Sunday, 28 May 2023

Ride the Giants, Development Blog 1

As mentioned here, I am attending the 'Cauldron' Con in Germany and am trying to develop a 'real time' adventure to run there. This is a development blog for that adventure. This is what I have so far. Later blogs will probably go into more specific sections and problems rather than giving an overview.


Ride the Giants 

Once in every century, a crowd of ancient, stoop-shouldered giants come down from the Star  Mountains and stride down the Sword Peninsula towards the Titans Reach, where the Sea of Storms separates the Lands We Know from the nightmare Monster Continent which lies beyond. 

There, at the very point of the land, the Giants slow a little, perhaps to gaze at the wild ocean before them. Then they walk off the land, into the sea, and  wade across the Titans Reach, the sea covering them even to the neck, the mouth, the eyes. Without slowing, they surge through the waves and, after four hours of wading, they rise once again to the land, walking up the shore and making their way off into the Monster Continent. 

Where they go, or why, none know, nor how they return. Perhaps they endlessly circle the world, for in roughly 100 years, the same giants will return, again coming down from the Star Mountains, and again, slowing, just a little, to gaze at the Sea of Storms before they plunge into it and wade across the Titans Reach. 

They do not speak or communicate in any way. They walk through anything in their path, pushing down fortress walls like a man pushing through weeds, but ignore anything beyond it. 

A century ago observers with telescopes and trained birds noted ruins on the giants backs, strange parasites in their rocky skin, relics and remnants of unknown actions studded across them and what seem to be mysterious temples built atop their bowed heads! 

Now the Giants come again, but this time we are ready! 

I am King Sleet and I have called adventurers from across all realms. I have called you

Not to stop the giants, for nothing can, and we fear their wrath if we try, but to board them! 

As the giants slow before the Titans Reach, they are just slow enough that it becomes possible to climb onto their feet. 

Board a giant. Climb it. If you are quick, it should be possible to climb their legs as they wade into the ocean, staying just ahead of the rising water. Investigate. For any Lore or Treasure you return, you will be well paid. 

My small navy waits at sea. They shall try to follow the giants, as well they can. A few experimental Hot Air Balloons await. They are hard to control but they will try to follow and assist. 

You have FOUR HOURS (in real time) until the Giants walk onto the Continent of Monsters. None who go there return! 

They come! Prepare yourselves!  



The Scene 

As you look across the ranging fields you see spots of colour; other groups of wild adventurers waiting with hooks, grapples, ladders, horses and a crazy range of tool and tricks. 

Far beyond the giants path, the King observes from his pavilion, and lined around him, the people of the land, waiting to see the Giants. Far out to sea, the Kings small navy prepares to attempt to follow the giants and in the air, experimental but hard to control hot air balloons bob about, hoping to observe and perhaps even offer rescue. 

The brass horns are blowing! The ground is shaking! The crowd roars! 


The Giants 

The Giants are proportioned like immensely strong but very ancient men with stony skin. They walk bent over like hunchbacks, heads tilted up so they can see. 

From their perspective they are not walking very fast, but their enormous size means that, to us, their feet thunder past. The relative movement of their bodies is very slow, but for someone on the ground as they step over, the gargantuan foot fairly flies past overhead. 

The Giants heads are roughly 2,000 Feet in the air. 

Their skin is pitted and rocky. Where an ancient man would have wrinkles and folds, they have cracks and crevices. Their surface looks rough and fricative. Scrub plants have taken root in places. Some have trees or heather, scrubland and maquis, even small trickling streams, on their backs. 

If a giant was static and still, an energetic hiker could possibly climb one in an hour and a half. 

The giants have something like hair. Perhaps it is vines or growth of some kind mixed with ancient hair as thick as ropes or the branches of trees. The hair hangs down around their heads and faces. On some, hair speckles their forearms and thighs. The Giants have thick hanging crotch and ass hair, which thankfully spares the modesty of those who look upon them, and which might also prove useful to climbers. 


The Giants Path 

There are about a dozen Giants. They walk together in no fixed formation. They sometimes stumble and brush up against one another. (It might be possible to leap from one to another). 

Over the Eons the Giants have worn a shallow valley in the ground. Rivers and streams often weave and gather in this valley, so the giants sometimes splash through them on their way.


Giant Layout – Labelled



The Climb 

1. The Foot 

A 50 foot cliff. Very rugged, not sheer, more like a clamber. Race to the ankle. Need to climb up over and around the ankle to the back of the lower leg. There are unlikely to be other life-forms or encounters on the foot. 

Though, as the most accessible place, there might be small encampments of bandits, sigilites, monks or others who have mounted the giant at some point during its great journey. Those who understand the ocean is coming will either be about to jump off or, like you, be willing to risk a rapid ascent to stay above the waters. 

This would be a good place for a goatherds shack actually. They could let their goats rove all over the giant. Maybe they are a monk. Will they come with you as you climb or refuse to believe in their doom until the sea washes over them. 


The Ankle Cross 

A traverse around a moving joint. Big possibility of falling off here, it must be accomplished quickly before the giant takes too many steps into the sea. Once on the rear of the calf the terrain becomes more predictable and the angle of climb more advantageous. 

Of course you could try climbing the overhand of the shin, but that is madness.. 

If there are other teams or spoiling factors this would be a good first spot to knock someone off, but does not guarantee their death…. 


2. The Lower Leg Climb 

How far is this? About 150 feet. A hard scramble and climb up the back of the calf, a moving surface which shifts from near vertical to overhang in pulses as the giant walks. 

This is probably the most important time-sensitive climb as reaching the knee will keep you safe for most of the journey, only the deepest part of the ocean at the two-hour mark will reach past this 


The Knee Decision 

As one reaches the knee another traverse is required, followed by a decision. Should one continue to climb the frontal thigh, aiming for the hips and lower back, or risk it all with a daring leap onto the giants hand? 

The hand swings very close to the knee over the giants slow steps. It is certainly possible to try to jump onto a knuckle as it swings near the kneecap. This might allow you to climb the arm and give you a time advantage, avoiding whatever terrors occupy the back.. You can aim right for the head! It’s a straight climb up past the shoulder, 


3. The Upper Leg 

The climb up the front of the thigh may be fatiguing but is not technically difficult and it stands the best change of keeping your party together. As you begin to reach the hip you are truly out of danger from the rising sea level and can afford to take s short break to consider. 

Will you attempt a traverse up and over the hip, aiming for the side of the back? Or will you clamber into the giants dense ass hair? The growth is thick and tangled, making the way seem relatively safe. You could move through the crotch like a tick, work your way through the steaming jungle of the taint and then haul your way up to the base of the spine via the ass hair between the cheeks. 

It sounds horrific, but isn’t just such an investigation the reason you are here? And who knows who, or what you may discover in that Dark Realm? 


4. The Back 

At last, the great tilted expanse of the Giants Back. Finally you need no longer fear falling off. However this is a ready environment for combat, either with other explorers or denizens of the Giants body. Its also a good place for a Balloon to try to land, they could tie up here and wait for you, assuming you have already made arrangements. Or Balloons could land rival parties or pirates. 

Will you explore the karst and moorland of the back or head straight for the head and its mysteries? From here you can probably easily make out the tailing naval forces. You may also be exposed to any flying monsters.. 


5. The Head 

What is the mysterious structure atop the Giants head and what secrets or treasures does it hold? Can you gain access to the Giants Thoughts (and even PILOT the giant?) 

This would be a good place for a Balloon to try to pick you up from (if possible), but the Head may be haunted by Quetzacotolous or other flying creatures, perhaps mountain lions or even super-monkeys making their home in the dense forest of its hair. 

Getting through that dense hair to the temple or fort on the giants crown will be the hard part. One must risk diving or crawling through the maquis of the scalp, risking attack by whatever lies beneath, or attack from above, the whirl of strange flying parasites which circles above the giants highest point, riding the thermals of its exertions. 

From here you can easily see the head-tops of the other giants. Which other adventurers have already reached their summits? Some may be being picked up by balloons already, others may be rotating vast cannons or lazer guns to blast at you! Or signalling more peaceful intentions, even requests for aid… 

This might be a good place to consider, will you risk leaping to another giant? If you traverse down to the arm it might be possible as they brush against each other… 

Reaching the peak of the head would also give you a good look at the advancing line of the Monster Continent, coming closer with each mighty step…. 


6. The Arm Climb 

The arm in general is a tough, vertical climb with less hand holds and less safety. It may however be less populated than the thigh and if one can manage it, it might bring you more directly to the neck, and thence to the head, bypassing the great Karst of the back completely. 


The Mysteries of the Hand! 

Do the Giants have great rings upon those stony fingers? If so can you read the cartouche of its symbols as you climb across its golden surface? Or does the giant have something in its hand? How big is that something and might it drop it? Is the giants ‘skin’ around its palm and fingertips perhaps sensitive enough that it may detect the PCs climbing it? Here the swinging force of the giants movements would be the greatest of all. 


The Elbow Traverse 

Like the Knee traverse but worse. The angles of the giants arms are more vertical than their legs but its still much easier to climb the upward diagonal of the rear of its upper arm than to risk the overhang of the front of the upper arm. Cover is less, as the rocky ‘skin’ of the giant is less chunky and dense. 


Hair or Shoulders? 

The giants armpit hair can provide a brief respite of illusory safety but ultimately you are going to have to get up, out and over.. 

OR – if you are feeling truly radical, and if the giant itself has long enough hair or a long enough beard, you could try another LEAP into the giants beard and/or hair. 


Climbing the Hair 

The thick, foresty hair should be climbable by anyone thief-like or elf-like. But the hair is dense, may contain even more bugs and monsters. Huge flakes of dandruff, and is a vertical climb which, no matter the hand holds, will be challenging. Though if you fall there is s good chance of grabbing something on the way down. The beard (if  present) could provide a useful ‘off ramp’ for the last part of the adventure. 

If one wishes to make a quick exit on the return as the giant is rising from the waves, it might be worth abseiling or clambering down its beard and dropping from the tips, hoping to be picked up by following ships before the weight of your treasure drowns you. 


The Giants Face 

Only by climbing the hair will you stand a chance of looking deeply into the giants FACE

It can be seen from far off, but what strange sadness does it hold when seem from close up?

What impossible and ancient emotions might it project? 


The Great Shoulder Traverse 

The tricky part is getting out of the armpit via the overhang. But once this is done it’s a fatiguing but relatively simple scramble across its shoulders, up to its neck. If you are quick you may well beat anyone climbing from the legs. 


The Schedule 

How long to board the foot? 

How long till you have to climb? 



The giants enter the sea! This should be a major deal! As the giants foot slashes into the waves, from this point, the water is rising! 


Two Hours In – The Mid Point 

The Giants are as deep in the sea as they can be

Now would be the safest time to jump off

And if you are still alive it must be because you have got pretty high

So why wouldn’t PCs jump off at this point?

Maybe the Giants only get up to their hips? So you have two hours to get that high?

Then the rest of the time to get over the back and down?

Or maybe even to try your luck on another giant? 


Three Hours In  - race for the scalp 


Four Hours In – The Turnaround 


Design Questions 

‘Encounters’ while climbing 

Or just things you find or discover there..

These could be potential treasures, life forms, bits of history

Maybe whole ship fragments

In the foot-to knee area (currently the part of the giant where they are climbing quickly to escape the rising sea levels 


When might you fall off?

Lets say with climbing limbs

You are in most danger of falling off *when the limb is vertical*

And since the limb is moving in ‘real time’ you can use that as the ‘pulse’ of the game

With some kind of real-time timer

So while climbing, each pulse of gaming would be a scramble to secure yourself, or at least not be doing anything risky, before the limb reaches vertical 


What is the Procedure for falling off and getting back on? 

I mean, if you fall from high enough, death is pretty likely

Above a certain height water, even sea-foam, is like concrete

But there should be some kind of possibility of getting back on the giant

Bribing a ship captain with treasures or a balloon pilot 


Spoiling factors.. 

A Naval war as ships from a rival king, or even from the Monster Continent attack those following in the lee of the giants. A Trafalgar attacks! You see the ships blasting at each other from above. No idea who will win. Will you risk leaping into the sea, not knowing who may pick you up or how long it may take? Will you try to intervene, perhaps firing from the giants head or even attempting to manipulate a giant into crushing your foes?


  1. Shadow of the Colossus, but rpg? Very cool.

  2. This looks fantastic, Patrick. Looking forward to reading more development entries.

    I didn't expect to read "work your way through the steaming jungle of the taint" with my own two eyes today

  3. Surely sages, natural philisophers and mothers of young children would suggest seeking out suitable mounts for the climb. The giants appear as men in 500:1 scale; no man without parasites is known to exist; it's virtually certain therefore there will be laterally flattened, segmented beasts with hooked limbs ready to convey a rider effortlessly over stony skin.

    if proportional crawling things are to be found, most of them would be perhaps too small to serve as good mounts:
    head lice: 3-5 ft
    pubic lice: 2-3 ft
    scabies: 6-12"

    but the flea! a proportional flea could reach 6 feet with a sturdy build and the strength to bound from hip to head in one go! it can't fail.

    1. What about these freaky mites that live in the eyelashes?
      Also: If these giants have been circling the world for milennia: Are there regular mountain creatures that have adapted to living on them? Become seperate species? Goats that gnaw hair? Monkeys that hunt lice?

  4. R.e. falling off. You might consider ensuring that any starting characters have at least one iteration of the feather fall spell. This would allow them to 'survive' the fall but lose time in the race.

    Your biggest consideration is the Fly spell, which will allow them to make short work of most of your climbing mechanics. Anything from aerial predators to bizarre giant microclimates should allow for a counter, as always, soft counters and complications are preferred over hard counters and blanket bans.

    I think I wrote about a role aids module that was about a race to the top of a mountain? The race mechanic was essentially handwaved. Probably the best way is to just have any rivals reach points at certain real life marks and to consider a few opportunities of delaying the opposition Dirk Dastardly wacky races style.

    See you at Cauldron.