01 December 2010

Forgotten Songs Retrospective -- "Jermlaine Attack"

Ah, Jermlaine.

For the second adventure of the party, I wanted something that was going to be more nuisance than deadly foe.  I was aiming, actually, for something slightly comic.  I pictured the party falling a lot while swatting little beasties and gaining some XP in the process.  Remembering an old issue of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons comic, where the centaur protagonist was tripped up by jermlaine, I was dismayed to find the 3rd Edition Monster Manual didn't have stats for them.  I then turned to our friend The Internet, where I found some conversion.  Then, viola!  A fun little adventure that we could all laugh about later.

Obviously, that didn't happen.  I almost had a TPK with tripwires.

How did things work out that way?  I'll shoulder a significant portion of the blame.  As I recall, I rolled just exceptionally well this session, with lots of 18's, 19's, and 20's.  I distinctly recall a critical hit on someone with a piece of firewood attached to a rope thrown by a jermlaine from the rafters -- something right out of Home Alone (ha!  It was funny in the movie, so it will be a riot in an adventure! *facepalm*).  There was Orion's spectacularly failed save from the trap that resulted in him doing the splits on a floor beam.  Some of this was just luck.  Another component was my continuing struggle balance encounters for the party.  The EL/CR math was still not working for me, but I continued to trust it, with the idea that I'd figure it all out sooner or later.  Since the jermlaine were cobbled together, who knows if their CR was "right"? 

But there was something else beginning here, something in the party and player composition, that would plague this group until this game ended.  Katja says:
Kreed seemed interested in exploring the old house. The rest of us discussed whether we should participate in the search for the boy, investigate rumors of the wolf attacks, or move on towards Boaz’ goal of reaching the old Oghma temple. In the end, nothing was decided. Kreed’s curiosity caught on and Orion, Boaz, and myself joined him in exploring the house.
Nothing was decided, so some of the PC's did one thing while other PC's did other things.  I can't recall if there was an actual argument about what to do here or, the group being new, everyone was simply too polite to make a strong case for a single course of action.  Either way, the result was a lack of direction in both which plot thread to follow at this juncture and subsequent tactical decisions vis a vie fighting the jermlaine. The later certainly contributed to the party's lack of success against the minute foes.  The former both resulted  in immediate plot consequences and became an unfortunate trend within the group; they simply had a hard time making decisions.

This game took place long before I was aware of any Old School Renaissance; I am not sure what state the OSR was in in 2001, but I do know that I didn't know anything about it.  Given the current vocabulary supplied by the OSR, however, I can say that my initial approach to the Forgotten Songs game was old school.  I had a town that was to serve as a home base in Harcomb.  I had a nearby megadungeon that was to serve as a campaign focus (The Lost Temple of Oghma).  Thought I didn't call it this at the time, I did have a sandbox approach to the game: the PC's were going to tell me what they wanted to do and where they wanted to go and I would say what happened when they did it and what existed when they got there.  I was also very keen on giving meaningful consequences to the PC's actions (or inaction).  I am not sure I ever communicated this directly to the players, likely because I wasn't very conscious about these parameters myself.  They were simply the way I had been playing the game.  My previous game, in which I played a magic-user using some mash of 1st and 2nd edition rules, was filled with consequences of our actions and opportunities to make meaningful choices.  The party routinely had a "to do list" which we tried to make progress on given the opportunity.  This past experience fueled my assumptions about how my game was going to be played and how it was going to be run

Tactically, the confusion in this fight comes through in Katja's entry.  I'll admit to cultivating that confusion a bit, but also remember being confounded by the party's utter lack of coordination (or simply propping the door open). I should have been more forgiving, given that all of us were unfamiliar with the tactical emphasis 3rd edition brought to the game.  Although I think I am right in saying the party never really turned into a SWAT-team like unit.  I remember a session a year or so after this one, in real time, in which similar confusion reigned and antics ensued.  The only difference was the PC's had enough hit points to absorb 5d6 worth of falling damage and not be killed.  But that will come up eventually, I am sure.

1 comment:

  1. You know, I still thought it was all pretty funny. It just veered a little more strongly into dark humor that perhaps you intended.

    Our lack of ability to make decisions as a group did seem to be the ultimate bane of the campaign. Looking back at other groups that I played in, it didn't seem like an uncommon problem. But simmering interpersonal dynamics did seem to make it worse.

    I never expect a party to perform well at coordinated tactics. I actually love a good combat where everything is going pear shaped and people are running around in confusion (like this session). But I would hope that a party could agree on the larger goals of a game. My players in recent years have been a blessing in that respect.