It’s been a while. We’ve played a couple of times in the meanwhile, but nothing really report-worthy. A virtual TPK with goblins in the Pagan Mountains, the pain on my players’ faces as they were forced to give a powerful artefact into the hands of their nemesis (Bwahahaaa). Got some nice involvement there. But a lot of hack and slash in the dwarven tunnels that had been overrun by goblins.
Now they were rested up and healed (except one of the dwarves, who took a permanent wound to the guts, reducing his Agility) and free to use the dwarven tunnels allowing them to travel safely through the mountains to Glissom.
There was some scene setting – basically it’s grey and wet – and then into a completely fresh set up for our group. Firstly I need to explain the constellation; our group is essentially my family (wife, two twelve-year olds) and a neighbour, all of whom have only ever gamed under my GMing and are relatively RP-naive.
So far our style has been relatively classical – I’ve defined the quest and set the breadcrumb trail that leads them through it. Yesterday we handled differently; the goal is clear, they need to get their hands on a powerful artefact in order to defeat their nemesis and protect Albion from his power. They know that the artefact is (or at least was) in Glissom, but that’s all. I started by having them look over their character sheets, to remind themselves of their characters’ Hindrances etc. and then had them articulate their characters’ non-quest hopes and fears for their time in Glissom. Then they found themselves being turned away at the city gate: no armed riff-raff here!
So they had to work out how to get into the city and then get the lie of the land. I had a few set pieces prepared, a shed load of NPCs, re-read the “Prince of Darkness” notes on Glissom, invented a few bits to fill in the gaps and drew a few maps of parts of the town, dockside, market square etc. and left them to it.
Getting into the city was no problem once they’d left their gear on a farmstead with one of the party, but they’ve had to leave their precious arms and armour behind.
The preparation paid off, they went to all the ‘right’ places, interacted with some of the NPCs, had some dramatic moments (witnessing a woman’s husband being carted off by the town militia) and some comic ones (Wee Mad Maggie accosting them each time they cross the market place and feeding them a wild mix of truth and rumours when they cross her palm with silver). They came up with some good ideas of how to go about finding out what was going on, used their skills well and have made some allies and a notable enemy.
What they haven’t done yet is come up with a concrete plan on how to attain their objective, though chatting about this over dinner they did have some good ideas.
My preparation paid off as it let me be a bit flexible without getting stressed, which is something which has happened in the past with game-affecting consequences. One of the best pieces of advice had to do with understanding my NPCs rather than necessarily planning every action in advance, looking at the “why” rather than the “what” (thanks UmbraLux). Another bit that stuck was Thasmodious’ “Say Yes”, encouraging the PCs’ solutions rather than blocking them just because I hadn’t thought of that particular solution. There might be some consequences for this in terms of what happens next, but I think we can run with it.
I think what I particularly enjoyed was their picking up of clues and coming to the right conclusions, albeit not immediately – I’ve been able to communicate the overall situation by suggestion rather than reveal. The flashes of revelation and understanding have been fun to watch.
Biggest challenge so far has been keeping my son engaged. His knight didn’t see any action as it was the non-combat Skills that came to the fore, though I suspect that this might change in two weeks’ time when we carry on.
Apart from the Dragon Warriors source materials on Glissom, I found two resources to be very useful in preparing the city and its inhabitants; firstly Zac S.’s excellent “Vornheim: The Complete City Kit” and secondly Johnn Four’s free “NPC Essentials“. Also a discussion on transitioning from railroad to sandbox on the Savage Worlds boards helped me to get my head round a couple of points, particularly in terms of NPC motivations.