A big thanks to Margot for sharing her session notes with me.
Disclaimer: Because Stranger Things Season 3 isn’t out at the time of writing, you don’t need to worry about spoilers, but I’m going to assume you’ve watched Season 1 and 2 already.
Our second session of Stranger Things — Season 3 was an even bigger success, as plots thickened, twists were turned, and an important character went missing. If you haven’t already, read the summary of episode 1 so that you’re up to speed.
Next up is a summary of episode 2, with tips for running your own Stranger Things campaign at the end of the post.
Stranger Things Season 3 – Episode 2: Car Trouble
Player Characters: Dustin, Mike, and Will.
The boys are back from school, watching TV at Mike’s house while it’s pouring with rain outside.
ThunderCats is playing on TV. In this episode, Mumm-Ra is planning to infiltrate the ThunderCat’s lair by assuming the identity of a common housefly.
The players then recapped the previous session and made some plans. It was a Wednesday, with Halloween coming up. They talked about dressing up as the ThunderCats, and maybe going to see Back To The Future.
GM’s Notes: Yeah, you all know the fan theories about Stranger Things Season 3 and Back To The Future.
Player Characters: Lucas, Hopper, and Steve.
Lucas comes into the station just as Hopper and Steve are heading out to fetch Steve’s car. Because of the rain, Hopper offers Lucas a ride.
They talk about El and Mr. Clarke, who are both acting strange(er).
Steve’s car is still parked along the side of the road, but a Brains 7 check reveals that the car has been tampered with, and a Brains 5 check lets the PCs spot tracks under the car: something with four legs and two-toed feet has ripped out the car’s innards!
GM’s Notes: I’ll share stats once my players have encountered the critters, in a later post.
Player Characters: Hopper, Lucas, and Jonathan.
Hopper tows Steve home, then, with Lucas, heads to the school. They bump into Jonathan there.
Looking for El, they find the AV room locked. Once inside, they find that the equipment has been shifted (Brains 7 to spot this). On investigating, they find that the radios have been hollowed out and all their components removed.
They find Mr. Clarke and question him, but he only says that El went home. Hopper later gives Lucas an important assignment: “Watch him.” They figure out a plan to keep in radio contact, even though the radios are still full of static, which comes and goes in waves.
Player Characters: The Byers Family.
The family is making dinner and talking about recent events.
It turns out that Will is still seeing visions of the mind flayer. He gets the feeling that it’s frustrated about something, is watching something he can’t see, and waiting for something.
Joyce calls Hopper, so by now, all the playable characters are pretty much in the loop, except maybe for Max and her step-brother.
GM’s Notes: If you think you know what D&D monster is the big bad in our campaign, leave a reply in the comments. Hint: there are two monsters running amok in Hawkins, both of which feature in most versions of D&D (if not all).
Player Characters: Hopper, Jonathan, and Nancy.
Hopper heads home, but on the way gets a radio call from Flo. She doesn’t realize she’s passing on a coded message from Dr. Sam Owens, asking Hopper to meet him at a predetermined location — the bar.
Hopper calls El, who is uncharacteristically fine with Hopper being late.
Hopper meets Sam at the Gas Station Bar. Jonathan and Nancy are seated at the back (okay, they’re underage, oops). Hopper doesn’t see them, but they catch enough of his conversation with Dr. Owens.
Dr. Owens mentions that equipment — with big names Hopper doesn’t understand — has been going missing from Hawkin’s Laboratory. He also discovered a department that is using radio signals and running tests on subjects, similar to what was going on with Eleven.
Dr. Owens slips a key card to Hopper, then leaves. He’s obviously worried that talking to Hopper is going to get him into trouble.
GM’s Notes: Nancy should be 18 in 1985, according to strangerthings.wikia.com. Jonathan should also be 18. That’s the legal drinking age where I live, which is probably why it didn’t even occur to me to check before. Good thing Hopper didn’t spot them.
Player Characters: Nancy, Jonathan, and Joyce.
At the store where Joyce works. Jonathan now works here part-time.
Nancy is picking up some things when two men walk in from the local Radio Shack. They’re complaining about thefts and that they just had to let one of their employees go. The also mention the radio interference. Joyce confronts them about it, but they don’t have any answers.
After the men left, Nancy thought she saw Barb walk past the isles. Nancy called out, following quickly after, as Barb left the store. Jonathan joined the chase, which ended in a fight in an alley with Mr. Clarke (see the previous episode) and “Barb” turning on Nancy and Jonathan. I drew the Ace of Hearts and Mr. Clarke and Barb escaped, carrying off Nancy!
The credits rolled, and everyone was left eager to play episode 3.
GM’s Notes: If you’ve been keeping score, Mr. Clarke, El, and now Nancy have all fallen into the clutches of evil! Mwahaha!
GMing Stranger Things
My planning fills three-fourths of an A4 sheet, in two columns, 12 point font. I’ll only plot out four or so scenes, with a sentence or three about which characters are involved, what’s going on, and some stats and tests. Other scenes happen organically, based off what the players want to do. I usually plan a cliffhanger ending.
It’s a lot less prep than I do for a D&D game, which usually involves a few pages of notes, hand-drawn battle maps, miniature selection, and maybe even a spreadsheet to speed up combat.
The key to prepping a Stranger Things game is to define the major characters, their relationships, and the plots they’re involved in. Then you can set your players free to discover the story for themselves.
To keep track of everything, I use Twine.
Twine is usually used for building “Choose Your Own Adventure” style games, like our own line of solo role-playing adventures (now offered through our Patreon). It’s very easy to build a simple wiki with it too.
I’m assuming you know the basics of Twine.
My first node is a menu page, with an alphabetical list of PCs and NPCs, locations, and other subjects. Every other page looks something like this:
** Subject 011 / El / Jane** 1. Notes about Jane... Back to [[Main Menu]]
Breaking that down, it’s a heading, a numbered list of facts about the character, and then a button back to the main menu.
It doesn’t take much to expand the wiki, which I do as part of my session planning. It gives me a good idea of what’s going on so that I can roll with whatever my players want to do.
Playing and Spoilers
It happens that some of your players might not have finished watching previous seasons of the show. Life happens — I’ve been trying to get through Ant-Man since Christmas* — I know how it is. If that’s the case in your group, you have two unappealing options: spoil those episodes or play around them.
We’ve tried our best to avoid mentioning special moments near the end of Season 2, and a player asked to cut a conversation between two characters that would have revolved around the final episode. We still had fun, and our game makes perfect sense. So, personally, I don’t think it hampers the game too much to tread carefully around some of the plot endings.
Till Next Time
Our next session is a week away, so check back next month for more from Stranger Things Season 3.
Rising Phoenix Games
* Finished watching Ant-Man last night, almost 2 months after I got it. Loved it.