Sunday, 2 April 2017

Retrospective 13 - TPK Post-Mortem

The players assault Mt Death Frost with a frontal attack, armed with a siege tower and Sophia's ability to subjugate all skeletons they faced.
They manage to make it into the fortress itself, and next session Lulu arrives with a Barbarian army at her back.

And they all died.

It was the perfect TPK really. A mixture of bad luck and bad choices where they had plenty of warning of the danger. It felt like it was solely player agency that led to their demise.

But it's funny. While up until the end I was all "haha I'm really going to twist the knife on this one! They fucked up bad!" I still thought they'd pull through and bullshit a way out of their mess somehow. They'd always managed it before.
Unfortunately they messed with the evil altar and managed to summon forth its huge intentionally-overpowered protector... for a second session in a row. This sandwiched them between said protector and the powerful Dead I had expected to chase them as they struggled to find a way out of the complex.


And I discover, "huh, I guess it does feel weird to keep going with new characters straight after a TPK".
I can sort of see why a TPK ends campaigns sometimes. It feels final.

So as a sort of soft reboot and an excuse to jettison retired characters and start afresh, we wind the timeline forward half a century! Reskinned vaguely historical 1600 here we come!
To cover for the time I needed to make adjustments and update everything to this new flintlock-equipped reality, we start off with a weird Time Loop gimmick in Scenic Dunnsmouth. I've run it once before as a one-shot which went super well, so I was excited to try a whole lot of different Dunnsmouths.

The gimmick was this:
- Before the game, the DM generates several Dunnsmouths.
- Everybody rolls up two characters and chooses their favourite. The rest go into a stack.
- If a PC dies in Dunnsmouth, the time loop resets!
- The dead player keeps their PC and everything they had on their person at point of death, everyone else gets a random character with just starting equipment.
- Uncle Ivan and Magda count as PCs for the time reset.

The Ivan/Magda reset was supposed to have a few interesting effects. Magda would remember ill treatment by the players if they went "fuck loops, no consequences!". Ivan was supposed to be scary because you can't stop him without effectively losing progress, and he's torturing people slowly because he knows a quick death will just reset the loop again.
In the end it didn't matter that much, since the players broke out of Dunnsmouth after a couple of sessions anyway. Oh well!

It worked out pretty good. Kind of a weird "what the hell is going on?!" feeling for everyone, and gave a plausible excuse for the player's lack of knowledge about the world 50 years on.
The only person who was dissatisfied with the gimmick was Tom, because he'd gone so far as to buy and paint a little miniature for his new level 1 character. Too hopeful perhaps, but it didn't really gel with PC randomisation.

The main escape happened when a sub-group of players went to investigate the Van Kaus secret shame, finding a blocked-off cave.
Inside, the game's FIRST EVER dragon! Just the head, as big as a truck, sticking out of a metal collar built into the wall. Asleep. They grabbed a bunch of gold and left, even though I gave them an option to worship the thing for Perdition-style patron bonuses.

By session 130 they've headed off into the woods to the north, hoping to find their way to civilisation and see what's going on. In the last session before this retrospective, they manage to clear a nice little lair-type dungeon under a creepy oak tree, which nicely set the tone for the forest itself!

We end up with a few cute things happening post-timeskip.
Kitty creates POWERLAD!, son of Kitty's Necromancer Sophia and her in-game fan favourite husband POWERMAN! Similarly, Ollie creates Andromeda Buffy Spiderbite, daughter of his previous character Lulu.
It turns out the backstory stuff has sort of allowed inter-character romance to be a thing that people are ok with happening in the game now. They're of similar ages and there's obvious potential chemistry there. Maybe they'll get together!

And Charles painted me a watercolour rendition of game events! This group is fucking awesome.


Random Encounter Tables
Just a general shoutout for how great random encounter tables are. I managed to spin two whole sessions of gameplay out of a couple of random rolls and the players' shenanigans.

Super Lucky Cat
A weird little number from Secret Santicore 2014. Reskinned to the early modern era, naturally. And I made the big weird cat into a big weird rat, and the White Milk from this adventure made it onto my drugs table.
A small, self-contained, weird adventure.
I had the Undercity from one of the One Page Dungeon contests between the "Persian" restaurant and the place where the ratmen were milking/processing a rat broodmother for the delicious White Milk drug. Some days later, someone realised the Simpsons did it first. Damn! I mean... just as planned!

Fortress Deathfrost
The fortress that claimed a party!
I designed it to be an active fortification where the party would have to be real careful not to attract attention inside, lest the forces of the Dead catch wind of their presence and come to wipe them out.
Maybe try and sneak in Splinter Cell style. Maybe drop in from above. Maybe run in under the cover of a bigger distraction. Anything!
But each and every time any party approached the castle, they did it noisy and loud and attention-grabbing. And so each and every time they had been rebuffed.
This is perhaps a reason they went back, the mountain looms large in the group's collective memory. Many have tried, many have failed.
This time was the fourth or fifth time a group's attacked the fortress... and it killed them all.
Maybe I'll post it some day.

Scenic Dunnsmouth
I've said a whole lot about this already! It was really good these extra times round, especially since I got to use several iterations of the place.

The Vile Worm
A nice little adventure which I actually really enjoyed! Lots of bits and pieces for players to bounce off, an ugly worm thing to kill, and a crazy old man and his pets. A fair whack of treasure, too.
And then when they leave the tree itself attacks! How terrifying!
Obviously skip the shit railroad bit at the beginning. Just put it on the map and it's there if the players go there. My group just sort of stumbled into it naturally in the forest which was convenient!

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