GM Commentary on Session 6.05 and Prep for 6.06 (Adventure Climax)

Full recap here.

We were down Woo’s player for this session due to illness, but pressed on. Ultimately, I consider this session an overall success although, of course, there were things that I could have done better.

 

 

Before I even get started, some commentary: I’ve been making my through Matt Colville’s Running the Game stuff on YouTube lately and it has proven to be extremely helpful, even for a guy who has been GMing off-and-on since around 1986 or ’87. One of the things he’s commented on is not telling the players what their characters are thinking and man, I am really, really guilty about that. Just as important is his commentary on trying to overprepare – his video on railroads versus sandboxes using the Hobbit book and the Lord of the Rings books is very good. This caused me to intentionally underpreparing for this game (as far as I was concerned.) And the end result was quite effective.

I started straight away with Colin and he had two effective “encounters” here, neither of which were stated out very effectively. The first one – the troll – was intended to be simple and left way open to the player to see how he handled it. I also used this NPC to drop the first real hint that Colin is a Changeling with a comment that “you’ll have to choose soon,” which the player noted and intentionally stated that “later, Colin is going to note that remark and wonder what it meant.” Following this, we moved into the Dragon encounter and, as before, this was mostly just winging it on my part. I did have GURPS: Dragons open on my laptop (specifically p114 and the Ossian entry) but apart from a single PER check, I didn’t have to refer to it and we instead just had a fun back-and-forth. As before, I left this wholly in the player’s hands as to how he got past the dragon and it became an amusing roleplaying bit. In the end, Colin made a ‘pinky swear’ to return with instructions on how to access the lairs of cinematic dragons … and since he’s basically in the Nevernever, this will definitely come back and (possibly literally) bite him in the ass, which the player knew.

From there, we jumped to Sofia and played out her encounter with the Denarian. This was basically me remembering that she has Weirdness Magnet and it is a -15 point disadvantage. The player rolled with it and then played up her character’s Curious disad without hesitation (or really, even remembering she had it; I think Players themselves have Curious with a control roll of 6 or less.) This has also set into motion a future plot element as the player is going to actively seek out the NPC that the Denarian met since she now considers OKC “her city” (said in a Batman or Green Arrow voice.) Neither of us are really clear where Sofia’s son, Matias, has informed her that his dad (her “late” husband) has been turned into a vampire, so we went with her not knowing until now.

The final scene jumped to Lee as he was racing to “rescue” Carter based on that “vision” he had. Once there, he got into a gunfight and did a lot better than either I or the player expected – there were some really lucky shots on his part that dropped two of the bad guys early on. He then joined Carter and Woo where I revealed to Carter’s player that the refrigerated aspect of the facility slowed the single burning zombie guy down to the point that it wasn’t a fight, it was instead a shooting range. My thinking here was that Carter & Woo had just been in four major fights back-to-back so they needed a breather. Honestly, I wasn’t a big fan of how I handled this final bit: I had to point them toward the site of the adventure climax and just wasn’t clear enough with my notes. This was definitely a case of ‘should have prepared more’ unlike the above interactions. I’ve also set up that local SWAT is unavailable due to a training exercise that the PCs boss arranged, which both active players found suspicious. They’d think it even more suspicious if they bothered reading the prose stuff I wrote for the post-previous adventure run but I digress…

As stated, overall I was happy with this but an interaction with Sofia’s player after the fact confirmed one of my thoughts: I’ve kept the characters apart too long. This was always intentional – “Clean Slate” was always an experiment to see about keeping the PCs apart, then converging upon the final location – but her comments about the players running mook bad guys more than their actual characters this adventure definitely confirm to me that I should have tried to get them together more quickly.

So all of the PCs (including Colin) are converging on the final fight location and now I’ve got to figure out how to best handle that. Originally, I’d intended on trying to direct Colin toward something so as to collapse the estate’s magic wards but one of those Matt Colville videos reminded me that doing so would basically be removing the player agency so instead, the wards are going to be collapsing because he’s stepping through the Gate (which he already opened.) Now, he’s going to emerge through the Gate and be in the estate already where he’ll find all sorts of imprisoned people/things, including the wizard that Sofia is here to rescue.

Normally, I’d try to figure out how the players act – Jack’s player has already indicated an intent to do recon with his magical “pay no attention to me” cloak which could really end up biting him in the ass … or the neck, as the case may be – but rather than do that, I’m currently just thinking of establishing a timetable and then let the PCs screw it up in whatever way best suits them.

So the timetable will kind of go like this:

  • OSBI guys arrive, implement whatever plan they have in mind. See above reference to Jack sneaking in. I’m kind of hoping he does do this because I’d love to have him trapped in a room with a bunch of vampires who all individually detect his presence by various means (the Jades can sense his breath, the Reds can smell him, and Diana Raith is just awesome) so he’s just about to panic when BOOM!
  • While this is happening, Sofia may note their arrival and plan implementation. Then as she is putting into action whatever her plan is, she feels the estate’s wards simply collapse.
  • Colin arrives via the Gate, finds himself in a cellar with cages big and small. I’m not going to push him to free anyone but all of the captives begin pleading for freedom. And then, he feels/hears an explosion.
  • The shooter bad guys that the OSBI dudes have been dealing with throughout the adventure arrive and attack in force, complete with an explosion (how? TBD) that blows open the gate. They pour in, shooting.
  • It promptly becomes a wild free-for-all, a three-way fight (Vampires vs Shooters vs PCs) or four-way if Sofia hasn’t hooked up with the OSBI guys … and maybe a five-way if Colin has freed things (including Wizard Montjoy) in the cellar.
  • In the course of this free-for-all, Sofia MUST come face-to-face with her “husband” … is he still classified as her hubby since he’s technically not dead? Irrelevant. If she kicks ass, he’ll bug out by sacrificing some mooks (maybe diving behind one so her fire attack takes it out?) If he kicks ass, something (probably Colin; more on that later) will prevent him from finishing her.
  • Woo encounters a Jade Court vampire(s) and unconsciously “activates” his Iron Fist equivalent. I’ll probably have him roll a Will check, then ignore the results using the whole “that result was what I needed.” I may delay the activation briefly and force him to make multiple Will checks, but when the power activates, he gets to hit his Jade Court vamp with a 5d cr attack (probably a jump kick since the player has been trying to find a way to do one since the adventure started); this becomes 20d vs that vamp since it is Chi-powered and they take x4 damage from those. It’ll also drain his FP significantly so he can’t do it again, but simply this one strike causes the other Jades to bug out.
  • Colin is going to end up with a magical ring (Ring of Solomon, probably) that “Chooses” him; it’ll double his Magery level (to 4) but can’t be removed and is Willful. I intend to wing it and figure out how it comes in his possession on the fly. At an appropriate moment, this ring FLARES UP super brightly, incinerating some vamps (since this is Old Testament magic here) and throwing some PCs and NPCs around. It sucks all of his FP out which, I believe KOs, the character.
  • SWAT (led by OSBI PCs boss) shows up. The Boss will later reveal that they’ve been tracking the shooter group for several weeks, but PCs may not buy this. At this point, the fight will mostly be over, so I’d like this to happen when I still have at least an hour or so to go in order to do adventure wrap-up…

What happens to Montjoy is currently unclear and will probably remain so until the big fight; I’m thinking of letting Colin’s actions basically determine whether this guy lives or dies. Similarly, Auric’s fate will depend upon Sofia’s actions – if she gets exceptionally reckless or something, I’ll either kill him or grievously injure him.

Beyond that, I expect this entire scene is going to be a hectic mess to run … which is probably appropriate given that it should feel like a hectic mess. Ideally, I want the PCs to really drive the narrative of this fight, with the chaos of it swirling around them while they go forth to accomplish their personal objectives. In a lot of ways, this is going to be more of a Mass Combat than a regular tactical encounter … hmm … maybe I should look at that book again to see if I can steal the “Significant Actions” thing.

Time will tell…