Sea Dogs, Chapter I:VIII, GM Debrief

Session Recap; Stream

GM confidence: 3.75/5. I wasn’t in the best mental shape this week. Although I can’t think of anything in particular that went wrong, per se, I can’t help feeling it was a bit rough and unpolished.

Excuses, excuses…

Because of some absences, and a couple of rough weeks at work, we took a break from Sea Dogs. Unfortunately, due to the same rough weeks, I wasn’t able to make the best of the time off, to plan ahead. Then, last week was another rough one at work, which combined with one of my worst allergy seasons I can recall to keep me at rather less than 100% throughout. My confidence level going into the game on Saturday was not high. It turned out fine, as far as I can tell, though I do blame some of the sloppy execution on those aforementioned conditions.

What Went Right

I finally got to do the proper “long” Chase (from Action 2) I had been wanting. I inserted the narrative bits in between the Chase Rolls; I feared this would be distracting, but it seemed to work well enough. I dropped the standard range scale for a more “narrative” distance; I didn’t expect that distance to actually change, due to the PCs’ skill levels, but if it had closed up, there might have been some shooting. The situation was also simplified by the fact that there was really only going to be one Maneuver used, overall, so we didn’t have to bother with choosing. I do think I should have announced the Chase Roll results a little more deliberately, just to reinforce the mechanic. My intention for using a Chase here was to build tension, and I think it worked.

Some of the narrative parts were added in late, to add to the tension: like the Rumjack (the enemy) and Princess Mary (the friendly) disappearing at night. Some details were the result of tarot draws. The rescue was added as a mid-point obstacle to force them to change-up and worry about the enemy catching them up. I did have a plan in case the PCs chose to move on, though I really didn’t expect them to, being heroic types. The “argument” was a later addition, though, to fill things out and give the PCs more worries.

While I continually built up the expectation of a naval action of some sort (I intended to reinforce that a bit more, but for the aforementioned “excuses”), I fully intended to yank that rug out from under them with the intervention of the ghost-ship. I wanted to leave them scratching their heads, and I got the reaction I intended. This happens to be the PCs’ first “undeniable” encounter with the supernatural, which the entire crew (and then some) experienced together. I consider this series to be Act 1 of the overall story, and this encounter destroys the “lie” of the normal mundane world at just about the right segment.

What Went Wrong

I can think of a few specifics that, after the fact, could definitely have been improved. Ironically, in spite of having thrice the usual prep time, I ended up quite rushed before game-time. As a result, I didn’t give some of the narrative elements the thorough editing they deserved, and I feel like it showed—early parts in the session were better, but the latter parts suffered. Although the ghost ship concept has been in my hopper since the beginning, I actually had to scramble to patch together a last-minute backstory for it. I completely forgot about Dora through the whole thing, and I fear my addled brain wasn’t quite up to the task when the question of her reactions was asked in-game, and I may have made some mistakes there. The cliffhanger at the end was terrible. I hate ending on a “You arrive at this-or-that port” beat—I’ve done that multiple times now, and I need to do better.

Other Stuff

  • I did discuss strategy with the players on our message boards before the game, just to make sure we were on the same page (bearing in mind lessons learned from Generica: don’t trust them to stick to it)
  • Up to this point, I had avoided the unnecessary bother of setting up a watchbill for the PCs, but since I (sensibly, IMO) broke the Chase down into watches, it became necessary to come up with something—and I knew it would take up a non-negligible chunk of game-time to get it sorted, which helped pad the session a bit
  • I had considered that the PCs might want to scavenge the enemy ship, but I hadn’t considered them paying for it, or I would have looked up some prices for cannon. Also, I apparently didn’t plan for them looting anything other than the cannons, really, at all—definitely due to the rush. Fortunately I can sort some of that out after-the-fact on the message boards.
  • Afterward, knowing what was coming at the time, I should have pre-rolled all the NPCs’ Fright Checks, at least, or just come up with some basic fear-reactions for them, individually. As it was, I kinda forgot about them, and when asked about their reactions, my brain lagged a little too much to do it proper justice.
  • I finally got my opportunity to work in a cameo for one of the Twitch followers, “Bruno,” but sadly, he wasn’t actually on Twitch at the time. That’s okay, though—they’ll likely see him again when the Expedition turns south toward Brazil.

Home Stretch

The plan was for twelve sessions, which means there are now four remaining. It’s begun to dawn on me that I need to start wrapping things up for this run, and also, how little actual time I have to do it.

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