Earthfall, S1E3, GM Debrief

Session Recap; Stream

GM confidence: 4/5. I was definitely feeling unready, again, but I started to get more comfortable by the end of the week, and I think it turned out reasonably well in the end. I’m sure I’ll probably start feeling confident just in time to end the run 😛

Search & Rescue

Obviously, I didn’t want a TPK the way the previous session ended—you really need to earn that as GM. If you kill the entire party, they should be slow-clapping afterward, not scowling and cursing.

The first half of the session was a new thing for me, and I had to invent a few things to make it work in a gameable way. I used “This Old House” from After the End 2 as a basis for what happens when you get buried by explosion debris. I was a little concerned that the damage would be too much, but I had already declared “no pulled punches” so I kinda had to risk it. I started to go with a “Skill Challenge” from D&D 4e, but it didn’t quite feel right—not a cooperative enough situation—so I borrowed the “Task Chain” concept from MGT2 instead—very similar. I would have liked to have had a few more “flavor” elements to throw in there, but I think I successfully imparted a proper sense of urgency.

I was pretty happy with how the “search and rescue” part went. It was a little like a Skill Challenge, but I felt like separating the results would work better, for no reason I can articulate. I wanted it to feel like I wasn’t cherry-picking the NPCs’ fates, but I did employ a bit of smoke-and-mirrors via a dummy “status” table with only “KIA” results, so I could force the parents’ deaths—for dramatic purposes. That would have worked better if the Fantasy Grounds tables functionality included an “elimination” ability, to remove already-rolled results, the lack of which caused me to have to jump some hoops at the end. Fortunately, it all worked out. I wish it had occurred to me to check Disasters: Hurricane for the use of the dog during SAR beforehand. Oh, well…

First Real Combat

This combat wasn’t arbitrary. It was intended to give the players a better idea what they’re dealing with. But when it came time for the fight, the tactical situation suggested the PCs would wipe them out with little fanfare, so I added a couple more bad guys. Then when the PCs started missing, initially, I became concerned the inverse would be true. But again: “no pulled punches,” so I pressed forward. Although the fight functioned as intended, I do think, in the end, it was a little too “static,” and made the enemy seem “tactically careless.” Afterward, I do regret having not been a little more aggressive, and some of the sloppy behind-the-scenes management. But at least now I know what the PCs can handle.


  • The escape ended with fewer tag-along NPCs than I expected, but more vehicles. I have to make sure Robert’s inevitable end, down the road, is properly memorable 😛
  • I’m feeling good about the cliffhanger on this one.
  • Next session is going to settle the question of the PCs’ next destination. Given the difficulties the players had in understanding what I wanted from the Objectives, I feel pretty safe in guessing where that will be.
  • Working on the campaign, I’ve been playing catch-up the entire time, due to RL work issues. Fortunately I’ll have an extra week to potentially get ahead, for once.

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