Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Post-Massacre Postmortem II: What now?

Actually, we can start with what went right?

You know how sometimes a near TPK can derail a game, scatter the less committed players, and destroy the inertia that kept you gaming going?

Next game is 9/13.

That went right.

What to do next game and subsequent games?

Broadly, we have two options for play:

A) More 20th Homeland, run by andi jones, until such a time as we're ready for B.

Or just skip right to . . .

B) More DF, run by me.

As it stands, I need to prepare for B. If A happens (that is, if everyone votes for that), then I'm ready to run Hillbilly. But this post is going to look at B.

What next? We still need a side game to get characters up to the current threat level of Felltower. It won't be the Cold Fens - it's not clear how the next party would make it into the tomb, for one, and a newly hatched group will be less well equipped to deal with Sakatha and its minions. Probably incapable of dealing with the Cold Fens, really, although if they went for it any successful survivors would be rich. They'd need to accept the surety of heavy PC deaths, though, so probably not.

And, as always, new characters start with 250+50+5. Non-negotiable. Same lenses and races, plus most of what's in DFD1.

And the only surviving PC from the last delve is run by the same guy who runs Vryce, so we're not even slightly deeper in the replacement pool. Maybe Christoph will come back, if andi decides to run a Scout?

In any case . . . let's talk campaign elements.

Wilderness plus dungeons

This, for sure. I like the mixed component. Not the least of which is because it leverages Wilderness Training in DF16 and all the templates in DFD1.

It won't be swamp, because everyone voted "no more swamps." At least for now - coming back and finishing Sakatha is a real goal now.

Weak Base

Just like Swampsedge, I want a base that doesn't provide nearly-unlimited access to healing, consumable items, consumable buffs, etc. Hopefully by now the players are more adjusted to that - I want the early delves to be about the characters, not go-see-buff-return. Improved gear should be a reward of good play, not the basis of success. New characters should earn access to better gear just like the old characters did.

Time sensitive delving

I want to put more of a clock on delving - either rival parties, or some ephemeral nature to the dungeons themselves. Rivals could be interesting, although it might play into the "spread rumors, lay traps" approach more than "take risks to succeed first" style of play.

Ephemeral delves means dungeons that you can't repeatedly hit until they're empty. How I might do that is like this:

Mobile "town"

I am considering a mobile "town." Perhaps a caravan - the PCs are traveling to Stericksburg and Felltower, and weekly they have chances to deal with some lair, wilderness area, or small dungeon, and within a session or two the caravan is too far to go-and-return so you have to move on. That would discourage nibbling around the edges hoping to "level up" before you take a big whack at it.

How I'll do this, I'm not sure. One option is to run the revised version of DFA1, for real this time (note the note, if you're wondering about the link.) The players experienced chunks in a playtest, but maybe a full run would work with some allowance for go-and-return play. I could easily change the parts they're run into before.

We'll see how it goes!


  1. Swamps slow movement to a crawl. For that reason, they're great for making wretched hives of scum and villany in every hex, but if you have a destination, you're gonna have a problem getting there.

    Try a base that isn't big (say, 1,000 folks and Struggling Wealth on average), but there are caravans going to Stericksburg. That way, there could be better gear, but it takes a short adventure to get it. I have a rejected Pyramid article for handling the town economies so Podunksville has a clear gear limit.

    1. My concern with allowing a short adventure to access better gear means that will become the driving force for a lot of decisions. I need a better axe than the one I started with, so let's get that axe before we do anything dangerous. We need more paut after that nasty last session, so let's go to the place where we can get paut. I need a potion belt, let's go get that. Etc. It happened with Swampsedge even when I charged double, rolled 1d for the number of weeks it took to arrive, and required people to pay up front. Every single session was, "Can I get X special ordered?"

      So I'm thinking of just flat out saying, "Basic stuff only until you spend loot, no special orders for stuff that couldn't be made on site." You can get a new axe head forged, but you can't get potions, scrolls, do research on the special weaknesses of "those weird guys we saw that one time and ran away from," get a custom set of delver's webbing and a crossbow sight, and so on.

      I think I've learned it has to be a flat-out no to start with, progressing to a "on a good roll" when they have some impressive successes. When we first started, it wasn't, because the players weren't familiar with all the stuff they could get, so they generally made do. Now they know, and kind of plan around getting it, and are willing to wait to get it.

  2. I have a suggestion. I saw that you have Arrows of Indra, why not use that with GURPS DF? Maybe the PCs could travel to India for adventure? It would really change things up from the orcs and trolls of standard DF. Plus, since you are a writer, it could inspire some India style DF books which I could happily buy. India seems so interesting for swords and sorcery adventures but almost nobody uses it.

    1. Adapting mythic India to play would take more work than any of the other options, and I'm not sure it'll be any better than the other options. If we play Sunday, I have no time to adapt it.

      That I could potentially sell it later is nice, but not a driving factor.

  3. I really wish I lived close enough to beg to join this game. Huge fanboy of your blog, the GURPS DF line and your campaign. I've been trying to get a local game going, but gosh, selling GURPS to a bunch of D&D players is tough. I can't seem to sell 'Your player's decisions are and should be more important to a good game than your character's stats' around here. I'm keeping the faith, and I reference people to this blog for a good example of why I think GURPS is a better fit for a interesting and complex dungeon crawl.

    1. Thanks! I'm glad it is entertaining you from afar even if it can't entertain you up close.

  4. I have more problems with dissolving pools of players (my game is a pbp) than with group shift from tpk. I would love to do tabletop on a regular, and the modified Caravan to Ein Arris sounds like a great setting to play in.

    1. We always seem to find a way to play - it's easier when it's a physical group of friends, I think.

      Modified Caravan to Ein Arris is exactly what I am thinking - with dungeons and lairs to raid on the way.

    2. I was just thinking the same thing. You could take a caravan from point A to, say, a mining camp (small dungeon!) that perhaps suddenly isn't producing as much as it used to. That gives you the caravan, something to do when you get there, a smallish dungeon to clear, but nothing to rival Town.

  5. I've long thought a wandering band of gypsy mercenaries would be an interesting set up for this sort of game world. Ephemeral reminds me of that Amber city in the sky during the full moon.

    If the weather in your area would prevent movement, your old rules might mean the caravan could get stuck in one place.

    How many times a year do you want to be in travel distance of Swampsedge or Stericksburg? A short circuit might mean being back in the same approximate area in a few weeks. Long might have years between being near Stericksburg. It looks like the caves and the cold fens took about six or seven months. That seems compatible with a year long cycle.

    If you want them restricted to the caravan's market, the route should probably avoid large towns, festivals, and meet ups with other caravans. Having Stericksburg a few days travel off the route makes it reachable without it being a matter of saving up for equipment upgrades when you are in the best town.

    Where you place the site relative to the road could influence how many sessions it is in range for. Or you skip mapping the road, and just have a list of sites instead. You have an entry per day the circuit takes. Every seven entries, you place a site if you run one that day. If it isn't divisible by 7, you eventually fill the whole list, and the players have a choices of places to revisit.

    If an Artificer is allowed to buy carpentry, could they make a Vardo with that and the skills they may purchase by default?

    Are the Caves of Chaos going to be on the route?

    I thought they might be able to get back in the tomb if they made a unholy warrior or an evil cleric.

    Is burning rafts with underwater mines in the spirit of DF rules?

    How about a dungeon graveyard? A plain haunted by the otherworldly ghosts of dungeons. At night certain ones will become fully real, and can be plundered. When day comes, whichever dungeons were real fade away, not to appear again for an unknown time. Millenia ago, it was over-harvested. It has somewhat replenished, but it still has a reputation as a dry hole, and some of the dungeons are empty. There may be a ruined geomantic array that was used by ancients to measure the dungeons.

    1. I was thinking nothing nearly as grand. Cold Fens went 7 months because we had such a hard time getting together in the spring and summer, not because we wanted to spend 7 months on a side area. I was thinking more like 4-5 sessions, 6 tops, before the PCs arrive at some kind of civilized hub and then decamp for Stericksburg with no encounters on the way.

      They may get a last crack at the Cold Fens if they want to try it, or they can come back some day later and see what's taken residence in the old place.

  6. One of the only 6seful bits to Return to Quag Keep (somehow Norton's magical disaster zone of the sea of dust was reduced to a normal desert) was the caravan guard sequence, especially with those tattooed priests.
    An erratic hiring agent, especially one who empties the jails to hire indentures would smooth over the whole issue of the meetup.
    My henchmen players have actually started in a tavern...

  7. You want a limited campaign frame? I don't think you'll like mine, but here goes.

    Realizing they need to clear out the orcs the PCs go on a whirlwind tour to raise allies culminating in a 'small' mass combat battle.

    Each week they can undertake missions to raise money, decimate and the recruit the local dungeon populace or undertake missions and get some allies loaned.

    In town they can use the money they've earned to recruit even more.

    I'd envisage it as a fairly straight line of towns with dungeons at either side. You could set a finite amount of sessions so they'd have to choose to move on or not.

    At the end perhaps they'd have some Raggi types , a new squad of Hobgoblins, and a mix of henchmen.

    1. I like the concept, except that PCs vs. the approximately 300-400 orcs they've estimated are in and around the camp north of Felltower is not such a small battle. These guys would need to recruit a lot, and given the cautious nature of my players, take a lot more time than I'd want to give them. They'd be likely to end up with too few allies to win vs. the orcs and decide to try something else.

    2. Option 2
      A decent size force (something like 50 henchmen level and 50 25pt NPCs) has been dispatched to at least take on the Orcs. The new PCs are the outdoor infiltration specialists hired to scout around and try to pave the way for the army to at least have a marginal victory (rather than a humiliating defeat).

      The PCs have X sessions to map, scout around, assassinate and undermine the orcs. The army is paying them well so they have no excuses for wanting to do anything else.

    3. Honestly, I'm trying to strongly discourage the PCs from thinking the way to get rid of the orcs is to attack their source up north. It seems unlikely that the orcs would run OUT of the fortified tunnel complex that is Felltower because raiders showed up.

      Plus, the players are much less wargamers than I am. They've been thinking of raiding the orcs because it's easier than solving the tactical puzzle that is Felltower - figuring out how to deploy 100 NPCs and a handful of PCs (maybe 2 of which will be actual outdoor experts?) is a larger puzzle. More work to set up, more work by the players to determine how to use all of those guys, and then it's either a Mass Combat rollfest or a tactical Mass Combat boardgame. They'd have to come to me wanting this option.

      I suppose they could try to take out the entrance to Felltower with that many troops, but it's a setup that is meant to be a meatgrinder - so the players would really need to be the sharp tip of the spear anyway.

      I think that would be a grand solution for a different group. If my players came to me with this ("What we need is an army, so let's find some NPC, con him into giving us one, and then lead it to victory!") it would be different. But mostly they've made new PCs and want to bash dungeon monsters with them, and seem not to want to be leaders and army-scouts. If they change their minds, I'll certainly say so, though.

  8. Your next game isn't until next June? That's so far away! Sadface!

  9. Heh. Fixed. We're playing Gamma Terra on Sunday while we talk DF. Gives me more time to paint new minis for the new PCs!

  10. Another way to have a time limit could be to have the adventurers sail to an island with an exploration ship.
    The task of the ship and its crew is to get a basic survey done of the island - map out the basic shape (what would be a good place for a more permanent settlement), gather samples of interesting plants and wildlife, some basic prospecting for easily-accessible ores, and so on.
    They will be done with their work in 6 weeks (or how many sessions you want to have there) - it might take longer or they might be forced to leave earlier.
    The crew would be able to sell the adventurers basic goods, repairs, potions, some healing, etc.

    The adventurers are on the ship for free - they still have to pay for their provisions and anything else they need. They operate independently - they don't get paid, are there on their own risk and are supposed to tell the crew at least some of their discoveries. On the other hand they don't have any real work to do and are free to explore the island.

    The island is rumored to have some treasure. They have a golden opportunity here - they are the first to arrive which could mean "easy" pickings. There are probably some ruins somewhere; likely a tribe of (generally hostile) humanoids make this island their home too.

    Once the time is up the ship will leave - the group will have to return with them or be left on the island to die.

    1. Basically, the X1 Isle of Dread approach. I'd considered that, too - but I do have some ideas about playing a more nautical centered DF side campaign, and I think something like this would fit better there.

      But maybe not - it would also be a good place to test some of the basic concepts without anyone tying the character concept tightly to them!

    2. Actually, we've been discussing using a ship-based approach. We quickly talked it over today it and the caravan-based one are in the lead. So you might see something like this after all.

    3. Now there's a Pyramid article. Nautical Nonsense: Piracy in Dungeon Fantasy.

    4. Obviously, since Doug is my partner in Nonsense articles, he'd have to help.

  11. "I am considering a mobile "town." Perhaps a caravan - the PCs are traveling to Stericksburg and Felltower, and weekly they have chances to deal with some lair, wilderness area, or small dungeon, and within a session or two the caravan is too far to go-and-return so you have to move on."

    This evoked images of Stargate: Universe. Not a good show but kind of a good fit to the idea you have. Actually, your description fits the episodic TV show genre to a T: each week you start something new and hopefully resolve it because you have limited time, and the order of episodes is not important because there is no over-arching plot to require continuity. It fits very well with the start-and-end-in-town pick-up game style you play, only the "town" will not be near the same dungeon next time the adventurers start in it.


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