GM confidence: 4.5/5. Overall, this session went really smoothly, and I had a lot of fun with it. I should be really happy with how it turned out, but a few issues continue to (unnecessarily) nag me.
What Went Right
This was the second session assisted by one of the players from our Friday face-to-face game, Shelley. But it was the first I had approached her with, as it revolved around the character, Rayna Starkweather, which she had originally created (for a separate D&D campaign). Aside from help with the overall writing/plotting, she wrote Rayna’s letter to Ser Kenrick, worked out Rayna’s responses to some situations that would come up, and assisted in the development of the village and its residents. I took a little extra effort with the details in this one because I might possibly run a Generica campaign, or some variation, for the other group, centered around Guffin Hall. Meanwhile, Shelley has continued to assist with the remainder of the campaign run, and I’ve no doubt it is better off as a result.
Once again, I managed to pace the session out quite well, ending only a little short of the four-hour mark. It seems I have properly grasped how much we can get done in one session. But the next couple of sessions will test me, as there will be a lot to pack in.
I tried something a little different this time with regard to the Travel Montage. I had gotten into the habit of late, due to running more sandbox-like campaigns, of breaking up travel into one-day segments (or whatever). But, more recently, I had determined that treating the whole thing as a single “event” might be more efficient, and a bit more reminiscent of how one typically describes a long trip to one’s friends—better for when the daily travel grind isn’t the focus of the campaign. Therefore, in this session, I only had the PCs make one set of rolls for the overall trip, applying the speed bonus to the last leg (where it mattered), and making some assumptions about the rest. This is in addition to the other adjustments I’ve made to the mechanics regarding the effects of those rolls—I’ve back-seated a lot of the math, as unnecessary to the storytelling. Post-session assessment: I think it worked, but I may need to figure out a way to get some of the “color” back into the early part(s) of the trip. It was certainly faster, though. But this is worth a blog post of its own, or will be by the end of this run.
Dustan’s Duty fired for this session. My implementation went through a few rewrites before I arrived at the “big book” idea. The book’s dimensions were based on the “largest surviving medieval book,” the Codex Gigas (AKA The Devil’s Bible). I’m sure the players suspected some shenaniganry, but I was glad nobody suspected (or seemed to) an “oversized” tome. I didn’t think about them getting a cart, though…
I was really happy with the “romance cards.” I had decided that I wanted to let the secret of Kenrick’s/Maykew’s parentage out during this run, and this was an ideal opportunity to do so, but I didn’t have a solid idea how to deliver. It was late in the week when I thought of the cards, and it was just too good an idea not to find a way to make it work. Between sessions, it will be pretty much confirmed for Maykew that Lord Randyl was his father, and although Ser Kenrick won’t investigate further, he “knows.” Then there’s the “bookend” of Ser Kenrick visiting the grave of his mother, and seeing his father’s grave in the same session. It plays well with the “family” theme.
What Went Wrong
Once again, an excessively busy work-week left me a little high-and-dry, come game-time.
The Big Issue with this session: In spite of my success in the previous session, I completely failed the “Show, Not Tell” rule in this one. I realized my mistake as it was happening, but it was too late to fix it. Specifically, I failed by making a show of describing the (admittedly, perhaps, named a little too on-the-nose) Dodgyville as a “hive of scum and villainy,” rather than finding a way to demonstrate that characteristic through interaction. To be fair, I’m not exactly sure how I could have done that, but I should have tried to find a way, even though that description would evoke exactly the visualization I wanted. It was sloppy. It bugs me more than it should, I know.
The next biggest issue: I somehow missed that I hadn’t finished detailing the final battle dialogues or post-battle wrap-up, including the “catch phrase” (the “great fame and wealth unimaginable” bit), until I was executing that part of the game. I had to improv a lot of that, and I hate doing that, especially when that little twitch of panic sets in as I realize my error. Sloppy again. I intended to start improving my dénouements, and this sort of thing doesn’t help.
There were a few other even-more-minor errors…I’d probably call them “normal”:
- I’ve found a tendency of mine, that I will sometimes go into some unnecessary exposition, especially when it comes to the history of a place (Bonnyfield, in this instance), that should either be “demonstrated” (see “Show, Not Tell” above) or left to the wiki.
- There was a near-disaster when the PCs started talking about skipping picking up “the book” until the return-trip—I had planned for that eventuality, should they do so when they met with the scrivener, but not before they even entered the area!
- The fact that I completely missed the first enemy turn in the final combat was unique to Fantasy Grounds, and a result of having Sorcil in the Combat Tracker, “skipped,” during the first fight, and forgetting to undo that later—just a SNAFU.