Monday, March 13, 2017

Dungeon Tours, Ltd. Part 2 ~ D&D LLC GOES GOAT

I was talking with Michael O'Brien of Managlitch recently about running tabletop games. He'd read a book, which I wish I could remember the title of, about how to be a better DM. And one of the things it said was to say 'yes' to your players as much as possible.

I ran a Sailor Moon Tri-Stat game when I was in college, and my problem was just how closely I felt the need to keep the story to what I wanted. Which, in retrospect, is silly. If you want to write a story, write it. I was disabused of my power when a player with portal magic completely destroyed my cliffhanger with one good roll.

Now, years later, I'm learning (largely from having played Seventh Sea and watching bits and pieces of Critical Role) that the ability to say 'yes' makes all the difference. Does a player want to do something you hadn't accounted for? Let them. Or, you know, let them roll for it. Some of the best moments in the Dungeon Tours, Ltd. beta game have come from me saying 'yes' in places that threatened the structure of 'my' storyline.

This session was the 'build': the players have met the client and are now going to build her unique dungeon experience. They have three days to plot out the dungeon layout, gather supplies, put everything together, and deal with a 'hitch' that will inevitably show up on the final day.

So, three interesting things happened in this session of note:

The Teleporting Dwarf Girl

My friends Emily and CJ are hosting the games at their house. This means that usually their four-year-old daughter will be on hand. She likes having so many friends over, but she doesn't necessarily understand 'the imagination game' yet. I was told, however, that she asked to roll some dice this time, so I planned to grab her on one of her runs through the living room and let her roll for Sasha, the ten-year-old client.

Things didn't quite go that way, though.

I had Dungustine (our orc thespian, played by Emily) and Zabrex (our bronze dragon illusionist) scoping out a nearby picturesque cave to use for their dungeon. The plan had been for it to be a hideout for a kobold (as in a Warcraft-style 'You no take candle!' kobold), which they would have to either fight or bribe. But as I was telling them that they heard a sound from deep in the cave, Daughter sounded out a huge giggly screech from her bedroom.

We all had a laugh, but then I said '... no, you know what? You hear that.'

In place of my kobold, I immediately invented a small dwarf child (dwarf to make her even more comically tiny opposite our orc) and called Daughter in. I gave her no prompting except to tell her what the situation was. From there, we discovered that her character (who shared a name with her) was alone after losing her parents in a zombie attack, and was now fighting zombies with a magic sword. Then she slipped into the kitchen, where two other players (one being CJ) were doing some quiet planning in their 'workshop.' CJ played along, and suddenly we had a zombie-fighting, sword-wielding dwarf child who could teleport.

She got to make one roll, which she did well on, but sadly we had to ret-con her character when it was bedtime.

Goat Olympics

The discussion in the kitchen was between Nadiyeh (our shapeshifer) and Sam O'Flange (our halfling engineer) on how to test the client's athletic ability to make the dungeon challenging while not killing her.

The result? Nadiyeh snuck onto the Baronoff mansion's grounds, spotted Sasha practicing 'sword fighting' with a topiary, and... turned into a goat.

From there, Goat-Nadiyeh chased little Sasha through the topiary, through an obstacle course previously dug up, and then into a shallow pit. After which Sasha gave chase.

I certainly hope Sam got the information she needed.

Elf Shibari

Without giving too much away (because there's one sesh left) -- the night before the dungeon run, Sasha's overprotective elven governess Lunella came in and began sabotaging Sam's work. The plan... the plan... had been for them to have to track a few broken bits, kick her out, and repair the dungeon overnight.

What happened was I forgot that half my freaking players have night vision.

Lunella was caught, tied up, knocked out, and dropped in the dungeon's final room as a 'hostage.' Which, all things considered, means I've got to rewrite the third part of the campaign. But it also means the players have nooooo idea how much they've just shot themselves in the foot.

All things considered, I like DTL as a game. I sadly don't think it's as much a 'pick-up' game as hoped simply because the campaign takes either three sessions or an all-day session. Everything else about it -- dice rolls, character creation, etc. -- is easy, as evidenced by the fact that a four-year-old could participate out of nowhere without even technically knowing what tabletop gaming is.

The final sesh is this Sunday. I'm honestly completely happy to write and rewrite in between games based on my players' creativity because there's something very kinetic about it. It also means I have to be on my toes. And... funnily enough... I am enjoying saying 'yes' way more than 'getting my way.'

Dungeon Tours, Ltd. is an upcoming RP system powered by FATE Accelerated. Beta tests are wrapping up now, but a Kickstarter campaign will be opening soon. Stay tuned for more info!