Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Split-Party Cut-Scenes, Off-Stage Events and Spare Characters. Just another day DMing Earthshaker.

We've come to an interesting situation in the game tonight.

First of all, several characters were reduced to negative hit points, and, although they survived and have undergone magical healing, will now be out of play for several days. This means they will not be out of action for some considerable time while they heal. Their players have presently taken on the roles of the Trog guides (and are doing a marvelous job of role-playing them too, I might add).

Like most of my fellow Old School Bloggers, I believe very strongly in the idea that the game world should not revolve solely around the actions of the players. There are multiple factions on the island, each with their own agenda and their own timetable. The player characters might disrupt these activities (intentionally or otherwise) but these plots won't necessarily rely on the actions of the players. Or even (at least initially) include the PC's as a factor to be considered. After all, how could they? Most of the factions on the Island don't even know the PC's are there yet. This brings is to the second interesting situation that arisen: a very major campaign event is about to occur which will directly effect the player characters. Only it's happening in a location that MOST of the current PC's aren't anywhere near.

Third,  I stopped the session right in the middle of the dungeon, rather than ending it back at camp like I usually do. This is because our time ran out at a cliff-hanger I just couldn't ignore: when the PC's first encounter the Shroom in his lair. This complicates things somewhat. While most of the players booked in for next Friday have characters in or near the Caves that can participate in the boss fight, others will not. Seeing as I personally regard allowing someone else play my characters in my absence with abject horror (at least in an Old School game) I'm not about to let any-one play someone else's character either.

How then, am I going to keep everyone involved in the game?

Tonight, I gave everyone present the task of the creating their spare character. I'll also contact the other players on facebook and advise them to do the same. While most of the players (and their primary characters) will be fighting the Shroom, the spare characters will be actively engaged in the major event happening elsewhere. By cutting back and forth between the caverns and the major event every few rounds or so (at dramatically appropriate moment) every player present next Friday should have at least one character actively engaged in the session.

I"m also going to rule that anytime a character has to recover from being taken down to negative hit points, rather than playing an NPC like Sparious, the player takes over their spare character temporarily. Rather like the old Character Tree system in 2nd ed Darksun, it means that the player can continue to accrue XP that benefits the player, rather than XP that only benefits an NPC.

It's been a while since I've ran a big cut-scene with two major battles running simultaneously. In fact, I think both of the last two occasions have been during Star Wars campaigns where ground combats and space combats were going on at once. I'm rather looking forward to it. Going by the players reactions last time, they were an absolutely huge success that left all involved (including me) with an awesome buzz at the end of the session.

Let's hope we can repeat that success this time round.

Appendix: Instructions for creating your spare character.

  • At the moment, your spare character must be human. Once (if) the PC's make friendly contact with non-humans of a player character race, the option to create a non-human PC will become open again.
  • You can choose any class or multi-class combination open to humans under the House Rules.
  • The spare PC starts with a quarter of your main characters current XP. 
  •  Don't bother selecting any equipment. You probably won't start with any -although there are a few spare weapons lying around back at the Temple (mostly stuff made by Thoht and Andros) which you might have access to. The reason the main characters are the most active members of the group is because they have all the best gear available. After next Fridays session, you're spare characters will only be able to use equipment which they find themselves or which is donated to them by another PC.


Ray Rousell said...

So just how long in real time can the characters be out of action for?

The Angry Lurker said...

I like the idea as it keeps everybody interested and in the game.

Dangerous Brian said...

Thank's Fran. :)

One of the characters was down to -8 hit points. Now that they're conscious they're at -8 to all dice rolls. Each full day of rest reduces the penalty by 1. Six sessions in we're on day 7, having had just two days of down-time. Although, now that the PC's have been on the island for a while, I suspect they'll have more opportunities for downtime in the future.

Really what it comes down to is party choice. If the party feel that the group as a whole is secure enough to wait eight days for the PC to recover, then the character could theoretically be back next session.

Of course there's no guarantee that the various agendas of the other factions will actually allow them those eight peaceful days.

Realistically, I would expect that the average character reduced to neg hp will probably miss a session or two if they wish to rest long enough to recover fully. It might seem harsh, but it keeps them on their toes.

x said...

Totally off topic, and feel free to delete this post I will not be offended, but I gotta Old School Survival Guide to go...any chance we might see this soon? Not only am I a big fan of the series but I'm doing a write up on the series for my ezine launch of Classic Reals of Adventure and really wanted it in the premiere issue.

x said...

Hell, I can almost spell...Classic Realms of Adventure...what a day...

Dangerous Brian said...

Wow, I'm truly honoured. I earnetly promise to have the final survival guide up this weekend. Thanks very much doing a review.

Dangerous Brian said...

Finished and posted. I suppose I just needed the right motivation.

x said...

I have you listed on the Eternal Keep ( I hope it has helped with traffic. I notice a lot of folks have linked to it so the news is spreading and CRoA will get top page billing on release.

I've been looking for things that I think people have missed out on and I read your first guide and printed/bindered it immediately and ran across it the other day while compiling notes and came out to check on the Cleric guide.

And thanks for the Cleric guide. I am a fan of the class (seems to catch a lot of flak lately) and have been looking forward to it.

Jeff has a similar thought going:

and I wanted to do them back to back.

Dangerous Brian said...

Thanks. I'm glad they've been of use of to you. And thanks also for adding me to the listing. It's appreciated. I've been enjoying Jeff's posts about the kind of things the various classes might be doing with their time.
I'm looking forward to the release of CRoA.

Dangerous Brian said...

Personally, I think cleric is an awesome class. I really don't understand why so many people diss it. Maybe it's because so many non-cleric gamers expect you to be the party heal-bot and nothing else.