This is a definite railroad adventure to be sure, but one where “the railroad” ie. the river is overt, so perhaps forgivable to some extent. Unlike many railroad adventures, there is ample opportunity for the characters to head ashore as an alternative to overcome various obstacles or be involved in “side treks” but the traveling alongside the tug in vehicles or by foot is never presented as a viable option. The overall limitation however is that the tug is considered an essential character – effectively the adventure is a “Payload” style map or so-called “Escort” quest” where the goal is to help Old Adam (and his river tug) survive the journey to Warsaw . I’d note that unlike in a MMORPG however, an RPG adventure is not limited by the AI scripting, only the GM’s ingenuity and imagination. The tug itself has a lot of character and potential advantages for the group that offset it’s role as a payload. Maybe these aspects are the key?
Encounter Types and Pacing
There appear to be effectively 3 main encounter types used in the module, although due to the minimal detailing style used in T2k, the main text just deals explicitly with “random” encounters, which are specifically timed as occurring up to twice per day ie. morning and afternoon/evening (optionally a third chance could occur at night). To actually run this module however, a realistic timeline would be helpful.
These encounters are unable to be avoided and provide set piece encounters that must be interacted with rather than bypassed due to the presence of the tug and its tow.
- Bridges & Barriers
- Narrows & Docks
- Embarkation / Destination
These can be avoided by passing by or interacted with as desired- depending on the pace of the adventure and the character’s motivations and resources, these may provide additional challenge or flavour.
- Riverbank Location / Wreck
- Inland Location
- Alternate Channels
These are detailed in the various tables after each section, although there are overall generic “river” and “shore” tables for the blander sections of the Wisla and its banks. Some foreshadow later encounters or add atmosphere and depth to the area.
Unlike similar styled train or ship / boat adventures, there are no set “timed” encounters or “events” that occur after a set number of several days or triggered by particular events, which is a pity somewhat as the subplot using Uller’s treachery, the temperamental boiler of the converted steam tug or even a weather effect could have been utilised to give a sense of pacing or urgency to the cruise. The ~400km stretch of the Wisla to Warsaw can be leisurely cruised in 6-7 days (averaging 5kph, up to 9kph max with tow, even faster without), not accouting for interruptions from the “mandatory” encounters, assuming the party is traveling for only 8 hours per day and not stopping to explore the banks or hinterland.
- Derived Summary of “Pirates of the Vistula” Encounters (Spoilers! GM only)
- Railroads & Rollercoasters article (Will Hindmarch post)