Last night Patrick and I were the only ones available for games night. After a quick discussion we decided to play something as a bit of a oneshot, and so I used Tales of the Scarecrow as a starting point for an evening's adventure...
Patrick quickly rolled up a party for himself; while he generated four sets of stats, I used Vornheim NPC tables to create some people to populate the world, and pulled some names out of the air ("Usher Beak, who is a herbalist, has asked you to take a chest to a friend of his in the nearby city of Wetham; you've been on the road a day..."). Patrick used Vornheim to name all of his characters - including pulling the detail that Vaskin, his fighter, was in fact two goblins standing on shoulders. Awesome.
PROBABLE SPOILERS FOR TALES OF THE SCARECROW BELOW!!!
But I'll try to keep as many details out as possible.
Ursula and Orve are the female leaders of a party that includes Vaskin (a fighter, and also actually two goblins in disguise) and Orchard a magic-user. They're travelling with a horse and cart, looking to deliver a chest with unknown contents to the city of Wetham. As they travel down the road, a knight/bounty-hunter asks if they have seen a man named Kingsly, who is being looked for. A few hours later they come to a field of strange looking corn.
Ursula eats some and is instantly poisoned and falls unconscious, convulsing. The rest of the party hurry her to the farmhouse at the centre of the field, where they find a grisly scene. One man alive but weak, and two others dead. Something terrible has prevented them from leaving... I won't say anymore for people who have not read Tales of the Scarecrow, save to say that after several bouts of ingenuity, the party figure out one way to escape from the field - and it almost works, right up to the point where Ursula re-enters the field and is horrifically killed.
The rest of the party escape with some treasure and their lives, and continue on to the nearest town, Gruntruck - which is closer than Wetham. They decide to leave the chest at the farm. It seems to contain herbs and powders of strange provenance (suspecting that the person who asked them to make the delivery is an exotic drug dealer).
In Gruntruck they tell everyone they can about their experience at the farm. A wizard named Anton the Great makes a great show of identifying an item they retrieved from the farm, and pays a small price for another artifact they took. An architect named Velgo Min Vale subsequently tells them that Anton is a hack and has ripped them off, offering to provide them the plans for Anton's house in exchange for a cut of what they steal. The party don't jump at the offer, and instead send an anonymous message to Anton that someone is planning to rob him, and tell him where that someone can be found. They leave town and head for Wetham.
In Wetham they plan to use their money to buy an inn. First, however, they must deal with an enemy that they have unwittingly made. Arvik Bleeve is an alchemist, and was the intended recipient of the chest that they were transporting. Arvik has an eye-patch over one eye, an implanted ruby quartz monocle on the other and two wooden legs (he hobbles around on crutches). He threatens them when they don't immediately admit their guilt, before hobbling away on his crutches to scheme.
The party eventually convince an aristocrat named Dominique Vollenveen to sell them an inn; they pay a fair price, are warned about a street gang, and are asked a favour: to look after a young singer who is staying in Wetham - the young woman who Patrick's other PC in Somewhere North met some time ago - a young singer who is six months pregnant...
THE ADVENTURE HAS BEEN TAKING PLACE FIVE MONTHS IN THE FUTURE OF SOMEWHERE NORTH! DUN DUN DUN!!!
Somewhere South: Halfway through the session I decided that "officially" this was south of where the main campaign was running, in a much more temperate climate. Of course, this now means that I really have been bit by the world-building bug, and am doomed to spend the rest of my life creating crazy-detailed maps, locations and hexcrawls. Ah well.
Vornheim makes low preparation stuff very easy: It really does. Random tables are inspiration. If something doesn't quite fit, your brain seeks to find something that does from the ideas there. And very quickly you start to fill in the blanks. It just works. It helps you make interesting reasons for doing things.
NPCs: I had so much fun coming up with NPCs last night. I said yes to every idea that came to mind and think that that made for some memorable encounters (Anton the Great, a wizard who can basically cast Identify well, and uses stage tricks to do everything else; Velgo Min Vale, five feet tall, flushed in the face, comb-over).
Tales of the Scarecrow: I liked running this. I was fortunate to get a paper copy with an order I placed some months ago, and was keen to see how Patrick would respond to it. I had read it a few times before, and it was pretty straightforward to run. What can I say that is non-spoilery? Patrick did not go and see the Scarecrow, destroyed one of the artifacts (out of fear that something insanely bad was going to happen), found the "hidden" treasure in the location and three out of the four members of his party made it away from the location alive.
XP Watch: Patrick, if you're reading this, you got 4578XP in total to split between your party!