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You Only Live Twice: Espionage RPG’s and Gaps in the Genre

June 10, 2011 3 comments

As I still struggle to return to Marrakesh with my players (as I talked about in The Selfish GM), I thought I’d run something a touch different. That is to say, a mix of Ocean’s 11, Casino Royale, Inception, and the Italian Job.

Armed with a playlist of the soundtrack from those and a few other movies (notably The Dark Knight and Tron), I ran a variation of Andy’s “City Lights, Late Nights, and Encyption Chip 416,” detailed in his upcoming Pendulum supplement for gamemasters. Emphasis on the variation, as I did not have the time or fortitude to roll not one, but two pre-gens for each of my players.

Because I already had eight at my table. Ha.

Systematic Sampling

Fast, Furious, and Fun

The first decision I faced concerned the system itself. Because I had some experience running and playing it at college I defaulted to Savage Worlds, its simplicity seeming all the more appealing in light of my very full game table. It should say something that I was able to create eight characters in just two hours or so, though admittedly I had the Savage Worlds Character Generator at my disposal.

Unfortunately, there is such a thing as being too simple, too streamlined. Where I wanted–even needed–complexity, I was on my own. A prominent aspect of the adventure involves hacking into the casino’s servers to disrupt (or divert, depending on your alignment) a mafia funds transfer, but I had little to no resources to draw from the Explorer’s Edition. I didn’t want my tech-savvy players to resort to rolling and re-rolling Knowledge(Computer Use) every round while their compatriots started a fire-fight.

I needed something more.

A Little Game about Spies, Crooks, Missions and Heists

Going off a strange gut feeling, I decided to stop by the online store of my favorite game designer, John Wick, and see see if there was any material I could use for “City Lights.” Sure enough, he’d recently released Wilderness of Mirrors 002, which was just what I was after.

I tore through the 20-page PDF in half an hour, and was really impressed with a lot of what I saw, but couldn’t think of a way to adapt the material to Savage Worlds quickly. The system runs on a dice pool of d6’s, much like Houses of the Blooded, with the Virtues translated to areas of Expertise. What I really loved about it was the concept of players designing their own missions and being rewarded with more in-game bonuses for every layer of difficulty they added. Requiring a Source for the information regarding the mission’s plans provides an easy lever for Operations (codeword for the GM) to pull when the need for a complication arises.

But this ability to plan your own mission, as well as the concept of narrative control (remember Privilege from HotB?), is a hard concept for new gamers to grasp, and for some old-hat role-players as well. “What do you mean, we don’t roll to get the GM to talk more? We have to decide what we do ourselves?” is the usual reaction, replete with deer-in-headlights faces.

Finally, I wasn’t sure if my players wanted the cutthroat nature of the system. In addition to assigning a leader for the mission based on whose skills are most relevant to the task at hand, Ops designates an agent to be put on “abeyance,” meaning he or she was disposable, or perhaps even needed to be eliminated. “Trust” dice are given to players who are actively sabotaging their teammates. Ops included. But does the leader really believe that the agent earned this status? Yet, it’s the only way besides from using up the limited mission points to get more dice for a particularly risky action…

Sadly, it was already 4:00 and I had a game to run at 7:30. I’d have to put Wilderness of Mirrors 002 on the backburner, hopefully to playtest another day and review it more thoroughly.

Beyond Espionage, Beyond Military Mayhem

So I turned to Spycraft 2.0, albeit too late in the game. Clocking it at 500 pages, this is a hell of a tome. You want complexity? They give you complexity. With twelve spy-related classes to choose from, there’s more room for specialization than I’ve seen in most other RPG’s. This makes sense, because espionage is a highly-specialized profession, and this book is dedicated to it and it alone. And so they have fully-developed rules for arbitrating complex technological and interpersonal “skill challenges,” ranging from chases to hacking to seduction. This was what I needed.

I printed out the cards from the PDF and gave them to my players when they were racing against the double-crossing agent Esquire to hack the bank transfer first. We couldn’t use the Lead mechanic outright, though, and I had to halve the modifiers for use with Savage Worlds, but they gave the process a level of realism and a measure of spice we wouldn’t have gotten from Savage Worlds alone.

Up and Coming to the Genre

As I was researching systems I came across Mark Meredith’s own espionage game, Pointman, Hacker & Thief, but it was still in the design stage. Those interested in the system have brought up a lot of good suggestions in a thread over at the RPG Table Talk forums, and I’m looking forward to see what he brings to the genre. Perhaps he can even fill in a few of the gaps I found while running my heist game on Tuesday, namely, bringing the locations to life, integrating actual gambling, and devising a stealth mini-game that’s both tricky and fun.

Gaps in the Genre

Location, Location, Location

Part of what sticks with the reader from the Bond movies are the exotic locales he visits. The underwater battle in Thunderball, a Russian satellite station in Goldeneye, the Ice Palace in Die Another Day, and the floating opera stage in Quantum of Solace. Wikipedia estimates he visits three countries per film, with sixty countries on his passport in total. Bond gets around, same way he does with his ladies.

Location should matter mechanically, too. Ideally it’d be nice to have a couple of classic (inspired by movies and books) and new backdrops for GM’s who are feeling the time crunch to drop down and use with little prep. Each location would affect dice rolls in a number of different ways, taking a cue from the Fortune and Despair cards recently released by Wizards of the Coast. For instance, in certain Central American countries American and British agents would get negatives to any charisma/diplomacy type rolls, but an increase to streetwise (to find illegal goods) and thievery (because the police force is absent/corrupt). Maps, features, and maybe an NPC contact or two would round each entry out nicely, and would make the book they’re included in worth the money.

Included in location would be time. I know I’d certainly love to see Edwardian, World War II, and Cold War spy scenarios or skins (re-named guns, gadgets, and the like); bonus points if the settings are distinctive to the time period, such as the RMS Olympic, 1940s Berlin, or a Russian nuclear submarine, respectively.

I can suddenly see a Pendulum-style spy adventure jumping between a past and present version of the same location, as players learn the terrible truth about what was thought to be a satellite accident as past agents, and then dealing with the modern ramifications in the present…

But no high-class world of espionage and intrigue is complete without a few cards, cocktails, and casinos.

Hit, Split, Double Down

Though by no means is a full-on manual necessary, gambling should be treated in some detail in any spy game. Blackjack, Craps, Monte Bank, Texas Hold’em–the list goes on. Then you have horse-racing, sports-betting, even the stock market, for all intents and purposes. More than just briefly describing what it is and how it’s played, a few examples of how to integrate the game into the plot would be excellent. Similar to how Bond wins Dimitrios’ car in Casino Royale, using gambling to reveal information, characterize major villains, and potentially turn the tide of the plot heightens the risk–and the stakes–for the players involved more than any single die roll could ever do.

Luck in the Shadows

Better yet if one could figure out how to integrate gambling into a mini-game/skill-challenge, the same way certain magic is handled in Deadlands: Reloaded: you’re essentially playing poker against the Devil to see how effective, or how botched, the spell is. The skill challenge that needs it most, I think, is stealth. I have yet to discover a way to have my players sneak around with the same tension as I felt in the Metal Gear Solid games (though perhaps adding the exclamation point sound would elicit a laugh or two). No cardboard boxes need apply.

My instincts say that you’d want a map for the player to feel like he or she is moving around tactically, instead of just making stabs “in the dark,” though I could see the blue-moon “blind” mission providing a good deal of tension, especially if it stands out from the rest of the stealth challenges. This is another place where the systems could shine, by giving us a few tiles of corridors, rooms, and surveillance/security devices to rearrange and create a unique map. Otherwise, the best I can think of for us GM’s is to pillage our Prima guides for video game level maps, which may or may not be recognizable to some of our players. Certain maps, though, might hold a level of nostalgic appeal. The Oblask Dam level from Timesplitters 2, for instance.

Alternatively, an abridged version of a strategy game like Chess or Backgammon could make a particularly complex infiltration mission more fun. Really just anything to break up the monotony of opposed stealth and perception rolls. Maybe there’s a system I’m not aware of that already has something like this? If so, I’d love to know.

Wrapping it Up

On the one hand we have hyper-complex systems like Spycraft, and on the other, rules-light like Savage Worlds and Wilderness of Mirrors 002. Where do we find a happy medium, with rules enough to make for challenging stealth missions and hacking attempts while still running a game that moves at the same brisk pace of our favorite spy movies? One with exotic locations and memorable time periods that affect gameplay and that integrate gambling into the plot itself. With upcoming releases like Pointman, Hacker & Thief, maybe we’ll get to see some of these genre gaps filled.

Gods for a Highlander

May 31, 2011 1 comment

With Eric and my characters in Le Morte de Mordred both having pagan gods in our backgrounds, I thought it might be fun to flesh them out a little more, replete with alignments and domains for Dungeons & Dragons 4e, along with suggested classes and builds to fit. The names are Scottish Gaelic, though you could make them more or less Irish, Welsh, or Saxon according to your taste or setting.

The Greater

Alluidh-boireann

Moon Den Mother
Alignment: Lawful Good
Domains: Life, Moon, Protection
She who howls the moon into the sky, who counts the months, governs the cycles of females and childbirth. With her consort Alluidh-geal, the Silverwolf, she leads her pack, raises her young, and defends against any who would threaten her territory or den. She is also the harsh mother, known to kill pups if they won’t be able to make it on their own. But to those who make it she is fiercely loyal, and would lay down her life for her young if need be.

Winter is her season; the solstice is most holy to her. When the sun has retreated and snow blankets the land, it is to our dens that we return, to spend time with family, and it is the moon that brings some comfort and light to the longest night.

The devoted might wear an animal claw or tooth as her symbol.

Suggested Classes: Any Primal class, especially Wardens, Shamans, and Druids, but also Beastmaster Rangers

Iolair-bhuidhe

Soaring Sun Father
Alignment: Good
Domains: Freedom, Skill, Sun
He who flies high, sharing the sky with the sun, unbound from the earth and keen in sight. His golden wings are the rays of the sun, the ripening wheat fields, the warmth of life itself. And yet, he also is a bringer of death. The golden eagle is a peerless hunter, swift and precise in the kill. He is the best at what he does, and serves as an example for all to follow. Freemen and craftsmen are his, and those held in captivity or darkness pray to him for release.

Summer is his season; the solstice is most holy to him. The sun is at its zenith, the long days providing the farmers and craftsmen extra hours for their work. The fields are full of beasts and the earth’s bounty, ready to be harvested by those who have the skill–and drive–to take them.

The devoted might wear a brown feather or golden disk as his symbol.

Suggested Classes: Any Martial class, especially Fighters, Rangers, and Warlords, but also the Bard

Sailetheach

Stag Star-bearer
Alignment: Unaligned
Domains: Arcana, Fate, Wilderness
The white stag is the one who carries the stars in his antlers, walking across the entire world from dusk to dawn, that they might see the deeds men have wrought, both good and ill. He cannot be found except by those who are not looking, in those remote places of the wilderness rarely touched by men, and in those whose pure hearts still beat in time with the land. As keeper of the stars, he is privy to their wisdom, whispering all that they have seen in his tufted ears, and portents of the future besides.

The transition seasons are his time, the spring and fall equinoxes when life itself is in a state of balance. To those with the knowledge, stars are tools of navigation, be they for journeys of the foot or soul.

The devoted might wear forked twigs with tiny glass pebbles as his symbol.

Suggested Classes: Any Arcane class, especially Cosmic or Wild Sorcerers and Fey or Star Pact Warlocks, but also Seekers

The Lesser

Nathair

Shadow-stalker Serpent
Alignment: Evil
Domains: Change, Darkness, Poison, Trickery
The Greater gods did not deign to give her a place at their side, though shadow should have been hers. Cast out from alongside her brothers and sister, she has lain in wait, plotting their demise, waiting for the time to strike. The black adder is often hidden, waiting to bite the unwary adventurer, and let her venom do the rest. Sneaks and thieves pray to her for luck in the shadows, and apothecaries look to her to perfect their poisons. She is the patron of the traitor, the lady of turmoil, and the consort of darkness.

There is no time that is hers alone. She is always there, lurking out of sight. Moonless nights are her time, and eclipses are her high holy sabbats.

The devoted do not wear a symbol, or they might wear another god’s, so as to not be marked as hers.

Suggested Classes: Any Shadow class, especially Assassins and Rogues, but also Vestige and Dark Pact Warlocks

It’s Laid Out in the Cards

May 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Happened upon this today and thought it was too cool not to share. For those of you who understand the language of symbolism, or even those of you who are just interested in Tarot and other divination methods in role-playing games:

The High Priestess

A Tarot-based Adventure Scenario Design Game

Equipment:

  • Standard Tarot deck (78 cards: 56 suited, 22 trumps)
  • Meeples, 5 each of a color for each PCs/Faction
  1. Assign 2 court cards from the deck for each player character. These describe 2 of the 3 key questions that define a character (who are you? what do you want? how are you trying to do that?) and are interpreted based on what’s not described by the other cards that will be played. More cards will be dealt after the initial set up of the game “board.” Continued…

I might just have to find an excuse to use this, though I can probably find a substitute for the Meeples. I know at least someone who could use this, and with my Legend: The Arthurian Tarot, no less…

Further Reading

  • It’s Written in the Stars My guide to using Astrodice to generate People, Places, and Plots for your next session.
  • Learn Tarot Best place for quickly referencing the standard meanings for the cards.
  • Tarot for Writers Liked the Design Game? How about a book-length version, tailored specifically for writers?

The Selfish GM

May 28, 2011 10 comments

When you realize that your once-weekly game becomes a chore, something you dread and stress over, you’re doing something wrong. The game is supposed to be fun, for players and GM alike. So this week and next I’m taking a break to re-focus and hopefully answer the question that’s bugging me most: why have I lost interest in running my campaign? And, more importantly, what can I do to fix this?

I see Grand Vizier
Rainier Desmarins

They see Grand Vizier Jafar

It seems to be boiling down to the truth that many GMs run the games that they wish they were playing, as Telas points out at Gnome Stew. Or we try, to, anyway. Right now I just don’t like the way my players are taking the game. I have an epic movie playing in my head, something along the lines of the original Assasin’s Creed or Kingdom of Heaven. At the table I feel more like I’m running Aladdin and its sequels, with progressively crasser jokes and characterization. My players have even gone so far as to refer to one of my top-ranking NPC’s, the Lord Admiral and Grand Vizier Ranier Desmarins, as Jafar.

I’d rather they be brushing elbows with the thieves guild, delving into the politics of the city, while they would rather try to steal the underwear off a drunken nobleman or fling shit in the eyes of their French adversaries.

And I have a hard time standing by and watching them make a mockery of my homebrew setting. So on Wednesday, after a hour and a half of what felt like pulling teeth, I gave up, unceremoniously sent everybody home, and called off the next week’s session. (For any other GM’s out there, please, please listen to your gut instincts and deal with the problem before it blows up in your face, like it did for me.)

But there’s a bigger question at stake here: is that really their problem, or is it mine?

Am I too prideful as a GM? Am I violating Oakspar’s cardinal rule that the game is about the players, not the campaign world (“Lessons from GMing with my Girlfriend”)?

It may very well be the case that I’m too protective of my own creations, since I had a much easier time with their torturing of the NPC’s when I was running Dark Sun pre-made adventures. In any creative work, ego does get involved, and it’s a better wo/man than I who can keep them separate all the time.

But at the same time, isn’t a little too much to ask the GM to run a game he has no interest in running? He or she isn’t the group’s private role-playing server to program however they like. I firmly believe we have a right to have fun, too.

So then we have to come to a compromise. And that requires, most of all, communication. (Looks like I should have taken Gamemastering’s advice from the first section better to heart.)

When I set out to start a campaign in late January, I essentially offered Marrakesh as-is to my players; I had complete creative control, and they could either play if they want or leave, as one player did early on. It’s likely my own inflexibility that led to the total disintegration of session Wednesday night. And so it’s with a heavy heart that I realize I need to tie it up, reach a suitable conclusion, and move on to another setting, genre, maybe even system.

Gloomwrought:
My next campaign setting?

Because I need to run the game that we both want to play. If that means I need to find some different players, then so be it. They’ll be happier for it too, to be able to play with a GM who likes–encourages even–their wild hijinks.

Am I selfish, then? Maybe. I want storytellers and actors who are in it for a serious campaign, preferably with a good dose of dark fantasy and intrigue.

Then again, so is everyone who plays–we all want to have fun our way. The trick is to find the way to bend those styles just enough to make it enjoyable for all, player and GM alike.

Don’t Turn that Dial

May 17, 2011 Leave a comment

As the noticeable drop in entries indicates, I’ve been busy. I’ve been bumped from part to full time, I’m organizing a local group of gamers that already numbers in the fifties, and am still trying to fit what amounts to a second job–being a writer–in there somewhere.

But I haven’t forgotten about you guys, as a matter of fact, I have quite a few projects in the pipeline for Triple Crit:

  1. For Writers, A Review of Writing a Novel with Scrivener by David Hewson
  2. For Role-players and their characters, “A Double-edged Sword: Making Your Greatest Strengths Your Hidden Weakness”
  3. And, most notably, for Gamemasters, a Blood & Honor pre-made scenario:

    Sasarindō: A True Tragedy in Old Japan

    Once upon a time in Old Japan there were two Clans whose clash would end an Era. Their battles bred the samurai, replacing the bureaucracy of courtiers who had dominated Japanese politics for half a millennium. The defeated clan drowned their entire house and Emperor at sea; the victors would found the Shogunate, though their line would not survive to claim the title. The proud, indeed, will not endure. Nothing gold can stay.

    Here is a dramatic reimagining of the Tale of the Heike, a true Tragedy in Old Japan, that centers on the resurgent Minamoto clan, whose crest is the bamboo leaf and gentian flower, the Sasarindō.

    I’ll be needing playtesters for the scenario, so stay tuned for that if you’d like to have your and your buddies’ names in the credits!

An Experiment of Community

May 6, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s no secret that in college I was heavily involved in my campus’ Roleplaying Guild, even serving as its president for a year, and organizing a gaming convention besides. One of the big things I missed when I moved back to New York was the tight-knit community that I’d found in the Guild, the people I’d come to call some of my closest friends whom I could count on to go with to Free Comic Book Day and various Marvel/DC movie premieres.

When I moved back, I knew nobody–aside from my own brother–who played. And his group only met during breaks, so they were good for maybe a one-shot or two, but certainly not a campaign.

So my World of Warcraft guild became my surrogate community in the meantime. But it wasn’t the same.

It was sheer luck that led the guy I was dating at the time to remark offhandedly that a mutual friend of ours was playing a game of D&D that night. Swallowing my nervousness (I hadn’t spoken to him in nearly four years, and god knows that he thought of me as his friend’s ex-girlfriend), I broached the idea of a game to him on Facebook, to which he eagerly responded. (Apparently my date had, with some trepidation, mentioned my earlier interest to him. The gaming boy wondered what my date was worried about–“what was I going to do, steal Katrina?” Funny story, that.)

But we still only had the three of us, my brother included, which wasn’t nearly enough to play. A little more blind fishing on Facebook revealed that a number of my old highschool friends in the area knew how to play, or at least were interested. By happenstance, one prospective player saw another mutual friend at the Barnes & Noble checkout register while he was purchasing the core rulebooks, and instantly hooked her. I asked my best friend’s boyfriend if he’d be interested in it, since he was a bit of a geek already, and managed to lure my best friend in as well after she vehemently told me she would “never be that nerdy.”

Several friend of a friends later I have eight players at my table, not including myself. It’s a bit of a circus, but we have a great time.

But I still wanted more players. Not for this campaign, per se, but to know, to draw from, for different games for different tastes, since the nine of us were bound less by play style than by proximity. And the local community college had no group to speak of, nor was I a student to be eligible to start one, while both Friendly Local Gaming Stored are a solid fourty-five minutes to an hour drive each way, and I couldn’t justify going up or down there on any regular basis, what with gas hitting $4.20 a gallon here.

Recently Facebook revamped its Groups feature, making them easy to start and manage, even serving as a limited mailing-list for its members. It was then that it hit me to start a group of my own, not just for my individual campaigns, as I’d been doing for a few weeks now, but an Open Group, welcoming all in the greater Cornwall area.

Storm King Role-playing Gamers was born.

I added all of my friends who I knew or guessed would be interested. I asked those friends to invite theirs, who will hopefully invite their friends in turn. I’d love to see a solid group of a few dozen, maybe even more. In addition to being a great resource for players seeking campaigns and gamemasters seeking players, we could host a weekly board game night at the local Panera (or move it to the library if need be), perhaps gasp! have a real LARP or two, and if we can somehow do a bit of fundraising, maybe even screen movies such as Gamers or Darkon. I’d love to get to the point of hosting another con, but that’s a little far down the line, yet. In the meantime, though, we can certainly organize trips to others’.

I know there’s already a Mid-Hudson Gamers and Geeks meetup group. Why not just go through there? Two reasons. One, most everyone has a Facebook account, which eliminates the extra frustration of signing up for yet another site, and two, Free vs. Not-Free. Meetup.com is great in that there’s already the interest and such built-in, but having to pay $20 a month isn’t all that great. Perhaps if the first takes off we’ll expand onto the other, but for now, just Facebook will do.

What are your experiences with the role-playing community? Do you prefer to stick to your tabletop group, or have you ever belonged to a larger organization? Did you go through your school, FLGS, or have to go it alone? What resources did you utilize, what pitfalls did you encounter?

You can bet that as Storm King Role-playing Gamers grows, I’ll be grappling with those questions myself here on this blog. Until then, though, wish me luck!

Reavers of Applebees

April 21, 2011 Leave a comment

By popular demand I’m now running a Wednesday campaign in addition to Marrakesh on Saturdays. I still had the Reavers of Harkenwold adventure lying around from when I bought the Essentials DM Kit, and given the fairly positive reviews I’d seen online, I wanted to give it a try. So I had the players, the campaign, and the time, but one thing was lacking: a place to play.

My house was out since it was a school night, and nobody else had the required room or vacancy that six loud nerds require (not as loud as my other group, but that’s not saying much). We settled for the only place that wasn’t expressly forbidden, with the caveat that we couldn’t wake up his father, when we realized we had thirty pages of character sheets to print and would need to go out to Office Depot anyway. What’s next to Office Depot? Chili’s, Friday’s, and Applebee’s. Why not grab a bite to eat while we’re at it, since many of us had eaten late lunches and still needed dinner.

Wait a second. Why not play D&D at the restaurant? The beauty of the pre-made adventure was that I only needed five things: the adventure, the maps, the tokens and my minis box, a pad of paper, and the paperback DM guide in case I needed to reference anything. So we piled them up into a neat little stack and set out on our quest for half-apps at Applebees, since it was already 9 by the time we’d gotten everyone’s characters created.

The Party

One thing I definitely noticed about the composition was the power creep. In Marrakesh I essentially restricted my players to the PHB 1 & 2, while for Reavers I’d opened up the entire online Character Builder as free game as they made their level two characters. The bugs seem to have been all worked out, and my only real complaint was that the Character Sheets use an unnecessary amount of whitespace, resulting in a packet rather than a sheet.

And so for defenders we had Jorge, a Minotaur Ardent, who looks to do a fair bit of damage while simultaneously dishing out saving throws all over the place. M played a Warforged Fighter named Rodriguez who is a temporary hit points machine (no pun intended), requiring minimal attention from our two leaders while tanking a crazy bit of a damage.

Llewcu, the Firesoul Genasi Hybrid Swordmage/Artificer, left me scratching my head–I’d built her for my friend, who is still new enough that she’d rather let someone else strategize for her, but I ended up with a healer/buffer who had the highest AC in the party (20) while wearing merely leather armor. What. The. Fuck. The other leader, Darok the Mul shaman, has an encounter that does as much damage as one of his dailies, and a minor action heal that recovers half a party member’s health depending on the d6’s results.

We’re left with a Human Monk named Brandis whose capacity to move makes him a controller and a striker, and Ryukuma (Dragonbear!) the Half-Orc Thief who out-Strengths everyone else around and does 2d8+4 sneak attack damage. At level two.

And I didn’t even let them have any magic items and gave them only 100g to spend.

The Wold of Harken

I’d left one of the two map mats behind without realizing that I’d be using it in this part of the campaign, so I had to improvise using one of the other encounters’ maps. Otherwise, we started out the adventure as the booklet described: at Ilyana’s farm in the midst of a robbery by the Iron Circle sellswords. The thief, shaman, and monk managed to sneak up to them while the swordmage and ardent hung back to watch.

The shaman caught one of the wolves’ attention and bid it to turn against its master, thereby starting the fight by dropping one of the brigands down a third of her hit points. The swordmage and ardent charged headlong into the fray while the thief and monk snuck into position to deal whopping amounts of damage, dropping a brigand apiece. The shaman kept everyone healed up before wading into the battle himself alongside his spirit bear to finish off what remained of the Iron Circle’s forces.

They’d surrounded the last remaining sellsword before the end of the second round and the half-orc thief held him in a full nelson while the others pressed him for information. He hissed that they were no match for Nazin Redthorn, and was summarily knocked out by a punch to the face.

Ilyana explained to the adventurers what else had been going on and bade them search out Dar Gremath in Albridge if they wanted to help. Being the unaligned party that they are (save for the monk who is essentially a lawful good Jedi), they asked what might be in it for them and the poor old woman suggested the Baron might be able to reward them at the end.

By now the bartender had announced last call. The adventurers investigated some abandoned steadings along the way before finding their contact at the stables. Dar Gremath was wary of them when they said they were looking for medical attention for their “friend,” the Iron Circle mercenary slung over the thief’s back, but the party came clean when they realized who they were talking to. In a surprising show of charity the adventurers donated the weapons and armor they’d looted from the sellsword’s corpses and Dar promised they’d be well-used in the upcoming rebellion.

Wanting to take advantage of the remaining daylight (and excited at the idea of a cumulative +1 Atk/+1 Dmg for each encounter they have before taking an extended rest), and having a whole day yet to plan their assault on an Iron Circle supply wagon, the adventurers headed out to find the druid Reithann and see how else they could help. By then we were only one of two tables filled and it was closing on midnight, closing time. We packed up and finished our various margaritas and mojitos and piled back into the car for the ride home.

Concluding Thoughts

I’m definitely going to have to keep an eye on the party and how they stack up against the threats laid before them. I’m not going to do any manual adjustments just yet, since the abilities of the mobs might just keep them on their toes. And I did manage to get the well-warded swordmage down to 9 health.

I’m also pleased with how they reacted to the prospect of a momentum that builds after each victory. I won’t have them sleeping after every second encounter this way, they’ll actually have to save their dailies for when they’re really needed, and the “5-minute workday” problem is solved.

One of my players also suggested that scoring criticals on skill checks award a small amount of experience. The justification being that when you do something that awesomely, it’s because you figured out some new way of overcoming the obstacle. I agreed that it made sense, and so that’ll be a houserule of mine from now on, not least of all because I like to dole out lots of little rewards, be they experience, items, or gold to keep up morale.

So next week we’ll hopefully be introducing the Warforged fighter who didn’t make it to the session, which fits pretty perfectly with one of the encounters already included in the adventure. Ancient technology mysteriously re-awakened, and a foreboding taste of what may yet come in a campaign that might just have some hints of Eberron…