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 Stranger Things Season 3 – Episode 4 session saw the boys bringing the fight to the mindless hordes of Hawkins. Here’s a summary of episode 4, with tips for running your own Stranger Things campaign at the end of the post.
Stranger Things Season 3 – Episode 4 is brought to you by the RPG Blog Carnival. This month is hosted by Codex Anathema, and the topic is Gamemaster’s Cut, in which we look to the movies (and Netflix) for inspiration.
Stranger Things Season 3 – Episode 4 – Hawkins’ Horde
Player Characters: Lucas, Mike, and Dustin. Will was played by the GM.
Things kicked off from where we’d left off, with the boys watching as Eleven supercharged a truck with lightning.
Making quick plans, the boys cycled across town to the general store. Enroute, they encountered the four-legged brain creatures — which are roughly the size of footballs — for the first time. They managed to dodge them and recall some important Dungeons & Dragons law — they were dealing with intellect devourers, the spawn of mind flayers that have the ability to turn people into mindless thralls. Yup, everything’s starting to make sense now: mindless people in the streets, brain creatures trying to capture Nancy, people acting weird. Now they just needed to find a way to rescue Eleven and the rest of Hawkins.
At the general store, they managed to find the makings of smoke bombs, some rubber gloves, lighter fluid, and even a katana (in the manager’s office). Anyone remember the Anarchist’s Cookbook? I’m pretty sure the boys have a copy.
With Dustin on lookout, the rest of the boys made a dash for the town hall, where things were going totally bizarre. Eleven was still pulling down lightning bolts, and the truck, which was outfitted with some custom-built tech, was bathed in a blue field of energy. Suddenly the truck disappeared, leaving in its place a red portal into the Upside Down, rotating above the fountain in the town square.
Will, Lucus, and Mike had a hard time with the thralls in the streets but managed to put one or two down with a katana blow to the stomach and some Wrist Rocket shots. It turned out that whacking a thrall hard enough would free them of the intellect devourer’s hold. Good thing they only had 2 Toughness each.
Enthralled: A thrall that takes 2 damage is freed from the intellect devourer’s enthrallment.
The boys managed to get across town, fighting as they went. Mike made a Brains check to reverse a car into the fountain, jumping out just before it crashed. In moments the car was sucked through the portal, as it continued to grow.
Mike, Will, and Lucas were now surrounded by thralls and having a hard time of it.
Cut to Scene 2!
GM’s Notes: It was a long scene, but it was great giving the boys a chance to shine. I love Hopper and many of the older characters, but really it should all be about the boys (including Max an El). Scene 1 took up most of our session, but it was great pitting the boys against a town filled with zombies and watching the players figure out how to win through.
Player Characters: Hopper, Steve, and Billy.
Hopper and Steve showed up as the battle raged on. Behind them, blasting Rock you Like a Hurricane, was Billy. The three quickly grabbed the boys, pulling them into their cars, as El swung the portal at them. Everyone dodged, succeeding on a massive Muscles 11 check.
Then El swung again, pulling the portal across all the cars. Every one of them was sucked into the Upside Down.
GMs Notes: Oops. I did something no GM should ever do. I made all the players suffer by forcing a failure on them after they had just made a massive save. This is the worst kind of railroading, and I’m sorry I did it. Not only do I now need to separate two groups of characters, but I also need to somehow get them back out of the Upside Down. Worst of all, the players might feel that their checks mean little in the greater scheme of the game.
GMing Stranger Things
Dealing with GM Error
We’re all less than divine. We mess up. GMs are under a more powerful lens than other players, and we owe it to ourselves and our players to learn from our mistakes and make a better go of things the next time around.
It’s worth looking back at why things went the way they did. I was set on getting Hopper, Steve, and Billy into the Upside Down. When the players dodged the portal that should have been it. They should have made a clean getaway. Because I was focused on them being sucked through the portal as the cliffhanger ending to the session, I didn’t consider other options. So, everyone got sucked through, without a check. If I’d been sharper I could have had something come through the portal, like a Demogorgon. Or have the portal continue to grow as the characters drove off. Both of those options would have been way more fun.
So, don’t hold onto your ideas too tightly, because that’s when you lose sight of what’s important: the players having fun. That was my mistake.
Till Next Time
Our next session is two weeks away, so check back in three weeks for more from Stranger Things Season 3.
Rising Phoenix Games