GM confidence: 4.5/5. Overall, the finale went pretty well. The new mechanics just needed a bit more polish.
This session had an intentionally simple structure: the reveal at the guildhall, the fight down the street, and the fight at the end. I managed to work in elements from nearly all the previous sessions—only the “Paladin Escort Job’ was missing, I think; I nearly had Ser Bryton show up, but the idea came to me a bit late. A strong countdown (the vortex) and increasing difficulty kept a pretty good energy level throughout. Narratively, the campaign as a whole was tied off nicely. From this “broad” perspective, the session was really successful, in my opinion.
Obviously (in hindsight) it didn’t matter if the PCs pulled the trigger on Harmin or not. But I expected either Ser Kenrick or Murdok would be the ones to do so, if it came to it, and that was the case, for honor or expedience, respectively. I had one way to bypass the “rules” in mind, and I was happy that Maykew’s player found it (or near enough); I was in the process of deciding whether or not I might need to prompt someone when it happened. The real trick, here, though, would have been if the PCs had done nothing—that might have been awkward; someone else would have killed Harmin, no doubt, but it would have felt flat. There was a little more “discussion” required here than I might have preferred, though I can’t think of a way to solve that, and I wanted to pad the time a little, at that moment, anyway.
ACS: Combat/Disaster Zone
I tried this the first time in Earthfall. This time I tried to strip it down to only what was necessary. But the mechanics went through many rewrites, up to the last minutes before the game, and I think it showed. I won’t go into great detail here, since I expect to do a full article on the (more) “finished” version in the future.
I started the segment by explaining the rules and conditions, as has been my procedure. But there was so much to explain that I decided, in the moment, to delay some of it until it became immediately relevant—this was a mistake. In retrospect, it’s probably better to let things slow down, and be sure everyone has a full understanding of the mechanics, than to lose energy to players’ confusion (or worse, frustration) in the middle. Lesson learned.
The mechanical basics were sound, and we’ve all gotten proficient with the GURPS Chase stuff and D&D Skill Challenges on which it is based. I made a list of all the Maneuvers and considered how they would work in this situation, but nobody did anything other than “Move” (with the one exception that I had planned for). I laid out the Zones so as to ease the players in, and gradually added more difficulty. I hesitated midway through when it started to look like it might be too difficult, but that turned out to be an anomaly. (And then a day or two later, it sank in that I had missed some other modifiers in their favor anyway.) I replaced the speed and maneuverability “Mobility Advantage” modifiers with “Combat Advantage.” This is the part that got refactored the most, was the most clunky, and also the part that I failed to adequately explain. Aside from the excessive calculations (that should have been done before the game), I encountered an issue unique to playing on a VTT: having to scroll the chat back and forth to gather the necessary info to get those maths done. It didn’t take long after the session before I started to see “better ways” to manage this part.
Other than that, my only real complaint was that, after thinking it might end up being too short, it ended up taking longer than I had anticipated—but not too bad. I thought it felt pretty good, and I got quite a few good data-points for later improvement.
Is this the meat or the potatoes? These guys were intentionally tough on their own, but the environmental factors further limited players’ choices. In spite of that, as usual, the PCs kinda walked all over them. I don’t think I made any real “tactical” errors there, though it might have been better to back up against the vortex and hold there. The PCs (specifically Ser Kenrick) had better mobility, and used it well. I also keep forgetting DB. Also, the dice really screwed me over. It’s too bad we were running too late to keep it going, but my bad guys really had nothing left to give at that point.
Side note: This isn’t the first instance featuring “simultaneous action in the out-of-bounds,” and I’m realizing that seeing an “empty” out-of-bounds area doesn’t result in proper consideration—next time, I intend to graphically represent, or at least, hint at, the other combatants.
- I was thinking of Se7en for Harmin’s entrance
- I worked in a proper Sky Beam™, finally
- If someone had walked the Key into the portal, they would have disappeared, never to return (until the next campaign, anyway, with an amazing story, no doubt)
- It was late in the process when I looked up whether or not a knighthood was ever given to foreigners in the medieval period; it did sometimes happen, though it’s more common in modern times. But we were actually in the middle of the knighting ceremony when I realized that none of the PCs were actually eligible 😛