Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lessons Learned from a season of Lumbertons

Well avid readers my NERO season is over. I have run my 4 events, concluded my story lines and said my goodbyes to my camp. All in all I was pretty pleased with my events. All of them got rave reviews from a number of sources. The goal of the plot that I was running was to get a number of diverse groups involved in a plot line that they would all find intriguing on as many levels as possible. At the beginning of the line, I purposefully engaged the nobility, the army personnel, the scholars and the Gypsy's all in very different portions of the story. I then twisted and prodded each group to get them to all end up on the same page at the end and to gain satisfaction from the same climactic finish. The season ended almost exactly as I wanted it to. I learned some things from my plot line along the way.

The first and most important thing I learned, players will almost always do something unexpected. On numerous occasions throughout the season, I though to myself, why did they do that? At times I thought the players decisions were so far off base that I needed to punish them for their stranger notions. This is the wrong approach. Negative re enforcement to a group of players drives them away from the plot, not from the action. I discovered as the season ran onward that it was far more beneficial to give no response or obfuscated responses to poor actions than it was to actively punish players. The one exception to this was timing. Putting a clock on a module or a plot line is a good thing, it makes the decisions feel more real, I discovered this as well. In the beginning I let the players dictate when things would happen, towards the last event I began forcing their hand, the last event was by far more exciting from what I have been told.

The second major point was that sometimes, players need to win. Originally when I envisioned this plot line I saw it stretching on for multiple years. I saw people enjoying the bounty's of my ideas deep into next season. After the first event I had changed my mind, plot lines never die, they continue on through stories. I decided to make my plot line one for the storybooks that did not write itself into boredom. I ran it as hard and fast as possible. I jammed NPCs into players view and made them important through repetition. I made my clocks into time bombs so they demanded attention. This worked out exactly as I thought it would, everyone grasped the plot line and held on for dear life. This may not be a concept that works for every line but sometimes it is important to have a line that feels like a run away bull. Fast, furious and past you before you have time to think about it. I gave my players a victory, one that they saw the start and the finish of within 6 months and it was well received.

Sometimes, I have found, it is appropriate to intertwine plot lines. My co director and I did this to great effect at the last event. Without going to deep into the story, the plot lines bumped into one another and the tie in allowed for an epic final module in which 3 lines were touched. These three lines all appearing in the same place with the same players led to a very deep feeling about the outcome of the module. So much so that at the end, rather than staggering off to bed, most of the players seemed energized and ready for more! That was at 4 in the morning!

I made some mistakes a long the way. I probably should have better introduced my main villain, as it was he was mistaken for something far more mundane. I probably could have done a better job with my book keeping, many people are asking me for information to inform other plot lines, some of which never got written down at events. Plus because of my design 3 very large and hard worked on modules never even had to be run, for those of you who were there no one ever ventured down the 3 other paths of the prison. I have some things to improve on next year but overall I had a blast this season. I think most everyone else did too!


  1. Run-away train.. that's the phrase I would use for this plot line. I loved it. It was tough to work it through, but that only made the victory so much more satisfying.

    Epic plot, Mr Holt. I tip my hat to you.


  2. I thought the fact you got a plot line ran from start to end in a year was impressive for as detailed as it was. Having a short time span as such kept all the content fresh and exciting, it also added a sense of urgency.

    You guys did well to incorporate everyone. Every PC seemed to have something to add to the story.

    Also I think you had the right balance of fighting, roleplaying, and skill challenges in there. You also made it so people could focus on their area of expertise concerning the 3.

    I was wondering about the other paths. From a PC perspective it seemed like we only needed to choose 1. Also I didn't know the difference between the paths. I think that decision was made by 1 person, and everyone agreed with it.

    I guess if you wanted the PCs to explore the others, you could have added that. Like the PCs had to deactivate a pylon on each wing to get to the last room.

    I thought it was all very well done. Good job!

  3. Thanks! Like I said I had a ton of fun running it. For some reason, I never really considered some of the possible PC to PC and PC to NPC interactions that led to the solution, so I thought the other paths would be used. It is ok, I have recycled the mod ideas into other things.

  4. The last mod was epic. It was the combat I was looking for. Tobin and I ended up in the front pushing through stuff, and the final battle when you as Maliki and Dave as Hate came over to my side to fight was amazing. I went down at least 20 times, my armor went from a suit of 18 to 0 thanks to ppl refitting it, and the amount of healing and life spells on me oh my!

    The most amazing part was ppl held the line and their organization was great. If the town fought in their usual looser formation we would all surely have wiped I think.

  5. Could you post specific examples of how you designed and implemented your modules/storyline? For example how did you turn your "clocks into time bombs"?

    I am very interested in hearing how other chapters implement their plot lines.

    Brad Gardner