Wednesday 17 January 2024

The Quieter Moments

An RPG session probably shouldn't be non-stop action. Those quiet moments can sometimes be overlooked by GM advice sections, so I wanted to touch on them when discussing landmarks in the Oddpocrypha chapter of Mythic Bastionland. 


The Company is in a tower, overlooking the surrounding Hexes. Ref gestures to each Hex as they describe the terrain in broad terms.

Ref: The forest continues all across the west. The south looks more marshy, and there are rough hills to the east.

On their copy of the map, Ref notices there’s a Landmark in a neighbouring Hex, a Ruin. They rolled a prompt for this as part of their prep, noting that it relates to the Blade, a Myth not currently active in the Realm. The prompt for the Ruin was “crumbled bridge”.

Ref: You can spot a bridge in the distance out in this direction, but you can’t really see the details from this far away.

The players decide to head toward the bridge, arriving in the next Phase of the day.

Ref: Okay, so the bridge spans a mostly dried up stream and has collapsed, the centre now a heap of rubble.

Ref turns to the Blade myth to look for a hint to place here. They decide to use “Ilglamrent”, one of the names given for the Blade.

Ref: In amongst the rubble you can see a large block, previously part of the bridge. There’s something carved on it, covered in red moss.

Tal: I’ll carefully scrape it off with my dagger, trying to see the carving.

Ref: It’s faint but you can just make out the shape of a sword, the word “Ilglamrent” written down the length of its blade. 

Tal: Huh. 

Moss: I’ll look through the rubble. Maybe there’s a sword down here?

Ref: Yeah you dig through but there doesn’t seem to be anything of note.

Moss: Right. Hm. 

Ref: So where next?


Where Myths and Holdings generally act as the major features within the Realm, Landmarks tend to have a more understated place in the game.

Ruins in particular can feel almost out of place, offering a glimpse at a Myth that won’t actually be used in the Realm as it stands. The intent is to hint at a wider and older world, and as we see here it can create moments that border on downright anticlimactic.

I don’t think this is something to be feared. These moments of relative calm can be a welcome change of tempo, especially when used sparingly. I like that Ref allows the moment to play out before giving the players a gentle nudge to move on, asking them where they want to go next.

Ref did just about enough preparation here, rolling the Ruin’s Myth ahead of time and choosing a prompt for its general description. They could have gone further and worked out how the bridge tied in to the Blade, but they were able to improvise this just fine.

If they really found themselves stuck, unable to draw a connection between the Ruin and its Myth, then I’d encourage them to take a more relaxed approach. Maybe for now this bridge is just a bridge, no Myth connection at all. It still acts as a small point of interest in the world, a literal landmark to help with navigation. 

They could also place a person near to the Ruin, giving them knowledge of the related Myth. Perhaps here a wandering pilgrim is seeking the Blade, but so far nobody in this Realm has heard of it. Anything that helps the world feel large or old would work.


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