Tuesday, November 7, 2017

That's a wrap! (The Expedition to Xan Than Du)

After almost a year and a half with two different groups of players running competing expeditions,  the campaign has ended with the home group victorious over the online group in a narrow finish (the online group found the Eye of Set first but was repulsed in their attempts to secure it for two games).

The massive hex-crawl had lots of notable moments and adventures.  I created the campaign by using a randomly generated map and trying to stock with home grown things from the source material, but also specifically content from other authors tailored to fit the game.

Here are some things I noted:

1.) Multiple competing groups really added to the excitement and planning of both groups, knowing that another group of actual humans was actively racing them really changed the dynamic.  I had tested this previously with a sci-fi dungeoncrawl  and it was even more pronounced this time.

2.) Seed tables are indeed great even with massively sustained play and when built correctly add a deep flavour to regions.

3.) Time Limits on the game session (like physical real person time) add a very different mindset to encounters,  the need to "win" every encounter is drastically lowered as players quickly identify time spent dealing with things as a lost resource.  This really added to the feeling of a harried expedition and made it feel much less like a murder-crawl. Unless the party got actually infuriated they were more than willing to let enemies who took a few pot shots just escape, it also meant they were way more likely to pay bridge tolls from bandits. They COULD easily win any fight and cross for free, but that would take like 20 to 30 minutes of real time and paying a toll is like 1 minute in real time.  Haggling over prices was also reduced for anything but truly major purchases.   It made adventure pacing a player problem and they self solved it.

4.) Analysis Paralysis becomes huge with a big expedition.  I ended up "solving" this by randomly rolling one player each week to be the expedition leader if the group hadn't decided in 15 minutes. They set course and direction and goals for the week and that seemed to work out well.

5.) Setting a campaign goal as the GM made the campaign much easier run.  Players could still have whatever sub-goals they wanted, but putting the up front caveat that the campaign was about characters trying to get into an explorer's society back in London by retrieving the Eye of Set meant that every character started with at least one goal in unison.  As an expedition game where players would have a stable of characters (as characters could take weeks or months to recover from some ailments) this meant I could be very clear that if a character's primary motivation stopped being to help the party retrieve the eye of set they stopped being a PC,  use a different character from your stable and/or make a new one.  That wouldn't be ideal for every game, but if it is used it really does cement a party identify quickly.