As I’ve done previously for Into the Violet Vale (for Numenera) and Eschatology Code (for The Strange), I’m offering up the prep notes I made for Mastodon — an introductory scenario for The Strange designed by Bruce Cordell — before running it at Gen Con 2015.
Unlike those previous adventures, I didn’t put together a GM cheat sheet for the adventure. But I did put together a bunch of other cool tools that I hope you’ll find useful.
MASTODON – NOTICE OF TERMINATION
This Notice of Termination is designed to be given to your players as they approach the table. (Or you could e-mail it to them as a pitch for the scenario.) It’s designed to serve as an initial briefing for the background of the scenario.
The adventure includes pregenerated characters. The PC cheat sheets I’ve prepared are designed to eliminate book look-ups for the abilities that aren’t fully described on the character sheets. (I’ve found that this usually saves about 20-30 minutes of playing time, so their use greatly improves pacing if you’re using Mastodon as a one-shot for introducing people to the game.)
These cheat sheets, however, also include additional briefing material regarding PROJECT MASTODON and a “flashback memory” specific to each character that reveals a slice of what happened 10 years ago. (Note that I’ve specifically altered the background of the adventure to include the “amnesia” the PCs are suffering from.)
If you’re not using the pregenerated characters, it should still be relatively easy to adapt these flashbacks to whatever characters the players are running. They serve three functions:
First, in combination with the Notice of Termination, they eliminate the need for the GM to do a verbal exposition dump at the beginning of the session. Instead, you can frame hard to the PCs having drinks in the hotel bar before going up to their meeting with Alessandra Torres.
Second, they introduce an element of mystery around their experiences on Ruk. I found that this provided an additional driver for the scenario and also delivered a bigger pay-off for the players when they finally reach Ruk.
Third, by giving each PC a different clue/memory about their experiences 10 years ago, it gives them a topic of meaningful conversation for that first meeting in the hotel bar. This allows that conversation to continue at greater length, which means it also works better at introducing and establishing the characters. (Before I introduced this change to the scenario, the hotel bar meeting would usually consist of everyone saying “hi” and then sitting in awkward silence until I cut away from the scene.)
- Mastodon Handouts: These include a Deinonychus photo, the whiteboard in the conference room, the Breakaway Couriers logo, Anson’s note, and photos of both Amla-Shoon and the Rukian guards. (You’ll need a couple of envelopes: One for the Breakaway Couriers delivery. The other for Anson’s briefing on Ruk. Glue the logo to the former; paperclip the note to the latter.)
- PC Tent Cards: Using the pregen characters included in the scenario, I put these 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.)
- 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.