Monday, 3 July 2017

Plot Point Episodes should Impact the Story

A couple of months ago I gave an overview of the Plot Point Campaign in Saga of the Goblin Horde, and described the War Clock mechanism I use to track the escalation of the war, triggering Plot Point Episodes in response to the players' actions during Savage Tales; the more murderous and destructive the goblins are, the faster the human retaliate.

This time I'd like to talk about a technique I use within the Plot Point Episodes themselves, inspired by the final chapter in the Heroes of Drakonheim adventure, where the players have to build up their Mass Battle tokens by recruiting allies.

Adventuring is not a Spectator Sport

I once read a fantasy novel in which the inept hero blundered from one failure to the next, outsmarted by the villain at every turn. At the end of the story, the villain completed his magical ritual - and died, because he made a mistake that he couldn't possibly have known about in advance. In effect the hero was just a spectator in the story. He "won" through a technicality, but he might as well have stayed at home, because his "quest" had absolutely no impact on the outcome. The villain was going to lose regardless.

Campaigns can sometimes feel the same way. One of my personal pet peeves with some Plot Point Episodes is that the players' actions seem to have no tangible impact on the overall story. If the players fail to rescue the informant, they get the information from someone else. If they fail to save the hostages, it doesn't really matter, life goes on as before. If they fail to steal the MacGuffin, they can just find an alternative way to continue to the next adventure. It can sometimes start to feel as if the players actions don't really matter, win or lose the result will be the same; they might as well just go to the pub and wait for the final episode.

Now obviously you don't want an adventure to be a roadblock that kills the campaign, because failure is certainly a possibility. But I do think the players actions should have a significant and tangible effect on the overall story, the adventure shouldn't just be something that "happens" to the characters, followed by a Reset Button Ending. The players should be driving the plot, not just sitting in the passenger seat.

Degrees of Victory

The approach I'm using in Saga of the Goblin Horde is to provide three possible outcomes for each of the triggered Plot Point Episodes, and these will have a direct effect on the final episode.

In Short Straw the players have to prevent an invading army of "mountain humans" (i.e., dwarves) from leaving their tunnels. If they fail, the Stonefist tribe will eventually fight off the army and prevent the invasion, but they'll suffer heavy casualties in the process, leaving them unable to provide any significant aid in the final battle. On the other hand, if the players manage to block the entire army, the Stonefist tribe will owe them a favor (a bit like an Adventure Card that the party can redeem at any point later in the campaign for a special benefit) and commit themselves fully to the final battle. A partial mission success falls somewhere between the two, with the Stonefist tribe providing limited aid in the final battle.

The other adventures follow a similar trend, with the characters aiding and recruiting the other tribes, forging alliances and recruiting allies as the war escalates. If the players don't bother fighting off the human attacks, the story will still carry on, but one by one the other goblin tribes will fall, and in the final battle the Redfang tribe will find itself standing alone against insurmountable odds (and almost certainly lose as a result).

The players can afford a few failures, but each victory will give them a much-needed edge. They will need to win some battles before they can win the war.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Worm Food: One Sheet

Last night, Manuel Sambs of Veiled Fury Entertainment ran a brand new Saga of the Goblin Horde adventure for Harrison Hunt and Nikk Lambley of the TableTop Twats Podcast. It was the second Actual Play to be recorded (the first being Eric Lamoureux's awesome 6 Heads for the Head Honcho), and it was hilarious, well worth watching! You can see it here.

The original Worm Food adventure was designed to take place at the same time as Head Hunters (and Manuel also ran it that way, with references to the Head Hunters Plot Point episode), however I wanted a One Sheet that could easily be inserted anywhere in the campaign, so I adjusted the introduction to make it a bit more generic.

You can grab the One Sheet here: Worm Food for Savage Worlds.

In case anyone is wondering, the name of the rabbitfolk leader is a reference to both Bambi and Dune, and the premise of the adventure was inspired by an Oglaf comic strip (very NSFW, so I'm not linking to it, but I strongly recommend checking out Oglaf if you're not easily offended).

If you're interested in following the progress of Saga of the Goblin Horde, don't forget to sign up to the official Facebook group.

Saga of the Goblin Horde Actual Play

Last night, Manuel Sambs of Veiled Fury Entertainment ran a Savage Worlds Actual Play, starring Harrison Hunt and Nikk Lambley of the TableTop Twats Podcast. The live stream had the end chopped off, but the full recording has now been uploaded to YouTube, and it's hilarious! Check it out:

Monday, 19 June 2017

Coming Soon: Saga of the Goblin Horde Actual Play on Twitch

This Thursday at 7pm GMT (3pm EST), Veiled Fury Entertainment will be running a Savage Worlds Actual Play, live on Twitch. Starring the infamous hosts of the TableTop Twats Podcast, this promises to be an epic tale filled with massive monsters, greased-up goblins, casual cannibalism, and wily wabbitfolk!

They've come all the way from Hightree Ridge, enticed by the promise of fame, glory, and as many humans as they can eat. Meet Hammy Groingazer and Niklam Hammerface, the brutal borderland brothers, known among the tribes as the Treetop Twits!

Watch with delight as they attempt the most insanely dangerous stunt they've ever undertaken. Laugh at their expense as they become...

Worm Food: An appropriately hard mission for a couple of inappropriately hard goblins.

Veiled Fury Entertainment will also be releasing the adventure at the end of the show, so if you fancy adding another Saga of the Goblin Horde One Sheet to your collection, make sure you tune in!

Monday, 12 June 2017

Saga of the Goblin Horde: Updated Quick Start

Earlier this month I released some Quick Start rules for the Swift d12 version of Saga of the Goblin Horde, which covered the game rules and character creation. The problem is it was mostly crunch, so anyone wishing to use the setting still needed to reference the Savage Worlds version of the player's guide. It also made the PDF feel pretty dry.

So I decided to sandwich the crunch between the introduction and the gazetteer. Then for good measure, I added Dungeon Squat to the end as an introductory adventure, and included six of the archetypes as pregenerated characters.

The end result is a standalone Quick Start book that contains everything you need to introduce the Saga of the Goblin Horde setting and run a play test using the Swift d12 system.

Get it here: Saga of the Goblin Horde Quick Start

If you're interested in following the progress of the Saga of the Goblin Horde setting, there's Facebook group for it here. If you're more interested in the Swift d12 system, there's a Google+ community for it here.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Saga of the Goblin Horde: Swift d12 Quick Start Rules

Last month I threw together a streamlined "Lite" edition of the Swift d12 system, which reduced the full rules down to around 10% of their original size (!). After some consideration I decided that I rather like the simplified solution, at least in the short term - it's tighter, dropping and/or merging many of the bulkier and unfinished sections, and it's simpler and easier to understand, but it still retains the same general feel.

Saga of the Goblin Horde was always intended to be a fairly small setting, and I think it would be better served by a smaller set of rules. That certainly doesn't mean I'm throwing the full Swift d12 system away, I could easily see an expanded ruleset being a better fit for some of the other settings I have planned in the future. But I won't ever reach that point if I can't convince people to try out my system, and I think a lighter set of rules will be a much easier sell.

So, going back to the streamlined version, I decided to polish it and expand it into a set of quickstart rules, which you can download here:

There are 5 pages of rules, and 1 page of character creation, followed by 3 pages of Flaws and 2 pages of Feats. It might seem a bit odd to have so many Feats and Flaws, but they're an essential part of creating interesting characters, and without them the character creation rules felt wishy-washy and uninspiring.

I'm still trying to decide how best to deal with equipment. Right now weapons and armor just get a brief overview, as the plan is to cover them in more detail in a separate chapter. But for the quickstart rules, perhaps one extra page for gear would be appropriate.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Blackwood: Only a couple of days left to back the Kickstarter!

There are only a couple of days left on the Blackwood Kickstarter, so if you've not backed it yet, what are you waiting for? If you're on the fence, you can download the free Year in the Blackwood bundle, which contains a setting primer, 6 pregenerated characters, and 4 One Sheet adventures - easily enough to get a feel for the setting, and run a few adventures for your group. Backers also get immediate access to the working draft of the setting.

The Blackwood is a fantasy setting that might best be described as the Brothers Grimm meets Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I had the pleasure of designing a few of their Edges and Hindrances, and also did the layout work for a couple of their One Sheets, so I'm pleased to see the Kickstarter has reached its funding goal. However if the appropriate stretch goals are reached, I'll also be writing a Blackwood adventure, and designing their Campaign Deck!

So make sure you check it out if you think it might be your sort of setting; if you wait until it hits DTRPG, the stretch goals may never get reached.