GM confidence: 4.6/5. For a session that nearly didn’t happen at all, this one went surprisingly well. My only real complaint is what I would categorize as “normal GM stuff.”
Under the Hood
The Highhorse family is a minor house, and I had not planned to develop it very much until preparing for this session. I needed the house patriarch, at least, and a headquarters. However, due to Ser Kenrick’s player’s decision to pursue one of the princess’ ladies-in-waiting, deciding on the Highhorse girl, I had to build out the family a little more than I had originally intended, just to find out who she was related to and how. But that’s not a bad thing.
I’ve had difficulty researching “ransoms” for nobles, in general, excepting some famous incidents here and there that don’t really apply. The good news: Banestorm p. 41 sets it as “half a year’s cost-of-living,” which is a good place to start. Bad news: for anyone with actual Status, it amounts to a lot of money; far more than I think is necessarily appropriate. But once you have a base to work from, dividing that down to a more reasonable number is easy. The £200 I used was less than the full amount according to Banestorm, but barring any research suggesting a more appropriate amount, I just ran with it.
The previous sessions gave me plenty of opportunities to develop a new technique, what I’m now referring to as “one-liners.” It’s a one-line bullet point saying, in essence, “You see this thing happen.” The idea, as employed thus far, is to decide on a number of one-liners—one per PC, one per story segment, or in this case, just “Rule of Three”—and find some piece of exposition I can “show, not tell” in that one event. Specifically, I wanted to showcase Upton’s overinflated sense of self-importance, so I came up with three (or as it ended up, four) ways I could demonstrate that. It’s not that profound, on the surface, I admit, but I’ve had a lot of problems working this sort of min-event into the narrative in the past, and this has helped organize things for me.
The centerpiece of this session was going to be the combat on the road. Knowing that it would feature charging horsemen, and therefore put Ser Kenrick in the spotlight again, I realized afterward that I probably should have swapped Session 8 and Session 9, to give the rest of the PCs a bit of a break. Definitely a minor mistake.
But the bigger issue with the combat was in my lack of preparedness. I really should have given the mounted combat rules a more thorough glance beforehand. I also should have given the enemy tactics a better review—they should have all been using All-Out Defense during the charge, at the very least. Also I should have tried a little harder to find a way to get all the PCs involved, since I knew some would be left lagging behind—I’ll blame that on the bad week I had, resulting in a late effort. I also felt bad about the misunderstanding regarding crossbow reloading, but honestly, I think this was the first time it ever came up. But I guess it all worked out, in the end.
I had planned for the “bad guys” in Richport to be the corrupt new shariff and his men. But as the week went on, I realized that I would be putting Ser Kenrick in the position to refuse to participate on legal grounds once again. So, I rewired it a little. It was bad enough that Ser Kenrick would have to deal with pirates in the first place—I expected him to make a fuss about that as well. But to his credit, the player has been working Ser Kenrick’s growing dissatisfaction with the Guild for having to work alongside some unsavory characters into his personal narrative.
Now Dustan has been upgraded to “graduated” from the Wizards’ Academy, but the player decided to keep the Duty as-is (presumably for the points). This means that I can keep the pre-rolled Frequency results, but it also means I have to come up with something less “academic” for his assignments.
The “magic sling” is the third of three magic items I had planned to give the PCs, per the usual fairy-tale trope. Given that the last two magic items fell to Dustan, I expected the third to do the same—I was not expecting Murdok to claim it. But actually, it might be better. Murdok is going to do a lot more basic damage with it, at least, and his player is inevitably going to go to great lengths to find uses for it. But given that he’s not really “sharing” it (for now), I guess we’ll see how that works out—I have at least one encounter in mind where it will end up being crucial.
As to the other magic items: The key has a mostly-passive use, and I’ve assumed Dustan is carrying it with him at all times, so that one will come into play when it’s needed. But the mirror—that one will have to be actively used, and as Session 7 demonstrated, the PCs may not think of it when it comes time. So, I’m having to think about ways I can recommend its use without “cheating” (that is, blatantly telling them it’s important).
- I didn’t have any good ideas for what to do with Magister Mintôr’s appearance this time, so I decided to just give Dustan a Plot Point (that he never used), in case something appropriate came up during the session.
- I had given Upton a phobia regarding boats and water specifically to keep them from resorting to traveling by boat, but I don’t remember what the reason for that was anymore.
- This second time using Benstan of Snorrington went better than the first—I did prepare myself a little better. I don’t know why he gives me such trouble at game-time.
- Garak is an obvious ripoff of the character from Deep Space Nine—I figured anyone recognizing that would understand the kind of character he is meant to be. Interestingly, I had originally intended for him to be murdered at the end of this session, but the numerous rewrites saved his life, and now he’ll probably return down the road.
- The “Dread Pirate” is also an easily-identifiable ripoff, but the payoff on that one won’t come during this campaign—it may be a feature in the next.