The changes that I have been working on have all been implemented and it is early days but this week I have run two games with those changes implemented. The changes that they have wrought are a lot clearer in one game than the other but there were a lot of much happier people this week at both tables, inclusive of myself.
Reign of Winter
The first game was Monday night (you can watch it if you wish here) and was the Rasputin Must Die finale. I through the week had implemented my Hero Point post and allowed those that were dead to take advantage of a retrospective Hero Point spend which allowed them to be unconscious on negative hit points so they were one off dead. This automatically pleased some of the players no end and also, once one of the other players manipulated a cure light wounds wand with his Use Magical Device skill (first time I have ever had to adjudicate that skill from memory) to bring one of them up who then in turn got the other two up.
The battle went by the numbers and hero points were used. It is hard to detect if it had much to do with raising the role playing of the group because they were in such an involved combat. But it felt better. Much better. At the end of the combat the party got to level up (this is the group that are happy to let me say when to level) and as such everything played out nice and smoothly. On the plus side for me is the fact that it looks like this is absolutely the last game that I have to put up with Roll 20 without having paid subscription. i did not realise how bad that system is when you do not give them money – it drives me insane. But next time we should be playing in Fantasy Grounds. I have already started to prepare the next (and final) module in that tabletop for play.
Skull and Shackles
This is my in person game and it ran last night. We are beginning to move through the third module of this adventure path and while it has its combat moments, it is dealing with finding proof of a plot and there is a lot of social encounters to play out here. Last night we ran for about three and a half hours and the players were now made aware of the changes to Hero Points and they were also aware that the game would deliver XP not on a CR basis but from me simply as reward for how fun the game was and their overall achievements.
The difference in play was immediate and brilliant. Right up front there was a role playing challenge and the players took to it. Some ad-libbing, others sharing stories they had prepared for their characters as they petitioned the Hurricane King to get their letter of Marque as true pirates of the Shackles. The fact that they failed their skill rolls at the end and got thrown out by a bunch of rowdy pirates did not detract from the brilliance of those involvements and earned them a bunch of XP. They also got their letter of Marque later in the evening but just need to learn from the failure that social skills need developing too.
Then there were new friends met, the Captain of the Black Heart caught the eye of another Captain who came and introduced himself and flirted a little while. That was a great encounter and then in the same ale house they spotted the cabin girl from the original ship that they had been Shanghaied on (I finally learnt where that term came from a few nights ago while watching Ghost Hunters). She was doing the rounds of the alehouse dropping night night drops into peoples drinks. A sailor noticed though and a brawl broke out, kind of. With the sailors leaping up and into a fist fight the brave Captain of the party leaped up and drew his sword (rapier) and stabbed one of the combatants to death. To join in, the Barbarian started raging and drew her battleaxe cutting into some combatants. The brawl got ugly quick as the brawlers smashed furniture to get clubs and moved in.
Perhaps realising that they may have had a part in escalating things a tad too quickly the Barbarian used one of my Hero Point rules to negotiate the use of Intimidation to effect the group rather than a single opponent. In rage she roared in warning so the room would realise the danger they were in. Dripping the blood from one of the combatants over herself the room quivered with fear as she rolled a 40 on her Intimidate check. The brawl was over.
The remainder of the group managed to catch the cabin girl before she could flee the scene (good usage of Hero Points again made this possible) and they took her back to their ship. Again another round of social encounters saw the cabin girl sign on to their crew and give them a little information about their old Shanghaiing captain Barnabas Harrington. There are only two on the ship these days that lived through the Wormwood adventure and they did not like the idea of the Cabin Girl staying, but they were under a new Captain now and had to respect his decision.
Finally, the group got called to one of the Pirate Lord’s homes, Tessa Fairwind. She asked them for a meal to discuss a possible alliance should they perform a delicate task for her. They attended the evening and got details of what she wanted, and agreed to help. This again was a beautiful role playing encounter that was well played out and really impressed me with what this system has to offer when you steer it away from simply being a tactical combat murder hobo styled game. I drew no maps for the evening. Everything was theatre of the mind apart from a couple of illustrations I showed them from the books and everyone had a blast. It was one players first introduction to the campaign and it worked really well. This player is one that really responds well to NPC interactions.
In fact, right at the start when he arrived the party were selling items that they had picked up from other adventures and I was playing an NPC called “Mangey” Marg Martols because normally they just give me a list and I tell them how much. This time I forced them to role play the encounters with specific merchants to give flavour and the players were loving their interaction with her. It really felt good to deal with things in this manner.
While a sample set of two games straight after the changes is probably not the best indicator I can say that I feel that the changes have made a big difference already. I walked away from last nights game with a broad smile and an eagerness to get in to the pirate campaign in an immersive way again. The Reign of Winter campaign was a relief because we finally got out of that combat and are moving forward there as well. I will see how the changes take effect to the role playing involved – of which there is some in the final book (thank goodness).
So everything is sitting pretty here. I might have to review it after a month but I hope that the improved conditions are here to stay. Keep rolling!