Thursday, April 05, 2007

Northern Crown/7th Sea game session #7

Those of you who are regular readers of my blog (And I know there may actually be one or two of you out there) may have noticed that the last posting in the continuing adventures of Orcish Grenadier Kurt von Sturmblähung was #2 way back in September. So, what has happened to sessions 3, 4, 5 and 6? Let me summarize:

After defeating the snake cult, the party's reward was mostly the loot stolen from the cult. Then there was some other sort of secret society causing trouble. The re-disappearance of the guy we were rescuing in the first place. Some high seas piracy gone bad. The snake cult again. Double-crosses. A supposedly good snake guy. Political intrigue. Triple crosses and daring escapes.

This all sounds very exciting when synopsized but there was also several game system changes. When this all started, it was going to be 7th Sea. The GM didn't like the fantasy world that only mirrored the real world so he brought up Northern Crown. This was to be the Caribbean but with magic and orcs. Northern Crown was a D20 campaign so D&D books filled in the rest. OK, then we got started. The city module he was using was Freeburg from 7th Sea. For some reason, he couldn't wrap his head around calling it Port Royal so the whole world morphed back to something more 7th Sea. I simply ignored this change and still considered Kurt to be from Bavaria instead of just some generic orcish mountain tribe. Then, the GM added "action dice". He also changed the way AC worked (absorbing damage instead of affecting to-hit probability). But then he chose a completely different game system. He took our character sheets and converted them to this new system. The new system appeared to be Deadlands, an undead western-genre game that uses multiple dice, poker chips in place of action dice and playing cards for initiative. Finally, last night, something else seemed to have changed. The combat system was using three dice instead of two and he had a book called Savage Worlds.

Having our characters unable to do the things they were originally created to do was frustrating enough but the final straw was the plot hammer.

The GM was running a module. That's all well and good but with all the double and triple crosses the party was reaching the point where we didn't trust anyone. We just wanted to get the hell out of there. But doing so would deviate from the linear nature of the module (of most modules) and the GM wouldn't allow that. The mostly empty boat that we were going to steal suddenly was full of crew members. When that plan went sour and we were arrested, we were going to cross the bay in a "launch." If the odds were even, we would have taken that boat over and made a run for it but suddenly this launch had a dozen crewmembers, something more like a sloop.

This is where the frustration reached a climax and the game collapsed with the GM throwing up his hands and saying "Fine! You attach the crew and all die. Happy now? You got what you wanted." He ranted about all the changes he had made "to make US happy." I made one pass at explaining how changing the game system multiple times was worse than operating in a flawed gaming system and that the linear nature of the campaign wasn't role playing, it was a novella and we were merely along for the ride. (I wanted to use the term "literary masturbation" but I passed on that.) While everyone else tried to assuage his ego, I packed up my stuff and walked out.

This isn't the first time I've done this either. Years ago when he was running a Star Trek game, he did the same "linear plot" thing. I had a Horta security officer as a character and when his inherent abilities (such as disguising himself as a rock and being able to burrow underground) threatened to unravel his plot, he started throwing absurd obstacles in my way. I walked out on that one, too.

I ran a Rolemaster/Middle-Earth campaign for three years and was able to keep people on plot. One key element was to have multiple plot lines. The major story arc and minor side adventures that actually fed into the arc. If they opted out of one plot hook, I could just put those elements somewhere else. The drawback is that even after that three years, we weren't half way through the arc.

I should probably try to run a game since most of my experiences over the past ten years being a player have ended poorly.

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