Solitaire Storytelling – The Broken Cask

Well, hello there! Welcome to the Flying Stag, our hearth and home among the treetops. My name is Wulflen Skyway, I’m the proprietor of this fine establishment. Now, the dancing doesn’t start until twilight, and you don’t look like you have an undead problem, so what shall it be? We have a moongoat shawarma that’s proven very popular, and craftsmanship demands I recommend the Frozen Drupelet, our raspberry spiced ice wine made right-

Ah, touring around looking for stories, are you? Well, I was a bard back in the day, before some… stuff happened, so I could spin you a few yarns. No, no, the scale armor is just an affectation, nothing to worry yourself about. No, I’m not going to “dish” about my past, thank you. The Flying Stag, though, well, it may not be as well known as The Broken Cask – yet – but it has its stories to tell.

The Flying Stag was first established as an almshouse, you see, and still serves that purpose for many. Paying customers like yourself, along with donors and volunteers, help fund the refugees and other such people who come to our door in need. Several of them even stuck around for a job! The half-orc over there, goes by the name of Autumo the Banished, she’s our gardener. Garm the Slowcoach, the satyr you saw on the way in, serves as the bouncer. Both lost souls who found their way here. Not unlike myself…

No! No, Eyepecker, we don’t do that to guests! I apologize, a hero left the bird here for safekeeping one time, then had the nerve to get et by a troll. Been ‘mine’ ever since. Not even sure what kind of bird it is, never heard of a breed with copper wings.

Anyway, I’m told the teak wood in the furniture isn’t native to this forest, and the stained glass windows must have been a terror to install, but I think they lend the place a unique aesthetic relative to the area. No, I didn’t build the place, never said I did – ah, now, I said no ‘dishing’, so please no digging either. So, let’s see, what are some of the memorable days of running the place…

Session One

It was a beautiful spring, clear skies, and yet the mood in the Stag was a particularly grouchy one. You see, some of Garm’s relatives had arrived, and they were making a real fuss. Being where we are, the Stag… well, our dance hall is called the Anomaly because it tends to fade into the fae realm from time to time, and on this occasion when it faded back it brought aforementioned relations. Troublesome guests. Poor Autumo tried to handle them to cover Garm, but it wasn’t going very well, they were making everything more difficult. Then they went and ordered an auroch’s tongue for lunch, so I rolled up my sleeves and stepped in. I know, not exactly a staple of half-elf cuisine, but I did a good enough job that they even tipped.

I spent some time – and gold – getting some on-the-job training in with Autumo. Always helps to sharpen the mind. I’d set Garm to re-arrange the common room to try and make things a little more amenable, but that didn’t go as well. When his grand-uncle on his second mother’s side ordered the steak and mash, though, he did well enough cooking it up to rake in the gold we needed to finally upgrade the kitchen. Our supply of mead was running low, though, so Autumo went out back to brew some more.

We closed up for a bit after that. It… it went badly.

Session Two

It was one of the hottest summers we’d ever had, and yet somehow it was hailing outside. We immediately suspected some magic user getting up to some foolishness, but between the air trying to melt you and the ice trying to bludgeon you it wasn’t very surprising that it was somewhat slow. Still, we’d picked up a regular since the incident with Garm’s family. The goblin over there in the silk robes, Dirn One-Eye. We quickly picked up another regular, Galkus Clear-Eye, the crafter over there, wandered in looking for a place to rest and stuck around. Autumo gets the credit for that one, I think they enjoyed talking shop.

Garm was busy moving extra supplies into the cellar, and doing a prestigous job of it, which is why I forgave him for letting in the irritating wizards. One after another, if you can believe that, one smelling strongly of sulfur and the other covered in hoarfrost. Three guesses as to who was responsible for the strange weather, and the first two are free. They weren’t any less troublesome as guests, I assure you, but I dealt with one and Autumo the other. I got a satchel of gold off of mine, and Autumo got a bag of gems off of hers, and between the two of us we were able to afford an expansion on the staff quarters and the hiring of our host. Gorge Starflight is Garm’s… second cousin’s uncle’s mother’s adventuring party member’s nibling, or something, I haven’t gotten the full story out of them yet.

Anyway, it was a rough start for poor Gorge. They tried to help Autumo by tending the flowers. They weren’t poisoned, which apparently is A Thing Which Can Happen according to Autumo, but it wasn’t exactly a botanical masterpiece. Them trying in the first place meant Autumo got bookshelf dusting duty, and that didn’t go well either. Cursed wizards leaving spellbooks around. Gorge then tried arranging the common room which still stubbornly refuses to be arranged properly.

Autumo took the garden back over, though, and gathered up just the herbs we needed in the kitchen. Gorge switched to dealing with guests properly and finally caught a break. Faff of the Blackwold, the elf crafter over there with the brandy, became a regular in large part due to Gorge’s efforts.

Session Three

It was another pleasant spring, aside from the fog, and yet someone had definitely woken up on the wrong side of the bed. I’ll even admit the someone was me. You see, some gnomes had accidently dug a hole straight through the bar just the other week. They were very sorry, and they offered reparations, but it’s not the kind of thing to put an innkeeper into a good mood. How did they even dig through the tree to get here in the first place!?

Ahem. There was enough of the gnomes’ gold left over that I was able to put the entire staff through training, which went swimmingly. Autumo was sharper, Garm was stronger, and Gorge was silver-tongued. Not that poor Autumo was able to avoid another disastrous bookshelf dusting session, however. Gorge, on the other hand, did an excellent job brewing another batch of ale; the next tip they received included an extravagant set of adventuring gear.

Now, I’d long had my suspicions about ol’ Dirn One-Eye. So, first I treated him on the house, with his favorite food and drink and my own not inconsiderate charms. Then I hauled out the adventuring gear Gorge had gotten. Sure enough, turns out the goblin was a retired hedge mage. Was, because now he’s back into the hero business thanks to my encouragement and equipment.

None too soon, either. We had received a special delivery order of Frozen Drupelet, which Gorge had done an eminently good job of brewing up, but it then had to be delivered to Zenko City. Dirn was able to make the delivery for us, fording a river along the way, and brought back enough gold to more than justify the trip. I actually funded his next quest to the Bruthan Wood. Sadly he encountered a wood wyrm, so all he got for his trouble and my gold was a severe level of exhaustion.

While all that was going on Autumo was dealing with guests of the crafter (I suppose we had a reputation by then thanks to Galkus and Faff) and townsfolk varieties. I spent some time prattling on about the virtues of the Stag, which tends to help raise our prestige among the other watering holes. Unless things go poorly with th guests of course, which they didn’t. By the end of the season we had a Locket of Hoots in the storeroom thanks to a tip from a crafter, and Rosco of the Coastlands had declared himself a regular. Nice to have another half-elf hanging about the place.

We did run into a spot of trouble towards the end with some foul weather, but Garm did an excellent job at shoring the place up, and he seems much more confident as a result.

The Broken Cask by Derek A. Kamal/Shoreless Skies Publishing (who previously were on the edge of our radar with a supplement for Quill) is a “solitaire innkeeping game”. It’s not a Harvest Moon where you are having to strictly min-max your time and resources, nor is it a Rune Factory where you are actually going out and doing the adventuring yourself. Rather, it’s an easy to way to have fun running an inn – dealing with guests, managing staff, handling problems, expanding the business, and sponsoring adventurers – without getting crunchy about it. If anything it’s the single player and more chill innkeeping RPG cousin to Bargain Quest.

You’ll need a pair of six-sided dice – all rolls will either be 1d6, 2d6, or d66 – and at the very least some print-outs to record basic information about your inn, innkeeper, staff, stuff, and customers. I’ll mention it now to get it out of the way – for many of the rolls involving things like setting and character details, you’re invited to make up details to match your preference. That being said, you can consult various tables to determine your inn’s name, type, location, specialty drinks and meals, entertainments, unique services, anomalies, and pets, as well as your innkeeper’s name, race, appearance, quirk, ability (which will generally make something easier), and stats (Body, Heart, and Mind). You also start with two staff members (Gardener, Cook, Bouncer, Alchemist, etc.), who have the same kind of stats as the innkeeper but generally (at least at first) not as high a rank in any of them, as well as a certain amount of Morale that keeps them going.

Play is broken up into sessions, which could be treated as traditional sessions on different days (the handout for the innkeeper’s log includes a space for what dates you played on) or as many as you can do in one sitting. You’ll roll to determine the season, and then can choose to roll on further tables to determine weather, mood, any events that happened in between sessions, and any story threads that may or may not be able to tie the proceeding random events together. Then, you roll 2d6 to determine What Happens Next?: Monster Attack, Special Event, Brewing Order, Service, Common Quest, Cleaning, Gardening, Cooking Order, Trouble, Troublesome Guest, or Rare Guest.

Whatever Happens Next, you’ll be called to complete a related task, typically rolled for on its respective table. Perhaps you’ll have to host a Knights Tea, or maybe some degens from upcountry have arrived and need to be shown the door. You’ll pick a character to complete the task, then roll 1d6 plus whatever stat is called for; you’ll need to match or exceed a number dictated by the kind of task the character is undertaking. Do so and you have ‘hit’, gaining whatever benefits the task grants; staff who make their first hit in a session also mark XP. Miss, and it could be anything from -1 to a future task to losing morale to losing characters to prematurely ending the session (portals aren’t good). Generally speaking the character chosen will be a staff member, although the innkeeper can step in at least once per session to put their (probably better) stats to good use.

Speaking of the innkeeper, you have a series of Special Tasks you can perform throughout the session to help and grow the inn. Aside from taking on a task yourself, you can spend gold to Build new rooms and improve existing ones, Hire new staff members, send heroes out on Quests, Shop for handy items, , Train your staff to improve their stats and morale, and Treat a Regular to increase their loyalty to your establishment (i.e. their level).

So, what’s the point? Well, as you play you’ll accrue the gold you’ll need for all those improvements, items to use, Regular guests who’ll tip better when they come up, Heroes to go on Quests (or less-reliable mercenaries if you have the gold but no Hero), XP to improve the staff’s stats/morale and the Heroes’ Levels, and (by expanding and improving the inn) bonuses to various tasks. You’ll also gain Prestige, which can be thought of as the XP and level of the inn itself. You begin with a Prestige Level of 0, but you can climb to Local Favorite and perhaps even all the way to Legendary, which plays into certain tasks. You’ll gain the points you need to improve your Prestige level any time you roll a 6 on a task or by using the Prate special task before a regular task’s roll – succeed on the regular task and you’ll gain a point, fail and talking up your guests will come across as fake and lose you a point. You can also spend gold on the Influence special task to level up right away, although it’s expensive.

The real point, though, is simply to have fun with the idea of running a fantasy inn – there’s no endgame, and no story threads or plots aside from what you choose to roll in or create yourself. Related to that, while a session can end due to disaster or exhaustion (as in you’ve exhausted your gold and your staff no longer have the morale to continue), it can also end whenever you want it to, which is what happened for all three sessions above.

It’s also, strictly speaking, not a journaling game. You can certainly treat it like one, obviously I did here and I enjoyed it quite a bit, but if the only notes you want to take are “Common Guest for Autumo, M4, Result 6, Tips: Locket of Hoots, New Regular!” that’s perfectly fine as well. I did the journaling bit after the fact, and I actually had a lot of fun simply making choices, rolling the dice, and seeing what happened!

Sometimes the dice are not going to be your friend, and I mean that in terms of lining up with your options/choices. Wulflen’s ability means he can step in on any of the Service actions, bypassing the once-a-session rule, but across three sessions none of them ever came up. After spending 10 gold on that kitchen upgrade I haven’t seen a Cooking task since. That’s just business, though, and with enough play I’m sure they’d come around eventually.

Oh, one thing: there are so many tables. I mean the game is, aside from record/note-keeping, practically all tables which means whether you’ve got it in PDF or in physical form there’s going to be a lot of page flipping or scrolling. There are reference screen print-outs for use with DTRPG’s GM screen (which I didn’t know existed up until now, so hurray for new info) that would help with that problem. That does cost extra dollarbucks, though, so the solution keeping a budget in mind would be to print the tables out single-sided and spread them out. Just like, well, an innkeeper’s desk covered in all their paperwork!

Last but certainly not least, I love the art throughout the book by Claudia Cangini, examples of which you can see throughout the article showing all sorts of characters at work and play around the inn.

The Broken Cask is available at DriveThrugRPG – $10 for the PDF, $15 for the softcover book, $20 for both versions together. You can also download the innkeeper’s log and random tables at the Shoreless Skies site for free.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the story, traveler. Now, if you’ll excuse me, we’re hosting a Wizard’s Convention later – they are not going to be happy with the state of the bookshelves – and there are some adventurers carousing that I need to tell Garm to keep an eye on. Plus Autumo needs to get the shrews out of the garden, I can see Gorge struggling with that accursed restaurant critic again, and Dirn wants another crack at Bruthan Wood, which means I’m going to need to step in to handle the Soup of the Day-

Ah, just another day at the Flying Stag!

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