For this edition of Summerfort Sundays, I present you with a look into the history of Summerfort’s development, and give you a rundown on where we’re going with it.
The Con Game
The microsetting of Summerfort was born out of a game I threw together for a convention. In the earliest days after Ingenium’s original release in 2010, I didn’t have any games to run at conventions. I’d had adventures that I ran for friends, but nothing printed and fleshed out for public consumption. Even the Ingenium core rules didn’t have a printed adventure.
So, for the first convention we went to in 2011 (which, I believe, may have been Con of the North in Minneapolis), I put together a quick two-hour dungeon dive called “A Darkness at Summerfort.” No one showed up for the adventure, mostly due to horrible event handling at the con in question. However, when I did end up running the adventure, the players had a blast. Over the next weeks and months, A Darkness at Summerfort went through numerous revisions and expansions, finally becoming what it is today. I’ll get to that in a minute.
Building the Dungeon
The very first version of the dungeon in A Darkness at Summerfort was a very simple chain of encounters, with the players beginning the game in the dungeon and finishing when they reached daylight again. There was nothing beyond the dungeon itself, and the map was very simple, with no branching whatsoever. That changed as soon as I began to build up the adventure into something more than just a convention game. Branching pathways were added, along with a handful of secrets and red herrings.
The instant-death puzzle trap was toned down, and additional ways to cross the final obstacle to the main event were added. But as the dungeon got more polished, there was something it sorely lacked – a base of operations for the players.
Adding a Base of Operations
Prior to this point in the adventure’s development, Summerfort was just a footnote in the adventure that explained vaguely why the player characters were in this dungeon. A sentence or two, and that was it. But then I wrote a paragraph description of the town, and it got more important. The starting point of the adventure was shifted from the dungeon entrance to the town itself, and then I added major NPCs and gave them more complex backstories. Summerfort was becoming more of a sandbox than an adventure kick-off point, and it was at that point that Kevin and I decided to make it a microsetting in its own right.
Developing the History
Once we made that decision, Summerfort needed a lot more than it had. I started thinking about why the town was interesting – what could make it different from City X just down the road. So it became a border town, a trading center, and a former military base. The character of Baron Auler provided a patron for the town and a reason to send PCs there. Incidentally, the Baron was not originally created for Summerfort; he was created for another Ingenium adventure, the Battle for Dragon’s Reach, which was used purely for playtesting. I liked the character so much, though, that I brought him into the Summerfort mythos.
Every great fantasy city has a dark secret, though, so I gave Summerfort a potent one – unbeknownst to the founders of the city, that entire geographic region was the former stomping grounds of a number of evil forces. They ranged from elder evils that predate the gods themselves to psychopathic sorcerers and everything in between. Summerfort is sitting on thousands of years of horror, and because it happened far enough into the past, no one currently there is aware of it.
And that’s where the draw for Summerfort is. As the town has grown bigger, it’s started to disturb some of those old evils. And as those things become active again, they start to attract other forces in Rekellia, Redami, and the rest of Galtharion. The metaplot for this small trading town revolves around the quiet beginnings of a major war between good and evil, and the player characters are right at the heart of it.
A Darkness at Summerfort, the first adventure in this series, presents a brief look at the town and gives the players their first glimpse of some of these machinations. If you’re interested in learning more, sign up for the mailing list, where we’ll be releasing insider information on the adventure and, next week, a special gift just for subscribers!