Sunday, April 7, 2013

GM Commentary: The Hydra and the Viper or Last Rest Episode 8 vs. Fading Suns Chapter Two

First, The Abyss from OGLAF (this link is SFW, but much on OGLAF is delightfully NSFW, so fair warning.)  I'd like to think the PCs in my game are like the Thaumaturge, but I suspect they'd rather be the commoners as that's the much more enjoyable path.

"Self," I thought to myself, as I am wont to, on Tuesday afternoon, "You're going to keep things moving & not going let tonight's Fading Suns become a Plot Gobbler, right?"  "Yes, other self," I told myself, and I'd like to think I succeeded.  Truth is, I've been running lots of Plot Gobbler sessions lately, where I, as GM, do a piss poor job of keeping things moving along or at least staying enjoyable and instead let the game slow to a grind of intra-party dickering and pointless NPC interactions.  While I was able to reign it in for the last Fading Suns session I ran, I'm unsure it it will be as easy when I run my next session of Reign...  Part of it is Final Fantasy NPC Syndrome and part of it is in the different Nature of the Beasts of the two games I'm running.

(as always, you'll be better served if you read my Episode summary at the Last Rest blog, though this last one was a little threadbare and not up to my usual standards)


  • While it could have just been a misunderstanding on my players' behalves that they thought the cache they were looking for was for the Everburning Cinder and that's what made them determined to find out just how the two NPCs they found at the empty cache came to know about it, I think it was Final Fantasy NPC Syndrome (FFNS) instead.  
  • What do I mean by FFNS?  If you ever played the old SNES Final Fantasy games you might recall times where you'd go into a town and you'd have to interact with each NPC before you found the one that had that tiny tidbit of information that let you determine the next plot point.  There might be 20 NPCs in a town and each would have something to say, 19 of the 20 would have something banal or useless but that 1 would have just what you needed.  Even worse was when you returned to a town and you had to go back through all 20 NPCs to find the one whose dialogue had changed and now was what you needed...
  • I suspect this is part of what drove my players at the last Reign Session... I gave the two NPCs fairly detailed descriptions and I had a backstory made for them, because I intended to give them a quick introduction and then to have them reappear in the story later, which may or may not happen now.  But since the NPCs had more depth than "generic shopclerk" I think my players latched onto them, sure that these two had an important plot point to give up at just that time.  Looking back, I should have just come up with something on the fly to get my PCs back on track, but alas I did not.


  • I've started to think of my two games as a Hydra and a Viper. Reign is the Hyrda, with its seven players, all of whose back-stories went into forming the plot.  Fading Suns is the Viper, with a plot just as complex, but only four players whose back-stories are entirely separate from the plot.
  • With the Hydra of Reign, when one plot point is resolved, exposing Kaden Shaw as the mole, two or three more plot points spring up.  With the Viper of Fading Suns, as convoluted as the plot gets, because it ultimately springs from one source, it gets tangled but does not multiply and that makes it easier for me to bring the players back to the plot.
  • The analogy holds for most other things as well, including player decisions.  While I intended for the company in Reign to have one unifying goal, they at best have seven different interpretations of their goal.  In Fading Suns, the players were tasked with discovering a murderer and they all know that is the goal which keeps their decision making focused.
  • Keeping this analogy in mind, as a GM I know that I need to start using a flaming brand on the Reign game, burning off some plot points in a way that will keep them from multiplying as I shepherd the game towards its conclusion.

  • Keep the game on task, find ways to subtly guide the players to what NPCs are important and what NPCs know 1 small thing that the players can take and move on.
  • Start closing off plot-points.  Ideally, right now I have three or four episodes to run after episode 9, which means that I need to keep the group focused and on target towards the planned conclusion.
  • Incorporate Company Actions into the middle of the session, hopefully with the challenge of the Siege before them, this will be easier.

1 comment:

  1. I think of the 1st D&D Group as the 1980's Suicide Squad comic, and the 2nd Group as Giffin and Demattis' Justice League International book. Both are amazing, BUT vastly different. I've never thought to look at them through the lense of how I run or the plot evolution. Perhaps I should. Excellent post my friend as always.


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