So as requested by some of the folks on discord im posting a summary of the game I ran on Saturday.
Bit of context. I’m an autistic, socially awkward person with high standards for myself and was very nervous as it was my first time DMing for 5 people. I’ve ran for 3 of them before and the extra 2 were new rpg players (1 of whom I thought would be okay, the other 1…i knew he would ‘game’ it big time).
The previous game I ran with 3 players was played as a very stripped down version of d&d. note quite icrpg though as at this point dungeon world held sway over me for certain aspects like success at a cost, free-flowing gameplay rather than turns and armour reducing damage rather than armour class. This is something I’ve spent forever thinking about… But after this recent session… Everything has now changed. More on this later.
The first mission they played was very, “you meet in a tavern, a young girl has been abducted by a strangely behaving doctor. Go to the caves, kill the monsters, deal with the doctor, save the girl, have a boss fight, the end”.
This new game had to be different. It had to be more… ‘me’, I guess. I felt that before I had held back on the epicness to just introduce people into the game. This time… I wasnt going to. And definatley was not going for a slow start.
I opened the first scene with a brief description of how the five of them were a relatively new group of adventurers investigating a thieves guild who was rumoured to be ran by a mysterious mage. They had acquired knowledge of a rough location of his hideout and had hired a ship to help them intercept a thieves guild ship en route to the location. Take control of it and use it to get close to him. (I just wanted a ship encounter in the game).
I had previously spoke to all of them and we spoke about brief backstory and figured out little links that tied them all together. I did this to ensure that they were all friends and colleagues to try and avoid anybody being silly and selfish.
I described them below deck on a boat and were called up to the top deck as the interception point was approaching.
On the deck I described it as extremely foggy with almost zero visibility, windy and cold. They were told to stand on the edge of the ship and handed a stone with a feather symbol on it. They did… Unsure about what was going to happen. Then they felt a light jolt as their ship began to sink, not as you would expect. But in altitude. Visibility came to them as they moved below the clouds and now realised they were standing on the edge of an airship.
A couple of hundred feet below them was the thieves airship. Immediately they were informed to dive off and when they got close to the ship, to crush the feather stone containing a one use feather fall spell. I pressed play on the rock music and made them roll for skydive. Their faces were a picture. NATURAL ONE!! shouted the ninja player! I described him flailing about and clearly was going to miss the target. The hunter rolled a NATURAL 20! So I let his character essentially go over and save the ninja.
They all landed and proceeded to clear the deck of thieves. the first mate was thrown overboard (along with a piece of loot I put on him), the captain was slain after trying to sabotage the ship knowing he was done for. And the ship was taken with not too much damage done to the PCs.
It was during this fight I noticed a few things…
- the player I had concerns with (from now on shall be referred to as DAVE) was playing the way I thought he would. Trying to make his mage more powerful than everybody else by adding in that now he had the ability to turn into ‘spirit form’ out of the blue. Taking ages on his turn. Trying to decide peoples turns for them. Explaining how because he could shoot a lightning bolt spell he should be able to control the weather. Just all around being very gamey and unpleasant.
2)due to DAVES constant interruptions I was struggling to maintain what I thought was a good flow and speed to the game. No problems with the other players though.
3)TURNS! … due to the influence of dungeon world. My view on using turns was clouded. I was thinking, turns are evil’ and that a free-flowing cinematic style of play was best and dramatic scenes can’t be created using a turn based format. And the DM rolling for the bad guys would take away some fun for the PCs. In short, is a load of .
Without a turn structure it was difficult to tell DAVE to chill and wait his turn.
- TIMERS! … Oh boy. I’ve watched every runehammer video. Multiple times in fact. And I still thought I knew better. Without a timer… These guys, under the leadership of DAVE would of spent the whole evening planning on how to clear the bottom deck of the airship.
On route to the location of the mages hideout the players were constantly discussing how they should dress up as the thieves. One should be the captain (which involved the artificer removing the captains face and putting it on his own face as a mask… Wow). I had planned on them just parking the airship in a clearing and after a short walk through the woods they would arrive at the mages hut.
So I changed things… I had them park at a spontaneously invented dock with a bunch of thieves guild members watching over it. They Charisma checked their way up close and killed them. Then set off into the woods.
(I was really happy with what I did here as it was clear all of them wanted a sneak-past-in-disguise moment. So I gave it to them).
Going through the woods I suggested the ninja and hunter (new player) go ahead to scout (make them feel special) and they located a trap which they allowed the whole group to avoid.
Eventually they reached a clearing with a crooked wooden hut in the centre. They spent a few mins deciding what to do and eventually one of them took the lead and approached. Inside the hut was a minefield of traps and wierd loot. The bed was a venus fly trap style thing if you touched it. The chest had a cloak in it that when examined it, wrapped around you and kept squeezing until destroyed (that will teach DAVE to grab every piece of loot first). The way through the hut was to blow out the candle on the fireplace. This would kill the fireplace and reveal a portal that could be crawled through. Just after the artificer examined the transparent liquid in a cup and concluded it was a potion of invisibility I decided we needed some pace. The game needed some pressure.
So I revealed to the ninja player the huge angry Treant coming to crush them. I believe I left this too long and DAVE (bless him) was trying to be alpha gamer. If I were running this game just like icrpg. I would of just immediately said you have 4 rounds before tree beard on steroids arrives. Then proceeded in TURNS and declared someone notice the fire flicker when candle flickers after a round or so of fighting it (if nobody found it sooner).
So they fought and killed the big tree and were like. Phew… I immediately declared 2more treants coming and the fire portal was discovered.
The next and final area was a cave like room roughly 100ft long and a similar shape to a donut. Large mirrors on the outside and inside walls. And a big magical door on the opposite side to the entrance. Going through this area when they investigated mirrors I had them make WIS checks, the ninja, the hunter and his pet were all pulled into the mirrors and temporarily vanished.
The players investigated the door and the mage started to focus magical effort on the door and it started to slowly open. This is where I had the centre “donut ring” explode and the mage who runs the thieves guild appear, along with the missing PCs now with eyes glowing purple and an overwhelming urge to destroy their friends. So now we have one room, mirrors on the outside, a mage with some controlled PCs and the rest of the PCs focusing on protecting the mage at the door.
After the players refused the mages offer at working together for some tasty magical items a fight ensued. I had the mage be able to swap places with a controlled PC and any bad guy able to hop into the mirrors on the wall and pop out another, which was fun to use. I had the mage finally knocked out in the corner of the room but the players didn’t pay attention to him for a round so I had him escape. (future big bad maybe?).
They opened the magic door. Looted the place. And left.
This was pretty much the end of the game. The mage was still alive somewhere, the hunters pet nearly died, but they now have use of an airship.
I rounded off the game and everyone said they enjoyed it and want to play again.
A few take aways I had from this game were massive for me. Rather than theorising ideas, actually having 5 people to run for was brilliant. Over the last few days I’ve watched various videos of Hanks again, like timers and challenge tuning encounters. I’ve spoke to all the players and we are running pure icrpg next time.
I had a glorious message of feedback from DAVE saying things like “if I want to shoot a badguy with lightning I should be able to aim it around a person who is in the way”.
To which I responded “as long as it makes sense you can. If its an ogre between you and the target, probably not. If it’s a friend you can shout get down and can do it. If it’s another enemy you can make the shot but it will be a Hard Target”.
He was worried that the ranger having 3 loot and all others having 1 could cause inbalance in future games if the ranger doesn’t play.
I explained that I had 2 loot ready for everyone in the adventure and 1 extra for whoever used a special key. Due to destroying chests and throwing people overboard not everyone got 2 loot.
The hunter almost single handedly killed a Treant, decided to loot the body. So as he was actually a hunter, fought a good fight, thought to loot his body and rolled a NAT 20 I said he obtained wood from its body and salvaged its heart. Which could be used to craft a +1 forest long bow (artificer rubbing his hands together at chance to make something cool).
I also told him that sometimes the stories, luck and loot fall to certain people and in other sessions it would fall to others and not to worry about ‘not having a chance if they don’t have 5 people’. As a DM I don’t want to kill your character but I do want you to get close to a fair death or else we may aswel play world of warcraft and kill sheep for 4 hours.
Overall I have come away with TURNS, TIMERS, AC and high pressure ICRPG. things I’ve heard many times. But other systems have made me curious. I have seen the light and can’t wait to run the next session. Everyone has given me feedback, told me they thought it was epic. Ive told them my adjustments for next session and all seem excited. Even DAVE apologised for his “being an idiot”. I told him it’s cool. I just want him to see that the rules and game come second to the story. The rules I run are just to keep everyone involved, keep the game moving and try make everyone have fun. Which is why icrpg2e is by my side right now.
Thankyou so much to everyone that gave me a pep talk before my game it really calmed me down to hear a few words of encouragement. And take a hero coin if you actually read this jumbled ranty mess of a post.
TLDR. Icrpg is God