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Saturday, August 20, 2005

My little Old World

Right, having tried and failed to get a grasp of what my Old World blog would be about last time, I've now got the idea that what I should do is not to tell the story of the session as such. Instead I'm going to explain what I was trying to do with the session, and why (well, as much as I can explain without giving too much away to any of my players who might be reading this). I'm hoping that this will help me clarify my goals and my methods, and that it will be more useful to other roleplaying readers than a pseudo-narrative approach.

My main plan for last Sunday was to make a bit of an event of the final approach to Middenheim. I mean, on their journey up the Old Forest Road from Wurtbad, the party had passed through Talabheim on 'the wing'; ie. they were heading for Middenheim and, knowing nothing about Talabheim, I certainly wasn't going to let them linger there and make life difficult for me. My players were quite happy with this thankfully.

All the same, I realised that I was slightly unhappy with the way in which a city as imposing as Talabheim had just been 'bounced' in the way that it had been. So I was determined to make more of the arrival at Middenheim, all the more so when I dug up some pictures of what it looks like from a distance.

So I decided on the following:

1. the area around Middenheim would be ravaged by the armies of the SoC, giving me the chance thickly to lay on descriptions of the wasteland, burnt areas of the Drakwald, and so on;

2. the party's approach to the city would be policed by the Middenheim militia, to keep out undesirables, recruit (ie. conscript) the able-bodied for the clean-up/repair efforts;

3. the bulk of the action would take place around a campfire as the entire party pulled an all-night guard on their last night in the open before they reached Middenheim; this would give the players more time to get into their characters; allow me to play out some scenes giving me practice in the use of NPC's; and let me play up the consequences of the fate of Granny Moescher after the previous session, and other aspects of the PCs' relations with the refugees from Untergard.

To this end I decided upon the following key scenes/incidents:

1. an encounter with a party of Middenheim militia who would stop the refugee convey in its tracks and order them to camp out nearby;

2. some of the orphans would wake up crying for Granny in the middle of the night;

3. a group of militia would arrive warning the Untergard party of the presence of wolves in the area that night (this warning proved superfluous at that point), which would be handled as classic wandering monsters (ie. random dice rolls to see if they turned up and in what numbers);

4. I would have Captain Schiller smoke a pipe to play on Mordrin's desire for one, then have the dwarf gifted with a cheap pipe as a mark of gratitude on the part of the people of Untergard;

5. an NPC last seen in the Strutting Cock (I'd put the pregenerated PC's from the GM's pack into the inn the night the PC's were there just to bring the place to life; they were obviously heading out on a major journey) would make an appearance as one of the militiamen.

I came up with 2 main instruments for working all this up:

1. the use of Captain Schiller, whose veteran status made it easy for me to use him to suggest things to the players that they knew made sense, and which they were happy for their PC's to go along with;

2. the use of tests to dramatise the encounter with Maglyn Beyer from the GM's pack.

I have to admit to being quite pleased with how I handled this last bit. This all came down to Perception tests to see if the PC's recognised Beyer; a WP test to see if Beyer could conceal his reaction to seeing the PC's again; then more Per tests to see if PC's noticed this. This point of all this was to have an idea of why Beyer would react in the way he did, but not to overscript this reaction, to use dice rolls to give the players the feeling of something happening that is as important as an exchange of blows. It worked. Not the most advanced of GMing techniques perhaps, but satisfying for a rusty GM reviving old skills.

And that's about it really. The session wasn't the best I'd run, but it held together, the players enjoyed it, and it moved things on while developing the atmosphere and the sense of a character-driven narrative. I'll just have to pay more attention to preparation in future if I want to keep weaving the rich tapestry that the Old World offers.

PS. Bl***y Internet Explorer! Firefox is my default browser now, and it supports bullet points exactly as does blogger. But IE doesn't, so I've had to go back and manually configure my lists so that this entry looks readable. Sheesh!



Related@RD/KA!
Prologue: Getting to Middenheim
- A Rash of Enthusiasm...: the colour of Magic!
- Blogging my WFRP campaign: introducing the party.
- My little Old World: mission accomplished?
- My little Old World: clearing the cludge: the GM gloats.
- Index:- My little Old World: Ashes of Middenheim
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