Saturday, June 29, 2019

Fall at Old Uppsala - and a Beyond the Fence post mortem

It's done! The first scenario published for Beyond the Fence, Below the Grave is up on!

You can download it here! 

It's been really fun play testing the system and developing this scenario for it (which, in my honest option, is the best scenario ever written for Beyond the Fence!). Now I have a much better sense of how the system performs. I wrote it partially because I wanted to explore the Old Norse milieu in more detail (and also because of the folklore jam) but also because I wanted to apply OSR design principles to a game without a dungeon. I'd say that it's been a success. The system's rules are flexible and welcome improvisation. The focus on investigation is a good substitute for the dungeon, probably because players succeed in both situations by asking the right questions.

On the whole, I'm impressed by how engaging Beyond the Fence can be for both players and GMs.  The dropping essence scores keeps the tension building. The need to perform a crisis ritual helps the players stay focused. I've had parties fail while running Fall at Uppsala and others succeed and each time it's been a pleasure to watch them bend under the pressure and try to put all the information together at the last minute.

The system needs a good scenario, with high stakes and dense mystery, to function but when it does it's really, really good. If it has a major issue, it's that the system is a one trick pony. It doesn't have a way to make investigation #6 different from investigation #1 and I have no clue what a Beyond the Fence campaign would look like. I'm also worried that I demand too much familiarity with Old Norse society and mythology for the game to be accessible, but I'm trying to remedy that by adding some basic notes on historical context to everything I publish for Beyond the Fence.

Right now, I feel that each of the specialties could use more play testing, but the potential of Beyond the Fence is still great. There are many more parts of the pre-medieval Scandinavian world that I want to represent in the game. I want to explore trading towns and the borders of Saami territory and shores of a just settled Iceland. I want to write about the concubines of jarls and Muslim merchants in the north and about more fishermen and upstart raiders and farmers.

So the first scenario is done, but there are many more to come!

This post is dedicated to Gustav Strom, translator of Heimskringla


  1. This is great! I play a lot of one shots these days because of scheduling around work, school and life, so a self-contained, condensed adventure actually works well for me.

    1. Thank you! I think Beyond the Fence works best for one shot play, multiple sessions makes building tension harder and the forgetting crucial information more likely. I hope you're able to play Fall at Old Uppsala soon!