As you may know, I’m currently translating the Spanish role-playing game Aquelarre to English for Stewart Wieck’s Nocturnal Media. (You can preorder here.) The Spanish word aquelarre means “a meeting of witches and warlocks.”
I met with some players at Gary Con this year to try out “The Tale of Shadows” adventure from the Aquelarre game book. This particular adventure was written by the game’s designer, Ricard Ibáñez, and it’s prepared as an introduction for an inexperienced Game Director (Director de Juegos).
As a first-time adventure, this one is very nicely crafted. Ibáñez does a great job of providing everything a new Game Director needs for running a session, while at the same time encouraging improvisation. I won’t reveal any spoilers here, but I’d like to share a few takeaways from the Gary Con event:
- Any type or mix of characters can work for this adventure. No need to assemble the classic “fighter/thief/wizard/cleric” party mix of some other games. For the Gary Con session, for example, none of my players chose magic or miracles. (Though they did try to pass themselves off as “miracle workers”!)
- The adventure locale is a historic area bordering Moorish lands, which provides all sorts of reasons for player characters to be there. And the opening premise—a local wine merchant invites you to his home outside the town of Bullas for a private tasting, and to propose some business—gives a natural reason to draw strangers together.
- Speaking of wine, as the “Final Note” reveals, Bullas is an actual municipality in Spain, with a famous wine festival every October.
- The writing presents the main NPCs as distinctive personalities—not just stage dressing. It’s very easy to get the PCs involved with their machinations.
- Like any great adventure, it combines elements of mystery and the possibility (though not inevitability) of combat.
- The threat itself is “self-leveling,” adjusting to the number of players, which is great for a new Game Director.
- Ibáñez’s wry sense of humor shines through. (I really hope to meet this guy in person some day. He seems to be a hoot to game with.)
- Besides the historicity, players are exposed to a few “old sayings” from Spanish; you can’t help but learn something along the way. (Even native Spanish-speakers may learn something from that “Final Note” section.)
My own players sort of trampled the story, taking it unintended directions, and it held up just fine. By the end, they had unknowingly created a dangerous lifelong enemy, which left me wanting to continue with a full campaign! And through it all, they obviously had a great time.
In short, I came away from the experience more convinced than ever that English speakers will love this game setting. As I mentioned in an earlier post, now is a propitious time for an English edition. I’m thoroughly thrilled to be involved. (Thanks, Stewart!)