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RPG Reflections Part 2: The Bad, The Ugly

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See Part 1 of this post here: RPG Reflections Part 1: The Story So Far
and Part 3: RPG Reflections Part 3: Truly, a Role Playing Game

In the first encounter of this session, players began in a town without knowing each other.   To simulate the idea of the players not having any idea where the other players were, I drew a large map on gridded paper of the entire town, then cut it up into small 8×6 areas.  Each player had their area in front of them, and the surrounding areas were only placed when the players wanted to move into them.  This way, as the battle slowly went on, the players could explore freely, not knowing where they were relative to the other players.  The town map slowly assembled and two players actually found each other before the battle ended.

The goal of this encounter was to introduce a desperate situation to characters who might not normally be willing to embark on an adventure with each other.  The odds were stacked heavily against the players with large numbers of Kobolds running about town wreaking havoc.  Ultimately, the entire town was essentially destroyed, with it’s entire population being killed or captured by the enemy.  The players being the only ones left – with the exception of Godre, a utility character to provide some background to the situation and give the players direction – they had little choice but to work together.

Unfortunately, this encounter took far more time than it should have.  The players figured out quickly that the fight was heavily stacked against them.  Though I had written benchmarks for the player’s survival, I overestimated their abilities as level 1 characters.  A few bad roles limited their number of kills, and even though I also had rules to limit the number of Kobolds attacking a player at once, there was still plenty of rolls made against them each time, blowing huge holes in their HP.  The battle could have lasted longer, and potentially some of the players could have survived though meeting the benchmarks, but it was taking too long and so I had to adjust the system.  I just surged the players with an overwhelming number of Kobolds to ‘kill’ them quickly, and get on with the plot.

Of course I had no intention of killing any PC’s in the first encounter of the first session.  They were all revived by Godre and given the plot information and then, technically given a choice of how to proceed.  They could pursue the army directly to the fortress, or attempt to rescue the Town’s female ruler, whom Godre referred to as “our princess.”

I had provided each player with some extra character background and knowledge, and this allowed me to do something special.  Since I didn’t have to explain every detail to the whole group for the players to figure out the best option, I simply presented the choices, and then sat back to watch the Characters argue about which road was the best to take.  Unfortunately, I had made another mistake – providing too much information to two characters, opening up a 3rd path I had not intended until later, and not enough information to a 3rd player, limiting his characters choices.

Fortunately, I got past my major flaws in the first encounter.  Unfortunately, the biggest flaw of the night – the length of the session – carried over through the rest of the session.

I would have just cut it short, except that I had planned this session to it’s particular ending point specifically because, at that point, the players had 4 paths to choose from.  With the limited time I have available, i needed to know which path at the end of the first session, so I could prepare the necessary storyline instead of trying to do 4 at once.  Also, given that the first major encounter was a heavy loss to the players, I didn’t want to cut off right after that.  I wanted the players to end on a victory note with a sense of accomplishment.

If I did it again, I would simply change the initial battle.  I would either have started the plot just AFTER the battle, with the player’s waking up in the Tavern, and just not worried about it – unfortunately sacrificing the “town exploration” element that I’m fairly fond of – or, distinctly cut down on the requirements to survive the battle, give more options for hiding to survive, and cutting down on the number of attackers per player at once.

I’ve also learned to be much more careful about the information i provide each character so that it doesn’t skew the plot in an unfortunate direction.  While I deeply appreciate the value of player choice influencing and swaying the plot, redirecting it so drastically at the wrong time would have hurt the players both in stats and in ability to complete the plot’s tasks legitimately.  Though this plot is branching, branching too soon could have caused plot dead ends that could have wasted a lot of time.  Fortunately, I was able to convince the players, through Godre, that they should pursue something more necessary.

In Part 3, I’ll reflect on the things that I felt went well, and that the players seemed to enjoy.
Read Part 3 here: RPG Reflections Part 3: Truly, a Role Playing Game

Futurewolfie loves epic games, space, and epic games set in space. You'll find him rolling fistfuls of dice, reveling in thematic goodness, and giving Farmerlenny a hard time for liking boring stuff.

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