…And Finally, Bloodstone

See my previous session notes concerning our ongoing Bloodstone campaign.

Village of Daedmyr

  • Holden is unconscious from a Forte tax.
  • Menas and a handful of dwarves look for their wagon. It is broken beyond immediate repair.
  • Menas finally pays the dwarves, making an Ob 5 resource test.
  • Kruder is noticing that Katie is throwing herself on Remy.
  • Kruder confronts Katie with the intent of making sure she doesn’t do something foolish during her mourning of Oban.
  • Kruder makes an Ugly Truth with Coarse Persuasion FoRK – the consequence is alienating Katie. Kruder almost succeeds, but can’t muster enough successes.
  • Katie slaps Kruder then storms off and throws herself at Remy.
  • Remy and Katie go for a walk, and Remy is hesitant but eventually he gives in.

Village of Skeld

On the border between Arcata and Bloodstone. The village of Skrech is comprised of a fortified manor, several permanent structures, numerous tents, an overflow of people, bodies being buried, buildings burning, and a standing mercenary troop. (This was generated via my Random War-Time Village Generator – harboring a neighbor village, raided 1 hour before arrival, plenty of supplies, paying for a mercenary troop, plus a few secrets).

  • Crispin, Menas, Holden, and Remy were going into town to purchase supplies, a wagon, and a bow for Lady Gwen.
  • Holden was going to disguise himself as a younger man – And fails his Sorcery
  • Garbled transmission and a restless dead rises from the bushes. Most everyone failed their Steel tests, except Menas.
  • Not missing a beat Menas delivered a B13 wound to the restless dead. In hindsight, should have one of Holden’s dead students from the college rise and seek him out.
  • Holden again tried and succeed G7 Sorcery vs. Ob 3 should be a cinch.
  • Upon arriving at the village, the mercenaries exact a toll – 60 pieces of silver (Ob 3 resources), of which Menas had no problem paying.
  • They made their way to a general store and began negotiating for supplies.
  • Menas tried to eavesdrop on a conversation between two patrons of the shop, but they noticed and left (The player called for a Whispered-Secrets-Wise. The consequence would be that the entity in the village would find out. Menas failed the test).
  • Remy, with soothing platitudes, unsuccessfully haggles with the merchant that also engaged in flowery banter.
  • Menas succeeds at a Resource test (Ob 6) to purchase Carriage Wagon, Hunting Bow, and Supplies.
  • Unbeknownst to Menas, Crispin, Holden, and Remy, they were being followed back (This was the direct result of the failed Whispered Secrets-Wise).
  • Menas, Crispin, Holden, and Remy made it safely back to camp.
  • Kruder, having set up a camouflaged sentry was about to break cover when he noticed a huntsman sneaking through the woods.
  • The huntsman noticed him as well.
  • Menas had a crossbow drawn and pointed, while the huntsman only had an arrow nocked.
  • They stared for a bit, then the huntsman dove as Kruder let fly.
  • I gave the huntsman a Speed test to add to the Ob for the Crossbow shot – I figured Ob 3 for the woods +1 Ob per two successes by the huntsman was reasonable.
  • Kruder’s shot was true and delivered a B11 – he was bleeding.
  • Hearing the twang of a crossbow and a thud, the others quickly came to the scene.
  • Lady Gwen worked to save the huntsman, but her skills failed her.
  • Menas wanted to scavenge up some papers – I couldn’t think of anything interesting on failure, so I gave them a map of the Bloodstone vale, including the bandit camp.
  • Clearly they weren’t going to be going back through town. I called for an Orienteering test Ob 2 to skirt around town without being noticed. They failed.

Range & Cover

  • They stumbled into a clearing, and 8 mercenaries in the fields armed with light crossbows took notice.
  • The guards were under the impression that there was a wagon with about 5 people.
  • We dropped into Range & Cover – Matt quickly explained this to Aidan. They were talking about withdrawing.
  • Menas instead chose to split the group.
  • Menas, Crispin, and the dwarven mercenaries would provide rear guard.
  • Kruder, Katie, Dellen, Holden, Dragan, Remy, Brandon, Garlin, Garvin, and Lady Gwen would flee.
  • The mercenaries scripted Close, Close, Charge – They were hoping to fire some crossbows, then finish off the remainder.
  • Menas scripted Withdraw, Maintain, Charge – He wanted to fall further back into the woods then let the opposition come and finally engage with superior forces.
  • Kruder scripted Withdraw, Withdraw, Withrdaw – He needed to ensure everyone was out of the way.
  • Kruder and company managed to escape while the mercenaries beat Menas in the first exchange and rained arrows, however, Menas in his dwarven mail was unassailable.
  • Menas plan worked, and they inflicted some light damage, but the mercs hesitated.
  • And then the dwarves charged and it was mostly over – I called for a Tactics Ob 2 for clean up of inferior forces. Menas failed and one of the dwarves suffered a Traumatic wound.
  • Lady Gwen immediately rushed to tend to the wounded – but the dwarves had finished them off.

Enroute

  • Holden notes that Crispin has been eating lots of meat.
  • Holden attempts to use Second Sight, but is unable to determine if anything is wrong – Jaron should’ve petitioned for a few FoRKs.
  • Lady Gwen, Remy, and Dragan were conspiring to open the letter from Brother Kevin of the Fendowns, a priest of Ilmater.
  • Menas grabbed the letter from Lady Gwen, and opened it (Opposed Speed tests, Menas succeeded)
  • Kruder threatened Menas then bashed him, grabbing the paper and giving it back to Lady Gwen (Brawling vs. Speed).
  • Lady Gwen proceeded to read the letter aloud.
  • The letter’s contents made mention of sacrilegious texts sent by Abott Aldric of Bloodstone, a boy named Elven who showed signs of true faith. The letter was gracious for the other true religious texts of Ilmater.

Bloodstone

Clearly a village that has seen better days, the village of Bloodstone is run down. The walls are in disrepair, the gates are broken, the villagers are without hope.

  • Katie immediately, throws coins to the innkeeper, and drags Remy to a private room.
  • Lady Gwen and Holden go to the abby and speek with Abbott Aldric.
  • Lady Gwen stretches the truth saying brigands took the letter and opened it.
  • Holden calls her out.
  • Lady Gwen recants, and gives the letter to the Abbott.
  • The Abbott asks if Lady Gwen read the letter.
  • Lady Gwen lied, and was caught by the Abbott.
  • The Abbott insisted Lady Gwen seek penance the Ilmater way – self-flagellation (Lady Gwen has an ongoing +1 Ob until the next day).
  • Dragan is flirting with Lady Gwen.
  • Dragan reveals his holy Illumination of Lady Gwen – created with masterful detail (4 successes).
  • Lady Gwen gives her valiant lover a kerchief – And thus the chivalrous love blossoms.
  • Squire Marlen, a 60 year old man, is grandfather of Garlen and Garvin. He is the squire of Baron Tranth of Bloodstone.
  • Squire Marlen thanked Lady Gwen for her tending to Garlen, and offered any future assistance
  • Menas learns that since the Bloodstone mines were abandoned, there is little contact between the neighboring dwarves.
  • Holden learns of Instructor Jeffry, a member of the college, who was last seen with the dwarves to the north.
  • Lady Gwen and Katie have a conversation about Remy being so wonderful.
  • Garvin is dressed up in finery and invites the characters to dinner with the Baron.

We ended the session with the characters preparing for a formal dinner with Baron Tranth.

End Session Procedures

Artha Awards

We wrapped up by going over the Artha awards – prior to this session I’ve defaulted to giving 2 Fate and 1 Persona without much discussion. I warned the players that this would be the last session where we would have the default awards.

It turns out Aidan has been doing pretty well with Menas, though one belief needs refocusing. Savannah simply needs to refocus her beliefs, and she will knock it out of the park. Matt needs to tweak his beliefs a bit to reflect the current state of the narrative. Jaron and Joe are having the hardest times with their beliefs as they put most of the work on me, a busy GM managing a host of NPCs.

Trait Vote

We did a quick trait vote and handed out character traits to everyone. Menas is impulsive. Kruder is watchful. Remy is honey-tongued. Lady Gwen has a healing touch. Holden is counseling (though Trustworthy may be better).

Changing Beliefs

Lady Gwen changed her belief from a very passive belief to “I will be the religious leader of Bloodstone by telling everyone of Abbott Aldric’s vile books.” I like it a lot. Lady Gwen told a lie, got caught, and is throwing a gigantic tantrum – one that will rock the faith community of Bloodstone. Then again, Abbott Aldric may need a kick in the pants.

I encouraged others to review their beliefs and ask me for some help. I want to hear the wheels humming!

Players, did I miss anything?

Observations

And Time Passes

After my conversation about advancing the timeline, I wanted to make sure that the characters arrived in Bloodstone.

All said, this session spanned 8 days of campaign time; Since the beginning of the campaign 12 days have passed.

Questions

I used a handful of pointed questions to provide a bit of flavor for the trip. By preparing and asking questions, I believe I was able to help the players get into their character’s minds and respond accordingly.

This bit was inspired/borrowed from Robert Bohl’s “Mispent Youth“, and D. Vincent Baker’s “Apocalypse World

Scavenge

I need to read up a bit on Scavenging and spend some time thinking about what to do about it. Any advice from fellow Burners?

Consequences of Failure

Everyone was pounding on this, making sure that a test had the appropriate complication. Matt in particular was asking what the consequences were. While I welcome the request for consequences, I need to push back and ask “What is your intent and how are you achieving it?”

Garbled Transmission

As I was writing the session report, I realized what Holden’s garbled transmission should have been…a sense of forboding followed a few days later by a restless dead finding Holden’s room…the restless dead would be a student that in part blamed Holden for his death.

Range and Cover

I’ve been leaning on Range and Cover, so I need to brush up on the rules of engagement. I’m really enjoying it, and was proud that Aidan stepped up and scripted what turned out to be both a brave and brilliant tactical decision.

Survey of Methods of Advancement

The other evening I had an interesting RPG conversation concerning character advancement.  His opinion surprise me.  However, I’ve since started thinking about the various systems of character advancement that I’ve seen – this is not an exhaustive list, only ones that I’m more familiar with.

Level Only

In this method, when a character levels up, everything about them gets better.  They are better at hitting, resisting, enduring and doing things within the narrative. The classic example would be the earliest editions of D&D and Labyrinth Lord.

One of the key points of this method is that all elements of a character improve with level regardless of the actions taken to achieve that level.  Namely, if I raised my level solely by treasure and role-playing rewards, I’m still better at fighting.  In this method, it is likely easiest to “balance” characters against each other.

Points

In this method, there are no levels, instead, characters advance each statistic independently.  Dresden Files, and if memory serves ShadowRun.  In ShadowRun you get a certain amount of Karma after each session and when you simply pay to advance a statistic.

When points are part of advancement, there is typically a graduating scale regarding point cost.  That is to say Rank 1 costs 1 point, Rank 2 costs 3 points, Rank 3 costs 6 points, etc.  It is a non-linear advancement cost for a linear statistic.

From my limited exposure to these systems, use of the skill is not a requirement for advancement.

Points per Level

In this method, character’s still track levels. However, upon achieving a new level, they receive a set number of points to improve their character – but again regardless of the skills used during the sessions.  Rolemaster and Alternity are the best examples, although the D&D 3E skill sub-system also applies.

In Rolemaster it is possible to create a 10th level fighter that is no more competent in combat than a 1st level fighter – or a 1st level wizard.  This would be done at each level by having the fighter’s character invest their points not in sword and hit points, but in other wilder fancies.

Points & Level Hybrid

In this method, character’s track levels.  But it is an amalgam of the above.  The potential areas of development – the character statistics if you will – are broken into sub-systems.  And each of those sub-systems operate a bit differently, and may overlap (i.e. D&D 3E/4E Feats overlap with the D&D Combat and D&D Skills sub-systems).

By breaking the sub-systems into different advancement methods, the game system can tinker with balance across the sub-systems ensuring that one character classification is stronger in one sub-system than the other.  That is to say a fighter is better in combat than a rogue but a rogue has a wider range of skills.

Test-Based

In this method, a character using a skill advances that skill.  If you want to get better at something, you had better do it.  In this way, characters evolve based on the ongoing narrative.  Burning Wheel, Mouse Guard, TechNoir and Hârnmaster are some examples.

This method requires a bit more attention to any goals that you as a player have for your character.  Do you want your character to defeat some alluded to master swordsman? Then practice your combat skills.

Potpourri

One could argue that Apocalypse World and Dungeon World are point per level.  Each time you “level” you get one point to purchase some advancement.

Diaspora fixes your total possible talent, but allows you to rearrange your statistics within those constraints.  So if you want to get better at something, you’ll need to get worse at something else.

In Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple your monks don’t get better but instead changes how and why they interact with the ongoing narrative.

Any others? In particular, how would you categorize Dogs in the VineyardInSpectres and Lacuna Part I, but the advancement mechanisms aren’t registering.

Personal Preference

I like to see characters that are mechanically different.  I like the idea of advancement through use.  I also understand that as players we are not necessarily seeing every action of our characters – I know I don’t follow my character into the bathroom – and therefore arbitrary advancement is acceptable.

Just Arrived – A Few Acres of Snow

I’m not referring to Northern Indiana’s lake effect snow, but instead Martin Wallace’s “A Few Acres of Snow.”

Just Arrived - A Few Acres of Snow

Just Arrived - A Few Acres of Snow

A Few Acres of Snow is a 2-player card-driven game about the French and British conflict in North America.  It won the 2011 Golden Geek aware for 2-Player Board Game and Innovative Board Game, and Best Wargame . And it’s card engine is inspired by Dominion.  Sounds fabulous – I love Dominion and innovative game designs.

I’ve been very curious about this game, eyeing it for the past two months.  I’ve tried to negotiate more than one trade on the BoardGameGeek, but most people were hanging onto the game.

Finally, over lunch this past week, my good friend and I stopped in at The Griffon and I picked up a copy. While I haven’t played it, the rules are impressive; Not in the crushing amounts of actuarial tables, but in the breadth of options. The rules speak to military sieges, raids, settlers, commerce, supplies from the homeland, fortifications, etc.

And at the end, a military historian provides a 3 page summary of the factors leading to the conflict, and how the random nature of the “Dominion” type deck creates the delays and unpredictabilities of ridiculously long supply lines (i.e. Europe giving orders by ship to the Americas).

Now the question is, will I be able to play this game with anyone?

Just Arrived – A Brief History of the World

I’ve been trying to find a few of the more involved board games that I enjoyed in high school and college: Axis & Allies, Diplomacy, and History of the World.  I’m somewhat interested in playing them again, but I’m more interested in making sure that I have a few of the more immersive board games available for my son.

There is something wonderful about setting aside several hours to strive for world domination. So this past week, I traded, via the Board Game Geek, for A Brief History of the World.

Maybe my son and his friends will be interested – I’ll play with them if they are interested in losing.  Some of his friends were even part of an Axis & Allies club at their school (they go to different schools).

My wife has pointed out to me that it is possible that my son just isn’t as nerdy as I am…or interested in the same things.  I figure I’ll suggest the game and see if they are interested in learning it.  If not, to the trading stack it goes.

Advancing the Timeline in an RPG Campaign

On Tuesday, Joe and I went to Matt’s house.  Matt was wanting to talk about the Bloodstone game; He had been working on writing an email but was at an empasse.

Matt is the only player in the present group to have started Bloodstone several times, played to completion once, and acted as assistant GM for another.  He knows the adventure series quite well.

Matt’s concern was that we were spending so much time getting to Bloodstone. There are lots of distractions enroute, and the campaign is only slowly marching towards its namesake.

I’ve been aware of this potential problem, and in my preparation for the next session, I’m trying to better plan the key scenes.  I’m hoping we are able to get to the first large-scale conflict in the village of Bloodstone; I don’t know if I’ll have the curtain drop before the conflict, or if I’ll abbreviate the large-scale conflict by having some linked tests tie into a final Tactics test.

More at its core, however, is the fact that our group, as a whole has not normally advanced a campaign’s timeline off-camera.  That is to say, we don’t often mutter the phrase, “and the winter passes.”

We have tended to play campaigns that grow in scope and march towards saving the world – a task that doesn’t lend itself to saying “and the seasons pass”. I’ve cleaved too close to the urgent timeline of Lord of the Rings, and haven’t taken cues from Avatar: The Last Airbender (Animated Series) nor the Tails of the Earthsea books.

The H-Series has an initial sense of urgency – bandits will collect tribute from the village in two weeks – but then backs off after the first adventure book; Seasons can and will pass quietly.

So I’ve pondered how I can practice incorporating that into my games, and my growing suspicion is that I don’t offer conclusions to my sessions.  In other words, my games tend to follow the cascade of actions and reactions, ever flowing, uninterrupted.

So I’m wondering, what are some tricks that I can use to make sure that the characters in my game are not always a season of 24.  I don’t want an endless stream of action that carries between many sessions.

Is the trick simply to plan for end points?  After all, every published adventure has an ending.  Or in planning for end points, do I need to plan the points in-between?

GM Questionnaire Asked by Zak S

Zak S, over at Playing D&D with Porn Stars, asks us to repost and answer.

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?

My random village generator for use when traveling through war-torn lands.

2. When was the last time you GMed?

January 7th, 2012

3. When was the last time you played?

January 15th, 2012

4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven’t run but would like to.

Hey guys, lets all play the Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh!

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?

Listen to see if they need nudging.

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?

Peanuts, trail mix, some chips.

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?

Physically, no. Mentally yes.

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?

Margaret, my character, attempted to use an illusion spell to create a villager she had met earlier that day.  Margaret was going to then use her illusion to help converse with a brainwashed kid.

Instead, Margaret failed her spell and conjured an imp that recognized the characters.  It slowly tried to walk, but we all gave chase.

9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?

Nope. Serious campaigns remain serious – during play.

10. What do you do with goblins?

As a GM, I treat them as second-class citizens that are at the edge of societal acceptance. They are typically scheming.

11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?

In our Diaspora campaign (The Precious Few), I was planning on having the Emperor of New Memphis speak with the voice of George Takei – Oh yeah!

12. What’s the funniest table moment you can remember right now?

Our “Irv the Mole” session, when all the characters were standing in a circle trying to determine how to split the gems…when my brother’s character, holding a crossbow says to no one in particular, “You know, we could split this two ways.”

13. What was the last game book you looked at–aside from things you referenced in a game–why were you looking at it?

Burning Wheel Gold was the last role-playing book I looked at.  However, the last game book that I looked at was Martin Wallace’s “A Few Acres of Snow“, a lite wargame with mechanics inspired by Dominion.

Having tried for the past two months to trade for A Few Acres of Snow, I instead stopped by The Griffon, one of my Friendly Local Game Stores, and picked up a copy.  I’m hoping to play with my wife, my son, or my friends.

14. Who’s your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?

I’m a huge fan of RPG illustrations having a story.  I don’t need mugshots or body builder poses.  So give me an adventuring group working on a deadly trap while fighting off a monster and I’m good.

15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid?

I don’t think so.  Although they may be afraid that I’ll keep switching systems.

16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn’t write? (If ever)

I loved running Richard Baker’s “Red Hand of Doom.”  We didn’t complete the campaign due to several players moving away, but it is certainly a high water mark in our gaming.

17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?

I have a pretty good setup for gaming.  Our dining table, originally my wife’s great grand-mothers, is 44 inches wide and can expand to 96 inches.  In the dining room we have several fantasy prints by Omar Rayyan as well as wall to wall book shelves.

18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?

Jason Morningstar’s Fiasco and Luke Crane’s Burning Empires.

Fiasco is a great game for introducing people to role-playing games.  It requires only a minor time commitment and is GM-less. The rules are easy to explain, and keep out of the way during play.

Burning Empires will send your friends screaming. It asks that you play numerous sessions to build the campaign.  The rules are rather dense. It is an adversarial game between players and GM.

19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be?

The Muppets, Simon Singh’s books, and LEGO.

20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?

I want a player willing to take risks with their character.  Someone who will step up and grab the reins.  I want players who share the spotlight;  Who are willing to give another player their time to shine.  I want players who know how to work together and know how to argue.

21. What’s a real life experience you’ve translated into game terms?

I lived in Germany for 3 months and mentally reference the smaller European villages, castles, and cathedrals for play in my fantasy games.

22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn’t?

I would love to see more products like VSCA’s Deluge – Setting frameworks if you will.

23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn’t play? How do those conversations go?

My wife does not play RPGs, but she hears plenty about them. She has expressed interest, but is not as willing to commit to a 4 hour game.  I try my very best to summarize most things in two sentences then ask if my wife is interested in more.  Sometimes she is, other times, not so much.

Just Arrived – A Boatload of Louie

Brad Murray diligently notifies, via RPG Geek and Google+, the gaming world when Lulu is offering print coupons.  The discounts offered on Lulu are eaten by Lulu so the small publisher gets the same amount for each printed book.

So I decided to pull the trigger and buy John Harper’s Agon and Jason Morningstar’s Grey Ranks from Lulu.

…and I Got "A Boatload of Louie"

…and I Got "A Boatload of Louie"

…and I Got “A Boatload of Louie”

Lulu had shipped me the wrong books.  My wife started reading it and was laughing out loud. So definitely not a complete loss.

I’ve contacted Lulu and am waiting for them to correct the mistake.  However, I have to think that someone else, expecting a comic book, got some great RPGs out of the deal.  I’d love to hear the other person’s response.  I hope those books can find a loving home.  I know we’ve appreciated this mistake.