I never blogged about the last session. Bad player. So I thought I would give Andrew what he always craves and thats thorough feedback in a double session extravaganza. Rather than look at the individual sessions I thought I would look at the game as a whole and see where it is going.
My first observation is that we have a potentially repetitive story structure. In five sessions we have had three where we have had to meet a lot of new NPCs, interact with them in order to attempt to influence their decisions and then end up undertaking a side-quest in order to bring them onside. We did this with The Grub (and the Titan's Barge), the Rebellion (with the quest for the Dwarves) and now the desert clan (with the Denrobi ... or Dragon, as well like to call it in civilisation). There is a possibility that we could face the same with the Kireshi and the Dwarves. The problem I forsee with this approach is that we will simply default to the couple of characters with the accomplished social skills in these situations, sidelining the others.
My second observation comes from the system itself and the sliding DC scale. In theory, the characters gain a steady number of pluses through their levels. However, more likely than not, the DCs increase as well so our relative power stays the same. Wholly, this is part of the system but it does feel slightly ... disempowering? There is a distinct whiffle factor to parts of the game. Daily powers are exceptionally hit-and-miss affairs which takes a lot of their impact out of the play. To balance that, however, we have all identified that as a group we have an inordinate amount of healing and the monsters need to be resilient because well, we are! I do feel for our mage, who does seem to have the most ineffective dice on the planet ... only slightly less effective than Andrews, that is!
The game is developing a pace and a rhythm of its own and thats really strong. It is also developing a narrative signature which is really appealing. Travel happens at the speed of plot, we don't hustle through dungeons - zipping straight to the crucial encounters. The dragon encounter in the last session was excellent with a randomised dungeon, good areas and bad areas and a mo'fo' black dragon that posed our biggest threat yet. It really was terrifying and its mobility, threat range (I hate that extended threat business), breath weapon, stunning roar - can I mention its mobility again? I've never EVER played in a game where movement rate has been so important! It's ludicrous ... in a good way! The dragon erupting through the floor of the temple was an awesome moment. Killing it was even better.
There are, however, a couple of issues here. The first is a failure - at least at these levels - for the game to truly emulate the 'tanking' aspect of MMOs that it appears to attempting to do. My 'threat' of my mark is easily ignored by a monster who wants to eliminate our DPS (the ranger) and there's almost no way for me to mechanically save the guy from becoming a scoobie snack. These things come at later levels - but its buggeringly annoying at this level. The second issue is the perennial 'split' between the roleplaying and the monster smashing. We need to really concentrate to inject that into the game. Even if its just my exasperation at the ranger doing his very best to limp his bleeding bloodied ass as far out of my healing range as possible, it should be displayed IC rather than OOC. The third one - and I am a bugger for this - is denouement and there is nothing that can be done about that. We have a strict time limit now, which is needed and indeed for my benefit. However, it sometimes feels a bit flat when its 'And the dragon dies.... see you back here in three weeks to see how thrilled everyone is!' Thats minor however.
What else could change? I'd like to see quest sheets back because they were a very strong start to the campaign. I'd like to see follow-ons to the quests as well, without it becoming too sandbox. Maybe a couple more magic items? No, not magic items - but in lieu of them a smattering of masterwork equipment. I suppose we could buy it? We are loaded.
My favourite change to this session was the re-flavouring of the mage's spells to ice and water. He now truly is a force of nature and it feels so natural in the context of the game. In fact the amount of flavour that has seeped into the way the rules are interpretted is excellent. It feels like our game, rather than someone else's game we are playing.
Two week break now. Not good. Withdrawl symptoms ahoy!