Sunday, December 24, 2017

2017 Lamentations of the Flame Princess Clockwork & Cthulhu Campaign in Review

The shared campaign notes document is four pages long now. Player generated session reports are over 64,000 words. The campaign since it started covers five weeks of activity. This has taken 22 months of gaming with a live session every other week. Sometimes a month can go by without a game happening because of life. Either way the players have covered much ground and there has never been a let up on the action. The group of four core players is down to three with a fourth able to play infrequently. Sometimes we have five. There has been a total of three PC deaths, countless of NPC's of course.

The second year of BRP Cthulhu & Chivalry opened with the PC's trying to unlock the secrets of Constine Mallebench and ended with plans to storm a tavern to apprehend an alien god.

Here are the top five highlights of this year's action from your Keeper's perspective:


#5. Taking Advantage of Norton Manor: With the Senior Norton chasing his fancy back to Keswick and the Dr.'s bedridden mother laying close to catatonic the rest of the PC's did not let the Norton's crumbling fortunes deter them from enjoying the upscale digs. After the trail of gore and horror just endured, and more danger sure to be faced, the PC's counted a quiet evening at home a win. While typical wisecracks of using the “#1 Son” coffee mug, scraping blood and brains off their boots, using the monogrammed robes carried round the table made for memorable levity it was the indicated small release of tension among the Players which was most gratifying. This meant the game wasn't stale and there were still many more good adventures left in the campaign.


#4: To Kill A Mime: I love collateral damage. I like supers roleplaying for the implications of collateral damage at scale. Our Cthulhu & Chivalry world is but a background of literal collateral damage. War, famine, plague terrorize civilians country wide. Chaos and confusion are the order of the day. So it takes something exceptional to happen to make me notice any one death among many. Or just mimes. Are they the gnomes of seventeenth century alt-history gaming? When the PC's survived a street ambush and the smoke cleared we had mimes bleeding out and dying. The PC's promptly ignored their suffering and looked to the well being of other wounded bystanders forever establishing if “Street Entertainers” are rolled up for an encounter and they end up getting shot make them mimes if you want to hurry things along. My point is, what I find important about this bit of gaming goodness was that it was a procedurelly generated event. I enjoy being a game master because I get to world build and constantly pose the question of “What if… ?” to myself in fantastical context. But much of my enjoyment also comes from letting the PC's actions dictate what will be. Taking the great information being shared here in the Google+ OSR I've learned to use random tables for oh just about everything now. Name generators, encounter tables, reaction results. Published and homemade. Injecting random stuff and trusting the PC's will make something of it has been a real big learn for me. It gives me enthusiasm to muster more “stuff” for the PC's to do because I know each session is going to have as much surprise for myself as the players.


#3: Dr. Norton's Yarmouth Chronicles: I know it isn't great literature but the continued writings of the PC's of their trials not only is a fun read, but preserves vital world info I would otherwise forget. The in-game time has only been a month and a half. The voluminous testimony of events as they occurred reveals how chock full of “stuff” we cluttered the campaign with. Items or incidents which were thought of as bits of color now may be the source of entire adventure arcs. I'm sure our group has a better game as a result of these records.


#2: Inky Pete at the Asylum: Another randomly generated encounter which provided much more game than expected. Taking a cue once again from information and tips shared online I have a much better approach to making my own encounter tables. It basically boils down to a simple question; “If I roll it do I want to run it?” There goes all sorts of “normal” encounters I might reflexively generate for a game, or use from a published supplement. When I create a random encounter table for a session I now trust whatever comes up is going to be fun for myself as well as the players. If I don't want the PC's to encounter wolves in the woods don't put them on the random encounter table! And I don't mean every random encounter is pregnant with meaning or significance, but the idea is it is worth talking about and gives players “stuff” to do. This is a good place to point out how often I use Vornheim: The Complete City Kit. I did not know how to run urban adventures, at least to my liking. This book not only has content I find interesting and useful, the whole structure of the book is instructive on how I can make the same. This means Vornheim is probably the first truly “universal” game supplement I've used fulfilling on the promise.


#1: The Badger's Drift Bear Trap: Simple, effective and truly inspired from the roots of my early OSR upbringing. What I enjoyed most about this encounter was how ordinary items produced a harrowing, memorable danger. As any good accident points out it isn't just one thing that gets you. It is the layering of consequences from seemingly minor threats which begin to spell d-o-o-m in player's mind. When you can pull it off it is justly earned referee glory. Fantasy games accent the fantastical. So much so actually frightening your players can seem nigh impossible. The feeling of discomfort and disfunction sometimes has to be mechanically enforced on players because of the distance created by the game's fictional devices. Call of Cthulhu being an obvious, and successful, use of mechanically enforced fear. Therefore with the PC's unbalanced by a simple trap hidden in the snow and simple woodland animals (Yes, now wolves are interesting!) an ordinary skirmish quickly rose to deadly stakes at the same time confounding expectations.

There are many more, but I want to limit myself to just a few events which were a direct result of all the tips learned here on Google+ and the OSR online community. As the group closes out another year of entertainment I promise there is much more to come because there is so much more to come from the DIY OSR creators!