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Troy’s Crock Pot: Joining the prep lite brigade

I wanted to share my experience running micro-sessions — all under and hour — for my two teen sons.

I’m using the d20 Modern system, or at least a bare bones version of it.
Everyone at the table has mastered this rules set, which is something to keep in mind if you wish to mimic the experience. The session could be played without fussing — or taking a deep dive into the gray manuals for referencing any rules. That helps with pacing.

The campaign — six sessions in all — was a treasure hunt/adventure. The PCs were tasked by their employer to locate clues and keys needed to obtain the Diadem of Cleopatra — believed to have been ported across Europe over the centuries by the legendary “Lost” Ninth Legion — before the nefarious Nautilus Club got to it first.

Everyone had guns, so there were lots of things that went bang and boom, and vehicles and aircraft that went fast.

My youngest son called it an Uncharted video game for the tabletop. (Not being a video console player other than NBA 2K, I’ll take his word for it.) When we started, I had in mind a Clive Cussler/Preston & Child type of romp.

My takeaways from running these six sessions:

Keeping rules referencing light kept the action moving.

I had two cribs, a list of weapons and vehicles with the d20 stats, and the Menace Manual open for NPC stats. If the thing wasn’t found there, we made it up on the fly.  The PCs were all 5th level characters — there was no leveling up or character stat advancement.

Laptop with open browser was GM screen/visual prompt.

One browser was for pictures of locations the encounter took place in — I could swing the screen around and show the players what the museum or historical location looked like. I had Google maps up on a second browser window, so I could instantly provide that to them as well. The third browser window was to an informational page about the Ninth Legion if the PCs needed to make research checks.

Player choices were always A or B.

The next step in the treasure hunt was always presented as an A or B choice. Before presenting the choice, I picked one on behalf of the adversaries — the Nautilus Club. If the PCs picked the same as me, then they were a step behind. If they picked otherwise, they were a step ahead.

Making up NPCs on the fly was fun.

Yes, I have a lifetime of watching Bond and spy movies, so coming up with signature NPCs to challenge my teen protagonists was not difficult. But building NPCs has always been in my wheelhouse. Other GMs might require a little prep time in this regard. All I can say is that the Nautilus Club hires some colorful and weird enforcers. Their HR Department must be a hoot.

Skipping the debriefing

With one exception, all the sessions had two combats connected by a quickie travel sequence and a brief exploration sequence. Satellite phone conversations with the home base were necessarily short. Essentially, that meant there was little time for roleplay. It worked for this type of game. Your mileage might differ. Recaps from the previous session were quick and to the point.  But we did sacrifice story depth and character development for a more frenetic play experience.

I prefer games with more depth and immersion, but after devoting the whole autumn and early winter to Waterdeep Dragon Heist, this was a nice change of pace.