8-05: Ungrounded but Unbroken GM Discussion

GM Discussion

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Grand Lodge 4/5 Venture-Captain, California—Sacramento aka FLite

Played this last Tuesday. For the casino, did not show boss the picture, and didn't make a knowledge check to recognize her ourselves. So when we saw her, my oratory skald went into social mode, sounded her out, asked if she was having a good night, how her luck at the tables had been, etc. Used sense motive to determine that she did not seem to be acting like a con artist who had just made a big score or was about to, and went back to keeping an eye on her until the real con artist showed up. (We had enough high rolls on perception that the GM fluffed that we caught a few other less important cheats while we waited, and shooed them away from the tables.)

We did not break into the office, because in spite of some very high sense motive and gather information checks, our GM failed to convey that we were being singled out. (Not entirely his fault, he was trying to be subtle and roleplay giving us the information, but in the process the message got lost.) But we had Del, the false picture, the sabotage on the obstacle course, As well as something else (I have forgotten what exactly, but it involved the sorceress making a bluff check, because we didn't have direct evidence of it.)

Sovereign Court 4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

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Yeah, this is a scenario where you shouldn't be overly subtle as a GM. I made much of other recruits saying "the captain is tough on everyone because she wants us to be ready for real danger, but she really seems to have it in for you guys" - emphasize that what the PCs are experiencing is unusual.

Silver Crusade 5/5 ⦵⦵ Venture-Captain, Germany—Bavaria

Morag the Gatherer wrote:

Just ran the scenario this evening.

The party (1 1st level, a 2nd level and a 3rd level plus Lem as a 1st level pregen). They were missing some skills but all had high diplomacy. Lem saved them several times as their skill monkey.
They missed all the early hints about the Aspis consortium so had no idea why Capt. Othis was setting them up but were sure they were being given special treatment.
They succeeded on almost all of their tests. The Paladin (3rd level) confronted the general in the casino but quickly realized it was a mistake and successfully backtracked (and rolled a very high diplomacy check) so they weren't penalized by that. They also quickly caught and evicted the real cheat then used the reward money to buy a bottle of the best drink in the house and have it delivered to the general.

Even though it never occurred to them to break into the captain's office, they still got 4 successes at the inquiry and completed their victory conditions.

But most of all they had a blast doing it. They really developed a hatred for the captain and were bound and determined she wasn't going to defeat them. One of the players is GMing the scenario next week and is now super excited to run it.

So Success


That 4th bit of evidence they pretty much have to create or argue from what the scenario gives them can save their 2nd PP, but unfortunately the players won't learn why she sabotaged them.

The last time I ran this, the players succeeded at everything and didn't get a single demerit... the characters were extremely confused why their captain was asking to have them dishonorably discharged...

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I just ran this on Sunday. Kinda bummed with the outcome. When I first played it myself weeks ago, I had a bad time, but I liked reading the module. So I had high hopes that it would be better if I tried to run it myself, and run it well. Unfortunately, after running it on Sunday, all my players said "I'd give it 2 stars out of 5." Ugh. It's possible the module is awesome and I suck. However, I've seen multiple bad play-throughs now, and one is with me putting in effort to make it better. Other modules sure seem easier to run well, I guess.

Part of the problem is in fact what some reviewers have said: people don't enjoy a game that involves their characters being yelled at and sabotaged, especially if they cannot figure out why.

For my part, I tried to take advantage of the GM discussion here. To help the players, when they asked if Reyshal could help them, I allowed them to find him. When they got stuck, I had Reyshal grant them 1 wish (temporary tiny bonus -- they got a Message spell cast on them that lasted the entire adventure and was good for anywhere in the Opaline Vault -- so no repercussions outside of the scenario, but I definitely hoped it would help with sneaking around and communicating in the casino).

They had no demerits, they had 4+ successes, they handled the General really well. Again to help the players, I had the General be nice in the casino, and just tell them to gather info and really shore up their evidence. I wanted to hint to them that they probably needed to get into that office.

We were short on time so I hand-waved the battle with the elementals because I wanted to have time for the presentation to the General. Since I hand-waved the battle, I just gave them the best outcome for the battle -- assumed they found the evidence, etc.

OK, so even with all of that, they still failed. They were a very martial group. One PC had a +4 to Diplomacy, everyone else had a -1. The first 2 attempts to speak in the hearing resulted in failure, which meant they didn't have the +2s adding up in their favor. They really needed to get those right at the start. They used the best evidence with the highest bonuses for those first 2 skill checks, so when they failed, we realized that there were no big bonuses left and it was just down to lucky dice rolls. Of 8 rolls, only 2 made it.

I even gave them an extra check at +4 because they came up with evidence not listed. That is, Dell's friend (the one that got beaten in order to convince Dell to poison the PCs) was convinced to testify. While he was healed up and couldn't show bruises, I thought it was compelling that a recruit was so badly beaten that he couldn't perform his duties. (He's the one that sits out the arena battle in the 4 player adjustment.)

They still couldn't do it, and the module ended with them missing that prestige point. Because of their successes and no demerits, they did at least get Captain Othis removed/reassigned.

In the end it appears that the reason they all gave the module 2 stars is because "So much of our final success depended on diplomacy, which is stupid." That's what one of the players wrote to me afterwards. I think he means stupid in context, that is that it's stupid for heavy diplomacy in a military module. It probably would have been well-received in Bid for Alabastrine or other talky modules.

Anyway, I might give this module another run. I still think it's promising. But the bloom is off the rose, I guess.

Sovereign Court 4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

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@outshyn: it's probably fairly unusual that a group gets no demerits, giving the captain nothing to stand on when she tries to drum them out. I think we managed to avoid them when we played it, but when I GMed it one of the players "decorated" his bunk. I played up the demerits as an actual IC thing, a formal written statement about a recruit's misbehavior. Shaitans are Lawful, they like to have documentation about why they're kicking someone to the curb. And obviously the recruits get a carbon copy of the formal complaint. So when you get a demerit, you know you got it.

As for diplomacy in a soldier mission: I sort of agree. I think the scenario had not enough soldiering in it compared to the blurb, and a lot more detective-ing. So it's a bit of a bait and switch. The characters who did best at this were more skirmisher types such as hunters and swashbucklers, who can actually scale the wall, than heavy armor types.

On the other hand, in the last couple of seasons there are almost no scenarios that are combat-only. I personally like it: Pathfinders are more Indiana Jones-like (who talks, studies, charms, steals, runs, climbs, dives and then punches people in the face) that way. This is really the "thinking warrior" adventure to me.

A complaint from a friend was that all the training you do doesn't actually seem to go anywhere. You get an initial evaluation which is super-hard, but after that you never learn better techniques and get to do the evaluation again.

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