Had a good session two weeks ago. It’s been a little while since the game, so hopefully I can remember everything! Also, apologies in advance – this is super long.
This is basically my post from Reddit brought over; it took forever to write so why not post it everywhere.
I guess some backstory:
We have played a few sessions so far. We had a bard, a barbarian, and an evil wizard. The three had been summoned to the Queen’s castle to help in some important upcoming task, but basically before that could happen:
– The wizard was given a magic book
– They soon found out the town was overrun by cultists, and the queen was herself being controlled
– They ran into some cultists, who tried to take the book
– They killed the cultists, and left them lying out in the open
– The next day, after the bodies were discovered outside their rooms, and they basically just admitted to killing these “friends” of the queen, they were thrown in the castle’s jail
In jail, they met Finbar, a hireling that I unfortunately did not really flesh out very well. With his help, they escaped and found that there was a way out of the castle through the sewers. So into the sewers they went.
Here they fought a giant spider and many swarms of little spiders. And then venturing down the tunnel, they ran into a Mutant Turtle with an Orange Bandana. The turtle told them to leave, and when they refused (because the only way they could see forward was through the sewers), a battle ensued. Eventually all of the four Mutant Turtles showed up – they killed Raph, Mikey and Leo. (In fact the barbarian put a torch down Raph’s throat). Just before killing Mike, a laughing gas grenade was released, and smoke filled the area; the three adventurers went by Don and into the outside, leaving him weeping over his fallen brothers.
At this point I wanted them to go back inside and deal with Don some more, so I let them find a note with a map of the sewers that showed a large treasure chest in the lair, and a hidden wall area that might have more treasure. This, of course, worked perfectly.
They went back inside, and ran into Don. The wizard decided to use Charm Person on him, and rolled I think it was a 12. Don, through conflicting emotions, came to terms with his new friends – he didn’t like what they had done, but he understood it. But they would need to meet Master Splinter.
Don left, and the barbarian dragged one of the turtles outside and removed the shell, to wear as additional armor. (BTW this is something I really love in DW. These kinds of things just seem to happen so much more in this game – these weird, crazy, things). So now he had a shell which gave I think +1 armor and basically invulnerable on the back. The barbarian also went back inside and found the secret wall compartment, and I gave him an axe which had a custom move, but I hadn’t quite figured it out, so I asked him about what it might do. (Looking back, probably should have waited for him to get into a spout lore or something…) We decided it could heat up, so it would basically cut clean through things more easily. 7-9 roll would overheat and he would drop it.
This, finally, is the end of the intro section, and we can get to the session we played.
For this session I had a few challenges:
– There would be two new players – one that was mostly versed in pathfinder and D&D, and one that had never played any tabletop rpg at all.
– One of the players was moving away – the evil wizard – so this would be likely last session.
– One of the players had expressed not enjoying DW as much as D&D (why I wrote my previous post, because the player felt my actions seemed arbitrary).
I needed to end the game for some characters, start and end the game for two new ones, and make sure I didn’t forget about one of my players that I just had not been doing enough for.
Work was especially busy that week, so I unfortunately had less time than I wanted to prep. One of the things I feel DW kind of does is make it feel like no prep is required (I understand it is expected that there is some because of exploit your prep, but everyone’s always talking about doing basically nothing). To be honest, I am not experienced enough for that, in any system. So I had decided I wanted to do more prep, but most of it was still done Friday night, just before the game on Saturday.
I had gotten an idea from a coworker, which I was super hesitant to use, but did end up using, because it was a pretty epic way to end things. I also know this idea might go against the agenda to play to find out what happens, and I also know I didn’t execute it perfectly. Still, it is what we did. It worked okay; I wouldn’t do it again, probably, until I am way better at this. More about that in a minute.
We had a short character creation and intro for the two new players – Queen Elsa, a ranger with some sort of ice powers, (I mean, I get who Queen Elsa is supposed to be, but I don’t think the ranger has any kind of powers like this, but it was fun so I just went with it), and Oopa, a Paladin. I honestly really messed this part up, because I didn’t really ask anything about the new characters. I am hoping they play again, and we will do a real character intro section, and get more story out of it.
They had previously left off in the sewers. However, the game opened with them standing on a large, flat lay of earth, with a swirling firestorm surrounding them. Winged creatures screeched in the firey winds. In the distance they could see two figures, one with a large blue orb over their head. They decided to approach.
As they came closer, they see that one of the figures is Finbar, the hireling from before. The other figure is a woman, standing in front of an altar. She asks the wizard for the book. I can’t remember exactly what happened next, but of course, they had a battle. This was the cult leader they had been looking for.
In my prep, I had tried to make this super challenging, but I was not used to having five characters instead of three, and two I had no idea what they did or how they played. I also made another mistake and leveled them to two to match the other characters. I know, lots of mistakes.
I had basically two monster types – the cult leader, who would have three stages of becoming a demon as they took damage, and progressively more powerful moves / attacks; and these demons flying around that the cult leader could summon down to help.
This was a pretty awesome battle, except the characters were winning. And, unfortunately, since I had decided this very beginning part would be a railroad, that was not great for me. So, when the barbarian cut off the cult leaders head, I said, “you see a demon start to crawl out of their neck, pulling its way out, and then a white flash of light and everyone dies” – I think if I had left out the everyone dies part it might have been okay – “and then you see it fade to black and it says ‘five days earlier’, and you find yourselves in the sewer”.
This was the idea that my friend had given me, and I liked it, but executed it poorly – but noooot as bad as I was fearing. The plan was that they would start in a battle, lose, and then be taken back and find out through play the things needed to actually kill the boss. I know a lot of people are going to have comments about how this is not how DW plays, and I understand that. I think over more play time it might have worked out. In one session it was kind of rushed.
(Also, most of the table was okay with how things had gone, except I could tell the Barbarian player was not. He had cut off the cult leaders head, he had earned victory, and I took it away. I felt awful about that. Learned a huge lesson there. I asked after the game, and he said it was okay, but it just didn’t seem that way at the time to me).
They are back in the sewers. Don led them into the lair area – well, the wizard and bard; the barbarian had previously had the wizard make him invisible because he was now wearing the shell as armor and that might rub Don the wrong way). When they got to the lair, they saw a shadowy figure, and when it spoke, the bard recognized the voice – and then he stepped into the light, and it was her first love. (This was one of the things I had decided to do to get the bard more involved. I had, in classic me style, not gotten a lot of info about the characters, but the name of her first love was one thing I knew. I had a few ideas for how to use this guy too, depending on how the character decided to take it.)
They spent some more time roleplaying in the lair – they met the two new characters here, and “master splinter” told them that although they killed his other students, he would support them if they would take up the quest they had to kill the cult leader. He pulled the Bard aside and tried to convince her to get the book from them, to give to him – he said that they should not be allowed to have it for this mission, it was too dangerous considering how they act. (This was actually extremely true, although Splinter had ulterior motives (wants the book’s power for himself)). She refused, but what I expected to be another battle, actually just kind of fizzled away. The barbarian, who normally causes most of these things, was still invisible and trying to remain hidden.
Eventually, Splinter opens a chest to give everyone some gear for the fight. (I had wanted this to be less all at once, but we were already going really long). They items were meant to be like a “when your powers combine” sort of thing, to defeat the cult leader. I am sure they overlap with existing moves but they feel more special this way.
– Rune Axe (the axe the barbarian found previously)
– Orb of Destiny – Extinguish targets magic for a period (10+) or weaken everyone’s magic (minus 1 to rolls) (went to Paladin)
– Nightsider’s Key – this is from the book, but I needed more items; basically planned to use it for opening the door in the church to find the cult leader (went to ranger)
– Ancient Songbook – 10+ choose two; 7-9 one: heal an ally 1d6 – entrance an enemy – excite or calm a storm (went to bard)
– Soul Drain (has a picture of a bottle of whiskey on it) – used to capture a soul, or capture and release a soul (went to wizard)
Soul drain was specifically an item so we could give our departing wizard a bottle of whiskey as a going away present. So I presented the in game item, and then a few beats later, the real thing – that was another fun moment.
The idea was they needed to weaken the cult leader, use the songbook to calm the crazy storm and get rid of the demons, and then use the rune axe to kill the cult leader. After that, the bottle could be used to capture their soul and prevent them from somehow causing more damage.
They headed out of the sewers, and found that the city had been completely overrun by cultists. Of course they had a fight, but this was super easy, even with a fair number (the cultists are pretty weak and I wasn’t really looking to give them a challenge, it just fictionally made sense that this would happen).
They stole some cultists robes, and started making their way to the underground, burned out city they had learned about, where the church was with the cult leader.
When they arrived, they found dozens of cultists heading to the church for a “big meeting”. The bard I think discerned realities and wanted to know what was useful, something like that – all I really know is, for some reason I decided that one of the cultists would see the songbook and take them around to the side of the church, to go into a special room where they were taking artifacts. Well, they of course refused to put the book in the chest in the room at the cultists prompting, and instead killed him. Here they also saw an altar with a book-sized indentation on the top.
Previously, before the session, the wizard had asked me if he could become the bad guy at the end, to have everyone fight him. I was already pretty sure this would happen anyway, so I said sure. This was when I turned to the Wizard and said, “you feel a pull from inside, to bring the book to the altar. What do you…”
With no hesitation – “I walk over to the altar”.
Everyone immediately starts to try to prevent this. This was the best part of the session IMO. People are grabbing him to hold him back; he throws the book through the air towards the altar. The ranger shoots the book mid-air; the book lands on the edge, teetering, about to fall in with a nudge. The wizard casts Unseen Servant to go over and hold the book steady – I explained that the servant was meant to carry so I wasn’t sure it could move the book, because the spell says, “It cannot pick up items on its own and can only carry those you give to it” – so we basically agreed it was going to just keep it from falling while he tried to get over to it.
Meanwhile, the cult leader comes in the room, and sees the book. The bard tries to tell the cult leader they don’t want that book, but they are like, why not? With no really good reason given, the Wizard steps up and casts charm person, and the cult leader is subdued. And then the Wizard goes invisible, walks over, and places the book.
The walls fall away and they are transported back to the place they were fighting before, but now their target is the Wizard. It was kind of hard adjudicating PvP; most of the time it was “this person attacks”, “okay, how do you respond? Roll defy danger…” It worked okay; it got the job done.
Eventually the wizard was outmatched; I had been sending in the demon things but it was still not really enough. I let them eventually take over the demons, so they could have a bit more fun before they lost.
Everyone figured out what each of the items were for, and worked on weakening the wizard with those items. Then they did a big finishing move where they kind of all rolled at once, and I described how each thing worked. The main ones of the axe and the soul drain succeeded, so that was the most important part, and the wizard rolled last breath, and died. He then told a bit of a story about who he was and what his goal was, and how he went to the other side and found his previous mentor there.
The game was super fun. I have some new goals for next session; I am hoping we can just start a new game so I can get off on the right foot entirely. But, I did meet some of my goals:
– The bard LIKED the game. Love might be too strong, but I was able to actually think of ways to include her, with prep beforehand
– The totally new player loved the game. She is quieter and harder to figure out what she wants to do, so I have to be extra careful there
– The D&D player liked it as well. Some of my fears about them started to pop up – they were a bit rules-lawyery, which was hard because I didn’t know the ranger class and was bad with some of my stuff there. Sometimes it felt like a conflict was brewing and that was frustrating
– I had prep, and I exploited the hell out of it (too much probably)
I hope you enjoyed reading my VERY long post. I am, as always, looking forward to the next game so I can figure out better how to run it!