Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Unintentional Interest!

Without premeditation or intent, I made one of my players take an interest in one of my campaign world's aspect. 

To be more precise, he's taken a keen interest on the campaign specific calendar. It was not my intention to hook him onto it like that, but I introduced into the campaign a magical item that is tied to the phases of the three moons of the game world. 

It started when I vaguely remembered something in the Savage World's Fantasy Companion about Grimoires. I wanted the Druid in my campaign to gain access to more powers without the need to wait for level-ups. So I cracked open the SWFC and found the reference to Grimoires and how they can allow a spell caster to gain new powers without taking the New Power edge every time.

But he's a Druid and I felt like a more oral method of transmitting the knowledge and wisdom was more appropriate. So I simply applied a Trapping to the Grimoire. Instead of finding a musty old tome or delicate scrolls, he found Leylana's River Stones. Five smooth stones with swirling designs and runes upon them in a supple doe-skin pouch. After doing some research, he discovered that when placed in a stream of clean water or a basin filled with pure water, under one of the many lunar alignments, the image of Leylana would appear and she would impart her wisdom upon the applicant. As of this writing, the last time the Druid used the Stones was a minor alignment, so I had Leylana impart some esoteric druidic knowledge that will give him a +2 on an appropriate Knowledge check in the future (nothing specific, I'll just let the player tell me he heard this from his mentor when it comes up). 

In the world of Shaintar, there are three moons and 16 months, and there are many possible lunar alignments possible. So now my friend Marc has made himself a copy of the calendar and keeps track of time that goes by in game. 

He could've simply asked once in a while if the moons would be aligned and I could've just hand waved it and moved on. But he has taken interest and I'm encouraging it. It makes me even more aware of the passage of time in game and I'm also more motivated to keep track of it. Especially since they are currently on an important mission that is also time sensitive. They must hurry before the Gates of Hell open. 

Have any players of yours taken a keener interest in your campaign world somehow. Maybe a calendar, special events, places or businesses, etc, and that you hadn't planned on but it somehow made the game seem more alive for them, more engaging?

Please share. 

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Trying to make the encounter with the BBEG last a little longer.

Ever since I’ve read people’s posts or listened to podcasts, I’ve been thinking about this. In most RPG systems, you can’t count on combat lasting a fixed number of rounds, nor how successful the players will be on their die rolls. If the BBEG rolls phenomenally well and consistently and the PCs don’t, then you’re looking at a possible TPK. Inversely, if the PCs are the ones getting all the good rolls, then the big finale you were likely hoping for is cut short, and as an occasional player, not just a GM, I find it not totally satisfying if the BBEG is defeated in one round.

Many people have made suggestions and gave out advice, most of it will be good for someone out there I’m sure. But no definite answers on how to prolong combat, since there are no definite solutions I believe. There are just too many variables (exactly how tough is the BBEG, how tough/good are the PCs, the location and advantages of the terrain, any allies, what each character has access to, whether its gear, magic items, etc.).

And let’s face it, if you have only one BBEG to face-off against your PCs, he still only gets to act once per round (even if he’s able to perform multiple actions), against a group of say 5 players, who might be able to perform multiple actions of their own and use their bennies to get a better result and cooperate together, our BBEG won’t last too long, especially if you draw a low card for the initiative for said BBEG.

I have some of my own suggestions but I’ll reiterate what others have already mentioned here for purpose of completeness:

1-      Play the BBEG smartly; keep his goals in mind, how devoted is he (is he willing to die for his cause, is he able to escape to fight another day)?
2-      Use cover, high ground and/or difficult ground to his advantage.
3-      Fanatics; let some Extras take that mortal hit for their leader (For the Royalty!!).
4-      And maybe a few more I haven’t heard/read

And below are a few of my own suggestions, based on my own experience as a GM;

Give him the Quick and Level Headed edges, that way you make sure he gets two cards and he’ll at least have a 6 or more. With the Improved Level Headed he gets three cards. That should increase the odds of getting a face card or even a Joker.

One suggestion I had read about, and I have used quite a few times, was to allow the BBEG to act twice per round. Give him two initiative cards. How many times do we see characters in movies and TV shows act and re-act multiple times in a very short period of time, especially in martial-arts movies.

As a GM, we should allow ourselves some leeway to make the encounter worthwhile for our players. I’m not talking about cheating or fudging rolls necessarily, but if you can explain it within the game setting or within the rules, then by all means, go ahead. Even if you just improvised a reason that makes the BBEG last one more round. Perhaps the BBEG is able to soak at least one wound every round minimum, despite the Vigour roll (he’s got a magical device or Nanites that mitigates the wounds, whatever).

Even if it’s not on his stat sheet before the game, add it, allow it, if it will make the game more FFF!! And once the heroes have defeated the Mastermind, the Dragon, or the evil Overlord, it will most likely make your player’s feeling of accomplishment that much greater.

That being said, as a GM, we shouldn’t take away the players’ successes. If they’ve planned ahead and used sound tactics, and thus defeated their foe quickly, I think I should let them. They will feel powerless if the GM simply ignores all their preparation without having a good reason for it. Not every combat should be a 3 hour long ordeal, sometimes a fight should just end with a gunshot on the scimitar wielder.