Monte Cook’s Into the Violet Vale was released yesterday. This is the Numenera adventure I ran at Gencon this year. It features a nifty in media res opening that will make the adventure a little more challenging to incorporate into an ongoing campaign, but which works great if you’re looking to run a one-shot. On the other hand, it’s also remarkably flexible and non-linear compared to most convention scenarios I’ve experienced, so I definitely think it can be worth the effort. I’ve run it 4 times and found it to be delightful and mind-bending every time.
As part of my prep work for running the adventure, I put together a bunch of resources and an expansive cheat sheet that I think y’all might find useful. And now that the scenario has been released to the public, I can share them with you.
This cheat sheet for the GM supplements the adventure in several key ways:
First, I’ve prepped a specific MISSION BRIEFING featuring three specific questions to help players orient themselves into the scenario. This is designed to retain the in media res quality of the opening while providing enough context to meaningfully inform roleplaying without requiring the players to simply listen to a big wall of text. (In practice, the answers to these questions often had a radical effect on shaping what followed.) The final question (“How are you securing and transporting Sinter?”) is designed to transition with a hard pivot directly into the opening scene.
Second, I’ve included a lengthy REGLAE REFERENCE. During my playtest, the players really wanted to tear the titular, dimension-warping flowers apart. So I whipped up some really weird, non-terrestial biological traits to reward their attention.
Third, several of my players commented that the adventure felt too “generic fantasy” and didn’t do enough to really highlight the awesome “weirdness” of the setting (particularly early on). In an attempt to address this, I’ve added some EXTRA WEIRDNESS to the abandoned camp at the beginning of the adventure. I’ve made some similar additions to Lady Weiss and her brute bodyguards.
I’ve specified FRIN’S CYPHERS. These were just pregenerated randomly, but it let me include them on the cypher cards I prepped for the adventure. (See below.) If you don’t want to use those cards, there’s no reason you can’t just generate them randomly during play.
I’ve added a bit where the PCs can theoretically MURDER FRIN and reverse engineer an alternative (but dangerous) method of escaping the valley. (This also changes the method Lady Weiss uses to help the PCs escape the valley.)
Finally, I’ve prepped NPC ROLEPLAYING SHEETS for all of the major NPCs (Sinter, Lady Weiss, Frin, and Meriod). I’ve talked about these before, but the short version is that I derived this format for NPCs from Mike Mearls’ In the Belly of the Beast. I’ve found that it makes quickly referencing their information and assuming their character so incredibly simple.
In addition to my master cheat sheet, I’ve also prepped these resources:
- Handout: Grodon’s Journal: A one-page version of the handout with a fancy-looking font. (The font is SF New Republic. I use it as a kind of lingua franca in the Ninth World.)
- NPC Portraits and Graphics: These depict Lady Weiss’ Tower, Lady Weiss, Frin, and Meriod. They’re formatted to be printed as 4×6 photos. The character portraits have been heavily photoshopped from the group portrait on pg. 10 of the scenario so that you can present each NPC individually. The picture of Lady Weiss’ Tower comes from here. (Check it out, it’s pretty cool.)
- Cypher and Ability Cheat Sheets: These are designed to eliminate book look-ups for the pregenerated characters included in the adventure. I’ve found that they save about 20-30 minutes of playing time, so their use greatly improves pace if you’re using Into the Violet Valet as a one-shot for introducing people to the game.
- Cypher Cards: These are for all the cyphers that the PCs can find or gain during the adventure. (This includes the three cyphers that Frin brings them, see above.) These cards are designed to be printed on Avery 8471 business cards, but can easily be printed on any paper or cardstock and then cut out. (There are two full sets so that I could just print the page once and have enough for both of the sessions I was scheduled to run at Gencon.)
- PC Tent Cards: Once again featuring the pregen characters. I prep these and put them in the middle of the table. As people approach, they can select whichever character looks appealing to them and put the tent card in front of them. It’s a nice, quick way to facilitate character selection and also means that you (and other players) can quickly identify who’s playing who with a quick glance during play. These files are designed to be printed with Avery “Small Tent Cards” (template 5302), but you could also just print them on normal cardstock. What you need to do is take each A file and then flip it and print the matching B file. (Each sheet has four tent cards, so I’ve designed the three files so that I get two complete sets of character names if I print all three (to minimize wastage). If you just want one set, print sets 1 and 2 and you should be good to go.)