With a little delay, we have finished the second part of our adventure and it is time to draw a first conclusion to Through Sunken Lands. We played the official scenario pack “The Treasure Hunt” and in order not to take away the anticipation, I will not write a session report, but rather go into a few more elements.
- Carnickl as Baend Snuthmadr, Cosmic Champion
- Timo as Kobalt, High Cabalist
- Toffelbrot as Savia, Licensed Rogue
- Lukasklein7 as Valferan Tell, Accomplished Sellsword
- Martha as Petain, Spell Thief
In the first part of our session, everyone chose a playbook and we created the characters. This took a bit of time, so I decided that we would split the adventure over two evenings. There is an official character sheet for Beyond the Wall at Roll20 that we used.
During character creation, players are allowed to create all kinds of elements and NPCs. That always worked well in Beyond the Wall because those elements were part of the village or the surrounding area. At Through Sunken Lands it worked a little worse for us. Especially with a one-shot, distant islands or people in other cities simply do not come into play, which is unfortunate. Here I think that the focus is more on a campaign than a one-shot.
The characters start a little more competent and the actual scenarios seem a bit more extensive. The start was a bit slow for our group, because they didn’t know how to proceed. In Beyond the Wall, a member of the village or the village as a whole is often threatened in some way and the characters are more likely to be forced to act directly.
However, we have made further progress and have reached our destination. Our first fight went well so far, but the characters, like in Beyond the Wall, are not as competent as expected. Everyone had a tough time with one opponent, even though he shouldn’t have posed a threat. At the beginning, the characters are more down to earth and not fighting machines. I might compare this to another Sword & Sorcery game like Conan 2D20. Here the characters are able to keep a group of normal opponents busy right from the start; I don’t see it that way at TSL yet.
The scenario packs of Beyond the Wall are designed so that I can run an adventure without the basic rules. At the end of the scenario there is a list of recommended opponents that I could always use as a guide. This was not the case in our scenario, opponents were suggested in the tables and then you had to think about something yourself or hope that it would be listed in the rulebook. Thus, the approach that you quickly tinker with the adventure during character generation and only with the scenario pack is unfortunately not given. I think that’s a shame. There are two more of these scenario packs that I haven’t checked yet to see if that is the case. Of course, you can adjust that for your own works, but the packs have always been THE argument for me why I recommended Beyond the Wall for a spontaneous one-shot.
Between the two evenings I prepared a little more, created a corresponding dungeon map, and filled everything with a little more life. The group avoided further fighting, which was probably advisable. A few more extremely simple opponents would probably have improved everything, but that didn’t really fit the scenario.
What can I say as a final conclusion? I had very high expectations for Through Sunken Lands. Beyond the Wall is and will remain one of my absolute favorites, simply because it creates lot of atmosphere and background through the playbooks and scenario packs. Unfortunately, these expectations were not met. TSL isn’t a bad game, but unlike BtW, it won’t be one of my go-to games for an impromptu one-shot. We haven’t tried everything by a long shot and I definitely need a few more sessions to get to know all the elements (especially large battles and the struggle between chaos and order) is definitely necessary before I finally commit to TSL. For the next time, however, I will definitely write my own scenario and do a little more preparatory work so that we can start the adventure faster and better.