GM Commentary: Banestorm, 3×03 to 3×06

Well, as is too frequently the case when I’m GMing, I start out updating this blog, then end up letting it slide because I’m more focused on the game itself. Since I’ve published last, we’ve had four more sessions and are now going onto a three-week (minimum) hiatus due to X-Mas absences and the like. Anyway …

Episode 3.03 ended up just being the continuation of the caravan battle that started at the end of .02 and, naturally, went longer than I expected it to. One PC and one Named NPC went down into the negatives, but overall, it was a solid win for the PCs. That said, the battle itself should have ended a bit earlier than it did but I have a horrible tendency to get tunnel vision during these sorts of things and played it out until the last bad guy was all by himself and ran away. I also moved forward the intended “manastorm” – think a storm of wild magic – to the end of the session principally so I’d match the boiler plate image at the beginning; this is due to my erroneous expectation that the caravan battle would end much sooner than it did and the PCs would be on the road again rather quickly.

This led to episode 3.04 which was one of those sessions that looked better on paper than it turned out in play. We were expecting one player to be out – and it was the guy whose PC was incapacitated during the fight – but he showed up anyway, even though I had rejiggered my original plan with him and gave it to a NPC. Ultimately, this was a mixed up marshmallow mess of a session that didn’t work exactly like I wanted it to. Regardless, they pressed on and reached Dulihiban, an oasis city-state they found to be deserted.

In episode 3.05, the PCs investigated the city and had an encounter with a trapped djinn. I “borrowed” heavily from the initial Shadar Logoth scene with Mat, Perrin and Rand in The Eye of the World but threw in a djinn spin. Thorn’s player actually stumbled onto a ‘victory’ condition that I had not truly anticipated, but I went with it. Further, Brum failed a Greed self-control test and snatched what turned out to be a cursed object; I asked him if he had any ideas what it might be and he returned with a “mirror of evil duplicate” or something like that. So, 30 days later in game time after this incident, Evil Brum is gong to spring forth. Amusingly, I’m not actually sure if my game will still be running then. We’ll see. 🙂

Which leads us to episode 3.06 which I ran on Saturday. There, the characters met with Zat al-Dawahi and interesting/amusing things transpired. For Zat al-Dawahi, I borrowed liberally from Stargate (with the goa’uld voice reverb) but also Soulcatcher from The Black Company series where her voice changed in mid-sentence (so it would start off as a woman, then become a man, then a different man, then a child, etc.) which is all sorts of creepy. I also threw in her casually dusting (ala Thanos snap) a handful of dudes principally to Worf them so everyone knew exactly how crazy powerful she was; this would have worked better if I more effectively relayed exactly what was going on. At the last minute, I threw in a neat idea I had about the lead guy who was dusted dropping a knife that buried itself into the stone floor … and Ismir’s player immediately super-focused on that.

Haruki straight up failed a Savoir-Faire (High Society) check while talking to her and decided he would keep openly referring to her as Oni or Demo; this resulted in her telling him flatly to no longer address her thus and Haruki found that he literally could not speak to her in any way but polite. She ended up with his opal owl thing and provided them with guest-right before vanishing. The PCs were led to baths and here, Ismir’s player surprised me again: the women (Ammerah and Zyanra) were being led to a separate wing and, based on previous sessions, I expected Ismir to raise a stink about needing to accompany Lady Ammerah … but he didn’t. This wouldn’t be the first time in this session that he surprised me either.

Once bathed, Thorn went through the window in his assigned room and began exploring, though he was teleported back by Zat al-Dawahi when she joined everyone else for dinner. When she revealed that Ammerah was also in the visions brought on by Haruki’s owl, I let slip a djinn weakness that I don’t think any of the players picked up on, that once Zat al-Dawahi “saw this Thing” she would be “forced to see it done.” I sort of envision that as like a Celtic geas or how Fae in the Dresden Files books cannot tell lies. Zat al-Dawahi then announced that she would send Ammerah to Finn in the morning before poofing away again; here, Ismir’s player surprised me once more by not actually arguing against this. In fact, he almost seemed to have encouraged it. We’ll see if that remains the case the next time they see her and Finn…

In the morning, Ammerah was sent through a Gate which visibly drained Zat al-Dawahi (although, she might have been faking that; I haven’t fully decided yet), and she withdrew to recover, leaving the PCs to explore the city. Ismir opted to remain in the citadel and spent a bunch of time essentially “attuning” himself to his magic spear, and Aramis’ player was super silent as normal, so nothing really happened with them; I wish I could find a way to incorporate Aramis more, but his player doesn’t give me much to work with. Brum’s Secret (that he’s a spy for one of the dwarven kings) triggered a while back but I delayed it until now because it just didn’t make sense then, so I stuck a dwarf who he knew in a cage in a slave market and let him make the call; we determined with reaction roll that the two don’t like each other and the asking price for the slave was crazy high. Ultimately, though, Thorn ended up sneaking (Critical Success!) and picking the lock (another Critical Success!) to free the dwarf after Brum and Haruki withdrew. Time will tell whether this is a good thing or bad – I’ll probably leave notes for the next GM about this.

The PCs left the following morning to take a missive to one of Zat al-Dawahi’s foes who happens to be Zyanra’s former owner (after she was captured in battle). We ended with that and an “epic tracking shot” of them travelling.

3.07 will cover the week long travel time – I’ve yet to decide if I’m just going to fast-forward through most of that by declaring its a Montage … I might use the 13th Age travel montage thing here, where we go around the group with the players describing stuffs. So it’d go like this:

  • GM: Okay, after a week of travel, you reach the City of Ten Thousand Delights. PLAYER 1, Describe a problem that the party faces as they travel.
  • PLAYER 1: Blah blah blah.
  • GM: Okay, now PLAYER 2, tell us how your character did something clever or awesome to solve this problem.
  • PLAYER 2: Blah blah blah.
  • GM: (Embellish as necessary) Nice. Now describe another problem or obstacle that the party encountered after that, PLAYER 2.
  • PLAYER 2: Blah blah blah.
  • GM: PLAYER 3, tell us how your character did something clever or awesome to solve or evade or just get around this problem.
  • Rinse and Repeat.

Like I said, I haven’t fully committed to that, though I am kind of leaning that way, at least for this bit of travel just to test and experiment. Hmm. I could maybe combine that with the idea of skill challenges. Something to consider…

I’m also going to have to formulate the information that Zyanra knows about her former (and much hated) Master. Fortunately, I’ve got at least three weeks … although that might be a problem in and of itself because I’ll prevaricate and postpone until its almost too late.