Sunday, January 23, 2011

Return to the Sodden Temple, Again

Our Heroes:

Toral DP
     Tory hireling
Gail MU
Mollie DP
Athydas MU
"G" F
     Le Bouche hireling
     Janis hireling
"Z" F
     Mika hireling
     Fabrino hireling

The party started out  . . . shopping.  They'd found some pearls recently and were looking for a pearlmonger.  After some dallying in Nidus in which they heard two predominate rumors 1) a fleet of threatenting shipes was seen a day's sail out, and 2) people were disappearing on the outskirts of town.

After more dallying they encountered a weeping man who had two sons gone missing.  He paid gold to have them seek them out and pointed them in the direction of the temple.

The party set out porting their canoe.   The party being fairly familiar with the entrance to this temple they pressed forward to a room with an open well leading down.  They had gone down this once before, but only just before turning back.  Athydas shimmied down a rope and encountered thigh-high water.  And the party decided . . . not to  go that way.  They backtracked to the room of the 50 brass urns and through a west-pointing door.  A hallway, a damp plank over a muddy stream, a door.  Cautiously negotiating all these led them into a medium room with three rows of floating cubes which . . . they wanted absolutely nothing to do with.  A door led to a hallway, another door, a chamber with all the walls covered in velvet curtains.  A door, a hallway and a shimmering in the air.

The party advanced toward the shimmering and something clear and gelatinous was glistening with coins floating in the air.  A brief battle ensued.  One party member was dropped unconscious (Gail? Can't remember) the party collected the gold and decided to head back to Nidus without looking further for the weeping man's sons.

Some Thoughts

The session was sort of blah, for me.  I hadn't developed my ideas for the world map to the extent I was satisfied to give it to them.  I had an idea of having an invading army attack the whole city forcing the party to help the defense or flee, but changing things either way.  But again, I hadn't sketched out the details enough to where I would want to try to improv it with my tired brain.  But I thought it would be okay for at least one more session because:

I'd heard two different players mention exploring a section of the temple that they'd barely breached previously.  If they did I knew there was 1) lots of treasure 2) an interesting magic item, and 3) stiff opposition by some weird creatures.  Of course all thought of going that direction was forgotten sometime after play started.

Another possibility was that they would push a little further in a different direction and enter the temple's main chamber, where there is a bad cleric, a lot of fly worshippers, a baby brundlephant, and a floor literally covered with treasure (mostly copper pieces).  They have been in the chamber right next to this room.  But nope, they went a completely different direction on the first level and left after a single battle successfully yielded treasure.

I know you can't predict what players will do, but I was disappointed that their exploration was sort of random, even though they had several possible logical goals.  If playing this game is like being in a band I felt they were all playing flat, or out of time or something.

Don't get me wrong, there was plenty of laughter and fun was had, but I want to up our game.

Two important rule changes that have come from this session are 1) I'm ditching experience for gold spent, I might write a post on this, but essentially it undercut any feeling of achievement by the treasure found at the end of the night and seems to just push characters to buy crap (there's enough of that in the real world) and 2) an explicit guild system for each of the three classes.  I think this will give them logical goals, incentives, and a realistic way for me to offer them hooks and choices.

Also, my failure on the Angel of Color.  I guess it was hubris to expect them to interact with it when they had no gain from the last experience.  Maybe the angels should all drop gems or convey a vision or something.  I'm also remembering that these are organisms, as alien as they appear, not just tricks.  So maybe they will follow the party around and try to communicate or something.


  1. dreams. Or, rather, dreamlands adventures prompted by the Angels. Which I would probably present as dreams set in the most prosaic familiar environments in which the Angels appear in various guises. Having all the players appear in the same dream together is an immediate cue that something is up.

    I say this partly because it seems like your players have got a bad case of Rational Actor, which is a difficult defensive strategy to deal with. The Cthulhu party that joyously walks right into the temple and goes mad and runs around squealing and then somehow, with insane insight, figures out to break the idol is having fun. The party that won't go into the basement because basements are trouble is stuck. Nobody in their right mind would go dungeoneering, so too much sensible right-mindedness is a curse.

    It might be that the threat level is too high and the predictability level too low: that will engender darkness paralysis, where they don't want to do anything for fear of falling off a cliff.

    But dreams let you mix it up, change genres and threat levels, encourage adventurousness. They can be a welcome day off the tension train. And then suddenly turn wrong, as long as the players are given a chance to know they're turning wrong. They can let you give players insights, arm them with information to overcome darkness paralysis. Give them confidence that they have the golden key/a leg-up on your arbitrary and cruel world/the beginnings of understanding your logic.

  2. "Nobody in their right mind would go dungeoneering, so too much sensible right-mindedness is a curse."

    I see this as one of, if not the fundamental problem with roleplaying.

    I have a long post percolating in my head about it. In a nutshell, the biggest potential for fun is in the ironic distance of the game (Zak wrote about this) and yet, the game sort of falls apart if we aren't at least partially acting in-character. These goals are in opposition.

  3. action movies routinely say the heroes' safe home will blow up unless they go in the cave, so they'd better go in the cave. I remember this being a common theme of campaigns in the 80s. New schooler games seem to have gone through this phase to somewhere else, while old school games mostly don't seem to want to deal with it: you adventure because we're here to play D&D, dammit. I've found that attitude tends to lead to being disappointed in your game experience, no matter which side of the coin you're on.

    I find it funny that CoC (a) tells you up front that this adventure will kill you, and (b) generally assumes you'll engage with it just because you're curious, or a family friend asks, or other weak Scooby Doo type hooks. Somehow those two things are just given at the start, and I've found that seems to help.