Monday, August 11, 2008

The City of Kings Pt2 - Onion Skins...

...rather than banana skins. Congratulations to GM Andrew for getting over the difficult second session with consumate ease. I'm not going to go into the body of the game in detail as you can read it on his blog, rather I'll look at some interesting aspects of the game itself.

1. Invisible Skill Challenges.
In the previous session we had been introduced to the 'Win 3 before you lose 3' skill challenge technique. It was very explicit. This time the skills challenges melted beneath the narrative and no mention was made of them specifically. This made for a far less mechanical game and was, I think, better. As players I think it is imperative upon us to maximise our bonuses for skills. When I challenged the Captain of the Grub's Guard I could easily have used my Insight (+8) to size him up first and claim my +2 bonus. I didn't. We're still learning.

2. Oodles of Roleplaying
Thats more like it. Every character now has a voice in the game. The duplicitous tiefling hating Artemis, the blunt instrument of Morn, the cultured ambassador Assamber and the quite alien and pious Azhanti. Very good. I loved the interactions between the characters and the very 'shades of grey' that (mostly) they inhabit. There can only be trouble ahead between Morn and Artemis and thats going to take a little thinking about to stop it resulting in one of us being dead or dying!

3. A City ALIVE, I tell you, ALIVE!
My hat comes off to Andrew for his sheer verbosity and excellence in narration. He never stumbles over his words and never has less than an excellent description of that is going on. He covers all the senses and gives a real spark of life to the setting. The City of Kings lived yesterday. A broken guardtower in the spice district of the market, the derelict sea walls made poor by the Sundering, the deathly march of the Giant's Cradle, the chaos of the Night of Madness, the decadence of Jabb.... The Grub's Lair. It was all excellent.

4. However, too much too quick.
If I had one criticism it would be that the pacing of the nights adventures was too fast. We had individual issues which lead to doing a job for the rebellion which lead to doing a job for the Grub which lead to doing one of two jobs for the Cabal whilst still doing a job for Kyia and whatever else we had left over from our personal stuff. We saw the docks, the Night of Madness, the tieflings, the Cabal, the Rebellion, the Giants Cradle, The Grubs Palace ... it was all a bit of a blur. I missed the Quest sheet from the previous session as they gave these interactions a bit more solidity. I understand that the game needs to settle into a pace of its own and that will mean that the characters need to be established but it was just all quite difficult to take in. Or maybe thats my age!

5. Levelling without Scope
There is one more issue that I would highlight and that is the consequences of the storyline levelling that we are doing. We are aiming for one level per session (or set of adventures) which will see us through the game from 1-30 within say 18 months. One of the issues with this is that the characters are gaining 'power' at a pace. This means that a monster that last week would have caused us problems was now a reasonable inconvenience. The GM has recognised this and has signalled that he intends to 'ramp up the opposition'. This is cool but it doesn't allow us to wallow for very long in our new power level. This means that we have no real handle on how tough we are and we have to trust the GM that the things presented before us are beatable. Next session we have been contracted to either (a) kill the Cabal's Big Chief Bountyhunter Woman or (b) kill her boss. I have no idea whether this is achievable or suicide, because I have no real idea of our capabilities. A little consolidation, occassionally, might be in order?

Regardless, this was an excellent game and created some excellent interactions at the table. Looking forward to the next session a lot - oh, and I got my legendary item as well - the Uber Hammer of Knocking Over!


Fandomlife said...

I'll reply here rather than on Andrew's blog as it pertained to our two characters.

I think the lack of explosion over the Teifling princess (and via her our character's different relationships with her family) was down to two reasons from my point of view:

1. Not getting into killing each other territory (as ideally sending her body back to her father with a message would have been great from my point of view, but probably a step too far in terms of setting up 'conflicts that can be resolved' between player characters).

2. It's a function of how I play, I set these things up, but I don't fully know how they are going to sit with me until they hit actual play. After the session I now have a clear idea who Artemis is, how he relates to the Tieflings, that particular Tiefling family and Kallista.

So it'll be different next time, and I think we'll resolve it without killing each other somehow.

Assuming The Grub doesn't do anything too drastic.

Fandomlife said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention, I like the hectic nature and 'pile it on nature' of the dramatic plot - keep it coming. Don't slow down.

As long as injections of drama between the characters get thrown in to the chaos I'm fine.

AndrewW said...

The pace was a bit hurried tonight, I sort of painted myself into a corner with the timing of the Rebellions ritual which forced everything into a shorter timeframe.

I should probably have left things a bit vaguer to push them back to the pace of plot.

On the strength of the opposition you can safely assume that Darius is well out of your league. He is the leader of the Cabal and therefore definately a late Heroic tier threat unless you do something very clever.

Althea is a much more reasonable prospect although likely to be difficult.

Advancement so far has been one level a session as it seemed like an appropriate "time" at the end of each session. That may slow down a bit, especially if we end sessions in the middle of stuff.

Quest sheets were also tricky this time as I didnt really know what you were going to do or what the outcome of things would be.

I would add one other plus to last nights game. We ran for about four and a half hours with no big food breaks and I didnt feel that the game dragged at any point during it which is good.

Vodkashok said...

Yes. I forgot that one. Although I was hungry by the end of it, it was a good long session.

My concern with the pacing issue isn't actually that things were coming too fast, it was more that I can see the richness of the setting running away from us. In the Grub's lair three of us made ongoing connections with NPCs. I'd imagine that over time that sort of thing is going to happen a lot. I don't want to miss that richness in the setting by burning through it at a pace. Loads of layers of intermingling plot is fine, but I'd like to be able to wallow in that richness as well.

Anonymous said...

I can understand the idea of not wanting to get into pvp (and I support it). However, I trust you as my players to be able to deal with the issue in a less game destroying way.


Fandomlife said...

I always try and approach these things from the view that the whole point is the resolving the of the conflict grows both characters when it is resolved.

That was the thorny issue with last night, I wanted to do something but in a way that promoted the above rather than just created a situation that puts us at a dead end.

I think it will be fine (as long as Kyia is fine overall) as in truth both Artemis and Mourn has lives / future defined by Tieflings, so they have a lot in common.