrelevant and gets irritated when they want "handouts". He goes on safaris, hunts rare animals, buys rare treasures, that sort of thing. Takes his son with him a lot.
The villains were serpentfolk - humanoid, scaled, with cobra heads. Generally, I gave them high Soul scores because they have a sort of voodoo mindset combined with ancestral shamanism. That also gives me a theme to have abilities, magic items, etc for them. Body scores were average and Mind scores were low.
The villains were here to get the piece of petrified wood. If the players didn't take it, the serpents would get it and the players would find out later it had been stolen. If the players did take it, eventually the serpents would come looking for them. Either way, the piece of wood becomes a plot device.
This is what I call Lesser NPCs or cannon fodder. 4 guards for the mansion, 2 outside and 2 inside. Basic combat stats only. Also, some henchmen for the villains. More serpentfolk, focusing on simple to run and easy to kill.
Also, in Phoenix, Mooks like this can only explode once on die rolls. Full NPCs can explode like PCs - unlimited.
That's it. The actual play turned into a comedy of errors. I kept my villains and mooks in reserve until the most fun time to introduce them.
The dwarf wasn't yet aware of the Gnome's and Princess's extracurricular activities, and much of the session involved switching the point of reference between him and them in rapid succession, as he tried to catch up and they tried to avoid him. The outside mansion guards got surprised by the dwarf who improvised a "surprise inspection" after seeing the Princess sneak into the place, mostly so he could be nearby if trouble broke out (her safety is his primary devotion). The outside guards were almost completely incompetent, unsure about what doors or gates they had locked, and fumbling around with their swords.
Meanwhile, the serpentfolk snuck in as well, killing the inside guards quietly and quickly. The Princess and the Gnome heard them coming upstairs, managed to hide from them, knock one of their rear guards unconscious (go ninja go ninja go!), and sneak out of the house with two chess pieces and a piece of petrified wood (the hook worked!) just as the dwarf came storming in the front door with the outside guards after hearing a scream inside (courtesy of the Gnome's ventriloquism).
The dwarf killed a couple of the serpentfolk mooks but the black-scaled villain got away.
The next day, the dwarf sought out the gnome in his "secret hiding place" (that everyone knows about) and found him deciphering a piece of wood recently reported stolen from the manor...
I thought that the party would regroup and then try to find the villain that got away, but the story hook on the wood was too great, so I didn't get to use my sewer dungeon or my voodoo villain. Instead the party headed out to an ancient petrified forest on the other side of the Kingdom to try an find its source.
Those of you familiar with the one-page dungeon contests might have an idea where they'll eventually end up... with some twists, of course.