Sunday, 13 May 2012

The Grinding Gear: referee's report part 1

So, the Grinding Gear by the inimitable James Raggi.

I like it a lot.

In the message I sent around looking for interested players, I specifically stated that it was a trap / puzzle heavy module, and a very challenging one at that. I'm glad I did this, as the players came prepared with that knowledge, and took things methodically and cautiously.

We started early (10am!) so as to have plenty of time to play through the module, and even then the players only got to the first room of the dungeon after 7 hours! That included about an hour of introduction, general chat and equipment buying, and I guess my DMing style is reasonably slow-paced (I like to savour those feelings of mystery when the players don't have a clue what's happening), but I was still surprised how long the surface area took to explore.

I think this is the one thing I'd change about the module -- the extent of the surface areas. I did actually foresee this issue, and removed one floor of the inn, conglomerating the 1st and 2nd floors into one. I think if I were to run it again for a completely new group, I'd consider trying to further reduce the surface area, in order to get into the dungeons proper a bit more quickly. Not that it ever got boring -- there are enough interesting clues and odd items littered around the empty inn to keep interest up -- but I think it would have been nicer to get into the real "meat" of the adventure a bit sooner.

As it was, at the point of finding the entrance to the dungeons, the PCs had been seriously wounded by multiple encounters with the stirges on the surface, and decided to retreat to civilisation at this point, ending the session there. The idea being that the PCs would return to the abandoned inn with reinforcements at some later date.

I look forward to seeing how they fare with the rest of the module! I think they have a feeling for its deviousness now, which should set them in good stead for what's to come.

So how was my experience in terms of this being the first ever purchased module I've run? I enjoyed that as well. There were a few moments where I briefly had the fear that I'd totally forgotten to mention some important fact (which is far less likely with material one has written oneself), but on the whole I found the module was written well enough and concisely enough (a very manageable 16 pages total for the whole adventure) that I didn't have to worry about scanning through pages of descriptive text to find the important bits.

A very impressive adventure overall.

I definitely hope to run more modules by James Raggi, and would definitely be up for running other pre-written modules, as long as they were written in a similarly concise style.

I tell you what -- I've got the urge to run the Tomb of Horrors now! :)


  1. I really look forward to your next session report on this. GEAR is the Raggi module I most want to run myself, and I agree that the surface level stuff seems far less interesting than the underground portion.

    Thanks for the great report!

  2. >>the surface level stuff seems far less interesting

    It's a trap.

  3. >It's a trap.
    Haha, indeed :)

    Like I said, the surface area definitely maintained the interest both of me as the referee, and of the the players. I'd only think about trying to make it a bit smaller in terms of being able to fit the entire adventure into one session, as is recommended. As it is we're playing again in a few weeks, and I do worry that the players may have forgotten some of the details of what they encountered on the surface by that point. We shall see...


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