Friday, February 3, 2017

Gods of the Fall - Session Prep - The End of the Beginning

OH NO, what happens next?

That's what came to mind when I sat down to start writing this blog/planning this session. I almost always do these things simultaneously. The blog post provides the motivation to plan the session ahead of time and writing the blog at the same time as I plan ensures that I document what I want to do.

But here we are at the 3rd session and I'm not sure where to go. It's not that I don't have ideas for the campaign, but that I want to expand the game organically and after the last session I'm unsure exactly of where to go organically.

Which means I need to run an RP heavy player driven session and see what shakes loose. The characters are outed as demigods with the Adherent population of Somorrah but they are also still very much mortal and their equipment is somewhat depleted after the trials they went through. So I'll go ahead and give them time for shopping and time for some role playing that doesn't hinge on preventing or getting into combat.
The players were (justifiably) concerned about the Reconciliators who remained and were going to be gunning for them. I think this drove a lot of the discussion and RP of the session even when it was not the direct topic. 
I'll also press a round of RP with Raehcha. She may be persuaded to accompany the group, but she also has her own motives: she know's that the Shwalg orks could be civilized under the leadership of somebody strong enough to change their savage ways, and she knows an ork who could do just that. But first the Fire King's dominance over her people needs to be brought to an end.
This turned out well and the characters were really wishy washy about their divinity which pushed Raehcha to decide that if they didn't believe in themselves they weren't ready, and maybe never would be. She did offer to wait for them outside of Athsayor if they changed their minds and for a good portion of the session it looked like they would join her. But ... 
Once in town, whether to stay or just to re-supply, I'll drop some other prospective storylines. After all I do want to start setting up for adventures to come. Looking at the "According to Prophecy" sidebars is a good way to grab adventure ideas thankfully! I'll probably drop mention of the following into the game as "bait" ...
  • Tablet of Fate (pg 68)
    • I had the group overhear a pair of Bibliomancer's trying to hire a guide. They reacted based on their backstories and ultimately decided not to help these guys kill themselves.
  • Lost Explorer's (pg 42)
    • I switched this one around a bit and had Yama be the one asking for aid instead of the one needing aid. I thought it would play better if they were rescuing an unknown and not a famous person. They decided to go this way and that's the story that will drive the second arc forward.
Each of these have potential to draw the group to a new geographical location (and likewise if they decide to help Raehcha) and also provide means to begin fulfilling the obligations of a god. In addition, because Somorrah already has a new god in the person of Visheidon (pg 48), depending on how things play out I may have him seek out the players, or allow them to find him should they want to look.
I didn't end up not needing to use Visheidon. He's a part of the setting and so if & when the PCs next get back to Somorrah he'll be around to use if I need him. 
My goal will be to see what the characters want to do with their situation and figure out how to use that to move forward into the 4th session and eventually into second tier. So my plan is basically to wing it. Let the players direct things to some extent, and maybe toss their way a few RP encounters. The first few sessions were heavier on combat and I want to back off a touch to meter the overall game.
I think we got a good session if a bit short at just over 2 hours. There was lots of RP and discussion and plenty of questioning if they were gods or not and what that meant. I hope I can carry this forward into the next arc and see how they react to events around them and how they change events they take part in. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #105 - Review: How to Write Adventure Modules That Don't Suck

Get it now from DriveThruRPG

Firstly, let me state as clearly as possible that this review is for the currently released 28 page version of How to Write Adventure Modules That Don't Suck, and should not be confused for a review of some kind of leaked or previewed version of the forthcoming 160 page How to Write Adventure Modules That Don't Suck that is currently on Kickstarter. I've been told that aside from the title and the subject the old and new versions don't share any text. I can't verify this at the moment, but let's go forward with that as gospel.

Now, all of that said, my intent in reviewing this was, in part, to get an idea of what to expect with with KS edition, and determine if I wanted to toss my hat into that proverbial ring. I'm somewhat, invested into Kickstarters and trying to back the monetary value of my outstanding pledges to something a bit more manageable you see, but Goodman Games puts out some good stuff, and so I want to make sure I don't dismiss this out of hand either. Ergo, a review of the original version.

Note: This is not DCC exclusive advice. It really can apply to ANY and ALL RPGs. 


Published By: Goodman Games • 28 pages • $6.99 • B&W PDF

What's In It?

Nine articles by Joseph Goodman, Chris Doyle, Brendan LaSalle, Adrian Pommier, Rick Maffei, Mike Ferguson, Jeremy Simmons, Ken Hart, and Andrew Hind, that are written for GMs and writers working on adventure design. Each article broadly covers a different subject, from how to get the most out of puzzles or villains, to the importance of writing for your audience and proofreading.

I went into this as both a GM who is always looking for solid advice, and as a writer who has two adventures published at this point and is trying to understand how to make my next even better. I got my $7 worth for sure. Every article had something useful to take away. Something that had never occurred to me, or that having pointed out plainly made me look back and see how I could have done something different in an adventure I wrote that would have improved it.

I think that the stand out articles for me were the following:

  • Things I Look For by Joseph Goodman
    • This is more a bulleted list from a publisher, but it was eye opening to understand how a publisher who has hundreds of adventure modules in print looks at things. It also made me see at the highest level how to attack the "problem" of adventure design.
  • Designing Planar Adventures That Don’t Suck by Andrew Hind
    • I'm guessing that could easily be the title of it's own book, but as a short essay it still managed to convey the importance of setting your scale and scale for inter-planar adventures appropriately. 
  • Villains by Rick Maffei
    • You'd think that after 20+ years of GMing I'd know a thing or three about villains, and yet I was struck at how obvious and yet unknown to me the idea of contrasting sub-bosses was until I read it. Oy, how I could have made my Gods of the Fall adventure "Thirst" even better!
  • Verisimilitude by Adrian Pommier
    • I've written my own thoughts about this issue before, but usually from a specific subject base standpoint. This essay goes toward a more general all-encompassing approach and it works. It makes an argument for applying some simple logic rules to designing your adventures and encounters and even your dungeons. 

Closing Thoughts

Overall this little PDF really impressed me. More than once I wished I had read it a year ago. More than once I read something and found myself realizing that I'd made poor design choices in the past. I got something out of each of the nine articles and I suspect that most people will. Even if you just write for your own use at the game table I think you'll find some useful advice in here, and if your desire is to write for publishing this is one heck of a $7 investment in my opinion.

Look at this also convinced me to kick in for the Kickstarter edition, which is probably all the review that it really needs. The $25 bucks for a 160 page version of this with all new content seems like a no-brainer investment. I doubt I'll ever be hailed as a great writer of modules, and I'll almost certainly never be able to quit my day job, but if I get even half of the "revelation per page" density out of the KS edition I'll still be justified in my backing it.

Score: 100% - I almost never give perfect scores, but there is literally a wealth of advice in here if you are open to finding it.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Story Seed - Overland Travel

Image source:

I leaned over the rail and watched the world go by. The famous two levels of Lake Yibba. The waters of the upper basin spilling over and down into the lower lake. I could hear the thunderous sounds of the falls below as a soft rumble under the louder sounds of the ship. The creak of the wood and snap of the sails along with the sounds of the crew going about their own business.

I blew into my hands to warm them; the air up here was cool and crisp. I turned from the vista and located the captain. Shen was standing alone atop the aftcastle, hands clasped behind her back staring off into the distance. I shoved my hands into my pockets and slowly made my way aft. I must have looked drunken as I made may way to see the captain. I hand no legs for air travel and the swaying of the ship caused me to stumbled to and fro.

Swallowing bile I finally managed to grab rail beside the captain, envying her steady as stone stance without any kind of handhold. "Good day to you Captain," I offered as cheerily as I could manage.

"Mister Barrow," she replied. After a moment she turned her head toward me slightly, watching me from the corner of her gaze while maintaining a commanding gaze over the remainder of her ship. "How may I help you today?"

"Just curious when you expect we'll dock at Landsfall Port?" I was anxious to put something solid and unmoving under my feet. More, I was anxious to take the rune tome I'd recovered to the Aetherist's Guild for study.

"Soon enough. Well before sundown." She considered for a moment, perhaps seeing the consternation on my face, "Fret not. The Dart will be moored no later than third bell after midday Mister Barrow."

"Thank you Captain. I merely yearn for the Spires of Diamond once more," I lied.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Last Week Today - January 23 - 29, 2017

Story Seed - The Raver

Nuts & Bolts - 1d20 Weird Omens

Gods of the Fall - ...and Deeper Still

Speaking of Gods of the Fall ... my adventure "Thirst" for Gods of the Fall was published in issue #8 of the CypherCaster! If you have a Gods of the Fall game running, or plan to start one, this is a great (my opinion) adventure for shortly after your players hit tier 2. Please consider checking it out. If you like the magazine please consider reviewing it on DriveThruRPG, and if you run the adventure please let me know how it went!