GM Confidence: 3.5/5. Some good. Some bad. I would say it was a disappointingly sloppy start, but not an utter failure.
For a campaign designed specifically to reduce my usual workload, it certainly involved a lot of prep-work. Fortunately, a lot of that was up-front, and I won’t have to do it again, excepting some cleanup here and there. As usual, I was scrambling up to the last minute, getting graphics together and re-writing notes. On top of that, we got off to a really late start due to some scheduling issues, and we ran late to compensate, which may have turned out to be somewhat of a mistake. But we did get in a couple of practice combat sessions with the characters (in their unfinished state) in the weeks leading up, which smoothed things out a bit when the fighting started.
The First Half
The first half or so was all setup. This is typical. Aside from the obvious purpose of orienting the players, it gives me a chance to re-acclimate myself to my role—I tend to go for rather long periods, sometimes years, between runs. That part went well enough.
I expected that the “unusual” concept, the wagering of Bennies, would garner less than full participation, and that was the case. But one bet was placed, at least, and paid out in hilarious fashion. I expect that, for the next session, there will be a little more activity to that end, now that they’ve seen it work. But it would help to put some more ideas out there, and I need to pre-plan the odds for some likely scenarios. I decided at the last minute not to give out a free Benny “for wagering purposes only”—I didn’t feel like it would really help. So far, so good.
The Second Half
When we finally got to the meat-and-potatoes of the evening’s entertainment is the time when it all started to unravel.
For starters, I didn’t think through the lead-in well enough. As a result, the timing got a little weird: Is this combat-turns or not? How much time has passed? How far did they move? At least there are two PCs with Impulsive who made predicting their responses fairly easy, so I didn’t have to twist their arms to get them involved.
The real problem was the map, or lack thereof. I was starting to realize my error while I was dealing with the aforementioned “timing” issues. This was the one set-piece fight I could guarantee would occur, and I knew that from a very early stage. I had been thinking, for the months leading up, that I really needed to scrutinize the intended combat area and figure out what I needed to do with the mapping. I didn’t. I’m not sure why. It turned out I also could have benefited from having some additional images of the scene on hand, to give the players a better understanding of the geography—I had plenty. This mistake resulted in a last-minute, half-assed attempt to paint the picture well enough the players could understand. I suppose the attempt succeeded well enough, but it could—should—have been much better.
The fight itself actually went pretty well, overall. But since we’d run late, I had to wrap things in a spot I hadn’t intended, and with my brain somehow addled by the late hour (I guess?), I just couldn’t process how to close it out properly, and made a right mess of it. Honestly, I should’ve taken a short break before closing it out, to give my brain a chance to catch up.
Even so, it wasn’t all bad. Here are some highlights:
- I was really happy with how the characters turned out; there is enough variation to set them apart, and it was fun to watch them do their thing—they each got their chance to shine. I did notice how they managed to cover for each other without really “planning” to—good teamwork.
- I finally got that “proper” use of Fantastic Dungeon Grappling, and it actually went pretty smoothly, no doubt, due to the test-fights we did on previous nights.
- They went through quite a few Bennies in this one; that might come back to bite them as the BAD gets higher.
- I put the last bad guy in the lifeboat overhead as a midpoint twist, which was fine, but I really didn’t think through when he should appear, so he showed up a bit late.
- There was only one instance of a player throwing the “this is supposed to be cinematic!” flag; better than I expected 😛
- The players seemed to like the Achievements. I’ve got over a dozen currently lined up, most of which I have graphics for. I’ll add more as I think of them (assuming I have the brain-cycles to spare).