Thursday, March 19, 2015


I've been GMing since about 1990. This is surprising because that is 25 years and it certainly doesn't feel like it. Not just in terms of time, but also experience. I still don't feel like a veteran GM. If I am completely honest, I am probably about average as a game master. I have my good sessions, I have my not-so-good sessions, but most are somewhere in the middle. I don't feel like one of these referees who's cracked the code. 

So I was intrigued when three of my players told me that our last session of Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate was some of the best gaming they've experienced. What struck me was my impression of the session was quite different. From behind the screen, perhaps because I was busy managing some other details and just didn't notice how engaged people were, it seemed like an 'okay' session. So I was pretty surprised to get that kind of feedback. Curious, I decided to ask them what was so good about it, and here is what they told me:

Roleplaying spotlight: One of the characters really got to shine this session and that had a big impact on the player's ability to get into character and explore her personality. Another character had a moment in the sun when she helped the group find a pit of jade. 

The session had all the right elements: The player liked that the session hit a lot of notes and felt packed with a bunch of different components. It included a quest to retrieve the Phoenix Crown of Bao, exploration of a Jade Mine, the interference of a rival martial hero who ambushed them at an inn, an environmental challenge in the form of a difficult cliff, the emergence of a new threat and a daring escape and challenge. 

The pacing: One player commented that the flow of the session felt right. In this case, everything just kept moving at a steady clip. 

The setting came alive: There was a sense that the world was real, that stuff was happening elsewhere and that could have an impact on them. When they randomly looked into some nearby woods, they found people mining a Jade Pit, and this opened up to a whole interaction with local villagers who clearly needed protection before bandits or warlords discovered the resource. Someone also really liked that an inn they stayed at had a dish called Longevity Duck, and it actually provided a small mechanical bonus to the Reason Skill for a few hours (clearly the innkeeper was exaggerating when he said it made you live for 1,000 years, but the player still liked getting the bonus). 

Zhi Zhu's sifu demonstrates "Spinning Steel"
NPCs came alive: They liked that the NPCs had their own goals and this led to some complex, not very straightforward, interactions. There are a number of different NPCs in play and they keep intersecting with them in different ways. 

The mechanics: The game mechanics just seemed to work very well this session. The battles all felt like real martial arts battles, but the mechanics didn't get in the way. They faded into the background and let us focus on the the characters.  

Background: The players have been learning bits and pieces of the campaign background as they interact with different people. This session they learned more about Zhi Zhu's Sifu and about the Phoenix Crown when they went to Heiping. This slow ladling of information from different sources seems to be building a strong interest. 

Accomplishments: The players accomplished a lot this session. 

So these are the things, according my players, that caused them to enjoy the session. I may be missing some bits, as they each gave me quite a few paragraphs and I had to reduce them to a few basic points here. 

Personally I think much of this is due to the genre itself, and this particular session, we've just seen a lot of the wuxia elements culminate into something interesting. A lot of it was also luck. The players had a lot of lucky rolls this session, which made for a number spectacular successes. I think it was one of those things where all the elements of play just kind of came together and made for a fun night of gaming. Ultimately I think this is a case of it really coming down to the players as well. Everybody was taking initiative and that goes a long way toward making a session enjoyable. 

I think there is a temptation to say, how do I make sure this happens every session. But I think that would be a mistake. If this happens every session by design, it loses its luster. But I think the potential for this should always be there and I do think it is important to learn from the good sessions so they are more likely to recur. I'll be keeping an eye on this aspect of Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate as the campaign continues. 

No comments:

Post a Comment