I have an addictive personality. Luckily, I also have a short attention span.
Binge watching Rick and Morty put me in the Rick Sanchez vibe. It worked, not because the role of Rick Sanchez was assumed by me, but Rick Sanchez happened to be an appropriate form for the God running my game.
Aside from stray affectations, I didn't get much from the Game Master persona today, except for this... the GM persona is mostly just a personification of the campaign world. Being or pretending to be Rick Sanchez, Anton LaVey, Aleister Crowley, John Malkovich, or even Mister Rodgers doesn't change things enough for the players to notice. If you want to enter that mindset, cool. But if the game's setting is to take center stage, whatever persona the GM inhabits must first serve the world, it's themes, tropes, aesthetics, and vibe.
The right frame of mind allows the GM to spontaneously create when the world is personified through him. As the GM is god of the game, fashioning that god into something that fits the campaign setting should be the goal. Personification might be the wrong word... deification is probably more accurate.
Anyway, let's get down to the play report business. I had 2 players in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon, which was fine by me. Sometimes, the less the merrier. 3rd level, max HP... let's go!
These are returning players, but only one was familiar with Cremza'amirikza'am (which I didn't remember until after the game when I got his feedback - see below).
If this was a Netflix show, the three tags you'd probably find would be "Depraved", "Sleazy", and "Infernal". I've talked about the usefulness of tags before. It helps to have reminders about what the world is about, how the adventure feels, the way it tastes on the players' lips.
- Shiraz - reptilian cleric of Dagon
- Za'aren - half-demon thief
That's all the detail we needed for a 90-minute session. The duo began their adventure in the subterranean demon city known as Lex Talionis. They saw a few weird, sick things on their way to ask beggars for information. After that, a trip to demon sorcerers in a cave. The sorcerers were creating a flesh shell for this infernal shadow entity.
Going back a bit, asking beggars if they know of any work to be had wasn't part of the adventure I had planned. One of the players mentioned that would be a good place to look for tips, hearsay, and whatnot. I didn't disagree. But I didn't have anything compelling to add to the encounter... until I decided to do a bit of worldbuilding.
"Safe passage through suffering on all sides," the beggar said. I told him it's something he's heard before from demons in Cremza'amirikza'am, basically meaning "have a good trip".
That player asked if there was a typical response. You've heard other demons respond with "Cha'alt", I said. To them, it means more than just the name of this planet. And if you, dear reader, know the meaning of the word Cha'alt, then I don't have to tell you why that's an appropriate reply.
The demon sorcerers needed more flesh (don't they all?), so the PCs looked for humanoids they could ambush. Another frequent saying down here is "Don't make long-term plans in Cremza'amirikza'am." Turns out, there's a reason for that. No sooner did the adventurers make it up to level 4 when they were ambushed by night clowns looking for fresh prey.
While I love the initiative system I've been using over the last couple years with Crimson Dragon Slayer D20
, I decided to try out something new. I won't go into detail because otherwise this blog post would get too long. Besides, I need more than a single play-test session under my belt to see if it's seaworthy.
Combat with the night clowns went well. It was the thief player's first time with Crimson Escalation
. Shiraz started things off with a natural 20, killing one of four clown attackers with a BBQ fork while Za'aren missed.
The clowns wielded these massive purple jelly double-headed dongs with nails driven through them. Two of the three survivors hit the PCs, one rolled a natural 20 for a crit. Since the PCs were 3rd level, the damage wasn't life threatening.
Za'aren decides to grab the double-headed dong away from the clown who hit him and "go for the eyes". He rolled a 19, which was a crit on round 2. So, he rolled double damage. That, plus Shiraz connecting again meant there were only two clowns left standing. I rolled for morale and the night clowns fled deeper into the network of caves.
The PCs decided to follow, which led them into an enormous cavern containing multiple demon factions, more clowns, and some sort of sleeping Old One at the center. Realizing they were on the precipice of an angry hornet's nest, Shiraz and Za'aren slinked away back to their previous victims. Two corpses in hand is better than a TPK in the bush... or something like that.
Apparently, you can't even leave dead bodies lying around in Cremza'amirikza'am. Magenta intensifies! As the PCs approached, they saw an elf having sex with one of the dead clowns. Trying to get his necrophilia on, the elf was easy pickings for Shiraz, who smashed the purple dildo full of nails into the elf's skull... killing him.
Now, with three bodies ready for skinning, the duo head back down to the demon sorcerers to get paid. And get paid they did. But not before rifling through clothing for treasure, after a little reminder from me. Something fell out of a clown's pocket...
As an aside, it sometimes surprises me how often players forget to have their characters loot the bodies after the battle is over and the smoke has cleared. Personally, I like to think that's it not mere forgetfulness, but that the players feel truly immersed in the game world to the point that going through the pockets of a dead guy is the last thing on their minds. They're too busy wondering... WTF was that? Wow, we could have gotten killed back there. Did you hear that noise? Will I survive the next 24 hours? What does this thing do? Why are clowns attacking us outside a city of demons? Where is that magenta light coming from?
So, the PCs heard a violet, metallic key-card fall out as the bodies were being hefted over shoulders. Aside from that, they picked up some gold, platinum, embers, and a rainbow hued rabbit-lizard's foot.
After collecting the bounty for skins, Shiraz and Za'aren called it a win and we had to stop there.
Interestingly, I talked with one of the players after the game and he provided some great feedback, so I'm going to copy/paste what he said...
I thought I would give you more feedback while I still had today's game in my head.
I've only played in your games twice, but I definitely noticed a slightly different tone and choice of language as we played. I'm not sure if I can put my finger on it exactly, but you didn't feel like the same GM.
In the first session I played with you you cracked a lot more jokes, and things were much more quickly paced. This time, the game felt more structured, like you had some hook for us to discover or adventure for us to have.
I think there was a definite mismatch going on between the agenda of the players. [The other player] clearly wanted to carry on with the character he's already played and expand that PC's influence on the campaign world. Proselytizing, making contacts, etc.
I was in it to play a one shot with a throwaway character and help you test mechanics. So, I was looking for the quickest way to get into trouble. Even if it was dumb trouble, like picking a fight with an evil cultist like a standard-issue D&D mook. It meant that we were pushing for very very different outcomes. In the end, I didn't want to step on the toes of the player who wanted to play his character a second time.
I couldn't tell if it was the player dynamics or your gming voice experiment that changed the tone and experience for me.
In response, I told him that Cremza'amirikza'am had a completely different vibe, which called for a GM voice distinct from the usual Cha'alt stuff, even The Black Pyramid; although that's in the same ballpark.
When running Cremza'amirikza'am, I go out of my way to establish the right tone - shades of nihilism. I've been trying to personify that vibe when running this particular megadungeon. Looks like my work is paying off.
If you want to read my previous blog post where I get into the GM persona concept, it's right here
. Ok, that's it for now. Thanks for reading, everyone!
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