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Adventure Autopsy


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#1 Arrowind

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Posted 28 March 2014 - 04:14 PM

So I've just finished running an adventure called With Hurt And Much Damage. I thought I'd share my experiences here and see whether they are in accord with those of other Game Masters.
 
In brief, a dying pirate handed my Heretics the occult keys to his daemonic void-ship. Before the Heretics could take possession of said void-ship, they had to navigate between paranoid Hereteks and a scheming warlord on the Shattered Moons of Kurse and they had to trick, seduce and batter the ship's crew into working for them.
 
So the long term point of the adventure was to provide the Heretics with a fast and sneaky ship, because making them hitch a ride at the start of every adventure gets a bit tiresome, especially if they're going somewhere they're not supposed to, which includes most places. Somewhat to my surprise, the Heretics weren't especially enthusiastic to have their own void-ship. They discussed selling the ship or giving it away on the understanding that they could cadge a ride whenever they wanted (I wasn't very clear on how they planned to enforce that arrangement...). Part of this indifference was down to assumptions being made about what they'd got, more of which later.
 
I was trying three experiments in this adventure:
  1. I thought I'd try setting something in the Screaming Vortex, rather than having the Heretics infiltrate Calixis Sector. The increased opportunities for outlandishness in teh Screaming Vortex were welcome. Overall though, I didn't like the light it shone on the Heretics. There's something darkly heroic about a band of outcasts fighting to overthrow the Imperium's brutal rule. In the Screaming Vortex, they seemed like just one more set of evil freaks amongst many.
  2. I tried to write the adventure as a sandbox. I worked out a set of locations and NPCs with their own agendas and then let the Heretics romp about triggering all kinds of havoc. I quite enjoyed the effect of this and I felt like it gave me a lot of options to respond to the routes that the players decided to take through the adventure. My only concern is that some of the more passive players were left a little disengaged, being dragged along in the wake of the more active players and waiting for things to happen.
  3. I included a lot more potential for combat in this adventure. I've generally shied away from having much fighting in my games, because it can be a bit tedious. However, I felt I should give the more violent of the Heretics their chance to shine. The result was a bit weak, although I think I've learned a lot that I can use in future adventures. In particular, even if the Heretics are able to defeat heavily armoured opponents (say a bodyguard of Brazen Myrmidons), it can take a ridiculously long and boring time to play through the fight. On the other hand, Hordes turned out to be a lot more fragile than I'd expected, although on the rare occasion that they survived the first volley of death from the Heretics, they were able to dole out a fair amount of damage in return.
 
Finally, I think what threw me most while running this adventure was the failure of the Heretics to gather basic intelligence and their readiness to reach conclusions based on only a little evidence. I had assumed that the Heretics would ask someone about some fundamental facts, even if they did so in an evasive, paranoid fashion. If they had gathered gossip or asked a few simple questions, they would have had a lot more context for everything that was happening. As it was, they were blundering in the dark for longer than I'd intended. Probably as a consequence of this, the Heretics made a few incorrect assumptions that proved surprisingly difficult to shift. While I did take some amusement from the gap between what was really happening and what the Heretics thought was happening, I think I'll be a bit more proactive in pushing facts their way from now on.
 
Any of this sound familiar to anyone?

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#2 Drama

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Posted 30 March 2014 - 07:27 PM

I can relate on some levels with your experiences and thoughts. On some level my experience with players in Black Crusades is that combat is generally welcomed. I think for the most part, gaining infamy and corruption through devious acts is part of the fun of BC. If taking over a ship is not really interesting in your game to the players then that's their general feelings. There are probably many Space Pirates and Void Men that are willing to acquire a stolen ship although their transportation is limited. A trip to the Screaming Vortex or among the Gloaming worlds doesn't have to be cliche. It can be unique and fun for you as well as the players if they want to experience travel there.

 

I like to think of the Gloaming Worlds as you do. A bunch of heretics vying for dominate control over a planet and more. The rise of evil to daemonhood is the reason for the game and rethinking setting your game their may encourage plenty of role playing experiences. A planet among the teeming millions can so much become thralled by the heretics collaborative efforts of undermining or destroying a powerful enemy or governing body of enemies. 

 

I like to think that their are many opportunities released by FFG in their supplements and core rulebooks. You have the cabals released in Disciples of the Dark Gods, Radicals Handbook, the Tome supplements, all of the game modules which can be run through or changed if you wish to suite your needs or outline terms of changes.

 

You could also express a story line that is long standing, Probably a campaign. In my experience, sandbox is a loose term that means that I do not have a story in mind. Sure there are reasons to have the control up to the players, but rail road type games are fluent and presented with hard evidence that a game master is prepared and ready to deliver.

 

I am not assuming that you are like this so please do not take offence. It's just some player need their attention grabbed and delivering a game idea that is worked on can be just as rewarding as any other type. When the players have the chance to go free, this possibly takes you out of your element and your preparations. 



#3 Arrowind

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Posted 31 March 2014 - 02:11 PM

Thanks for the suggestions, Drama! I may have seemed more negative than I had intended. Overall, I think the adventure went pretty well and the players seemed to enjoy it. As far as sandboxing goes, the Heretics didn't really stray outside the boundaries that I had anticipated and I'd written in enough contingencies and alternatives that I was able to roll with their decisions. The mass combat rules, which we used to simulate the factional fighting on the void-ship, were received well and worked effectively, given this was a first attempt at using them. I think what's called for is more a case of fine tuning to the specific tastes of my players, rather than throwing everything out and starting again.
 
As far as the aim of the game, I'm not sure I really see Chaos as evil any more than I would characterize the Imperium as good. Chaos brings liberty and expression, where the Imperium imposes drudgery and conformity. On both sides individuals try to draw on dangerously vast powers to further their own ambitions but on both sides there are also idealists, who truly believe that they fight for some greater good (if you'll pardon the Tau-ism). I suppose what I miss running a game set in the Screaming Vortex is the conflict between the two ideals.


#4 Keffisch

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Posted 01 April 2014 - 01:55 AM

 Probably as a consequence of this, the Heretics made a few incorrect assumptions that proved surprisingly difficult to shift. While I did take some amusement from the gap between what was really happening and what the Heretics thought was happening, I think I'll be a bit more proactive in pushing facts their way from now on.

 
Any of this sound familiar to anyone?

 

Yes, oh yes. A thousand times this.
 
i.e.
Two sessions ago I gave one of my players a handout. He read it, left it on the table. During the session the handout was completely misunderstood by everyone, which started a wild goose chase. Had to nudge them back on track.
 
Last session I asked him: do you remember the handout that I gave you last time?
He said: yes.
I gave him a new one and said: OK, this one is new.
I dropped several clues to his handout during the session, but he didn't react.
After the session I indirectly reminded him of the handout, to which he replied: Oh, I didn't read it properly.
 
I find that being overly obvious (with twists) is the way to go as a GM.

Edited by Keffisch, 01 April 2014 - 01:56 AM.


#5 Arrowind

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Posted 01 April 2014 - 12:07 PM

  I find that being overly obvious (with twists) is the way to go as a GM.

 

Ha, yeah. The really annoying thing is, I'm sure I'm just the same when I'm a player. I suppose that when one spends ages obsessing over the details of an Adventure, one forgets how obscure it might all seem to someone just turning up to play it once a week.


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#6 Oomjah

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Posted 08 April 2014 - 03:57 PM

Hadrael knew EXACTLY what was going on, he just chose to ignore half the clues and make things difficult for everyone (sniff)...  :P  ;) Besides, there were so many tasty tasty brains to consume!

(Need to stop playing supposedly intelligent, cunning characters - it just feels more moronic when you miss everything).

 

Combat did initially feel a bit slow, I admit. I confess to being rather surprised/horrified after the first Myrmidon had taken 2 melta blasts to the chops and didn't even slow down (purposefully not looking at stats in the book). And If things were grim for the CSM, they were even more trying for the humans (even when they really deserved them - knives, sigh...)  I'm awfully glad I'm not GMing a game where threats have to be balanced vs a mixed group of marines/renegades, that's a fine line to walk.  I think with practice we'll get more used to powering through the combat turns (not that I'm advocating a slaughter-fest game, I think our resident Slaaneshi might flip her lid at that  :D )

 

I'd agree regarding hordes, they were wiped out repeatedly, but those warp weapon wielding automata were a very unpleasant surprise to a character who felt smugly tough!  I guess that's what an alpha legionnaire gets for coming out of the shadows for once  :wacko: Ambush tactics might suit them more (hordes, that is).  

 

The mass combat rules were rather interesting, certainly speeding things up while still letting people feel involved, although it did feel like it came down to simply being a couple of dice rolls.  But it was a nice balance to switch to an actual combat when we fluffed the mass combat to storm the bridge, felt more involving.

 

I think that after the previous game where everyone got along famously, this time the group were more determined to muck each other about in service to their respective Gods which rather took our eye off of the ball.  And as more people choose their paths, I'd expect this to get worse, rather than better  :) (so tempting...)

 

Rest assured, now that we appreciate the scale of the gift from the Gods, Hadrael, at least, is all primed to offer humanity freedom from the inevitable extinction that is the Empire!  Those poor, deluded, tasty fools...

 

More games! More! you've made a rod for your own back now!  :)



#7 Bore

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Posted 09 April 2014 - 11:13 AM

I find that the greatest hold-up to a game is when the players show up and the GM assumes they have their own personal goals.

 

With that situation, there are two problems;

 

  1. assuming the players have goals is great, but in order to actively work them in, the GM needs to be aware of them.
  2. players more often than not need to be told to have goals (yes, multiple are needed) above and beyond loot and exp.

I highly recommend sitting down with the players and discussing both their long-term and short-term goals; if they don't have any, you can give them ideas. When I first started to play, I was given a goal (because my character was initially a pre-gen), but I've since expanded upon my original goal (and if you can believe it, my original goal is to help the Imperium of Man).

 

This is something that I've actually actively done to help some of my fellow players whom don't often have a goal and sometimes feel like just a body at the table. I figure that if I can help them get a drive within the game, then not only do I enhance my play experience, but I enhance said players' and the GMs' as well.

 

As to the OP's first post:

From my groups' play experience, we roam the Screaming Vortex. but not as "just one more set of evil freaks". We've been acting as usurpers and heralds of a new power - our power, come to bring a new regime to the sector. We each have our methods and ways and ideas, and sometimes these are at odds with each other, but often we've learned to make concessions and compromises with each other, if not with the other powers within the Screaming Vortex.

 

So we have a group goal; to gain control of the sector. This in-turn would help us truly begin a crusade. But in order to do that, we need to break up our larger goal into smaller, more manageable ones. Like, we liberate a planet, or remove a rival, or gain allies, etc. It's that very process of turning a larger goal into smaller ones - in conjunction with the GM's input - which has kept the wheels on the campaign.



#8 Arrowind

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Posted 09 April 2014 - 01:05 PM

 

Ambush tactics might suit them more (hordes, that is).

 

But whenever a Horde ambushes an Alpha Legionnaire, the Horde knows it's actually the Alpha Legionnaire that's ambushing it in some way it doesn't understand. It's less confusing and upsetting to just be mown down in a hail of bolter fire.



#9 Arrowind

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Posted 09 April 2014 - 01:59 PM

I highly recommend sitting down with the players and discussing both their long-term and short-term goals; if they don't have any, you can give them ideas. When I first started to play, I was given a goal (because my character was initially a pre-gen), but I've since expanded upon my original goal (and if you can believe it, my original goal is to help the Imperium of Man).

 

It needs all the help it can get... But yeah, good idea. The game started out of a one off adventure, so I didn't have a long term goal for it from the get go. Given that heretics are rebels who've thrown off the shackles of the Imperium's multitudinous hierarchies, it feels like Black Crusade should be driven by the PCs' ambitions. If I was starting again, I think I'd try to get the groups' collective purpose nailed down in character creation, even if it was "Phase 1: Collect Underpants; Phase 2: ?; Phase 3: Overthrow The Imperium of Man".



#10 Oomjah

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Posted 09 April 2014 - 02:35 PM

I've actually been thinking about my chaps origins/goals rather a lot, it does sound a good idea to get them out of my head and into the gm's! If nothing else it may give ideas for scenarios (not that you need them, oh great and wise giver of xp!)

I'll maybe post them to you tonight, Sinc, once I get home.
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