Just shy of three weeks ago I sent out an email to the guys titled State of the Campaign Address. Early on, I did something similar and reviewing my notes, I found most of the goals and issues from that earlier questionnaire have been achieved or dealt with. In my head we're kind of at the halfway point, even though we're not, and if felt like an appropriate time to get some feedback. Cary and Eric were almost completely positive in their responses, Lance was more moderate in his responses, and Jason was almost done with his answers four or so days ago. With nothing super pressing to blog about, I thought I'd answer my own questions to see what I think of how the campaign is going.
1. Are you pleased with your character? Why?
My character is the entire cast, except for the players. One aspect of the sandbox nature of the campaign I very much enjoy is getting a chance to speak and play as a wide variety of races, personalities, and classes. ADHD gunslinging ninjas (literally), arrogant demigods, ancient spymasters, kings, soldiers, etc. It's a very large and varied cast of NPCs, which helps me avoid getting bored with any one thing.
Yes and no. I like them because they are my babies. I wouldn't have designed/written them the way I did if I didn't like them just the way that they are. That said, sometimes it's really hard to take on their personas, because they come off as assholes a lot. Additionally, some of them are very powerful and that makes it dangerous to have them interact with the guys, because the guys have no safety mechanism built into their brain hole that says danger in big glowing red letters and stuff and they don't remember important details when they are important sometimes. A big portion of why I like them is that even the truly powerful ones are not all powerful. They're god-like for sure, but they're not gods. For all their power, they are still flawed individuals that can only be in one place doing one thing at a time. They don't have avatars or legions of angels, worshipers, and other stupid divine shit at their beck and call to handle business. If Keroen wants to resolve something, like kill a bunch of Vacusu, he has to get his hands dirty to do it. I also periodically find myself being concerned because now I've brought to light a lot of stuff about Keroen Skathos and the Nel, so what do I do next?
3. How do you want this campaign to end?
In a way that does not leave my campaign world in ruins and is satisfying to the guys.
4. When do you want this campaign to end?
Before I get bored with Orcunraytrel and the various special unique flavors of bullshit produced by my players and their characters.
5. When/how do you think I plan on ending this campaign?
Keroen kills them all for violating some obscure taboo of the Nel that they never asked about and he never told them about. Eran will obviously be raped to death by the Nel wonder twins (I have no idea how, I'm pretty sure neither of them has what we would define as a dick).
6. Have the subsystems (leadership, kingdom building, and spy networking) enhanced the campaign or negatively impacted it?
Negative. Completely one hundred percent negative. Ok, well maybe not one hundred percent, but they definitely complicate the game more than I feel is appropriate sometimes. The kingdom building is fascinating, but Eric as much as admitted to me that the only portion of the kingdom building rules he's reviewed at length are the buildings and how they improve the stats of the kingdom. I'm unsure how much attention Jason has paid to the rules, so who knows. The system is difficult for me because the emails go out and I hold hands and tell them what to do, and they ignore it for a day or two, or fifteen, and then I get agitated and struggle with should I say something or not say something, and then I opt for snarkiness in most cases. Meanwhile, a simple abstract subsystem that should take about an hour total to resolve, the majority of that being discussion about what buildings to build, ends up taking multiple weeks to finally resolve, and then its time to do it all over ago. It's super fun and exciting. It's not. It's a pain in my dogdamn dick and it benefits me and the campaign in no way to constantly be hassling players to participate in subsystem they requested I add to the game.
Leadership is the least frustrating subsystem, but it does agitate me a little because I constantly have to remind them that they need room to put these guys in and I have to pretend their characters aren't asshole tyrants for refusing to pay them and for housing them like slaves stacked in the hold of a ship. It does work nicely with the mass combat stuff though. Sort of a ready made, easily statted out army.
The spy network is very interesting and cool in concept, but it gets hard to manage simply because it's all stuff I'm putting together with no backing or help from the rules. It does offer me an opportunity to slide plot hooks and details towards the group through methods that don't involve Ye Olde Quest Giver approaching the tower with a bag of money and a mission. However, it can be frustrating because Cary is role-playing an Elduman appropriately and doesn't share his secrets in a way that makes spying an effective means of giving the group plot hooks. Heh. It does work nicely for these diplomatic style sessions we've been having/will have though.
7. Do you feel like your character has had moments to shine over the others? If not, why?
They kill all of my characters. Which makes me feel sad in my heart hole. I swear to Dog, if Gob gets killed because of their bullshit like Kethranmeer did, I'm going to use Saw as the inspiration for my next campaign. I do feel like Gob has definitely had a chance to shine while still remaining a valued and useful member of the group though, so that's good.
8. Is there overall a balance between combat and noncombat situations? Explain.
Not really. The previous scenario featured no combat whatsoever, the next one most likely won't, and the one after that may feature a little bit of combat, but it certainly won't be the focus. I design scenarios based on what they are doing, not balancing combat and noncombat. They're in a situation right now where combat would be stupid. There was no reason to feature combat in the previous session. I could do so via random encounters or something. But that's just having a combat encounter to have a combat encounter. If I'm building a scenario, I'd prefer it if its contents were purposeful and fulfilled the goals of the group, rather than design it in the pursuit of some abstract idea of proper balance between the types of encounters.
9. Are the scenarios satisfying? Why?
I am satisfied by them. I think they have been effective vehicles for achieving the various goals of the players, or at least those players that have goals and have actively pursued them. It's not my fault if you have a goal and don't tell the other players you want to pursue it.
10. Are the RPs satisfying? Why?
Oh fuck yes, but with the caveat that it is only when everyone is active and engaged in the RP that they truly become enjoyable and satisfying. The RPs are a great experience for me. I get to explore all these characters in my head in a way that isn't me just basically talking to myself.
11. What do you want the character level cap of the campaign to be? Why?
I'd be content with something in the 20 level and 10 mythic tiers range. I'm not opposed to exceeding that though, as long as there is a reason for it. There's no need to get to level thirty or forty if they're just going to keep shooting Asosans until they die or be administrators of a settlement. Now, if they decide to take the war to the Nel homeland of Grenaldeen, that's a valid reason to achieve a power level of over 9000.
12. What frustrates you about my GMing style?
The motherfucking sandbox. I have almost no control over the group at the moment. With more traditional questing where the group has a boss or something, you can just give them a quest and get them to do things. Unfortunately, this is a sandbox where the questing is motivated by their goals and desires. So we have to go through sometimes extensive RP emails before I can even begin work on a scenario for them to run through, which is frustrating when their lives and jobs and families or general level of slacking get in my way. It has also created several instances of not being able to game in a month because the RPs are moving too slowly. It's a little easier with Keroen Skathos being their boss now, but he's so dogdamn non-hands on about things that he's content to let them do their own thing while he resolves things on his end.
13. What do you like about my GMing style, if anything?
The motherfucking sandbox. Heh. The fact that almost everything has happened in this campaign due to their goals and decision making is amazing. I have not forced them to do anything. No one in game has said "Do this because I command it and own you." It has all come down to their choices and the world reacting to their choices. It makes me happy in my heart hole, it entertains me, it's like watching a beloved tv show every week or something.
14. What frustrates you about my campaign world?
I love my campaign world. However, it does become frustrating when figuring out how it reacts to them at times. I have often found myself dialing things back for the sake of because game, which probably rings a little false at times. One thing Lance said was that he thinks the reactions of the world around them are very steep at times, which has led to him not saying or doing something due to being unable to predict the consequences or being afraid of what they might be.
Lance, this next bit is not meant maliciously, only as sarcastic humor: Oh? You mean you are interacting with ultrapowerful immortal supernatural creatures and the heads of nations in a foreign land whose dangers you have almost no knowledge of and are making pacts with supernatural entities and you have to stop and think about your words and actions instead of saying and doing whatever you damn well please and acting on the first piece of I'm a player burn it all down bullshit that pops into your head? Oh no, you poor thing. Heh.
In all seriousness though, I consider Lance's mindset a big positive. It means he is thinking critically about his character and my game world. It means he is thinking of the other players and considering the impact his actions and words may have on them and their characters. I understand that it is something frustrating for him, and I feel a twinge of guilt about that, but I can't make myself be sad or upset about the fact that he is pausing to think about what the consequences of his character's actions might be. That's the basic philosophy of my GMing style. Actions have consequences.
15. What do you like about my campaign world, if anything?
All of the things.
16. Do you feel like your characters have an impact on the world around them? Why?
In the context of the group reacting to guys like Gob and Vanden and such, yes. How they treat and interact with these character have definitely put the players in positions where they impact the world around them. If they had not had Gob in the group as a guide, would they have a more positive relationship with the Asosans? If they had skipped a guide and just started wandering would they have set up their fort and settlement in Viknerfell or Mawkethsfhjsdfhk? Would they have found Scorrin's clan and made them their first allies? They are constantly poking and prodding at the world around them and changing things based on their own motivations and who among my cast of NPCs they choose to interact with.
On their end, I believe they do have an impact on the world around them. They delayed a world event by assisting Vanden in shutting down portals to the Underhel. Further delayed/stopped that event by restoring Keroen Skathos' memories. Donovan almost destroyed my world because Karrak needed an airship. They've built a settlement that will eventually, if they don't fuck it up, become an actual political power in the game world. They've chosen to take a stand against thousands of supernatural immortal creatures because they have decided to live in Orcunraytrel. The entire time this campaign has existed, they've had the option to up and leave and head back to The Known World. They've chosen to remain. I mean seriously. They've restored the fucking kings of Serethnem to their people. Anything the Sereth do after this point in the timeline is because of these players and their choices. I don't know how they could have more of an impact on the game world around them.
17. Who is the MVP of the group?
18. Is Donovan too powerful?
Heh. That's adorable. The power characters have is an illusion. Even outside of the game rules and nerfing things. My world is over ten thousand years old and chock full of immortal with caveats creatures and sorcerers and adamantine golems with 20th level Wizards inside of them. To claim I can't on a whim throw something at the players that can't negate any or all of their standard capabilities and tactics is completely disingenuous of me.
19. Do you want to do minion related scenarios? Why?
Nope, and I'm not going to. We can barely keep the main characters and their campaign functioning. Why the fuck would I delay that to do something about faceless NPCs with half or less of the power of the actual characters this campaign is about? What are they going to do, cringe at Nel? Go beat up thugs in an alley? Get killed by Asosans or Brasscoats or Blackcoats? There's absolutely no incentive for me to put in the effort to create a scenario or two that are plausibly related to the campaign for the minions of the group.
20. Does Gob take up too much time and attention? Is he overshadowing the players in any way?
No. Ever since Gob's apotheosis into a practitioner of the Old Ways, he's a lot quieter, because that's his thing. The one thing he has always done good is stealth, and no one in the group is focused strongly on stealth. Eran minors in Stealth, and I think Karl and Karrak have ranks in Stealth, but it's not the focus of anyone's character. He has a niche he occupies in the group that doesn't overshadow anyone else's specialty, and he's there to remind them about the various things they may have forgotten. He's a native and he knows a lot about Orcunraytrel, because he actually read and retained all of the information in that campaign book. Even before his change, he was the demolitions guy, which no one else in the group is. He's always occupied a niche specialty that no one else has, and he's always been the Orcunraytrel almanac, because he lives there and the other guys don't.
21. What goals does your character have that have not yet been achieved?
Honestly, I would really like to see them explore the continent. I would like their adventures to take them to Mawkknell or the Ruins of Korbell. Those are interesting places full of critters and weird situations, and they've mostly been fighting the military of various nations, which while fun for me, doesn't feel adventury to me. That's something I'd like to see happen, delving and exploring ancient ruins and such. Gives me the opportunity to expose them to some odd and interesting stuff.
22. Do you feel like there is unfinished business in the campaign, a plot point or group goal that was touched on and not pursued? What was it? Should it be revisited? How?
23. What do you see your character as from the RP/background material perspective when this campaign ends?
If I take this to refer to Gob, I see him as eventually stepping away from Freebooter's Crossing and returning to the Goebleen Nation and acting like its heir, even though his dad is immortal with caveats. With how family focused the Goebleen are, I can't help but think that Gob is young and doing the equivalent of being young and stupid. I don't think it is in him to be a cop in a city of Fell Humans and such for the last two thirds of his life. But who knows.
24. Do you feel like you need more frequent updates and attention to various background things like your airship progress, your personal finances, the building of the wall, etc?
I think I keep them apprised of everything pretty well. There's a Google Drive spreadsheet of their finances, airship progress, debt contract, and kingdom building stuff shared with them. The actual fort itself is on roll20 with relatively up to date information about their wall. I always start RP emails with the date so they know when things are occurring in relation to what has occurred, and I use a really simple as fuck system of time and date. Mapping is a big deficiency here, as Lance was the only one doing any mapping, then he stopped when they didn't go exploring. So they have no idea where anything is in relation to other stuff. They probably should have mapped better when I told them in the beginning that mapping was their responsibility. Oh well. Not my problem. Heh heh.
25. Does the 40th level character thing make you nervous?
Not really. Cary is the only one who has actually done it, and it is going to take a very specific chain of events in pursuit of resolving the whole Nel problem to actually make the 40th level thing relevant.
26. Do you want to game more frequently than once a month or once every two months? Why? What are you willing to do to ensure that we do game more frequently?
I'd love to switch to a bi-monthly schedule, but given my answer to the minion question, it's not happening. Coupled with the fact that it has been six weeks and three days since we gamed and no one has suggested that they really want to game or asked when we're gaming, I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to consider myself lucky if we manage to game once a month. Oh well.
27. Do you have any other issues you'd like to bring up/discuss? Do so.
I can't figure out how to type what I want to type here without sounding crazypants furious or emo, so fuck writing it out.