Saturday, August 13, 2016

Burlesque House Siege!

There’s a neat writer’s trick that’s served me well as a DM. If you’re looking for an idea, if you’re working on a topic but you’re not sure which direction to take it, force yourself to write down ten options.

Generally, you can toss out the first three; these are going to be the obvious choices, the tropes, what everyone expects. You can also usually toss out the last two or three, as you were really stretching to come up with something, and the ideas will (probably) be too far out there to work well.

But the middle four or five are where you’ll find gold. These are ideas that are not the obvious clichés you’ve seen repeatedly, but are not too weird to be believable or that risk throwing everything else out of whack.

I don’t know that Mr. Chenier did this when he came up with Burlesque House Siege! I can say he purposefully worked to avoid the cliché of religious bigots persecuting an LGBT burlesque house. What he came up with instead is far more interesting.

So, the basics: an LGBT burlesque review, the Maison Derriere, is besieged by a gang of bandits while the PCs are recovering from a night of frolic and debauchery there. They’ve got roughly half-an-hour to prepare for the attack, and help is hours (if not days) away. Plop the provided maps of the house on the table, start the clock, and let the players come up with plans to defend the place.

The villains are a gang of ne’er-do-wells who mistook the Maison Derriere for a brothel. When they insisted on a “happy ending” they got tossed out on their ears. Now the boss, Tallest Joe, is back with his whole crew and one strong monster in order to wreak vengeance.

Interestingly, this strongly implies certain things about Tallest Joe and his crew. Did they not realize they were dealing with all manner of trans/queer folk? Or was that part of the spice? It’s easy to imagine Tallest Joe straddling the middle of the Kinsey Scale, or being some flavor of trans himself.

And once you do that, you open up the adventure to all sorts of interesting possibilities. Granted, Kiel doesn’t address these directly; the original specs for this adventure were a one-shot convention event of two to four hours (and he offers good advice for modifying the adventure for both shorter and longer sessions). But he also mentions possibilities for long-term campaign play. The Maison Derriere might hide a treasure, Tallest Joe’s true goal. Or it may hold an entrance to a sinister and secret subterranean city.

These options are just touched on briefly. More detail is lavished on maps of the Maison Derriere, a cast of intriguing NPCs, and potential for betrayal, heroic last stands, and/or comic pratfalls a la “Home Alone.” As Kiel says in his advice for running this adventure:

Player Choice is #1. Don’t let the adventure become a total railroad if you can help it. If the players are set on abandoning the burlesque house and running to town with the NPC’s, LET THEM. If they want to rush ahead and meet the Bandits head on, LET THEM. If the players have an elaborate trap in mind for the burlesque house, or they ALL really want to talk their way out of a big fight, LET THEM.

There’s a lot of excellent, practical advice as well on how to run a good convention game, plus random tables for generating dancers, a random table for deciding why each PC is hanging around the place (a fun way to generate character backgrounds for one-shot convention play), even how to run the Maison Derriere as a business if the PCs end up taking it over somehow (not that unusual an occurrence in my campaigns, I can tell you). There’s also a table of dance routines for the DM in need of inspiration.

And, of course, there are all the interesting characters, complications, and conflicts you should expect from Mr. Chenier’s work. If you and your group love to chat with NPCs, get to know the local characters, or just thrive on character-driven interactions, Burlesque House Siege! provides a lot of interesting grist for your mill.

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