Sea Dogs, Chapter II:V, GM Debrief

GM Confidence: 3.75/5. Honestly, this session went relatively well, overall, but it began to unravel a bit in the last hour or so, and ended on a bit of an off note (to me, at least). Those nagging postgame regrets prevent me from calling this session entirely “good.”

Continued from last session

This session was, in essence, a continuation of the previous. The narrative plan for Havana had been mostly sorted out some weeks ago, and I was just running through what I had left over. The things that worked well in the previous session continued to work well: The “narrative vs mechanics” separation being the most important. There was a bit of commerce in there, which went relatively painlessly, now that some SOPs have been established (or re-established).

One point-of-interest in the “good” category is the use of the “Romance” stuff from Social Engineering for Payne’s “Lady Amira” narrative. Specifically, this came up as part of the “day 3” segment at her father’s townhouse, where Payne had to decide whether to continue/advance the relationship or not. Mechanically, it fell to the “Building Trust” and “Courtship” subsections (SE40), rather than the earlier subsection on “Romance” (SE28) that pertains to “short-term” operations. I sorted out all the mods beforehand, and his roll would be heavily penalized for a number of factors. But he rolled a 4 anyway, on a skill for he was already master-level. On her Will roll to resist, I allowed him to use Luck against her, and one of those rolls did legitimately fail. His success and her failure meant she “accepted”—if he were proposing marriage, she would have agreed. Her Loyalty, as a result, at 1d6 + 15, ended up a 20. It couldn’t have gone better, for him. This is outside the fact that, given her deception (the details of which have not yet been revealed), she would have appeared to agree, regardless of the results. Ultimately, this will have lasting effects, as the player has decided to take her as an Ally+Dependent.

A point-of-interest in the “moderate” category is an issue with Spenser’s Secret (He was a mental patient in Bedlam), which had fired for this session. The disadvantage to the Disadvantage ( 😛 ) is in having to actively suppress or prevent the discovery of the Secret, and the conversion of that Secret to some other undesirable condition should that attempt fail. Unfortunately, the end result of the other PCs discovering his secret probably wouldn’t amount to much in the first place—so what if he was crazy before?—and in the instance where I was finally able to work it in (via his Absent-Minded trait), there ended up being far fewer PCs present to react to its revelation, and the one that was present blew it off as “ramblings,” so there was really nothing for the player to do about it. Although I consider the failure a minor one, it is a failure on multiple points: the consequences of the revelation of Spenser’s Secret are not really “dire” enough to qualify (which I had never fully processed until now), and I failed to present a situation where its revelation had the necessary impact. It’s too bad, as the last time it fired (on St. Kitts, in S1E09), the response was quite amusing, and appropriate. So, who’s to blame here?—ultimately, the GM will always be, in such cases. In the meantime, the player and I have discussed some potential rewiring of this element of his character.

A point-of-interest in the “not so good” category falls under some old advice I typically give and/or follow—”know your players.” In the case of Rogers’ (new) player, I’m finding I don’t really know him very well, and I have done a poor job of predicting his role-playing behavior patterns. I keep expecting him to get help from the other PCs, and then he doesn’t—I’m getting wise to this one. I failed to properly motivate him to help Rodney recover his “treasure”—but I knew this might be a problem beforehand. He has taken some surprisingly “reserved” approaches to situations where I’m used to players being overly aggressive—something it took me years to learn to expect. A good deal of the session’s unraveling toward the end was, directly or indirectly, the result of decisions he made for which I wasn’t quite prepared. Some of those decisions resulted in events getting pushed down the timeline, or not occurring at all, throwing off the timing and causing the session to end in a weird spot. Of course, I don’t consider this “bad behavior” on the player’s part, just a typical challenge the GM has to overcome.

After-the-Fact Epiphany

Too late, inevitably, I keep thinking of ways I could have made situations more dynamic and interesting. I should have had the Havana authorities on a city-wide manhunt for a British spy before the PCs got there. At the spy-tavern, I should have had some high-ranking Spanish officer start talking to Rogers like he knew him, or maybe recognize him as British and harass him a bit. I should have had someone either competing with Sir Randel for “Amira’s” attention or actively trying to expose her as a fraud—there was a little at first, with the drunk nobleman, which I could have expanded upon a little more. Maybe next time.


  • This was week three absent Davino’s player. He should be back for the next one.
  • Apparently, after the session, I found out that Madame Cassandra never actually told Spenser to not trust Damian Rush, because the player never asked her about him—but I did have it in my notes. Oops 😛
  • Spenser never ended up asking anyone about the “crazy man” in the square because he didn’t want to hog the spotlight, which is too bad, because the answers to those questions might have revealed a little more about WTF that was all about
  • The session, again, didn’t end where I expected, and as a result, the cliffhanger was a bit “meh”—and the session a bit short
  • Next session is going to be another sailing segment; I have to apply some lessons learned from session 3, and break up the crunchy bits a little better

Leave a Reply