The last session wrapped up the Channah storyline in the Storm Point game, which was good, but the most valuable part of the game – for me, anyway – was the discussion we had about the direction of the game from here on. That discussion happened at the beginning of the evening, but I’m not going to talk about it until the end of this post.
Armed with the glyphs for Channah’s teleport circle, our heroes went out and purchased a copy of the linked portal ritual ((Easy to do in Belys; the city is full of magic, wizards, and various fun arcane things.)) and the materials they needed to conduct the ritual. They spent some time making sure they had a plan ((Their usual plan is, “Get ’em!” This plan was essentially, “We all ready? Okay. Now, get ’em!”)), and then teleported in to Channah’s hideout.
I was a little torn in setting up this evening’s encounters. On the one hand, I wanted to wrap things up this session, and our group is slow with combat ((There are a number of reasons for it, and some things that we could do to speed it up, but it comes down to the fact that this is a bunch of friends who don’t see each other that much anymore. One of the big distractions is our socializing and catching up, and I don’t want to lose that. So, we have slow combats, and I’ve made my peace with it.)) – multiple full encounters meant that we would not finish this evening. On the other hand, it strained my sense of verisimilitude to have the group pop into the big main fight, kill the bad guy, and go home.
I addressed this with minions. After all, when you’re sneaking through the bad guy’s hideout, the incidental guard patrols should mainly be a threat because they can give the alarm, not because they might kill you. So, the party arrived in the cellar store room with the teleport circle to find that Channah, knowing he’s got some folks gunning ((Swording for him? Nah, that just doesn’t work.)) for him, had set a guard.
They were, as I hinted, minions, so the gang took them out pretty quickly, but some bad rolls meant that one was able to give the alarm. There was only one door out of the room, so our heroes barred stood guard on that while they looked through the piles of boxes and barrels in the room. I tried to make it clear that the stuff was mundane supplies, but that just seemed to make them more suspicious, so they took the time to actually search everything.
At which point it occurred to me that there was this teleport circle in the middle of the room, and Channah knew how to use it. So, while everyone was either poking through barrels of flour or watching the door, a full squad ((Still minions.)) teleported in behind them and got the drop on them. They mowed down this (larger) group of guards in good time, and realized that, every minute they were spending down here was one more minute Channah had to get ready.
So, out they went, and up the stairs, into the killing ground Channah had set up. I had planned the map to be fairly open to begin with, but with tables, chairs, and the like that allowed for the defenders to set up some defenses if they had a couple of minutes to prepare, which they did. The fight was tough, with some of the party’s tactics turning against them ((Notably blade barrier. The party used this to great effect, but then Milo got tossed into it, and it left a bit of a mark. He survived, though.)). I ran into another dilemma during the battle, though.
Channah, unbeknownst to the party, was an oni mage. He usually appeared as a very, very old eladrin, and would appear and disappear using his invisibility, popping up to blast the party with some of his area attacks before vanishing again. Toward the end of the battle, I realized that it would be child’s play for Channah to just turn invisible and run off, carrying on his vendetta against the characters. I considered doing this, having him disappear for now, but come back as a recurring villain.
Then I remembered Jemmy Fish, and realized that wouldn’t work. The group would hunt him down to the exclusion of doing anything else. Ever.
So, rather than doing the better-part-of-valour, live-to-fight-another-day thing, I kept Channah there to end this. I got some good reactions when he unveiled his true form and began laying about with his massive sword ((Heh.)), and his hidden lamp-oil explosion meant that the last part of the fight was in a burning building, but the gang had thinned out his defenders enough that they were able to concentrate on him, so he went down fairly quickly ((Well, he did. The entire session ran waaaaay over time, despite the things I tried doing to speed it up when I realized what sort of time-frame we were looking at.)).
Next session, I’ll need to have something new for my players. Actually, what I’ll have to do is have a few options ready, so they can pick which direction they’re going to go.
Anyway. About that discussion I mentioned at the start of the post.
The previous session, I had mentioned that there was a moment when it looked like the group wanted to end the campaign and start a new one. In retrospect, I realized that we had been running this game for three years ((With a brief hiatus for Gammatoba.)), and it wasn’t a bad idea to take the group’s temperature and see if they wanted the game to continue, or if they were interested in a change. I started the conversation going with the following question on the Storm Point forum:
Okay, gang, last session I (facetiously) put forward a proposed campaign change, wherein you fellows become crime lords in Belys, the campaign ends, and we pick up twenty years later at first level, with you being the oppressed masses out to bring down the massive oppressors. (See what I done there?) Though I meant it as a threat, it is a viable campaign, and it seemed to capture the imaginations of some of you.
So, in light of that, I’m asking the group as a whole what you want to do. Here are the options:
- Continue with this campaign. We’ve just made it to Paragon Tier. Let’s see if we can make it to Epic Tier and become gods!
- Become crime lords and reboot. I like the world, but am bored with this character or storyline. The new one sounds better.
- Let’s try a completely new campaign. This has been fun, but I want the new hotness. Let’s try Dark Sun, or Eberron, or something else. We’ll have to have a talk to pick one.
- Let’s try a totally different game. D&D has been fun, but I’d like to try a different game system. Cthulhu, or space detectives, or superheroes, or something else cool. Again, we’ll have to have a talk to pick one.
- Screw you guys. I’m going home. It’s been fun, but I’m going to bow out of the game.
Feel free to discuss below. I am willing to roll with any of the above options, and my feelings will not be hurt if you choose something else. I’m leaving the poll active for one week, but what I’m really interested in is the conversation on the topic leading up to the votes. Revoting is allowed if the discussion changes your mind.
Have at it.
The vote was pretty overwhelmingly in favour of continuing with the current characters, but I wanted to get a better feel for how people were feeling about the game as a whole, and what they wanted to see as we went forward. The talk revolved around the fact that, three years into the game, the group had just reached 11th level.
The upshot is that the group would like to take the characters all the way to 30th level, but don’t want to spend another six years getting there. We talked about varying the progression rate in different ways, and the one that seemed to click for everyone was a technique I had used to good effect back when I was running Broken Chains – campaign downtime.
Campaign downtime means that we run regular sessions, with regular XP, and then, every so often, I say, “Okay, downtime. You’ve got two years. Give me a paragraph or two on our forum about what you do in that time, and level your character up three levels.” This allows the campaign to progress with the in-game stuff being highlights of the characters’ careers, while the out-of-game stuff allows them to flesh out backstory and provides passage of time in the game ((As an aside, it always strains credulity for me to run a game and realize that characters have gone from 1st level to 20th level in a matter of months, because they go out adventuring every day. If the world were really that challenging and deadly, everyone would be epic level by the time they were adults – or all the people would be dead. Just sayin’.)).
The other thing we talked about was how the game was going to end. The upshot of that conversation is that I need to start using some of the stuff I’ve been talking about in my posts on emergent campaign storylines to pull together a focus for the rest of the campaign.
Now, one of the players wasn’t at the game, and wasn’t able to contribute to the conversation because of that, but I think we’ll have Milo’s buy-in on this. And it gives me some concrete things to do over the next little while to move the game forward in a way that I think everyone will like.