Thursday, January 6, 2011

From A to Z: Where the Campaigns Went in 2010

Ouch
So let's begin with a bit of an explanation for recent delays-- skip this if you don't care. I managed to injure my right hand just after Thanksgiving from various domestic activities (cooking and cleaning) as well as...well, Wii Boxing. I'd had some previous stiffness in the hand arising from some cysts and bone splinters. However, I clearly inflicted an actual injury on myself over the November holidays, leaving me in some pain. Some nodules had evidently detached and decided to float around resulting in irritation. That, however, was nothing next to New Year's Eve Day when I woke up at about 4am in roaring agony. I essentially lost use of my right arm from the force of pain. I had to desperately try to keep my hand held upward and at an incredibly specific angle or else drive white hot nails into my nerves. My doctor's office was, of course, closed and I knew given the nature of the pain that an immediate care clinic wouldn't help. About 10pm, the pain strangely abated as whatever broken-off bit in my hand decided to float to a new place. Now I'm just in general pain, but not agony. I saw the doctor Monday, got X-Ray and have to see a hand/wrist specialist next Monday. Undoubtedly I'll have to have orthopedic surgery on the hand, which pushes back getting the nerve compression in my right heel taken care of for a little while.

All of which is to say I've been trying to take it easy on the typing.

So I'd like to take a quick look back at the rpgs I ran in 2010, trying to see where we started and end, make some assessments and consider where we're going. After that I'll discuss some of the plans I have for 2011 gaming-wise.

Libri Vidicos (Action Cards; High Fantasy Harry Potter-esque Steampunk)

Sessions: I'm going to estimate that we got in 24 sessions in 2010. I only recall two bumps and most of the time we managed to get the schedule in gear.

Narrative: We started out this real time year with the characters returning to school for their Year Three classes. That was a nice coincidence. The group had just come off of a side-story that ended up taking about three times as many sessions as I'd intended. They also suffered their first real defeat of a kind which made them a little gunshy. Year Three set up several major plot points: the changes to the school's administration following the death of the headmaster; visitors from two sister schools; the student council; and battling against the evil school Codici Malefactus. Interestingly my vision for the course of the plots over the five years has begun to unravel a little based on the PCs actions. What I'd pictured as the central element for this year has become secondary (if that) and other things have moved to the forefront.

In those 24 sessions we just managed to get through the first semester of Year Three and only that by some heavy pushing on my end. We had some excellent bits, including the session where the players visited Codici Malefactus-- but there were some things there that I'd like to talk about in a future post. Some of the characters seemed to me to come more into focus this year, and a couple seem to have dropped themselves back into the backdrop-- one fairly significantly. I'm still working to tie together threads. I'd like to get through this second semester in a much shorter time-- cut a little faster to the key issues and reduce the side story content. Or at the very least keep any side-story bits down to two session or less. There's an irony in my saying that as we begin this year in the middle of a side-story bit: an Arabian Nights interlude that's already run a session longer than I'd hoped. I want to be into Year Four by the end of this year, especially since my original plans for the arcs has shifted-- and those ideas we written incredibly loosely but I have to adjust.

White Mountain, Black River (Storyteller Homebrew; Wushu Fantasy)

Sessions: This is the game which gets bumped the most-- at a guess, I'd say we probably got a dozen sessions in of this.

Narrative: We began this year with the group just returning from defeating the Many Venoms Sect's plot to assassinate Judge Eng. The group returned and began to really bear down and investigate in city of Yanshan, uncovering plots, dressing as the three Fox Ninjas, taking on a wushu brothel and finally battling against the Hell Clan for the secrets of Weapons of the Gods. I finally pulled back the curtain on one of the big plots revolving around the return of Nine Weapons related to a dark God-like power and its three avatar spirits (including the Shark-Fingered Princess, my favorite name in the game so far). The group eventually ventured outside of the city to conduct two different investigations, ride dragons, catching falling star-swords, lure and slaughter ninjas, and finally return home to organize a jailbreak.

Comment: It's still the game which throws me off the most since it does have some heavy mechanics and we do have significant gaps between sessions. I keep thinking that I need to wrap it up and finish the campaign, I've even thought of just ending it, but then we actually sit down to play and we have the best time. It is a funny, delightful group to play with-- I love everyone's interactions. And the genre lends itself to great, over-the-top situations both in and out of combat. I suspect we will wrap this game up this year, but not until we get to a really solid end point with resolution. The game is always fun, demonstrating how great these players are.

Wayward (Action Cards homebrew; nWoD Changeling)

Sessions: I'd guess we had 22-24 session of this over the year-- we had a couple of bonus sessions but also a number of missed sessions.

Narrative: We began the year with the group in the middle of the Christmas holidays, with a great deal of responsibility placed on them as the two Princes had to leave on spirit quests for the season. I'd hoped to put the players into positions of more authority and give them a chance to seize the heroic reins. We end the year only a few weeks in-game time later, something like the end of January. This campaign has always moved slowly-- with a lot of NPC interaction and complex plots that require a complex interaction. The pace has picked up significantly for the better-- we're doing interesting things, it doesn't feel like a clocks ticking and everyone has things they could be doing and are doing. The group's right now working on figuring out how to deal with an adversarial Winter Court which has returned after 20-some years lost in the Hedge. They're now a Court at war with the Changelings currently in power. Other major plot threads have moved nicely forward and some of the real bad guys have been identified.

Comment: I really love this game-- and quite frankly I expect it will keep running through 2011. We had a shift in player line up in 2009 for the better and we had another shift in 2010. It became clear that it wasn't a good idea for a particular player and I to play together and we decided to sever the game playing side of our relationship. I think that was for the best; I certainly hadn't recognized how much those problems were bringing me down and bringing the game down. We added two new players to the game and I'm loving it even more than before. They've enjoyed interacting with the NPCs and the environment, have taken risks, and have been slowly developing and advancing their character's stories and personalities. They've really risen to the challenge-- both in the game and also the challenge of coming into an existing campaign as new players. That's a tough thing to do. But I've learned that it really does work better if you have more than one new player coming in, and with characters who have to be shown the ropes.

Third Continent (Action Cards; High Fantasy with some elements from Glorantha)

Sessions: I'd guess closer to 20-22 sessions. We had some bumps on this one since it falls on Sunday evenings which can be tough.

Narrative: We began with the group back in Pavis, getting ready to head ito the Big Rubble to enter the Puzzle Canal. They did so, over the course of many sessions with some significant detours that revealed some of the major plot points of the campaign. The group returned with some new members and then did some more local political interactions, including working with the Meldeks of the Rubble and destroying a Vampire Cult. They traveled to Sun County to settle some domestic issues, interacting with White Imperial Agents, and then came back again. They tracked down a Godchainer plot which led them out into the Rider Clan Lands, discovered a walking EWF castle which they explored, then over the course of several sessions bargained with the Rider Peoples and stopped the Chainer plots, killing of one of their major enemies. Again back to Pavis to regroup and then off to the edge of the Mythic Mountains and the Great Fallen Tree where they discovered another version of the Clanking City walking around preparing an invasion of this world.

Comment: We lost two players from this campaign; in one case we decided to simply write the PC out so that he'd never actually existed in the campaign. That ended up the easiest way to handle things. We added one tremendous player to the game who really added a huge amount of humor and pathos to the campaign. I don;t think we actually missed a session in the transition. Scott's character, Deeds Unworthy, has the greatest conceit for a character coming into a game late: he's actually always been there but the party keeps ignoring and forgetting him. He's the last follower of a god of being overlooked. He has to suffer through many of his most heroic actions being seen as coincidences or someone else's work.

This game has held together pretty well-- I'm still pleased by how well Action Cards has worked with a high fantasy, high magic setting. The profession Tracks have held up, especially the new ones-- but I have some more work I need to do on those. The magic system is better-- much better-- but still needs some tuning. I like the way damage works with the dice. I do think that we will wrap this campaign up this year. I have a couple of other things I want to run and we are getting to the third dramatic act of the story here. I enjoy the game and the player group we have quite a bit-- even if they do bring too many snacks.

OK-- so already fairly long-- next post will have to deal with other games, future plans, and some assessments.