A Chance for Revenge

Started by Caracol, March 27, 2009, 04:49:13 PM

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Just kidding.
Even if I'm currently designing my game (look out http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=27710.0, a thread I promise I will update as soon I have some time), I decided to slow down a bit, just to see if the game is in the right direction I want. Meanwhile, I've been asked by my fellows to run a classical D&D 3.5 short campaign. Even though the last D&D sessions with them went awful (I already talked about that with you guys in this thread: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=27675.0), now things are a bit different to me. Thanks to this forum's article and your suggestions I recognized the gaming style of them: they are all strictly Gamist. Being what I am (a Narrativist with a side of Simulationist), be the DM for the next session will be terrible as usual, and I've already said that I didn't want to be the DM for D&D anymore.

But I decided to listen to my inner gamist (that usually breaks loose when we play Munchkin Card games), and agreed to be the DM for the next session. And I decided to do it avoiding to prepare campaigns as I usually did (they all went horrible due to different gaming styles) and also to take a little revenge for all my maniacally prepared adventures they all screwed up. In few words, a complete change of perspective. Strangely enough, I fell that is going to be unexpectedly fun.

I wanted to ask you advices about how should I run the game, what to do to catch their attention, to let them have fun instead than arguing, and meanwhile, to have my chances to have some fun in challenging them. Here's what you need to know:

- System is D&D 3.5 edition;
- 7 players, all Gamist, more or less, some of them are prone to powerplaying;
- These players love to fight with each other, to show muscles to NPCs and generally to not follow the scheduled progression of the campaign, screwing up all the job of the DM;
- Campaign will be short (two or three sessions)

These are the ideas I've come up with so far:

- Low level. Since they love to powerlevelling, and screw things up because they think a high level allows them to take up the world, I'll make them start from 1, also to make them more cautious.
- Make them face high level NPCs
- Rather than punish fighting and backstabbing, ENCOURAGE it: since they love to fight with each other, let's try to make this a way to progress in the campaign rather than a limitation.
- Every time I create a complex plot they don't follow it. The more I work the less they are interested. That's why I don't want to prepare ANYTHING rather than the general plot idea, and I'll improvise much more.

Here's the general idea:

Players are sent to an abandoned wizard tower; the wizard is missing since 100 years. They have to retrieve a particular artefact and bring it to the guy that hired them: every thing else they find in the tower could be kept as a reward.
Players go there, find the artefact after a couple traps and surprise: the wizard is not dead and finds them right in the middle of the theft. Since is powerful can withstand all their threats, and, being a freaking psychopath, decides to have fun with them. He proposes them to riddles, puzzles, evoked creatures to fight in every roof of the tower. Every room can be passed only if one of the character dies in some way, being him killed by the threat or betrayed by the other characters of the party.
In this way, their love for fighting each other will be a REAL challenge useful to advance in the campaign. The remaining characters get XP and rewards for surviving over their fellows.

This is the general idea; what I need to know is:

- What are the challenges to propose; I have some in mind, what do you suggest?
- How to end the adventure? Could the last 2 or 3 characters be able to defeat the wizard in the end? If yes, how?

And most important;

- Is my idea right, or I'm completely missing it? Is how I should run a Gamist campaign for Gamist players?

I'd like to hear your suggestions. I'll also post some ideas for the challenges, and discuss the actual gaming sessions as soon as they start to get real time advices.
Damn you not-editable posts! I apologize for the english massacre.

Simon C

Almost a great idea.

The idea of a series of tests where one character must die at every juncture for the game to continue? Genius. 

The idea that you can force the players into this situation, and have them be ok with that? Totally not going to happen.

Here's what I would do:  Lead with the idea that they're going to be toyed with by this wizard, and get them on board with that.  Tell them that you want a game that encourages fighting and backstabbing, and that you've got this artificial setup in mind to achieve that.  Tell them that once they start playing, they can do whatever they want, but they need to agree to the original premise.  They can try to escape from or overcome the wizard (in fact, this would be ideal), but they have to accept the situation at the beginning of play.  Do all the "sent to the wizard's tower to get artifact" stuff in a short monologue before play starts, and have your first scene of play the first test the wizard sets.

Then, since you're planning on having an incredibly high mortality rate for characters, you need something for players with dead characters to do.  You could allow them to "reboot" with a new character at a certain level, or something like that, or you could let them play monsters and so on summoned by the wizard.  You could even let them come up with ideas and stats for future encounters, letting them min-max the opposition to their hearts' content.

As compensation for the really cruel initial setup, give them something back in return.  I'd allow all surviving characters to increase a level at the end of every test.  The power-players will love this, since they get to groom their characters to achieve ultimate power.  It also keeps the game interesting and constantly changing.  It will ramp up the competition a lot too.

Finally, make sure there is a chance, even a surety, that at least one character will eventually escape, if the players do well.  Make sure you communicate this, and lay out clearly the process needed to beat each test.  There's nothing more frustrating than feeling like the GM is thwarting all your plans by fiat, as you come up with them.

I hope this game goes well.  You're proposing something pretty radically different from a traditional D&D 3.5 game, but with buy-in from the players, this could go really well.

Callan S.

Hi Caracol,

I'd extend Simons suggestions. I'd say tell them in advance of game night, the nature of the challenge (ie, atleast one man must fall, each time). That gives them the chance to decline to play, if the mountains too high for them, so to speak. Whether they'll take the opportunity to be responsible for their own fun, who knows, but it's there.

I agree with Simons suggestion of running a short monolog then starting in the very first test room. All the other stuff, like going to the tower - it's faux exploration. It's rigged - going to the tower, finding the wizard is alive, it's all prescripted. So there's no real exploration happening AND the challenge is in those tests. Prescripted exploration is essentially railroading, IME. And if the challenge is the thing, short monolog right into the first test isn't skipping anything important since challenge comes first.

I disagree with any notion of 'compensation', though. If the mountains too high and too tough, they shouldn't come, for their own sakes. Add in leveling only if it's part of the challenge, rather than any sort of compensation if the waters too hot for them.

But this scares me
Quote- How to end the adventure? Could the last 2 or 3 characters be able to defeat the wizard in the end? If yes, how?
You've got them killing atleast one party member per test, that idea is firmly in place, but no actual win condition is concrete yet? What scares me is that, perhaps assumption on my part, the process is the other way around - a gamist inclined person starts with some idea of a win condition (even if only a vague one) then adding hurdles before that (and perhaps some change of win condition during it, but always starting with a notion of what the win condition is).


Thanks for the feedback. I'm currently gathering the players and we will play the first session on the 10th of April.

I'm pretty convinced about the "skip the whole introduction" part, as you said, there's no way they will be forced or happy to be into the situation if I don't start things in media res. I'll try to start the session stating what are the rules, what are the houserules and that they'll need to "fight" (or contrast with each other) to progress in the game. I wanted to put also some other situations that can be solved in two ways: the easier (one of the players is sacrificed for the sake of the group) or the harder (they can try to cooperate, getting out of the room but with way more effort and less rewards). I'm currently thinking about some variations of the prisoner's dilemma.

Surviving players will be rewarded with levels (the thing that they love more, and they like the idea of award/punishment), the others will pass "on my side", becoming Co-Masters, and helping me challenging their former companions. They will decide some threats to propose to the players, or come back as "shadows" to annoy and fight them. In the end there will be something like 7 GMs versus 2 players.

About the ending, I've decided that yes, they will eventually defeat the wizard if they play their cards correctly. Only I still haven't figured out how; any suggestions?

Also, I'm working on the layout of the campaing, creating the roofs of the towers and the way to pass trough them having one of the players dying in the process. Do you have some ideas about that too?
Damn you not-editable posts! I apologize for the english massacre.

Simon C

Awesome! It sounds like you've got the idea for how to pull this off.

I don't have a heck of a lot of specific ideas for challenges to propose, and I think it's probably outside the scope of this forum, in any case.  I think it is a good idea to have some kind of time imperative in place, so the action keeps moving, rather than halting as each choice is debated.  Perhaps some of your challenges should involve a "beat the clock" element.

I regard to defeating the wizard, I think ultimately you should reward "outside the box" thinking - if the players come up with inovative solutions that you're not prepared for, don't come up with extra ideas to shoot them down - let them work.  Allow yourself to be surprised.

Callan S.

Quote from: Caracol on April 02, 2009, 05:38:50 PMAbout the ending, I've decided that yes, they will eventually defeat the wizard if they play their cards correctly. Only I still haven't figured out how; any suggestions?
I'm thinking as much as your skipping the introduction in terms of play, skip beating the wizard as well. It is not THE challenge. The big challenge was killing each other or whatever. The wizard thing just was an excuse for that awesome competition - beating the wizard isn't actually all that important. I even think it'd be cool for whoever survives all the tests to simply get full narration rights on how they kill the wizard. In various humiliating ways no doubt. Just flat out, freeform murderize him! Wallow in the pure, unchallenged kill! :) We all gotta go there, sometimes!


You have an almost perfect model for a game. Instead of listening to us I would suggest you to listen your inner voice as you said in your post. The description and basic settings you have given are just perfect.


This has probably gone down already, but here's my take on this kind of twisted game.

The characters are in media res, trapped by the wizard, who is playing them like rats in a maze.  They start out naked in an apparently featureless puzzle room.  When they die, they are raised/rezzed one level lower (I forget which spell that is) back at the start location, instantaneously.  Various communications from the wizard (magic mouth or whatever) tell them that he is seeking a champion, and will reward one single player who makes it through his death maze with *giant treasure/magic item* and the others with death, intending a massive "kill your buddy to delay him" tactic somewhere down the line.

In addition to the maze and its fancy deathtraps/monsters, there would naturally have to be a way to turn the tables on the wizard.  It would require them to get "outside" the maze, to the "behind the scenes" area, at which point the wizard would probably stop "playing"...


I'm not sure if you've started yet, but if not I've got a few adjustments; the person who gives them the job should turn out to be the wizard himself, so everything from top to bottom is his fault. I also reckon you could apply your narrative skills to each of the puzzles, meaning that each puzzle relates to some part of his crazyness, and use that as a guide when adjudicating the off-piste stuff. Perhaps then, you could have this nice mix of strong sim exploration mixed with trying to beat the system and each other.

But I'd just put that in the background, so that by the time they get to the top, they may know a little about him, and what's behind him, but mainly they'll know they want to kill him. This could create a really characterful setting, as well as being ruthlessly murderous!