Now, it should be noted that this is not really “story” I am writing, but DM notes. There won’t be plot spoilers, but you might be able to see the gears turning, which may take some of the magic away. For a more story-centric view you’ll need to see the player’s blogs – which I am sure they are all busily writing.
We split the players into two groups who have not met each other in-game, yet.
Aboard the good ship Pilchard, with Captian Haddock. “Good ship” being a mere politeness – the ship is a flat-bottomed bucket, a coastal trader. At this stage, the players are simply some of Haddock’s crew.
The captain sent a few of the crew (ie: the players) onto a small sand island to pick a few coconuts. They were attacked by crabs.
Four giant crabs. About the right level of difficulty – a couple of tense moments, but it was never really in doubt. I wanted a simple fight to start with, and it worked out ok. No loot, just crab meat and coconut. Yum!
The Pilchard is attacked by the Shirley-Jane.
The players were meant to lose this fight. I used the mass combat rules, pulling crew into the fight as they were killed.
It didn’t really go well. I massively underestimated how good the characters are, and had to pump the numbers – the Shirley-Jane crew were just not good enough to be obviously, convincingly better. To the players, the combat looked like new crew were just popping in out of thin air.
When running group combat (If I try it again), I’ll make the crew numbers public rather than hiding them. When running something they are meant to lose, I’ll pull more enemies out of melee than just one per player character, and make bloody sure that they are seriously better.
Eventually they worked out that they were supposed to lose, but it was an out-of-game thing. Which is what you don’t want.
Meh. Live and learn.
At the destination, the elven harbourmaster took most of the rest of Haddock’s cargo as tax, citing the ship’s manifest rather than how much wood he actually had. I wanted to play up the racism of my campaign world – I believe “gaijin dog!” was used.
Some of the non-elf dockworkers indicated to Haddock that for a consideration, they could be elsewhere that night (not sure if I made this clear to the players), and so Haddock decides to (ahem) remove his lumber from the customs house and shift it to a warehouse next door.
The place was guarded by four samurai and the harbourmaster in his office. A couple of the stealthier characters snuck in, sniping from the rafters once combat started. The players pretty much rolled the joint – the harbourmaster downed with nolethal damage from Andrew’s character.
Loot was a couple of potions (cure light, barkskin) from the first-aid kit, and a chest of money (which Haddock took).  and yes, a ring of protection +1 and a +1 elvish longsword. With Hare Clan markings all over it. Try explaining that to the authorities.
The other half of the players were retained in town to go investigate a ruins by a scholar. They headed off overland, dodging leeches, skellingtons, and a Kelpie (which took the form of a crocodile). Apparently it managed to death-roll one of the characters to unconciousness, which is just great.
Loot was some gear from an ill-fated prior expedition, and a curious wand. Mechanically, the wand is a wand of Cure Light Wounds. But it’s shaped like a small hammer. (Dun dun dun!)
On their return, the scholar who was going to be paying them is nowhere to be found.
On the whole, we are setting the bar a little low, which I suppose is better in the first instance than killing characters first session. I don’t know how much plot and atmosphere the players are getting, yet. I suppose we need to get further into the story first.
I like standard magic items – wands, scrolls, potions – that are flavoured. In my wednesday game, Salty Bob scribes scrolls by way of scrimshaw. Elves (in this world) are druidic, so the potions I gave the players were enchanted fruit – cherries for the Cure Light, and a brown pear for Barkskin. They are the sort of things that a medicine kit might contain – I might retcon that the kit counts as a healer’s kit with a few uses.
Story is still on-track, after one session. Which is good – the players haven’t managed to derail things yet . Players are participating by dropping story hooks, although we can’t incorporate them all. I have found that it is a Kajillion times easier to plan sessions with another person – the co-DM aspect is working out superbly well. At present, she does right-brain and I do left-brain.
Haven’t nailed down XP, which is very important. Players play for loot and XP – you want to power up your character. I’d like to go with actual tracked XP, so as to encourage people to actually show up on game night.
Next session has cool (well, I think it’s cool) plot and world-building stuff, but obviously I can’t talk about it here. I shall have to do it either though the medium of interpretative dance, or though the game itself. Which is the whole idea.