Remember the first game? It's here if you need a refresher.
So, last night was the second playtest. I added a lot of backstory to the scenario which involved the PCs tracking down a lead to their missing friend.
For some reason, it never occurred to me that a group of bloodthirsty adventurers would just up and kill the principle antagonist and his entourage shortly after their introduction. But to be fair, the entourage ran away. I mean, the sexy slave girl was "freed" by multiple strapping young heroes and the henchmen sort of scattered after the initial blows knocked the boss elf to his knees.
Luckily, I gave the skeletal structure of this adventure enough realism (everyone has a reason for doing what they're doing) to ride the sand worm of chaos all the way to the end.
The game only lasted 90 minutes, which seems short, but we covered a lot of ground for a couple different reasons...
The very first being the "perfect" rule-set. Guess what? There is no perfect rule-set, just whatever works best for you. I made Crimson Dragon Slayer D20 to suit my specific rules-light "arcade mode" needs.
Anything that wasn't necessary and/or didn't move the adventure forward, I either axed or handwaved. For instance, if the reptilian humanoid Sq'sha'al wanted to eat the heart of a fallen opponent, I let it happen. Of course, that doesn't mean I can't narrate the scene. I'm pretty happy with the following quote I got off the chat, "You rip out his heart. It's still beating grossly red in your reptilian hand as the midday suns slowly descend in the fuchsia sky."
If the PCs want to fallback to avoid the swarm of angry demon wasps, they flee. I present choices which eventually lead to different outcomes as the story unfolds, rather than relying on mere dice rolls to decide if PCs can do a thing. Players don't want to be told they can't do something. Instead, they'd rather see the options in front of them, knowing that if they choose the wrong one, it could lead to disastrous (or potentially awesome) consequences.
Aside from combat, there were precious few rolls made. The droid CB-69 rolled to see if he had a can of RAID in his internal equipment. He rolled poorly, so nope. Earlier in the scenario, those allowed rolled to see if they could decipher an ancient glyph. The rest was all roleplaying.
GMs who struggle to come up with spontaneous answers, outcomes, and dialog should work on that. Start by doing it a little bit in each scenario until, with practice, you get good enough to riff off the cuff.
For instance, I never planned on Grimm Da'ark the Savage asking the one-eyed prostitute her price list. Without missing a beat, I typed the following... "5 talons for hand stuff, 10 for mouth stuff, 20 to go all the way, and 35 for the really weird shit."
The second technique I use for these types of games is this - when a consensus has been reached amongst the players, regarding the characters' next course of action, I don't sit there with my thumb up my ass waiting for the last straggler to say "Yes." Nor do I pause the game in case someone changes their mind because they noticed a squirrel and got momentarily distracted. If over 50% of the group says they want to go to the red-light district or the city gates or the well of souls, then they start walking. Assuming they don't have an encounter on the way, the next thing I type is that they arrived and I start describing what the PCs perceive.
Anything else, I've found, holds up the game. These shorter virtual games are no nonsense. The GM has a mandate, and time/energy must not be wasted!
So, at the well of souls no one gets tentacle raped... but it was close, just a bad die roll away. The adventurers got to explore that subterranean area a bit. Their reactions gave me a better idea of how to improve the cavern they explored. Which is one of the things a playtest should do (the other is find glaring holes in logic that break immersion).
My only regret is that the scenario wasn't dirtier. I could have injected a little more sex and sleaze, like last session. This session was more straightforward swords, sorcery, and blasters. But I have ideas for adding little lascivious touches along the way. ;)
The Kickstarter campaign for Cha'alt After Dark should (Cthulhu willing) launch June 10th. It's pretty much all written. I just need touch-ups, expand random tables, and suitable artwork.
Thanks to the 7 players on Roll20 who allowed this to session to happen!
p.s. I still have gorgeous hardcovers of both Cha'alt and Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise. Order your book(s) today!