Friday, March 11, 2011

During the session - An Ayurth game report

I have been taking the players through The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh and its been going well so far I have tweaked it a little a to make it more my own, but mostly we have been able to play through it without very much adjustment.

Some funny little window dressing items have take on a life of there own. For example the town and the town council have, in an effort to improve the towns image initiated a campaign to change the towns name to Sandpoint in an effort to attract more settlement and trade interest.

The setting is also more feudal then your typical egalitarian D&D setting. As a result class is important, however it is less ridged then a true feudal system. Essentially there is a recognition in the main culture of a mans merit so if one can contribute significantly noble status can be bestowed. Additionally there is also a cultural bias towards the "good Samaritan"  and the what the culture calls the "Virtuous Vagabond" very much like the WuXia in Chinese folk lore or the Gunfighter of the fictional American wild west.

So we have gotten to the pause between the House on the Hill and the Seafaring smugglers. As my aim is to try and develop a Sandbox for play this was now where the players had to step up and start scouting out the milieu. They struggled at first - having fallen into the modern story driven all work on the DM mode of game play so the session bogged down a little and I needed to prod and goad them into staring to investigate the surroundings of Sandpoint.

A players map is indispensable for this purpose. So as they went, I gave them a very rudimentary map to go by, while trying to have them develop it further. Sandbox play of D&D is new to them in many ways and taking the initiative for the story and the direction to take the story in, is some what of a struggle for them yet.

This is where the wonderful wandering monster table comes in. Essentially the more the game bogs down the more rolls you send in the direction of a random encounter and the more likely an encounter becomes. There is an art to weaving the encounter, into the emerging story, I have found. Essentially I don't roll and go "AHAH roll initiative" what I actually do is roll and find out what it is and then seed it into the developing narrative.

This is I'm sure common sense to many reading this. My own experience as a player shows this is not the most common way of handling wandering monsters. They become in the hands of many GM's a very arbitrary and mechanical, game artifact. A jarring part of the game.  It should not be like a "Spawning" monster in a video game. Something that just "pops" into existence (although some creatures can do so and in those cases its a bit different e.g. blink dogs and phase spiders).

I find this quite odd to reflect upon as techniques like "foreshadowing" - an essentially part of managing the narrative when introducing a wandering monster are often seen as "advanced" DM techniques....

I'm going to go back to my "Good Game Mastering" and other GMing guides and re examine some of  the assumptions around game mastering and the tool kit and see if there are other areas where I need to reconsider and adjust my thinking.

We also, as I suspected, started to find out more about the 100,000 - the gods- this session. We found out more about the Lords of Light and the Elder Gods specifically and even a little about the Night Lords. How did this happen? It was mainly due to the involvement of an inquisitor which is working with the local Baron (I wonder why....??? :-P ) we found out that while he worshiped the Lords of Light his personal patron deity was "Illumen" God of Light from Darkness, Truth, Learning and Wrath. We already knew a little about "Selene" the Moon Goodess, goodess of Dreams, Peace and Wisdom. We found out about Tenebrak a Night Lord and nemesis of Illumen and his fellow Night Lord Da'kess although little is know of them. 

The concept of the 100,000 is to be very inclusive with the gods. I'm not sure which we will include and exclude or how powerful or significant any god will be during the present age. This gives both the players and myself a lot of flexibility.

Lastly, I'm having a lot of problems with the sleep spell. We are using a type of casting roll/spell point system - with the spell points effectively being hit-points rather then the traditional Vance like fire/forget spell casting. I tinkered and play tested it a bit before introducing it - it has some similarities to the spell casting used in Pax Fortuna and in Sovereign Stone. Even so we are seeing Sleep as the tool for every problem and its not siting will with me. I'm now thinking of making Sleep more like hold person only the targets are asleep rather then paralyzed. 


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