Redacted 3, GM Retrospective

It’s taken me a while to get to posting my post-run thoughts. But finally, here’s the story of how the run of Redacted 3 went.


The conditions at my workplace that led to the design of this “simplified” and shortened campaign run suddenly ramped up, just as it was about to kick off, such that I nearly postponed. The ripple-effects of that added pressure continued to be felt throughout the run, which suffered a bit as a result—not necessarily ruined, but less than it could have been. Six sessions turned out to be the right length, and I was as exhausted by the end of it as I normally am after twelve. I ended up doing quite a lot more research than I expected, and not nearly enough scrutinizing of the plan, maps, etc.

As previously mentioned, my original intention to run this as a “dungeon-crawl on a ship” gave way early, by in-the-moment necessity, to a more traditional “railroad” narrative. Without the narrative rails having already been laid, however, I had to scramble to put the next set-piece fight in front of the PCs and maneuver them towards it. Thankfully, it worked. But a prepared, deliberate narrative would have been more efficient. If I had to do it again, I would build that narrative from the start, but then again, I might now have enough knowledge to make the dungeon-crawl actually work, so who knows?

That said, the rest of it seemed to come off pretty well. The overall tone, theme, and tempo all seemed well-received, and the players went along with the flow nicely; they “got it.” I only had to be reminded to be “cinematic” a couple of times. I ended up awarding a lot of Bennies, and the players actually used most of them—that mechanic definitely got a workout. Aside from some much-discussed behind-the-scenes issues, my only real complaint was that I failed to work in the proper boss-fight I wanted.

Lessons Learned

  • I think the most important lesson isn’t really a lesson, so much as a reminder: I need to figure out what to do with “Quick Time,” as I’m now referring to that mechanical gray-zone between “combat time” and “out of combat time.” It is a frequent situation that desperately needs some sort of practical organization, and one that I have yet to find a satisfactory answer to. I have proposed various solutions over the years, but I’m thinking about researching how it’s handled in other RPG systems to see if I can find some inspiration.
  • I didn’t have a problem with how the “wagering” worked out, though it could have benefited from a little more prep-work, to figure out odds for various expected situations. But it wasn’t popular with the players; they didn’t seem to know what to do with it. This is something that needs to be “their idea” for it to really work properly, I think. I probably won’t use it again unless it’s requested.
  • Achievements were well-liked, and served their purpose: Players were encouraged to “get creative” in an attempt to trigger new ones, and they came up with some of their own. This will definitely get used again, though there is the question of whether or not I should keep the existing ones or wipe them all out and start over next time.
  • I used BAD a bit more than usual in this run. The per-session raising of BAD seemed to work. I’ll probably use that in the future. It was around mid-run that I started making some notes about when I should use (or should have used) it; that will be available for next time.
  • This was the first “real” use of Fantastic Dungeon Grappling. As expected, it got used quite a bit in the first session, and fell out of use after that. I’m happy with how it turned out, but we’ve identified a few holes I should probably fill before next time. Also, we really need to come to grips ( 😛 ) with how choking/strangulation works—every time it has come up, it’s gotten awkward.
  • One of the casualties of my lack of time and/or motivation was the self-discipline required to review the combat maps beforehand. This bit me in the ass multiple times, and as mentioned in previous posts, is something I consider “inexcusable.” I can’t let that slide in the future. That said, I did apply the actual ship’s dimensions to the hex-grid on the main deck map, but it never quite “looked right,” and I’m still not sure why—bad information, maybe? In the end, I think that having it “look right” is actually more important than being accurate.
  • I need to remember to “Keep it Moving” at all times, especially in a campaign like this one. It dragged in places because I let that slip. Related to this: It wasn’t until the last session that I realized the utility of going in media res to deliberately circumvent having the players waffle about what to do next, and that’s something I will definitely keep in mind for later.

The Future

I think a return, for Redacted 4, is a near-certainty. This time with a new enemy, and hopefully, a proper boss-fight. But depending on how my work situation goes, (a) I expect it may be a long time before I’ll even consider running anything again, and (b) when I do, the situation may have changed to allow a more “traditional” (that is, less combat-focused) campaign style. So, we’ll see…

Other Stuff

  • Final casualty count: 55, including dead and KO, but does not include off-screen or “the helicopter” (I had originally decided there would only be 50 terrorists aboard, but I realized quickly that it wouldn’t likely be enough 😛 )
  • Only had one player absence this run, but that meant I got to try out my “punishment”
  • This was my first time using Fantasy Grounds Unity’s animated graphics feature—for the ocean map, and the “24” clock graphic; I had to find an app to convert them to MPEG v8, but it did the job without too much fuss
  • My plan was to have one hour of game-time pass per session, but that changed to 30 minutes in the course of play; so noted

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