Carousing Catastrophes and Social Solutions to the Party Problem

We here at Watcher DM are very proud to be bringing those of you on our mailing list a brand new, free module: Moon Elves’ Masquerade! Packed with amazing art, far-out concepts, and wild random encounter tables, this adventure isn’t just different from what we’ve done before; it’s different from any roleplay-heavy module you’ve ever seen. There is a twelve-part party section, a boss-fight in low gravity, and a random table to determine the effects of licking bufotoxin off a civilized toad.

The heroic rager is a staple of fantastical fiction, whether it’s the beer-swilling start of many a Conan tale or Bilbo’s eleventeenth birthday party. It’s also a staple of many a TTRPG. Yet, I’ve always felt unfulfilled by existing options for these scenarios. Don’t get me wrong; there are many fantastic carousing tables out there and I’ve loved making my own over the years. My only issue with them is that they can reduce a party to an addendum, a reward at the end or beginning of an adventure.

The Main Event

With Moon Elves’ Masquerade, I really wanted to find a way to expand this carousing table approach into a larger segment. The party scene in Masquerade lasts for about a third of the module, a little over an hour on average. The question of how to make a party scene that advanced a story, respected player choice, and felt fun was a tough nut to crack.

Ultimately, the answer was fairly simple. As many story-game advocates have pointed out, DnD’s ruleset heavily favors combat over social interaction, and as a result, players tend to engage in more fighting than casual conversation. The fundamental loop of combat is this: players make a tactical (hopefully character-based) decision, they roll some dice, narratively interpret those results, and then they pass to the next player. This process involves both character and player, allows a brief chance for storytelling, and spotlights in very fair proportions.

Rounding Things Out

To translate this to a more social setting, the party was divided into rounds. In each round a variety of decisions was available. Make Chit-chat? Dance? Sing? Drink? Sulk? Gamble? Each choice would lead to a saving throw, a skill check, or a random event table, some small scene that invited a quick bit of roleplaying with a small bit of story/loot stakes attached to some dice. As the players selected encounters, they would receive hints for later in the adventure, fun loot, penalties, or ‘party points’.

That was the other thing that was borrowed from combat: a difference between winning and losing, with the prizes to prove it. With each encounter subject to success or failure, the players stayed invested.

Of course, it wasn’t enough to take notes from combat. Real social events have their own logic, and that needs to be represented. A cast of characters to meet was important, as well as events to bring the group together. Despite their freedom to make separate choices, all the adventurers are still at the same party. To facilitate this, Moon Elves’ Masquerade has a sequence of shared encounters sprinkled in: a hunt, a poetry contest, and cake. These also showcase other characters at the party, as well as giving people common experiences.

Additionally, it should be noted that a party at 8 pm is no party at 4 am. Things change as the night progresses and by varying the encounters available at each step in the party, the adventure stays fresh, and the party feels more realistic.

A Pleasure to Serve

I’m proud of the social scene we’re delivering in Moon Elves’ Masquerade, and I hope these ramblings are enough to entice you into hitting that download button. It’s a fine module and a new take on an old DnD problem. If that’s not enough, did I mention there’s a pleasure barge, a moon battle, and the smoking of petrified absurdism? 

Check it out, tell your friends, and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear about your Masquerade with the Moon Elves! Maybe tell us what other types of parties should get this treatment. Barbarian Hootenanny? Secret Snakeman Shindig? Birthday Bash of the Blazing Bishop? Wizard Wine and Cheese? Firbolg Foam Party? Leave a comment and let us know!

Well, I might be biased. Check out the back page text and decide for yourself:

Moonlight Party

Prince Claviceps Purpurea by Jeremy Adams

Long ago, in the golden age of the elves, a collection of master mages and elven demigods decided to leave our world to create a utopia of undying revelry, bacchanalia, and hedonism. By the grace of the divines and the strength of their magic, they ascended to the moon. Yet the pleasure-seeking life, even free of time and death, is driven by desperate hungers, novelty chief among them. To combat their eternal ennui, the moon elves have taken to the lowest form of carousing: destination party tourism.

To this end, they have begun returning to the material plane during the crest of the lunar cycle. By the light of the full moon, their revels have become the stuff of legend and rumor. Until now! A local wastrel has identified the location of their next party, and the rich and bored have taken notice.

Famed hedonist Horatio Humbert, likewise possessed by an avarice for novelty, has offered a great bounty for any party-goers capable of convincing the moon elves to attend his next birthday. From his pleasure barge to the moon, this 4th level adventure mixes extended social and roleplay opportunities with a high-stakes, low-gravity boss fight your players will never forget!

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