Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A game on the fly.

As it turns out, I ended up having little interest in my X-Wing league at Mercenary Market. Lack of available product was an issue and I may have chosen the wrong day.  Who knows?  I will kick it back up when Wave 3 launches and hopefully get more interest.

I still wanted to do some gaming on Sunday and thought I would just go ahead and run an RPG. I talked to a few of the regulars and got a few people interested. I decided to run the Iron Kingdoms Full Metal Fantasy game from Privateer Press. WarmaHordes is pretty popular at the shop, so I thought it would boost interest and give me a pool of people who had a decent understanding of the core mechanic. The new version of the game abandoned the d20 system and put out a new edition that in essence mimics the mechanic of the tabletop miniatures game.



Now that I have all that exposition out of the way I will get to the point of this post. I proposed the game a week before we played. I purchased the Urban Adventure book which details the Five Fingers area of the game, figuring it would be a great place to start. I had all kinds of good intentions about jotting down some notes for the game and creating some NPC’s and putting together a story arc and some NPC’s. Then, I got lazy.  Didn’t do a gosh darn thing other than read through the Urban Adventure book a little. The only thing I knew for sure is that I wanted to do a game where the players got caught in the middle of a shadow war between Cryx cultists and Thamarite cultists.  Sort of a rock and a hard place adventure with a lot of mystery and danger.

Sunday came along and I had nothing. To most people that would mean cancelling the game and rescheduling. Not for this guy, I needed my RPG fix. So what did I do? I decided to make a game on the fly.

What did I have? I had the mental notes that I took from talking to the players about what they wanted to play.  Since they already had some form of immersion into the setting (having played the minis game) they already threw out some ideas.  I even had a player who made a character a few months back for a game that never materialized. So I had a fairly good idea about what was being played and what I had to work with. I also had a fairly good idea about the setting and the atmosphere I had to build for my sandbox, having read the Urban Adventure book. I had a palate of colors to work with and my core idea for a story. I also had an idea about a fight in a graveyard. Necromancy is a big deal for both of my antagonist groups, so I already had a good idea about my first action scene and the back of the base book had some pre-generated undead thrall stats as well as some stats for basic thugs. Since I also play the miniatures game, I would have a pretty good idea of how to balance the combat once I could see the PC stats and abilities.

I arrived at the store a little early and started talking to people as they started coming in.  One of my players was riding with me and another was the store owner so I knew he would be there when I arrived. We started chatting about their characters and I started to ask questions about their backgrounds. Being the creative types they answered my questions fairly easily and I started to build. This is what I had.

Greg: He wanted to play a character who was a fanatical follower of Menoth, the Lawgiver. The concept was that he was orphaned by a magic user and fled to a monetary. He then began training as an assassin for the church that targeted “witches”, which by their faith was pretty much anyone who doesn't use divine magic. This could be a problem if someone else wanted to make a magic user so I started asking him about his primary motivation. He comes up with the story that once he left the monastery he was focused on avenging his parents. I took that as the hook for bringing him into the party. If I made it so the other players were after the same arcane assassin, he would push aside his religious fervor in order to reach his objective. I made a note of that.

I then had him describe the scene in which he lost his parents. Working together we came up with the idea that the characters father was a curator and archivist for the church of Menoth. A woman came from nowhere demanding something from the father. Once he refused, the woman slew the characters mother in front of both of them. The father still refused. The strange woman then branded the boy with her glowing sword which had some strange runes on it. Undaunted by the woman’s threats the character’s father just knelt and began to pray to Menoth.  Enraged, the woman slays the father but the young man who would become the PC manages to escape to the local church.

Now I had a mysterious woman, a branding with strange runes and a magic sword with glowing green runes. NICE.

Chris: Chris had already made a character a while back for a game that never ended up happening. His concept was a bastard son to a noble turned pirate. Apparently, his mother was a pirate captain who had a tryst with said noble. The noble not having a legitimate male heir decided to legitimize the PC’s claim to the title, but before he could officially do so, his father was killed.

I further elaborated that the PC had burst into the room right after the assassination killed his father. He opens the door to find his father dead and bleeding on the floor of his unlit study with a shadowy female figure at running towards the window of the fifth story room.  She leaps out the window with no regard to her own safety, but in her haste drops a short sword inscribed with some strange runes inscribed upon it.

Now I have strong ties between two diametrically opposed characters. The religious zealot and the pirate noble share not only these strange runes, sword and perhaps the woman assassin in common but they were both victims of having their parent(s) killed in front of them.

George: George was completely new to RPG’s but has played a Khador army for a while and expressed an interest. He flipped through the book and wanted to make an Alchemist/Explorer. Don’t know why, but that combo struck him and that was fine. He crunched the numbers, but I needed to know who the character was. He explained that he came from a poor family in Five Fingers and he had lost his father when he was very young and was raised by his mother who taught him the basics of alchemy. His mother died tragically and for some reason George's character felt guilty about it.

I went on to say that he was always a bit of an explorer and found a strange box in the catacombs underneath the city. His mother inspected the what she found to be a puzzle box and found a poison barb trap. It lead to a long and lingering death where the PC tried to find a cure and became obsessed with poisons and antidotes. He also became known as someone who did extensive research on special arcane subjects.

More tie ins and story hooks. Part of the explorer class was to choose a patron that kicks the PC down 25 gc a month for.. well.. exploring. I then looked at Chris' sheet and saw that as a Noble he got a 50 gc stipend. I then asked them if it was cool to say that Chris's character was George's character patron. Chris would have to share his stipend with George but it also means that George gets to work full time on trying to decipher the sword runes.

This tied in nicely, but what George doesn't know is that the puzzle box he found as a child is also part of the plot.

Paul: Paul decided to play a Gun Mage/Warcaster. Which pretty much means he is a god. Not that he is a min/maxer, but he likes to make outsider characters that usually don't exactly fit into the party.  His character was straight up military, ex-Cygnar military to be exact. Ex-Cygnar as in deserter. This character was a little harder to fit in, but I had so much synergy with the other characters as far as the main arc, I decided to leave Paul's story as sort of a side plot that can fill in between portions of the main arc.

As a deserter, I decided that Paul's character came to Five Fingers to join up with a merc company that Chris' dad used to own. They had disbanded after Chris' characters father's death, which left Paul with few options. He then finds Chris' character through some trial and also came to be under his employ as a bodyguard. Paul decides to keep his magic use on the down low since he doesn't want to be discovered as a deserter. I decided that Cygnar is not likely to cotton well to a Warcaster deserting their ranks. Somebody will be coming to visit.

Paul provides me with a nice side story to throw in to keep the players from burning through the main arc to quickly and to distract them so I can make sure the antagonists have time to plot and maneuver. So I am pretty much set.

After character generation I had everything I needed to put together our first story.

George goes looking for the source of the swords runes and hears a rumor about this guy who seems to have brands with the same runes.

George starts asking around for this guy but flubs a roll.  I let Greg know that there seems to be some kind of shady character asking questions about him.  Greg decides that's not a good thing, tracks George down and confronts him at his alchemy shop.

This was dicey since the two PC's could easily come to blows. Greg ends up snatching the rubbing of the sword and leaving in a huff.  George seemed unimpressed and let him go, thinking that tracking him down later might lead to something. George tells Chris and Paul about what happened and they go looking for him.

Chris sees that he has underworld contacts, so I make up Smitty the Knife, a local fence and information broker. Chris decides to visit Smitty who leads him to some abandoned tenements by an old graveyard (see what I did there?).

The group decides to hunt down Greg and find out what he knows and after some kerfuffle manage to do so. They deicide they are all working towards the same goal. Greg gives them a detailed description of the woman who killed his parents.  Could it be the same woman that killed Chris' father? Who knows?

George decides to start trying to track down some info on this woman. He asks some questions and looks some stuff up in some books, yadda yadda. The fact that he is researching these runes and asking questions about a certain woman start making certain powers that be start to notice. He is met by a pleasant woman at a cafe, while he is pouring over books. Fails to resist a roll and ends up spilling the beans about his mission.  She of course is a trained spy and pretty much determines that he knows too much and has to be brought in.

The other characters decide to join Greg in staking out the graveyard since there have been rumors of grave robbery in the area. George decides to come along and join the others as night begins to fall.

Human thugs attack George as he enters the graveyard and the others rush to the rescue, but from behind come a group of undead Thralls lead by a man in heavy armor. Now the characters are surrounded. The thugs are soldiers from the Thamarite group and the Undead and the leader are from a cabal of Cryx worshippers who have been waiting for the right time to find and kill members of their Thamarite rivals.  The Thugs have orders to kill but preferably capture George. The melee ensues. George gets knocked out and almost dragged off.  If it weren't for Greg's quick thinking they would have gotten away with it, especially since Chris and Paul were knee deep in undead.  They lived to see another day, but were very confused and thirsty for answers.

Now I have a full on story from nothing. I just developed a story around the stories my players made. With a slight bit of manipulation at character creation I tied story hooks together and made an entire session on setting up the group and binding them through comradery, common tragedy and the fires of mortal conflict. I now have a basis for an entire campaign.

The whole point of this post is about how important players can be to the storytelling process. You can let them steer the whole thing up to a certain point. If you are a GM don't feel like you are the only creative force in the story.  As a player, don't be afraid to give the GM plenty to work with.  He/She will appreciate the story material and if they are worth their salt, they will make good use of it. Stories can come from anywhere.