GM Confidence: 4.25/5. Despite seeming rather disorganized behind-the-curtain, I actually have a hard time identifying things that went wrong in this one.
A Fine Mess: Averted
It took me the better part of the week to identify the problem with what I had to-hand for this weekend’s session. I had a scattered collection of situations/encounters in mind and no real thread of connection to chain them all together. The problem: None of the PCs, other than Payne, had any actual objective to pursue, and therefore, for me to frustrate. I realized, rather late, that I needed to give them something to do; ideally, something that they can share, and not have them split off all over town, like they had done in Havana. Bringing in Hooper’s “Big Ugly Guy” from Harbour Island allowed me to call back to that incident, and draw in as many PCs as weren’t tagging along with Sir Randel, along a plot-thread that had not, until then, been adequately incorporated. It took me far too long—up to the last hours—but I worked out what the bad guys were up to, such that the involved PCs could follow them around all day, if needed, and sorted out their response should the PCs attempt to confront them.
I knew the above would take a good-sized chunk of session time, with all the usual plotting and sneaking about. Adding to that, I needed to backtrack a little, once again—which I hate—to clarify the other “Day One” stuff I had skipped to get to my desired cliffhanger last week—another chunk of time, there. I decided to go ahead and get the question of the Expedition’s extended itinerary out of the way, which was necessary for me to be able to properly plan for the future, and would also take a big chunk of time. Having all that together made me feel a bit more comfortable with the inevitable ass-pullery that remained. I didn’t have much of a plan for directing traffic, so I expected the events I had would end up “out of sequence” and connected in ways I hadn’t intended.
Ultimately, the result wasn’t as bad as I had feared. The decision for the PCs to overnight at the same location as the rest of the crew made it easy to loop them all in as needed. The individual situations—broken up to try to keep from spending too much spotlight time on one PC—flowed together with little fuss.
Sir Randel is the obvious primary focus of this segment of the campaign occurring in Campeche. But I have to do what I can to prevent him from taking up all the spotlight, while ensuring this still feels like “his time.”
Having the week to decide what to do about Ned Long’s surprise-arrival kept the player from taking too much time agonizing in-game over what to do about him. I used Inara to help mitigate some indecision regarding the letter, by taking the opportunity to demonstrate her quality for the future, and taking the decision off his hands—something I’ve been doing more, these days: using an NPC to keep the players from fussing too long over problems that don’t deserve it.
Having highlighted the realities of his financial situation last week, there was some discussion during the week about what the player was willing to do about it. We agreed that, if this part of the journey is a success, the character’s empty purse will be a temporary problem. I wanted the sale of the schiavona to be part of their first encounter with the Watchers. But I hadn’t quite figured out how to incorporate it yet, as it wasn’t part of anyone’s Treasure Map, Secret, Enemy, or whatever else, and I couldn’t justify telling them outright the nature of the “better sales opportunity” that awaited them some (undetermined) distance down the road. After some digging, though, it turned out it actually does fit one such story element, so its introduction would solve several problems at once. While the amount offered sounds like a lot, it actually wouldn’t last Payne more than a month or two, at his Status level.
Gordon Reade is a plot thread dating back to the origins of this campaign—2008 if I have that right. I had cast Alan Rickman in the role back then as well, which I decided to keep, though I knew it would bias the players toward believing him, rightly or wrongly, to be the Bad Guy. It’s needless to say that I’ve been excited to finally get to introduce him, and what comes next. But there’s a great deal of uncertainty between here and there—not unlike this session. We’ll see what I can make of it.