GM Confidence: 3.5/5. I’m really conflicted about this session. On the one hand, I was severely under-prepared—the worst yet—and the session was a bit of a mess, behind the scenes, as a result. On the other hand, it ended up where I wanted it, overall, and was enjoyable.
Mistakes were made…
The combat encounter
I was having a monumentally hard time getting motivated to work on the campaign this week—I’m clearly hitting the point of burnout. At any rate, I decided to kick it off with the combat meant to end the last session—a legitimate decision on its own merits, though I knew it would take up a big chunk of the session, leaving me with less to plan for afterward.
Even though Davino’s player was out this week, Davino needed to report on his encounter with the Rokea at the end of last session, so I had a moment reserved for it. It was very late—that is, early Saturday, a few hours before the game—that it occurred to me that it would make more narrative sense to begin with that segment, rather than have the PCs fetched to him after the combat. I failed to think through the potential consequences, for instance, what might happen if any of the PCs decided not to go back to the hacienda… When Rogers’ player did just that, it threw me completely: One man short in the combat would mean they would be more seriously outnumbered, so I’d need to scale back the opposition. Scaling back the PCs and the opposition meant the fight would take less time than I had allotted. Leaving that PC out of the fight meant the player would be thumb-twiddling on the sideline for the duration, and I hadn’t prepared a surrogate. Had I more time, I might have come up with a way to get them all to the hacienda, together. After a brief recess, I couldn’t come up with a better plan, so I decided to just lay back and let it happen. Despite some minor technical oopses, the combat went entertainingly enough, though not so much for Rogers’ player, I expect.
Operational Security (OPSEC)
Again—I didn’t realize until too late that we had not had any sort of discussion of whether or not the Expedition would be maintaining any level of secrecy regarding their situation. This was fine, up to the point where they really needed to cooperate with someone, and I started to struggle, trying to nudge them in the direction I was better prepared for—which is always bad a GM move. I was fortunate, as I suspect the players may have picked up on this fact (subconsciously, maybe), and helped keep things on track.
At some point, when I started to tally the progress of the PCs’ (unwitting?) investigation, I wanted to be able to tell them what they had deduced, but it hadn’t occurred “naturally” at the time. For some reason, I started asking questions in a clumsy attempt to get them across that line. I really don’t know what possessed me to do this, and I knew it was a bad move as the words were coming out of my mouth. I’m sure the players were scratching their heads, wondering what that was about. I just moved on and pretended it didn’t happen—there was a bit too much of this in this session 😛 Regardless, as it stands at the end of the session, they have more-or-less successfully deduced all but one of the questions: Where (that is, where the bad guys were hiding out)—which they don’t need unless they intended to actually hunt them down.
Other than that, it actually went pretty well, I thought. I ended up adding a day to the layover time at the end, because it made sense to do so, even though that wasn’t part of the plan. But it did allow me to have Hayden make his Death roll before they stepped out, and the results…well, it was bound to happen. (I realized afterward that, although we had discussed an auto-death on a Critical Failure at some point, it wasn’t what was written down, and therefore, what was agreed to. So, we’ll have to “clarify” next time.) Now, I have three more sessions left, so I’ve got to find that motivation somewhere, and get the photo-finish the season deserves. Meanwhile, I’ve got a plot-hole or two to fill.
- Both Claude’s and Davino’s players were out this week, so a chunk of content intended for them has to be delayed (more)—I may be doing a little catch-up next week.
- The original plan for the combat, here, was a simple “lone assassin enters each room” bit, but I thought that would be a little boring; “arson” felt a little more like a terror-attack, and would avoid less combat-oriented characters from getting out of their depth, plus adding to Ned Long’s modus operandi worked nicely with the overall narrative. The risk of fire, and slippery surfaces, added to the overall difficulty without raising the bad guys’ skill levels.
- I’ve had a hard time finding where GURPS has any information on putting out fires, but I finally located something usable in GURPS Vehicles (3e) p. 185, and the bottom of the sidebar—not that I ended up needing it
- I still don’t have a solution for handling “social encounters” (like interrogations) in a manner I’m satisfied with, but I keep trying to find one