Saturday, April 12, 2014

That Miraculous 15%

One of the players told me I had just uttered the quote of the day.  The intelligent and chaotic sword was being grilled by its new master and it responded with: "You don't get to hear my origin story before I've tasted blood."

Earlier this afternoon, I ran the very last playtest of The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence.  I didn't think I was going to get the chance to do another one after Gary Con, but I did.

There are more reasons for GM burnout than too much gaming.  A few members of my home group started getting busy or had better things to do or maybe it was spring fever.  I don't know.

In any case, the two week break turned into a month break and I decided to do another public, noob-friendly D&D meetup (using Swords & Wizardry) instead of trying for one last big day of gaming with my homies.

Ah, new blood for the purple islands... In fact, there were 10 players.  10!!!  All but two were strangers.  That was gratifying because I feared that scheduling another home game would leave me with several empty chairs and the feeling that no one cares about the time and energy I put into scheduling/preparing for a game.

The public library was very accommodating - a nice, big, quiet, clean space with good tables and chairs.  Couldn't ask for more than that.  Again, it took me way too long to make 10 pre-generated character sheets.  About two hours time; I could have spent that on tweaking encounters and planning the story arc.

I completely forgot about Purple's spell casting mechanic until the end.  The party ran into two back-to-back encounters that were very similar.  Maybe the original Star Trek is rubbing off on me.  For all the variety in the book, the lack thereof in my near random choices was pretty ridiculous.  Only had one critical hit.  This time it was one of the PCs scoring it and not a monster.  Nearly the same result though - total bloody carnage!  I love my critical hit table, and my d12 concurs.

I came up with a new reason for PCs to arrive: as convicts upon the purple islands penal colony like Escape from New York meets Game of Thrones.  I'll definitely include that as a suggestion in the book.

The climax was anti-climactic, unfortunately.  That's not the fault of Purple or the players, just myself.  Pure GM ball dropping.  After three and a half hours of challenge and exploration, the PCs found some human/spider hybrid wizards within the tower they sought and asked them to open a portal back to their home in exchange for a magic sword of Chaos they picked up.  The spider-people basically said, "Sure."  The PCs went through the portal and that was it.  If that happened in a movie, it probably would have been a major letdown.  They got what they wanted too easily.  Where was the conflict, the drama, the barely getting out alive?

That's kind of a drawback with campaign world and hex crawl books, they can provide a terrific framework, but they aren't a scripted adventure.

Ultimately, I believe that this session was slightly more successful than the last.  Gary Con's was pretty awesome, but I just felt something was missing.  After a couple weeks of giving it way too much thought, I realized what it was.  The missing 15%.  I tried to run the Gary Con playtest as written, without going off script, without that little bit of ingenuity and invention.  I forgot to include that modicum of inspiration which makes every session unique.  In hindsight, I wanted to run Purple as uncontaminated as possible, meaning I tried to run it like a computer might have done if given the manuscript and nothing else.  Instructive, but a bad move in terms of the overall roleplaying experience.  When making the most out of an adventure, a GM always has to put his spin on it, his 15%.

Well, I've got more revising to do.  Next time I run Purple, it will be with the finished manuscript in hand.  Probably the middle or end of June.  Can't wait!


p.s.  Just want to mention that the image is not a part of the Purple book.  In fact, I didn't stumble upon it until after I wrote the framework and created the Purple Putrescence.  But it's awesome, and a super cool interpretation of that godlike entity slurping foolish humanoids as it passes overhead.

p.p.s.  Thanks to the Madison Geekery guys and gals who helped me playtest Purple!

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