School of Adventure – Year Five prologue

Following on from the mayhem of the Year Four adventure, I narrated a ticking-off that our Lunar house team got back at school for attacking the team from the Farseer house. To be fair, the Farseer team also got a ticking off for starting the dirty tricks. Anyway, I didn’t make a big deal of it, but I used it for story-driving consequences: some Year Five students are appointed prefects, and both teams involved in these shenanigans were passed over for this honour, with the badges for their respective houses being presented to members of the other teams.

So I opened Year Five by describing a longstanding tradition I had just made up: the harvest feast. Early in the first term of each year, there is a great feast for all the students and staff. There is plenty for all, but the staff table and the prefects’ table get special food that the rest of the students don’t. My plan for a mini-adventure was a midnight raid on the kitchens, the night before the feast, to get a chance at the good stuff before the prefects trough it all. As we saw last time, the players are always trying to liven up the action by using things from the environment as weapons or tools to get an advantage. I figured that a kitchen full of catering equipment and food should provide the ideal arena for this kind of improvisation.

The players were already voicing their outrage at the menu injustice, so when Aimee, the friendly divinity student from the rival Farseer team, approached them in the Year Five common room and dared them to this plan, it was not surprising that some quickly accepted the challenge. Not all the players wanted to; two decided that their characters would stay out of the escapade, tucked up in bed not courting any further disciplinary action. And another player was ill that week, so I put that character in a quantum cat state, either tagging along with the miscreants or staying in bed as we would discover when the player returned to make a choice.

So three to four of the Lunar team put on their slippers and snuck out of their rooms at midnight. I had for the first time made a map of part of the school building. They had a courtyard to cross with a cloister around the outside. (I had to explain that a cloister is a covered walkway separated from the open middle by columns; apparently to the kids it is a Pokémon?) Across the cloister from Lunar house were the dining hall and kitchens.

To liven up a minute crossing the cloister, I had the school caretaker come by with a lantern. I made him slower-moving than the kids, and with his restricted circle of vision I didn’t think it would be too hard for the PCs to evade him in the darkness and sneak into the kitchen. But they made unexpectedly heavy going of it and took the best part of two sessions. One character headed towards where the caretaker was going, nearly being revealed in the lantern light. Another ran loudly in the other direction, alerting the caretaker to the presence of students out of bed. The third wanted to attack the caretaker and tie him up unconscious, and I needed to provide some in-character knowledge that this would definitely get them expelled. A chase around the cloisters and surrounding areas ensued, in which I gave control of the caretaker to one of the players who was in the session but had chosen for their character not to accompany the group.

I had the Farseer kids show up from their own house staircase during all this, and quietly make their way towards the kitchen area. I think this helped the PCs get the idea, and eventually they made their last noise somewhere away from the door they were trying to get into, and then also started sneaking quietly so that they could reach their target while the caretaker investigated their diversion.

By this point all the players had joined, so the quantum cat materialized with the main group and, when I had the caretaker give up the chase and shuffle off, I let that player’s character come down to join them. The final PC stayed in bed and that player controlled the main enemy from the Farseer team, Harbace.

This worked at least as well as I had hoped. The player initially saw controlling the enemy as a chance to make Harbace be helpful for a change, to the advantage of the Lunar team. But I explained that a condition of controlling Harbace was adopting his sneaky and unfriendly attitude. And the player really got into this in the session where the characters explored the kitchen and searched for the good food. There was sneering; there were taunts. The Lunar infiltration student, Kuswo, got one over on Harbace by having brought his lock-picking tools with him and getting into the cold store where the best desserts were kept, but Harbace insisted on barging in and a scuffle broke out, which escalated into the planned food fight. Some of the characters had by this point looted what they could fit in their hands and left, but while bangs and crashes ensued as Kuswo emptied a bucket of snails on Harbace’s head and Harbace retaliated with a fish to the face, Elliot and Sukini were loading up a cauldron with cream cakes until they could barely carry it between them.

So I closed the session by having a teacher walk in on this scene. I think I’ll narrate about a month of detentions for those caught pie-handed when we resume, but it will be water under the bridge as they approach their final examination at the end of the year. I’m just pleased to have provided a safe outlet for PvP in other personas, an introduction to playing different characters according to their own motivations and personalities, and an outlet for the improvisers’ creative talents.

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