Monday, August 10, 2009

Campaign Updates 8/11/09

Quick overview of where we're at in the various campaigns. I'm up to four right now, not counting the off-and-on game for my niece, the pick-up Supers game, and Crux (Exalted) which is on hiatus.

Libri Vidicos
We finally moved into the last sequence for Year Two. The first year of the campaign took about a year real time. This one has taken longer-- so since this is thematically based on Harry Potter, I'm getting to the Rowling book bloat a little early. I had a number of sub-plots hanging over from Year One plus the new material I brought in for this year. That ended up compounding some things-- I suspect I'll try to be a little less overenthusiastic in the next campaign arc. I also did a number of side stories that took more sessions than I thought they would.

As well the players significantly affected the flow of the story. We had more time well spent with various NPCs since everyone had a better idea of who they wanted to talk to and what they wanted to do. They also shifted significantly the course of things- figuring some plots out early and changing how events rolled out. That was good- I want the players to feel a little like they're in the genre, which is a literary one, but also know that the story isn't fully written. Bad things which could have come down the pipeline never materialized. Some storylines didn't seem to be as important, so they became sidelined.

At the same time, there were some things I didn't get to do as much with as I would have liked to. I wanted more Wickets and Imps, more chance at the club stuff with Kenny and Scott's characters, some more school events, the contest to matter more and so on. Quite a bit of that will hang on for next year. I am pleased that we did get some major shifts to the status quo: a better explanation of the Codici, revelations about the school, deaths/vanishings of some NPCs that had a strong impact on the players. We're set up for some pretty radical changes for next year.

A good deal of these last couple of sessions has revolved around those changes. Scott activated and pushed forward the bad guys' time-table which limited their plans. The group was forced to fall back on their wits and sacrifice their efforts in the school play to stop a threat facing everything. They fought through levels of the Etherplaces surrounding the school. In the course of that they finally met face to face with Dave's father and got some answers about his relation to Dave and to the school.

In the final confrontation they were able to put a huge stop to some of my enemy combat plans through some careful coordination. That allowed them to avoid risk to some student NPCs caught in the middle. Still some of the plans unfolded and while they rescued some of the NPCs they lost the Mistress of the Wards and the Headmaster. Last session revolved around the funeral and fallout from that. The new Headmaster was appointed, who has made her dislike for their House well known. Still other instructors who they'd forged bonds with stepped up to defend them as well. It was a fairly heavy info dump session-- and one I imagined would end the year.

The PCs have other plans- and want to provide underground events to take the place of those canceled in for the last weeks of a truncated semester. So we'll play out those hijinks next session. Of course, there will also be finals so they will have to add that into their calculations.

Changeling: The Lost

Changeling moves forward-- we're almost at the one year mark (next session will be number 24 out of the 26 of a full year). The players have made their alliances with the dual courts and started to try to find their places. I've finally been working with some of the Fetch plots as well. They dealt with Shari's fetch, but with some fear that the threads left over from that might come back and bite them on the ass. Mostly what's been going on has been NPC interactions and trying to get a feel for their place in things.

One PC got himself involved in an underground fight club, while another gained access to an old Changeling Workshop. Another has gained a position leading potentially to taking up some of the archivist role, while another got to play detective. We had some good scenes and interactions there. The session before last we had Sherri's character dealing with her Fetch and its potentially dual nature. It mimics her as a sick child, making her parent's lives really tough. At the same time they discovered that it may be eating the illness out of other sick children in the hospital wards. That was a strange session as we had some body language and play I associate with players bent on destroying the game. The other players commented on it, and I decided to keep an eye on that.

However the next session was much better. We had a little investigation, but primarily an extended combat with a fairly credible threat. All the players got the chance to really have the spotlight in the fight with high drama and action. Everyone took damage, some pretty heavily. But they managed to fight and win against superior odds. Some of the credit for the session going well has to be given to Will who did a nice job “traffic managing” and organizing the approach at the table. I was really pleased with the session, as I said to everyone after.

Of course the next day we lost two players when the crazy mask came off. That was especially bothersome given the stress and work of the last couple of months. On the bright side the remaining players seem energized and ready to move forward on the campaign. I'm looking forward to getting more individual table time for everyone and I'm hoping it will all turn out to be for the best.

I also made the mistake of playing narrative chicken with the players. One of the core mystery plots for the game is the death of the person who rescued them from the Hedge and brought them into the real world. At the beginning of the campaign they found him dead. I've been putting little clues out, but nothing big. That's a fairly long term plot arc. Anyway, I asked Will, Shari and Sherri if they had any questions and Will asked: “Who killed Mr. Charlotte?”. I said, “do you really want to know?” which is my typical answer for players who ask those big questions. Will shook his head, eventually.

Then Sherri said, “I know who killed Mr. Charlotte.” I, of course laughed at her, because I haven't given them enough information yet on that. “So tell me,” I said.

“The same person who killed Dr. Bargosian,” she answered. That was another NPC who'd died some time before they entered the scene.

“That doesn't tell you anything, you don't know who killed either of them.” I was pretty pleased with myself. “Who killed them?”

“Lord Burn's driver.” Sherri said.

Those of you who know me also know that I don't have a poker face. I clapped my hands to my mouth. I've been told that I then leapt to my feet and shouted obscenities at them, much to my visiting sister's amusement. I may have stormed out of the room-- I don't recall. Eventually I walked back in and asked how the hell she knew that. Sherri carefully walked through a list of bullet points, tying together each and every clue I'd given out-- scattered and then culled from gameplay and hundred of pages of emails-- in which he only appeared a handful of times.

I was floored and pleased. I always want to play fair with those kinds of mysteries, so there's a certain pleasure to seeing people connect the dots—even if I hadn't believed I'd put enough out there for them to actually discern a shape from them. Pretty amazing.

Dammit. On the plus side, they have no tangible proof and no sense of motive, but they do have a direction now.

Third Continent Game
Still pretty pleased with the course of that. We've had two satisfying combats back to back with everyone having a chance to do some great stuff. The damage system for Action Cards still seems to be holding up to the stress test, but we'll see how that works as we move further into the campaign. We've got some social/cultural interactions coming up next session as well as potential dungeon delving should they decide to go that way. I know they have a couple of ideas on how to bring the mythic into it, and I'm looking forward to seeing how that plays out.

Wushu

We introduced Brandy and Dusty's characters to the table and moved the plot forward from the last big write up I did. They reached the city where the tournament is going to be held and met some other NPCs. They also had a chance to see some of the tensions within the various Wulin Orders (The Holy Society and the Righteous Party). I did a little set up there including the suggestion of recent murders which (from Scott's analysis) clearly have a supernatural bent.

Most of the session was devoted to some two-on-tour tournament preliminary combats. I did that to give the two new players a chance to see how combat works. That particular set up is actually kind of weakness for the system-- as I think it works better en masse or one-on-one. Dusty did a nice job of analyzing a couple of the potential weak points of the mechanics, which I'm always glad to see. I'm going to make a couple of minor modification and try to keep careful notes so I can make adjustments. I have a bonus session coming up this Saturday night for that.