So this week, being week 15 of Shop D&D, some players confronted me, saying they had been reading the blog. (Okay, ATM, they’re probably the only ones reading the blog- other than random bored people from Twitter) It was a weird feeling, that people had read what I had written, that things I used to say “Oh, I wrote about this thing I want to tell you” is now replyed with a “I know, I read it.” Its not a bad odd, but it is an odd. My fledgling popularity does not keep me from making mistakes, however! On to what you came here for!I had decided to cut 2 storylines and move to end the Blue Fox story before a pair of players move out from the game. Its not my only motivation to wrap up the story, but it is a strong motivator. But, as per my on going issue with this story, the endgame I had come up with back in November was seen from the other side. The party was supposed to hear the king, a decently nice guy whose been plagued by the Blue Fox, had been kidnapped and go to the rescue, find him dead, avenge and capture BF, get reward, move on. Instead, they had to do the kidnaping, if I was turning this on it’s head. And, since my Moriarty level villains had perfectly planned to catch the king with highwayman, it took a while to twist mentally to find a way for the outcome to be in question. I could have done the endgame with a cut scene, but that’s not a fulfilling game of D&D. (All movies are unsatisfactory D&D games.) So since there wasn’t anything interesting in catching the carriage, I decided it should be an assault, not an ambush. And an assault needs a map, more than anything. So, I joined Pintrest.
Okay, you may have felt a dissonant transition there, but it’s good, I swear. And joining Pintrest is not a mistake. If it was, it’d be in bold. Tht’s how this format works. I had started looking for maps of D&D mansions with a google search, but it was returning a lot of Pintrest results. So I signed up and got lost in a new social media interface. It is seriously different than anything I’m used to. I still have no idea what I’m doing with it. But after messing around for a bit, I entered the magic combination of code words to give me pages and pages of maps. And I scrolled through until I found one I liked. And once I found one, Pintrest had this convenient “go to source” button, which is a crazy thing that I found refreshing.
All of that led me to Mike Schley, a map maker who’s work I know I’ve seen before. He had a map that was really close to what I was looking for. And, since it was payday, I decided to do the civil thing and buy the file, instead of doing some crappy piracy. Cost me $3.50. since I needed both the upper and lower. And I intend to run something on this map again. I may even get a large version printed. Other than the meteor strike that was drawn in for the Dungeon Magazine adventure it was written for and the tower I didn’t really want to deal with, it was exactly what I needed.
So, being no stranger to cleaning up images, I loaded the GIMP and went to work. I knew I’d be hitting it on my Black and White printer, so I needed to do a lot of work cleaning it up. I did that work, once upon a time, frick, 3 years ago? right when 5e came out, where I traced everything from a PDF and re-inked it and it was hours of work. Today, I did a posterize(16), Threshhold(100) and it was suddenly in black and white. So, First mistake is actually an accusing finger pointing at Past Matt, who spent a lot longer than he should have redrawing maps. Srsly. Dang guy. Use tools properly and things become easy! But anyway, now that it was in B&W I cleared up some lines and notes written on the map and, printed a copy for the players and one for me, and headed to D&D, scribbling notes on my copy.
The second thing I did wrong is NOT having too many players. It is a lamentable state, but it is something that I need to figure out. Am I doing it wrong by having 10 people at the table? Yeah, probably. But I don’t know what I want to do with it. Actually, I have an idea, but I’m not sure if I want to go down that road exactly. I have about 2 weeks to figure it all out.
What I did do wrong was Second: I tried to have a brainstorm session with 10 players. Acquisitions Incorporated just had a video with a 30 min planning session, where they discussed a variety of plans, picked a solid one, hammered out details, etc. It looked like a lot of fun to run and play in, so that’s what I tried to do. It did not go well. We spent probably 2 hours on coming up with the plan. A lot of it was scouting. I think a lot of this mistake is how I would have done it differently as a player than my party did. Not that they did anything wrong, but in the end, I had to cut out free form talk and Third: Moderate discussion at a large table. I should have realized it earlier, but people from the far sides of the table couldn’t hear each other. I don’t really plan to put the table in that situation again, but, if a similar situation occurs, I will shut it down a lot faster.
I learned things about running a heist which I think were useful, however, and if I ever get the chance to run a small group again, we’ll be doing it, mark my words.
Finally, the last thing I learned was to Popcorn Initiative by Party split. Man, that sentence looks like it means nothing to an outsider. I’m tempted to leave it exactly like that and ask for people in comments to tell me what it means, but I so rarely get commenters, I’d probably leave it blank, forget what had happened and be super embarrassed that I couldn’t explain what I meant when someone asked about it years later. It’s happened before.
So the party’s final plan was something along the lines of a multi-pronged attack. Group A would be a loud distraction by the main gate. Group B would do a blitzkrieg for the throne room. Group C split off of Group B (and a bit from A) to go treasure seeking. And when popcorn Init was going off, it was more confusing than ever. So next time, guys in Group A will only be allowed to pick from Group A, until they have exhausted their team, then they can pick the next group. I might even let them pick from Fight A, if they want to do clever waiting for mobs or something. But jumping from group to group was really hard. So I’ll run that different, next time.
That’s it for this week! My planning next week is a lot simpler, as I pretty much just get to put treasure on the map I prepped for this week. And, of course, work on other projects like TSI and such. And get back to comics. So while my D&D effort is light, I have a lot of other crap on my plate. But that’s neither here nor there. See you next week!
Addendum: I totally forgot another thing! In my plan handed down from the NPCs, I had included the item “Make sure people see you as the Blue Fox” in the mission assignment briefing. This cause complications that made things take too long and too much player thought cycles. So if I had to do it again, I’d give them a standard to place or something.