Last night (Saturday, 9 November, 2019) I ran my very first convention game at Longcon 2019 (Longview, Texas convention). Let me send a shoutout, first, to Eddie Bartlett and Matt Gullett, who run the East Texas Role-Playing Group ( https://www.facebook.com/groups/958284014253686/ ) and anyone else who were helping to run this convention at the Hilton Garden Inn on Hawkens for a well-run event. I appreciate all the work they put into it and, unless we somehow move before Spring, I will likely participate then, as well.
John Watkins (of Dallas, helping with an upcoming Torg product and, likely, more than one) and Jonathan Thompson (a Contributor to Torg and a game writer) both came for the game, last night; I was not expecting that. Though John was called away immediately after the drawings -which began at 7 and went to nearly 8-, he parted with a bit of swag, which was much appreciated around the table. Having been drawn for both his third and fourth copies (gold filigree) of the DCC RPG, hehe, lucky dog, it was a shame he was not able to stay, as I believe he would have added further uniqueness and fun to the adventure and would have enjoyed the evening. I thank both of these fella’s for showing up and am grateful they were there.
Including Jonathan, we had six Players total, which made for a truly pleasant evening. I had spots for up to eight, but six turned out to be perfect. The three players that originally signed up either were not able to attend or were required to leave for one of several reasons, I’m sure, so everyone showed up fresh and, to have a table full with six was a blessing. So, my Players and their Characters are listed, here, from my left, clockwise around to my right...
- Adrian played Dakota Ersh, a Nile Healer (Lay on Hands and the Miracles: Lightning Strike, Repel, and Ward Enemy),
- Cameron played Chris Evans, our pyromaniac Realm Runner (Realm Runner and Tenacious) and associate to Mikao Hendricks,
- Patrick played Jean Renee LeMarque, a Cyberpapacy Spy (Situational Awareness and Cyberware (silent comms, +1 Strength in his Left Arm along with a GodMeeter built-in),
- Kurt played Mikao Hendricks, our Core Earth wealthy guy (Wealthy and Natural Leader),
- Renee (who was fairly shy) played Risheen Zan, a Healer from Aysle (Born to Light and Miracles: Bless, Healing, and Ward Enemy), and
- Jonathan played Tara Mahmoud, our Weird Scientist (Gizmos and Weird Scientist), who turned out to be brilliant.
- Xiao Anjian, a Martial Artist from Pan-pacifica (Block Strike and Ki Strike),
- Joel “Chicago Joe” Chicago, a Street Fighter from the Nile Empire (Brawler and Endurance),
- Tawny Reskin, a Psychic from Core Earth (Iron Will and Psionics: Awareness, Cloud Mind, and Telepathy), associate of Mikao Hendricks
- Sa’hail Saladin, a Pulp Hero known as “MindSpy” (Invisibility and Mind Reading), and
- Slaine, a Mercenary from Core Earth (Double-tap and Endurance), an associate of Mikao Hendricks.
The name of my one-shot is “A Gathering of Stars” and it’s designed to be a clandestine mission for traveling to a secret location, infiltrating it, whether by defeating the forces to get to the final part of the mission, or not, and then gathering intelligence from a super-secret meeting of Lieutenant’s from six of the seven realms (Tharkold was left out, actually) and getting out of the secret location without being caught.
I’ve been writing, reading, and running adventures for all manner of game systems and backgrounds since 1991 (28 years, though I’ve been playing since 1982) and there’s usually one thing I can count on with ALL of the Players I’ve ever had the pleasure to play with... they refuse to be cornered, to do what I have designed into the adventure for them to do. This time, in designing my very first one-shot, I thought I would try to use some reverse-psychology. Let’s just say NOPE... that didn’t work, either, LOL. Well, it sort of worked...
Scene one – the goal was to allow the Players to introduce their pre-gen characters, to make it possible for them to hear, in their own voice, and from others, how they would personalize their characters to themselves. For example, Kurt wound up changing Mikao to Miko, which made things easier for everyone, it turns out and, being one of the two elder members at the table, he was able to form more of a Chicago-style internal voice and external mannerism than the Silicon Valley Asian computer programmer geek with money I made him out to be; that was fun for me. Being a Natural Leader, he also more or less helped direct the group to make collective decisions, which helped me to move things along.
Cameron, our Realm Runner turned in one of his Destiny Cards right away, Attuned, so he could get a second Cosm Card, which he would end up using both of with genius in the beginning of Scene 2.
For the remainder of the scene, I had designed it that a squad of five Scarab Warriors were to come along and search the airship/zeppelin they were on for Possibility-rated folks, particularly Storm Knights. I wrote this as something of a standard happenstance, trying to make it feel more natural that the ship would be searched in the realm.
Initially, everyone wanted to draw weapons and take these guys on, but I had the folks from the Nile, and I even allowed our Realm Runner, to roll a Find (since Perception was removed from the game) and/or Evidence Analysis to understand how badass Scarab’s are, way out of the Player’s league, but helping them to understand, especially with input from Jonathan’s Tara Mahmoud Weird Scientist, that Scarab’s were not to be messed with. Tara built a Weird Science device to neutralize the Scarab’s gear and make a distraction for the Storm Knights to be able to hide until the ship arrived at the Hydrogen refuel point in the middle of the desert. Once the device went off, the Scarab’s became confused as to what happened, especially since they weren’t readily damaged, and they retreated to the bridge of the zeppelin, approaching soon the refuel point where they could get off and call for reinforcements. Instead, Tara -also written as the Ship’s Engineer- used the ship’s engineering to create a false malfunction, which allowed the Storm Knights to disembark. At this point, Kurt (wealthy guy) played a Connection card linking him to one of the refueling station personnel on the ground.
Scene 2 - So, the ship was descending on a false malfunction and, as a matter of safety all passengers, Nile guards, Scarabs, and the crew had to get off the ship until the problem was found and fixed. So, Cameron, our Realm Runner, does three things: 1) he raises his pistol, out of view of all but the other Storm Knights, and fires through the outer and inner balloons of the zeppelin, to set it afire and blow it up. 2) he put down In the Crossfire to help clear everyone from the danger area -which actually wound up gaining a bunch of Possibilities for the group. 3) since his character “died” in the explosion, he played Inevitable Return to come back to the game. I wound up placing him as the driver of the getaway vehicle. So, while the confused Scarab’s, Nile Shocktroops, and crew of the zeppelin were scrambling to keep the refuel port from blowing up and killing the remaining passengers and everyone else on the ground, a distraction away from the clandestine Storm Knight team, the Player Characters were getting away.
This scene was to be split in two parts, the getaway followed by a Haboob stopping their getaway, then the capture by a displaced Tuareg tribe, then interact with them to gain aid from the tribal leader. However, since the game was set to take only four hours, and two hours had gone by from Scene One alone, it was agreed that Scene Two would turn out positively for the Knights… none of what was in that scene was terribly important, so I’m glad the Players and I were able to come to an agreement and skip it. It got us back on schedule, more or less, so it was a good thing. However, I was anticipating they would have trouble with Scene Three, which was designed to encourage them to find a way to infiltrate the secret facility, which was built into a huge natural-cut rock-ball or, without being able to infiltrate, they could fight their way in. I had twenty 2nd Planting Gospog, five Nile Shocktroop Officers, and another twenty Shocktroops guarding the Lieutenants at this facility.
Fortunately for the Players, Cameron (Realm Runner) played an Idea card which allowed him to spot concealed ventilation outlets higher up on the rock. With several of the characters able to climb and possessing climbing gear, they were able to get around the guards and up on top of the facility to enter the vents. Since the location was supposed to be secret, and the forces within were confident in that knowledge, no one was on top to help give away the location of the base.
Hero, Drama, Second Chance, and Master Plan cards were used masterfully by the entire group, last night. Trading cards out of action scenes, especially by Cameron, who seemed to drive the trading and use of cards for the entire group, was done brilliantly, and the entire group had fun. Which brings us to...
Scene Four... once everyone was into one of the ventilation shafts and above the Weird Science chamber of the Lieutenant who owned the facility and was hosting the secret meeting. At this point it was a sort of a race… why? Some of the Weird Science devices, Tara (Jonathan’s character) notices are made to detect Possibility energy from Storm Knights and they are detecting a general direction where our Knights are. I rolled for detecting, for which I only needed to make six points, each successful detecting roll being one point, while the Players had to make ten rolls to get 100% of the information. Not much to it, but if I would have made my sixth roll, the Knights would immediately have faced off against the troopers and the officers, with the Gospog following soon after. I made my fifth as they made their tenth, and the meeting was over. The Knights were able to get away through a vast use of Possibilities they had all earned through the course of this single act, just for how they played.
The only complaint I really faced, and believe you-me it could have been much worse, was that the game seemed ‘rail-roady’ to a couple of them. There are two answers I can give about that, one which comes from experience, the other based on the construction of Torg, are these...
- The way Torg Eternity is designed is to allow Storm Knight Players to have the most flexibility, through the Possibilities and card use -trading, dropping cards on one-another (Supporter), and being masterful in the use of those cards, including Cosm cards, to bring about a more desired effect and to fight the ‘rail-roady’ nature of the adventure, whether as-written or as-run, and
- There is no such thing as a non-‘rail-roady’ adventure, period. If you want the Players to get to a particular goal or set of goals, the GamesMaster, no matter how artfully done, will have to ‘railroad’ their Players into doing what they want the Players to do. Otherwise, planning for all potential circumstances is actually impossible for the GM to do. Any GM who says otherwise may want to actually watch how they run their non-‘rail-roady’ games; they will invariably find out that, if they want their Players to arrive at the end of the adventure, a more-or-less planned outcome, it will require being ‘rail-roady’. So, I really wish the phraseology of ‘railroad’ adventures were removed, entirely, from the gamer lexicon.
The night ended with most of the table requesting the name of Ulisses Spiele, so they might be able to purchase copies of the game for themselves, and taking down my email address so they could contact me about a Roll 20 game I’m intending to begin after the beginning of the New Year.
USI, you have build an extraordinary product, such that your own developers are desirous to play in the game, it’s easy to teach five novices how to play it and have a lively, mostly non-confused time out of it, and make them think very seriously about returning for further games. Bully for you and keep up the good work.
In closing, my Players didn’t fire a shot; they figured a way through the troubles that I had put together for them and accomplished the mission without any blood shed -at least on their parts- whatsoever. I’ve never had that happen, before, and it was... fun.