Telengard 2.0 session 2

(I know a lot of people hate reading session reports.  Feel free to skip this, although I did include a couple of newish monsters and some general DMing musings so it’s not all a waste of time…)

The second session had a bit of a slow start, with the party checking out the new ‘Adventurer’s Guild’ that was setting up shop.  There was kind of a long and frustrating negotiation, as the players wanted to know what the AG would do for them in terms of rewards.

 I had decided ahead of time that AG would charge a 5% tax of all loot, but offer training, discounts on Identify and magical healing, and other support.  One mechanical benefit would also be that the party could earn XP bonuses for successfully completing ‘missions’ (I decided to drop the old gold = XP, and instead give arbitrary XP for successfully completing the player’s stated goals, whatever they might be; accepting a mission is one way to state a goal.)  The party was only really interested in how they would profit financially from the arrangement, and when the AG suggested they begin reclaiming houses in the city from the monsters, the party balked.

 The big problem was communication.  As DM, I thought I should not mention game mechanics in the negotiations, and only dropped hints about ‘we’ll help you become heroes’ and ‘training’.  I suppose it would have been better to say: If you take missions from us, you’ll earn more XP, because in hindsight, the game is all about exploring and heroism because those are the rewarded behaviors*.  I was all caught up in not ‘breaking the fourth wall’ and not talking meta-gamey mechanics and in hindsight that was the wrong time to do so.  But the party was also focused, laser-like, on cash rewards for helping the city and guild, so I had few opportunities for the guild steward to actually explain the “benefits.”

 In the end they found that the mayor’s office was offering cash rewards, and decided to try their luck reclaiming buildings, but along the the way they began plotting to take the buildings for themselves and set up their own fiefdom, when they realized the reward was “only” 50-100 GP per house or shop.

 Eventually things got rolling, and the party began home invasions, er, exploring and fighting monsters.  They tended to sweep through the buildings, heavy fighters kicking the doors while the rogue and assassin did a little recon.  The first foray was a little disorganized, and the assassin found himself facing four goblins who responded to the alarm raised by goblins in another part of the house.  The party had some wounds but no deaths by the time they defeated the nine goblins and one hobgoblin.  Delving further they encountered bat-like creatures with a single eye in place of  a head.  The eye-bats did not attack directly but use a ‘critical gaze’ which unnerves and distracts their victims (Will save or -1 to all rolls while under the gaze).  These proved to be fairly fragile, and the elf took two out with his bow, although one got away.   The party also encountered a band of green gremlins, tiny fey goblins who steal whatever they can grab. (If they hit an AC 7, the victim makes a Reflex save or loses one random item.  Because we use the LotFP list-based encumbrance, the PCs all have convenient lists of their inventory!)  The elf put most of  them down with a Sleep spell, and under questioning the survivors agreed to hand over their loot in exchange for their lives.  Said loot was stashed in a ruined chapel, which had been making ominous ‘rustling’ noises, and the gremlins confirmed that it housed undead hounds, which do not attack the gremlins.  The gremlin handed over his loot (several rolls on the “Mundane items table” plus one valuable bracelet) and the gremlins were off.

 The elf retired to one of the houses that had been secured, accompanied by the barbarian, who looted the house while the elf tried to re-memorize spells.  however the barbarian kept interrupting the elf and no spells were relearned. Meanwhile the rest of the party, despite their wounds, tried one more building, discovering a small library or sage’s tower that held five goatmen.  The party worked pretty well again as a team, using brute force and stealth make the most of the assassin’s and rogue’s abilities, and the paladin’s brawn.  The bard was nearly killed, but again they all pulled through and the party was ready to consolidate their gains.

The party hired some mooks to clean up the emptied houses, and then began to move some of the barricades so the cleared houses would be within ‘city limits’.  At this time the mayor showed up, having heard about the cleaning crews.  After some harsh words, the party realized the mayor was leaving, not just in a huff, but to get the Fireguard, and they relented, agreeing to hand over the houses for the reward rather than trying to hold them themselves.  (They discussed the pros & cons of deposing the mayor, using reward cash for equipment upgrades, and so on, which was fun to listen to).

Then the party returned to town, and learned from the priest in town that AG members get free healing, which prodded them to finally join, although the party claimed a moral victory, negotiating their tax down to just 4%.  As an aside, the paladin felt terribly aggrieved that the temple did not just give out free healing to his party, and unconvinced by the argument that from the priests’ point of view, he was asking for a MIRACLE, and these things are not free.  In fact the temple would heal paladins and clerics for free, guild members or not, but I’ve always felt that one of the pitfalls of having a ‘good’ church in a setting is that rogues and scoundrels will expect to take advantage of them for free healing etc.  The ‘miracle’ argument does not seem to convince my players…

Anyway I didn’t anticipate the party wanting to clear the ruins for their own use, especially at first level.  The campaign could have taken a very different, and possibly dark, turn if they decided to oppose the city so early on.  Whether they decide to depose the mayor, or topple the AG, or whatever is of course entirely up to them and I think the best part of a ‘sandbox’ approach to a campaign, as a DM, is that you get surprised so much.

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*Ironically, during table talk a few session back, three players loudly trashed economics as a legitimate field of study because they claimed it fails to explain or predict and assumes humans are rational.  However the view that RPGs reward desired behavior seems like textbook economics to me, and they all implicitly accept this without question

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Published in: on February 2, 2012 at 1:00 pm  Comments (5)  
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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Let us NOT forget that the Bard fell unconscious due to the fact the party’s own Elf took half of his health away with a misplaced arrow. I do believe there will be some ill words sung about that in the tavern this week!

    • Ah, yes, friendly fire.
      Well, at least Tom never complains about taking a friendly fire hit. Oh wait, forgot about last week.

  2. FWIW, I enjoy your session writeups. Your players sound like a charmingly murderous band of cutthroats and you have some neat monsters. I’d steal the eye-bat things in a heartbeat.

    I’ll be interested in hearing your thoughts on XP-for-goals. That’s kinda how I handle it, but I haven’t tied it to concrete statements. I’d like to know how it works out.

    • Oddly enough a couple players mocked the eye-bats as probably being one of the ‘stupid’ monsters from the old Fiend Folio or MM2. I took that as a complement! Wait till they see where this eye-monster thread leads…

      Last campaign I ran things ‘by the book’ in terms of treasure and GP=XP, but used the original D&D 1HD=100XP scale and also allowed ‘bonus’ XP for spending gold on carousing. Zero XP for missions, goals, etc.

      This time around I was going to try out the XP scale in 2e, since I’m running a game closer to 2e in terms of rules, but the rewards for killing monsters are too low for my taste. Also I did want to steer the party a bit toward exploring certain areas first (secure the city), so I was going to award XP per building, but then I realized what I really wanted to do was let the party make their own choices, and finally settled on the idea that I’d award XP according to the goals they sets for themselves. If they really want to depose the mayor, they’ll get XP for doing it. But with these extra awards in play, I decided to stop giving XP for recovering gold and only giving it for using gold…which will mean some carousing rolls but it’s also open to their ideas.

  3. Two different issues:
    1 – Economics does have some serious problems with its rhetoric of rationality. Economists also often fall prey to the principal-agent problem – an economist often has perverse incentives to push a weak theory because he will be well-paid for it.

    2- Session reports are extremely useful for any player or DM who wants to improve his skills. Session reports strike a good balance between ease-of-reporting and rigorous-playtest-analysis. In my perfect world, there would be lots of rigorous playtest reports, but that is hard work and bloggers are mostly unpaid volunteers, so I’m grateful for informal session reports.


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