Monday, March 04, 2024

Strict Location Records Must Be Kept

I've had a handful of questions -- or rather what is more or less the same question restated in slightly different terms -- about my adventure Strict Time Records Must Be Kept. Before I try to answer it/them, I should explain the context.

In Strict Time Records Must Be Kept -- henceforth STRMBK -- the player-characters are dosed with a slow-acting poison and are given the task of finding an antidote hidden somewhere in a mansion, before they die a messy death. There are some "dials" that the Referee can use to adjust the difficulty and fairness of the adventure -- whether the antidote exists at all, whether there's one antidote or many, the speed of the poison, and so on -- but for today's purposes we are assuming that it's being played straight and there are enough doses of antidote available for all the player-characters.

(A brief aside here to answer another question that so far I have been asked only once. Yes, the antidotes can be scattered throughout the house; they do not have to all be found in the same place. In fact, I recommend that multiple doses are not found in the same location. That's far too easy.)

The idea is that the Referee looks through the description of the house and picks the locations of the antidote bottles based on their knowledge of their own players, but also -- and most important -- based on what seems most fun to them. As such, no specific locations are defined, and this is quite deliberate. The decision, Oh Referee, is yours.

That said, the question I've been asked a few times since release is something along the lines of: where should the antidotes go? I can see how that would be useful for the time-starved -- ha ha -- Referee, so here are my "suggested" antidote locations:
  • p18: Inside one mannequin, but only one! I would perhaps indicate a glint of something glass -- a bottle? -- in the folds of a mannequin's clothing, just to give the players the idea. Taking a whole Turn to search a mannequin seems a bit long, but it's consistent with other activities, and no one wants to be dicking around with Half-Turns or some other arcane nonsense. There are 26 mannequins and they should be everywhere around the ground and first floors, but I suggest putting the one with the antidote in the corridor outside the dining room (p49).
  • p37: The Abaddon or Mammon rooms -- but not both! -- with the blunderbuss traps. A relatively easy one, to give the players some hope.
  • p41: The Apollyon room, in the puzzle box. Another somewhat easy one, or at least an obvious one. There's potential for damage and wasted time here, so it seems only fair to reward those risks with an antidote.
  • p42: The Eblis room, among all the threads. I like this one because the bottle is visible but difficult to approach. I would consider making it more tricky even; maybe making it a five Turn task, with a saving throw each Turn.
  • p43: The Erasmus room, in one of hundreds of bottles. I like that this one isn't difficult, and isn't really a puzzle as such, but wastes time.
  • p53: Room F, inside the "corpse". Assuming the players work out that there's a bottle inside the victim, they then have to make a choice to cut them open, and that choice has serious consequences. This is one of the first puzzles I wrote for the adventure and I adore the gruesomeness.
  • p54: K, the barbed wire room. I would put the bottle in plain sight in the middle of the tangle. The bastard in me suggests a chance of smashing the bottle if someone falls in from above (p43); perhaps by rolling an even result on the Paralysation save.
That's seven doses; when writing these blasted things, I assume a party of four player-characters but I know that's a bit on the light side for many OSR groups. If you're running with more than seven player-characters then bear in mind that there are 10 puzzle rooms, plus 26 mannequins so there are plenty of places to hide bottles.

I hope that helps! If anyone has any more questions or thoughts then let me know in the comments. You could email or message me too, but I'll probably want to add any answers here. Also, if anyone needs any tech support for any of my other adventures, then I'd be happy to do more posts of this sort.

If you're reading this and thinking "I'd like to give Strict Time Records Must Be Kept a try" then that's a bit weird because the post is for people who already have the book, but stranger things have happened and you can buy it in print here and in pdf here.

Huh. I didn't need to shorten Strict Time Records Must Be Kept to STRMBK again after all. Except just there.


  1. A very strong adventure, maybe your best (although I am also partial to the main adventure in Forgive Us). I have two questions for you:

    (i) How did you track the NPCs in play? This can become tedious, and I would suggest modifying the random encounter table with some results indicating the Doctor or one of the betting spectators;

    (ii) Consequences of major NPCs dying. I'd suggest some have left letters to be opened in case of their death; some may have enough influence to cover up deaths of less important types. I'd like to see dialogue and murky deals.

    I'm planning to run this using WFRP 2e (and the conversion seems easy).

    1. Thank you!

      I'll have a think about (ii) because it's a good point but it could get quite involved. I'll need to ponder that one.

      As for (i), I just had the Doctor and the spectators follow the player-characters around at a safe(ish) distance. The spectators mostly kept back, but the Doctor would tend to be right up with the players and provide commentary for any NPCs that didn't have a good view.

      The Doctor is supposed to be annoying and in the way; if you're not familiar with The Crystal Maze see if you can find some old episodes on Youtube and have a look how Richard O'Brien hosted the show. That's the Doctor.

      No one split up in my tests, although I think it's quite likely players will, in order to save time. Thatcher will go with anyone going near the cellars, or will try to guide players there. The others will follow the groups they are most interested in or affiliated with, or you can just roll a dice.

      I write all of these with at least half an eye on WFRP so your conversion is appropriate. ;)

      I'll get back to you on (ii).