I’m currently reading Resolute, an enjoyable book about 19th Century Arctic exploration, and one part in particular made me think of GMing.
It requires a quick setup. A mid-19th Century American whaler has discovered an abandoned British naval ship in the Arctic, and he decides to sail it home. The British vessel is enormous, meant to be crewed by 60-70 people, and the whaler can only muster 13.
“Battered by at least one storm every single day of his two-month voyage, he was continually blown off course. More than once a sudden blizzard, with its accompanying mountainous seas, threatened to destroy the undermanned ship. ‘I frequently had no sleep for more than sixty hours at a time,’ the captain would later tell friends.”
From a GMing standpoint, this raises several questions.
• Given how impossible the basic scenario sounds — 13 men crewing a ship designed to be crewed by 60-plus, and sailing it through the Arctic — would you allow the party to try?
• Would your players assume they could do it “because they’re the PCs”?
• With sixty straight days of dangerous storms, would you have the PCs roll to keep the ship afloat every day? And when they had to go for days without sleep, would there be penalties for fatigue?
• If you condensed things down to a couple of very important rolls, would it be exciting?
• In a nutshell, could this happen in an RPG — and if it did, would it be any fun?