Here’s a quick rundown of the state of my gaming, mostly focusing on the campaign I’m running. It’s been several months since I did one of these and things have kinda changed.
The Werewolf: Wild West game is officially gone. When no one answers the emails about scheduling another session, that pretty much spells the end of a campaign.
The beer and pretzels D&D 4e game continues to go strong. Though there isn’t a lot of focus on individual characters, the GM has been good at weaving together character backgrounds into the larger plot and setting. I’ve missed many sessions due to conflicting engagements, but I like to think I make an impact on the plot when I’m there.
The beer and pretzels Exalted game is still chugging along. We’ve hit something of a wall in terms of power level. We can pour out all of our Essence into a single attack, and still not have it do a lick of good. We’ve nearly died in a few confrontations. We need to figure out some new and creative way to cheese out our characters. =)
I’ve gotten in about a half dozen sessions of my current Exalted: Dragon-Blooded game, Dragon Lines. This is quite possibly the most fun I’ve ever had running a game. It is not without its problems, but every session has been charged with awesome.
I had a few goals when setting up this campaign. I didn’t decide on Exalted off the bat, but I had some things I wanted to do:
- Shamelessly rip off In Dolor Veritas. I wanted a game built around characters who grew up together, and to create a sensation of having done that.
- Give FATE/Spirit of the Century’s Aspects another shot.
- Dissolve the kids game and run a mixed age game.
- Encourage interaction between players that don’t normally play together. The kids’ game had seen a lot of factionalizing, leaving some players languishing in the margins. Other games I’ve been in the past few years also had an air of cliquishness to them. And I was bringing in players from very disparate parts of my social circle to play. The last thing I wanted was for someone to buddy up with someone they knew and ignore the rest of the group.
So, the setup was eight dynasts representing four different houses. They were all required to be close to age. Players were assigned their houses randomly, mainly so that players would have a connection to another player that they didn’t choose themselves.
For the core of the character creation, I used the structure that mixed together ideas from Fading Suns and Spirit of the Century with some tweaking. There were five phases to character creation:
- Early childhood
- Later childhood/early education and probable Exaltation
- Secondary education
- Early career
- Later career
I parsed out points for creating characters over these different phases. Each phase players had to figure out what their characters were like, and come up with a significant event their character experienced with another PC. They also had to pick two Aspects (renamed as “Legacies” for this game to reduce confusion with the Elemental Aspects that Dragon Blooded have). One of these Legacies had to tie in with the significant event with another PC, the other Legacy was their choice.
This part worked out pretty good for the most part. I didn’t do a big write-up in advance, since I’ve gotten tired of doing all that writing and no one bothering to read it. But then when I tried to summarize things in brief in advance, there was mis-communication and frustration with some of the players. I lost two before we got to character creation. During character creation, things ground to a halt when it became time to pick out Charms and Backgrounds.
Another challenge, which I’ve had repeatedly when trying to use Legacies/Aspects, is knowing what to choose. It’s hard to know out the gate what Aspects/Legacies will be good during the game. But this may improve with practice.
But in terms of creating the shared backgrounds with characters, I think it went spectacularly. There are still stories that come up in character from events in character creation. And it really took characters in different directions than their players had intended and people seemed happy with that.
In play it’s been good, but not what I intended. One of the players wanted to be an airship pirate, and the access to the airship really defined the tone of things. The players all clumped together onto the ship and it made it harder to really draw in individual plotlines. When a given session could involve players travelling hundreds of miles by airship in a setting that involves months of land travel to get anywhere, it was less viable to have a lot of personal storylines and easier to have problems that the players could solve as a group.
This changed significantly last session, though, as the players have found themselves back in the Imperial City after dethroning the upstart Emperor. Now they are a bit more centrally located and taking a big picture approach to problems, so that could open the door for a lot of individual character plot hooks.
For the Legacies, I’ve tied in elements of 7th Sea and Primetime Adventures. PTA‘s Fan Mail has become a cornerstone of my games. I’ve used this in lieu of Fate Points for powering Legacies. From 7th Sea I stole the idea of using the lowest of a set of attributes to determine how much Fan Mail players start out with to power Legacies. When I used Aspects in the last Amber game I ran, I failed to have a starting pool of points, so it proved to be a stumbling block. For this game, starting Fan Mail has been based off of a character’s lowest Virtue. Also, as with 7th Sea, unused Fan Mail rolls into XP.
Overall I think I need to reconsider how I handle Legacies/Aspects for future games. The combination of only having one or two Fan Mail points, combined with having this Fan Mail being a source of XP at the end of the session, has encouraged players to be stingy with them. The obvious solution is to separate them from XP, but I’m not sure where exactly to draw the line between the two.
However, I did also have lots of success with compelling Legacies this last session. Since we had such few players and I didn’t want to get too Big Plot heavy (especially since I have a bad reputation for wrapping up games when very few players show up), so it was really great pulling together a lot of random plot points and nudge players towards them with the carrot of Fan Mail. This was especially good for players who are notorious for avoiding plot hooks. (And then they later wonder why they don’t have much to do…) Wrapping the plot hook around a nugget of XP was really good for drawing them in. Then they had a bigger pool of Fan Mail later in the game for invoking Legacies. So maybe I can get by just having a bigger pool of Fan Mail for players starting out…
Maybe next session I should just up the number of starting points.
We’re already looking towards the next campaign on the horizon. My girlfriend wants to run a Vampire: The Masquerade game, and people are already deciding what sort of characters they want to play. Neither my girlfriend nor I have time for another game, so this will happen when we wrap up Dragon Lines. So I’m not sure how many more sessions to extend the current game out. Right now the world is spiraling downward, with the Fair Folk, demons and Death Lords all carving up Creation, and no one is unified enough to stop them. It’s not really a situation I want to try and solve in just one or two sessions.
And after Vampire? I have a half dozen games I’m nudging around. Those can be fodder for future posts.