Creating “In Defense of House Stark” – Part 1

Happy GURPSDay to the GURPSers, far and wide! Enjoy today’s bounty of blogged goodness all across the ‘net.

The last Strategicon convention of the year is coming up in a couple of weeks, so you know what that means — time for another “Adventure Creation” post! I’ll be breaking things down according to my usual steps.

*** If you plan to play this game at Gateway 2017, be aware the below contains numerous spoilers! ***

Step 0 – Perpetual Prep

I still have a pretty long list of possible games to run at future conventions, but that never seems to stop me from coming up with even more brand-new ones. My first thought for this con was actually an adventure based on “The Crow” universe, with the four PCs being returned to life to seek revenge on those who had wronged them. This is something I still plan to develop eventually, but before I had committed much thought to it the new season of “Game of Thrones” began and I decided I really, really wanted to GM a game set in Westeros.

The hardest part of getting started with this idea was that there is just so much material to work with. A half-dozen books, seven seasons of the HBO show, covering hundreds of characters, places, timelines, noble houses, legends, religions. Aah!

Step 1 – What Is It?

Taking a cue from Green Ronin’s excellent “Game of Thrones RPG,” I ultimately decided to set the game in Winterfell at the start of the “Game of Thrones” novel, and then diverge from there. So, Ned Stark has taken his boys (Robb, Jon, Bran, and Rickon) north for the beheading of a Night’s Watch deserter, leaving Catelyn Stark in control and watching over their daughters, Sansa and Arya.

The “elevator pitch” to build the game on is:

“While Ned and the Stark sons are away, an unknown enemy somehow breaches the walls of Winterfell and, in the confusion of the attack, manages to kidnap Sansa and Arya Stark. The PCs alone are charged with their safe return, as everyone else is needed to defend the castle against any possible further attacks.”

Step 2 – What Happens?

I sat with that for a few days, mulling over all the different scenarios and factions that could logically bring such a thing to pass so I could expand it to something that could fill a four-hour game. After a lot of mental back and forth, I finally settled on the below outline as something that “felt” very much like “Game of Thrones” to me and fit the setting, as well as many of the main storylines from the novels.

“Tywin Lannister, with some manipulative whisperings from Littlefinger, plans to murder both King Robert Baratheon and his Hand, Jon Arryn, so he can put his grandson Joffrey on the Iron Throne. Knowing that House Stark will likely be suspicious of such a move (if not outright rebellious), he plans to abduct the young Stark girls Sansa and Arya on the same night and marry them off to Lannisters to ensure a smooth transition of power (Sansa to Joffrey, Arya to Tommen). He believes the combined might of the North and House Lannister enough to easily overcome any resistance from the rightful heirs, Stannis (or Renly) Baratheon.

Tywin promises Roose Bolton he will be the new Warden in the North in exchange for assistance with this plan, and also promises Balon Greyjoy, the Lord of the Iron Islands, an expansion of his lands if his son, Theon, helps get the kidnappers inside the walls of Winterfell. Tywin covertly sends Jaime the Kingslayer and Ser Gregor Clegane to lead the raid on Winterfell and bring the girls to King’s Landing.”

Betrayal. Murder. Kidnapping. A grab for the Iron Throne. Yep, sounds like “Game of Thrones” to me!

Step 3 – The Player Characters

Mmm, yes… the PCs! Always my favorite part of any game.

First things first, I made sure to limit this game to four players after recently being reminded, again, how easily I can lose track of giving people equal spotlight time with six players. Four players is without a doubt my sweet spot for a convention game.

As for the characters themselves… if this were an ongoing home campaign, it would be easy to accommodate a diverse party. But, at its heart, this adventure is one long, bloody chase across the North. How useful would a minstrel be? A Maester? The best approach seems to be making a party of warriors, each with a focus on a different skill set to both differentiate and increase the number of challenges they can overcome (like a modern fireteam — they’re all soldiers, but one’s good at healing, another at attacking from afar, etc.).

So, without actually creating the PCs yet, I’m thinking the party will look something like:

Scout/Hunter: Bow, tracking, survival.

Healer: First Aid, naturalist.

Shield Fighter: High ST and DR.

Finesse Fighter: High DX and Dodge/Parry, also Heraldry and Savoir-Faire (nobility)

There will be a lot of skill overlap (sword, riding, etc.), but each will also have their own niche to fill.

Also, this being Westeros, I’d like to give each a secret, vice, disadvantage of some kind, something that could potentially hinder them from rescuing Sansa and Arya. Greed? Alcoholism? Weaknesses of character or circumstance that might derail the rescue unless they can overcome it.

That’s about where I’m at with the game prep so far. I’d love to hear any suggestions and critiques you might have… still time to make changes before it’s too late!


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