Or: Let’s mash up Electric Bastionland with The Bungeon.
Weekends in lockdown has afforded me the opportunity to try out a lot more different games than usual. My weekly sessions are generally longer campaigns (a few months at least), but with everyone being homebound lately, it’s been relatively easy to put together one-shots on Saturdays.
I’ve run games of Hypertellurians (playtesting a new adventure), overseen hexcrawls in deepest Sarkash in Mörk Borg, helped guide player characters through the treacherous floors in the Blancmange & Thistle (via Troika!), and just now, finished an interesting games mashup.
Not too long ago I received the Night Yeast zine, and it’s a thing of beauty. Tactile, with a certain roughness, beautiful anarchic design, and full of compact but grand ideas. Right on the back is a dungeon by Karl Stjernberg called the Bungeon, and—you guessed it—it’s all about baked goods.
Shortely thereafter my copy of Electric Bastionland arrived too, a system and setting, but most of all, a collection of 100 failed careers (what you might equate to classed in other games). These immediately looked like so much fun. Electric Bastionland has very simple mechanics, so you can really focus on the ideas and the story, which I’ve found paramount for my one-shot games.
So when it came to choosing a new game to run, I thought about mashing up the two: take the system of Electric Bastionland, transpose it to a medieval fantasy setting (this involved only very small tweaks, and skipping one failed career because I was too lazy to adapt it), use the Bungeon as the adventure location, and dress the whole thing up in a framing story made largely from puns.
I should note that the text below contains spoilers for the Bungeon!
Thus, it came to pass that our characters were all down on their luck, out of a job, and saddled with life-changing debts. Luckily, the local sensational restaurant, the Breadnought Bakery & Bistro, and its famous proprietor, the Gastrognome (thanks Luka Rejec), was looking for a group of foolhardy heroes with nothing to lose, and was willing to pay enough to cover everyone’s debts and even leave some to start a new life.
You see, although his establishment is famed in the region, it’s no reason for the Gastrognome to rest on his laurels (delicious though they may be). Like other bakeries, he refers to “Powder Piegella’s Precious Puddings”, the standard in the industry, but moreso, he has determined that Piegella’s recipes imply the existence of an ur-recipe upon which all of her glorious pastries are based. Not only that, but in her hubris she’s even hidden clues to the whereabouts of this recipe within her book.
And now the Gastrognome has deciphered them.
Immediately he dispatched his sous-chef Stasia, along with two bakery bouncers, to retrieve it, but they did not return. So now it falls to the heroes to try and retrieve the recipe (and its 5 ingredients). Oh yes, and maybe also the sous-chef, if they happen to stumble upon her.
To improve the heroes’ chances, the Gastrognome was willing to provide transport (an old mule, a cranky donkey with a cart just big enough for a Good Dog, and, yes, a bull), a bun-derbluss with a basket of calcified bun-pellets, and up to 3 spell scrolls. For the latter, I had just the other day received the PDF for a stretch goal in the Deep Carbon Observatory Remastered Kickstarter campaign: a supplement of spells called Feast of Bukako. And what a feast it is. The spells therein are so much fun. I determined them randomly and came up with a spell that summoned a whale (and let anyone standing in its mouth breathe underwater), one that made a talisman glow (the Good Dog character in this case) and pulled the caster towards the sun, locked in a flying struggle for the duration, and one that lets the caster fuse an object to where their hand should be.
I’d decided the fate of the sous-chef Stasia and her bouncers already. One bouncer triggered a trap at the entrance to the Bungeon: an explosion of flour, filling his lungs, and leaving his outline amid the flour splash on the door. The characters discovered his body in a hastily assembled cairn outside the structure, the stones displaying white flour handprints.
The second bouncer, I’d decided had lost his leg to the snoozing oven, before falling into the pit trap with the sharpened breadsticks, while Stasia herself had been baked into the Loathing Loaf and had been trying to eat her way out for a day already, by the time the characters arrived. Also, I made the Loaf very erudite, merely a day old, questioning its existence and creation, and complaining of “stomach” aches, on account of the baked in Stasia.
In the end we’d had so much fun. The Electric Bastionland rules really stayed out of the way. The failed careers had just enough meat on them to keep the characters interesting for the adventure, and the random spells added a lot of opportunity to every decision. Our party consisted of a Good Dog (yes, a dog, smart but still a dog), a failed critic (now in hiding), a gutter minder with a lizard people obsession, and a farm saboteur with a flame thrower (alchemical).
I rolled the damage dice as listed in the Bungeon, which made everything particularly deadly for Electric Bastionland characters, but I also let them regain 1d6 ability/hit points for hugging the Good Dog (once per day). No character died, though many came extremely close.
The whole setup worked really well. I’m very much looking forward to what game/adventure/framing device combination I can run next!