Last Wednesday night I wrapped up the current story instalment of our Conan: Adventures In An Age Undreamed Of campaign. I wrapped it up sooner than I was going to as well. I had a few other surprises up my sleeve for the game but I came across something I had not encountered before. The players were talking about how long this whole adventure had taken. They had achieved the main goals with a few twists and in the middle of the game, they started talking about how long this adventure had been. Most of what I had left to do could be dropped and so I did. By the end of the night, the players had completed this adventure and moved on to carousing in the game. I was left asking myself why did that happen?
The first thing that I looked at in the adventure was the pacing of the game. I wanted to cover a good amount of social, adventure and intrigue with the framework I was using. The adventure was about a royal advisor having the players locate a sceptre for the prince’s coronation. The sceptre was at the bottom of the Vilyaret sea protected by a sorcerous enchantment. The enchantment disorients all that swim to the wreck it was located on. There was a pirate attack (two in fact), a run-in with the law, an attempted mutiny, a windswept asylum and a dragon beast! It all tied in nicely and there were some great NPC’s sprinkled throughout. After the review, I decided it was not the pacing even though it had taken us around 4 weekly sessions to play through it.
Honestly, when we get together in this group it is a much more social event than a focussed immersive experience. We laugh and joke about various stuff. Pop culture references abound and the game is just as much about catching up as it is about role-playing. Sometimes this distracts us from the game but I can’t see that the past four weeks have been any different or worse than normal. In fact, we have even been getting the game underway earlier than most nights because some of the players that can be late have been showing up on time. The focus is certainly not an issue here.
I have been working hard these past few weeks and as a result of that my preparation time has been minimal. One night in this adventure I even forgot my book that had the adventure notes in it. I forgot the tokens for the game (Conan uses Fate, Doom and Momentum tokens) twice but I always have some kind of other game with me that we can use the tokens from. The night I forgot the book with the adventure in it I was able to rely on the player’s notes for NPC’s and the notes I had made in my playbook (I always have one book with adventure notes and one book to note specific notes for that particular session). I am sure it was a minor thing but these mistakes may have played a small part in the player comments. If they can see that I am not on top of my game then perhaps they feel that playing a session or adventure out is not important.
Was this something to do with the game itself? Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed of is a game that builds itself on an episodical format for adventures. They talk about the stories that Robert E. Howard wrote for Conan and how they were compacted into the pulp fiction style. They also reduce the “in-between” adventure times into a sort of a mini-game called carousing. This allows the players time to spend some coin on their upkeep and creates a shortened montage for the group or characters of what they do in between times. This also includes random elements that help build richer stories in the main adventure portions of the game. It is also the time when the characters can spend their experience and improve as a character. While running an adventure the player cannot improve their character until carousing. I do not normally run an episodic style of adventure and so I realised this has to be playing in to it. The players had amassed a bit of experience and were keen to expand their characters.
I need to be more prepared for my games. When I know I am running a game that requires the tokens I need to check I have them before leaving for the game! Not to mention the notes that run the adventure too! The other thing that I need to do in future is pay more attention to the episodic nature of the game. I generally like to run adventures that feed from changes in the adventure itself. A player shows interest in a particular side-plot so I expand on it for next game. I need to incorporate that idea but compartmentalise it. Give them something that they can follow up in the next adventure rather than do it immediately. The player wants to grow their character and without that carousing phase they can’t do it. It is funny how these differences in systems can make up such a huge difference in game. I know I could just rule that the player could advance at any time, but I like this style and I think I will work with it instead of against it in future. Keeep rolling!