GM confidence: 5/5. This session went really well, by all accounts—good energy throughout. Since I don’t have much to complain about, I’ll touch on some of the behind-the-scenes processes.
Dustan’s Duty to the Wizards’ Guild appears on a “9,” which means it comes up a lot. The previous occurrence was a little underwhelming, in my opinion. I wanted to do something a little different this time, and I came up with the “conflicting choice,” which became the decision to encourage or prevent the Antagonese prince’s rescue of the princess, in order to tie it into the mission. This might have been good enough on its own, but I wanted to make it a little stronger.
Rank comes with an assumed Duty, though it can occur “whenever I feel like it.” I employed this in two ways: the PCs’ collective Duty to the Heroes’ Guild (by having Válaris promise to get the job done), and Lëodan’s Duty to the Rangers/Druids (which was also an opportunity to illustrate the rivalry between the Druids and Wizards, and their political machinations). By having the other PCs’ firmly established in the pro-Heroes’ Guild camp, Dustan’s decision is especially difficult, as it should be. By involving the king and the heads of the respective guilds, it gives the whole thing more gravitas—an appropriate rise in stakes for the last quarter.
During the process, I found myself leaning toward making this a “group” choice, but pulled back—this is a Dustan problem.
I’ve been itching to get a proper Chase in this campaign. I almost had one in Session 8, but it didn’t quite work out; it would have been very similar. In this case, the distances involved didn’t lend themselves to the default “range bands”—”miles” (or another linear measurement) could have served that purpose well enough, but time-based measurement helped reinforce the “countdown.” I eventually decided to give the Antagonese party a head start and have PCs catch up to them, rather than an equal race off the line, to give it a little more uncertainty. (Plus I expected the PCs would blow past them anyway.)
As far as I know, the 1d6 roll for Research “hours” in Action2 is the only place that mechanic is referenced, but I’ve started to gravitate toward using it in these “ambiguous timetable” spots. I thought it worked brilliantly here, combined with Plot Points and whatnot, plus the addition of Extra Effort to the Chase itself.
I just really liked how it all blended together, and it seemed like the players liked it, as well—I’ll definitely try to use this in the future.
I needed to properly introduce the prince as a douche, and drive home the need to get to the princess first. I expected there would be a convergence with the PCs somewhere along the Chase progress, which should occur at the end of that day, given how the mechanics worked. But it was possible the PCs either wouldn’t catch up, or pass them up in an inconvenient manner, or just choose not to stop near them at all. I did have a number of backup plans in mind, but I was fortunate to not need them. The original plan was a “barroom brawl” situation, but that required the players to make certain decisions or mistakes that couldn’t be counted on, and I didn’t want to pack in a combat segment at this point. Waygon’s “insult” was the perfect solution, and I frankly expected the PCs to make a fool of him the way they did (though I wouldn’t make it easy). I was prepared to “pull the trigger” on Waygon if they failed, but as a paid-for Ally to Maykew, I would have been forced to intervene, somehow (which I expected to involve Ser Magnus).
Given how the last fight went, I wanted to give the PCs a properly dangerous adversary. I ramped up the mooks’ armor considerably, and some of their capabilities—shields are normally a PITA to defeat—but I held back on their numbers, thinking it might be a little too much. The PCs went through them way too quickly, but to be fair, they could easily have been beaten back. I don’t feel like I made any real mistakes, tactically. Honestly, the players got lucky with their rolls versus the enemy’s rolls, and some good tactical decisions gave them a much better advantage than I expected. In retrospect, I should have gone with 1.5-2× the PCs’ number. One thing I need to look to for the future is some “reasonable” armor-piercing capability, and I’m pretty sure it’s been a while since any of the enemy have had ranged support—just one sniper would have changed the tactical landscape considerably.
The Boss, Drago, on the other hand, would probably have killed a PC or two if they had stuck in with him, but he was always intended to slink away (or take a fall and disappear), for reasons that should be more-or-less obvious now.
- I was on “staycation” all this week, and I used that time to watch a lot of crappy medieval-fantasy TV shows, scouring them for screenshots and ideas. I got a bit rabbit-holed looking for locations in the castle in Merlin, which I’m using for Castle Royal in the game.
- I had Shelley (from the Friday face-to-face group) write the “myth” of Burnithrax and Summoner’s Rock; her version was a bit longer and grander than my “condensed” version.
- An audience with the king is a scene I’ve wanted to do for years. It was a shame that Murdok’s player was late, though, as I’m sure his presence would have made it a lot messier for them. Also, I totally forgot to make them roll Savoir-Faire.
- Dustan’s Patron, Mintôr, also triggered for this session. I was tempted to give a Plot Point again, like last time, but I decided to give him some useful mission information instead, along with using him as an excuse to remind the player to use the mirror—I was a little concerned they might not think of it. It’s a shame I couldn’t figure out how to make his “advice” in that regard a little more obscure.
- This was the first encounter with Nefarian forces, also a long time in the making.
- They just rescued a princess from a dragon; but the princess is in a different castle.
- One downside of this campaign style is the lack of cliffhangers, with the lone exception of the two-parters. It was really important to end this one at just the right moment.