Tuesday, June 21, 2011

June Lumberton: Lessons Learned

Hello all, last weekend I ran a NERO event with right around 100 players. I just wanted to go through some of the things that I thought went well, some of the things that still need work and maybe a few ideas for the next event.

What went well, a lot went well. I was very pleased with the pacing of the event. We set out from the first plot meeting to run a hardcore, smash mouth event and I thought we did just that. I was also pleased with the scaling of the event, we had some deaths but never did I feel like the deaths were purely stat based, tactical decisions were very important. I thought that some of the module design was pretty cool. On Friday I did a 3 phase fight a la World of Warcraft. The main boss started as a single NPC, morphed into a multi NPC Hydra and then split apart into a group of smaller NPCs. I also designed a portal closing module around matching different nodes to other nodes in a field that was well received. I thought we walked a good line between straight up face beating and interesting design. All in all I feel like the good outweighed the bad.

What do we need to work on? Well for starters we had a real issue with plot targeting. I thought that we were doing ok with it because it seemed like most mods were town mod but a friend pointed out the error in that. The town mods were predicated and concluded with roleplay with a select group of players while the rest of the players just got to hit stuff. For me, thats great I really just want to hit stuff but for others this was a serious imbalance in plot targeting. I hope that anyone that reads this understands that it is never my intention for anyone to have a bad time, sometimes my view is just different from other people. We also had a major issue with production, we didn't get the production from Friday done until 10 pm on Saturday. There were all kinds of reasons but I am going to suggest a fix rather than a "Everyone just needs to work harder", statement. Preregistered production should be mandatory. There should be a five dollar charge for not preregistering your production. Plot people have things to focus on from the minute they set foot on site and they need their staff to start helping them right away, even at an event with enough NPCs there is still too much to do. Owners who come to play the game don't really want to do production, even though they have a larger stake in the success of the game as a whole than the plot people. The only viable solution is to put the onus on the players, send us your production before you come to play, you will get an envelope at check in with your stuff. Otherwise you pay five dollars and wait for us to get to it. I heard some vague complaints about not enough roleplay opportunities, by that I assume that they mean diplomatic or intellectual plot, we will try to add more of that in at the next event.

So thats where I came down on this weekend, I thought the event went really well with some fairly minor exceptions. Please let me know what you guys thought about it, or about my overview or whatever really. You can be honest I can take it :-)


  1. Personally, with the event and everything that was going on, I had a great time. The only thing that put a damper on how fun it was, was being tired when I got on site and other stuff non-game related. I did miss out on roleplaying, but that was my fault. I love the fighting aspect of the game so no complaints here about all that. You guys did a great job and I cant wait for the next event.

    If I might make a suggestion.. the 5.00 charge thing might be a bit much for some people. maybe tone it down to 2.50, 3.00? 5 is a loud number. It was free before and people might revolt. But yeah, its a great idea for people to prereg their production, and that's a good way to enforce it.
    ~Sarah Canton

  2. I don't want anyone to cry :) I think your assessment was very honest Tim, and I've already posted a few times about the positives I saw at the event. I wanted to ask - what are you guys doing now to have low wait times? I gave up on that a long time ago for NERO, but this event I didn't notice it at all.

    I will say that I agree with all your points. I did feel that the plot was siphoned mostly through the nobles. This might make in game sense, but for your players it probably just makes them frustrated and give the perception of favoritism (especially being in the situation where your campaign guy is married to your baroness, ooh la la! :) ). I went on 2 mods where some of the PCs sat around for part of it going "why are we here and what are we doing?" This is partly the players' fault for how they handled who went on the mod and gave out information, but I think unfortunately Staff sometimes has to step in and force it to get more people involved to make sure it's spread evenly. Of course, there could have been more plot out there I didn't see, but I think you guys have opportunity to give all the players a chance to get involved on a role-play level with your plots. Your Count is very active, and he could easily play Hand of Plot and call in non-nobles for other missions that don't "seem" as important to get other groups on board.

    Agree on the puzzles and role-play, although I think the event was fun as it was.

    The only other thing I might mention was that every mod I went on tapped me out (I got renewed, got mana potions, or just ran with nothing to go). That's fun, but I was worried that if I had the chance to go on more mods I'd not be able to since I had no spells. I don't know if this is a product of being a healer in these times - you are expected to use Healing Pool and spend your spells all on removing effects? But it seemed like there were a lot of effects on the mods which tapped the healers. So it could be times have changed, and I was curious if that's the case or if it was part of your scaling for the event? It didn't really stop me from doing things, but it seemed on the brink of doing so, and I don't know if lower level players might have had issues?

    Anyway, thanks for being honest and for letting people give you feedback. Really, I thought it was a very solid event, and any thoughts are just ways to make a good thing even better.

  3. Mark Henry ~MariusJune 21, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    Production was messy. I know you guys started with almost no ink and that probably messed it up.

    I'm willing to run your production next event even if I PC. What I do is have them sit down, i type it all in and print it. If there are any questions I need to ask they are right there. I then give them their production sheets and point them to the paper cutter. Usually 5 mins a player. Any production after 10 a clock tell them to come back at noon the next day (they should have planned better).

    My only complaint was some of the rules lawyering that was done. Toward the end of Saturday I could tell it was taking a toll on NPC morale.

    I used to feel just like you about nobles getting most of the plot. I think the reason is it is the easiest way to band a large group together. Something that took me several years and an 8 year break to realize is, you don't need other PCs to get involved in plot. All the camps have great plot teams, and you can literally approach them with any plot idea you want to do and they will create an adventure for you. Since that realization, it has only been my fault if I was bored.

  4. Oh no, I ran with the nobles, so I'm not complaining :) Not to mention my main characters were both nobles, up until I retired one and Galavast went away, so by no means am I pointing fingers or being mad at anyone. Like I said, good event, just suggestions to make the good even better based on casual observations that could mean nothing. It just seemed like everything that came into town was looking for the baroness, and even mods instigated by non-nobles got the nobles involved and then some of the original group didn't get to go. It could just be a perception thing, like I said, I just heard people griping about it. I don't think it was as much boredom as feeling like they were only needed to kill things the nobles couldn't handle. They still went on the mods, they just weren't really involved in the plot, and there's a difference between the two.

  5. I would only put that limitation on production from goblin points. Even better, make it so that no goblin production can be submitted at events.

    I don't believe you should punish players with craftsman skills though. First off, they're few and far between, and usually are a fraction of production compared to goblins. Second, sometimes people do not have the time to submit their production or even know that they're coming to an event until last minute. Nullifying their build is not the answer. You wouldn't tell a player that they only get half their spells because they're late.

  6. Excellent point Bill. Thanks everyone for your thoughts so far. As far as being pushed to the edge, that is how I try to scale, right to the edge.

  7. I agree with the thought that goblin production shouldn't be able to be done at events.(but then again, I don't like goblin production to begin with.)
    ~Joel Mathis

  8. Don't allow goblin production on site (OGRE doesn't and hasn't for years)...and if you still have issues with too much production - maybe reward those who send it ahead?

  9. I've worked both sides of the “all the plot goes through the nobles” problem. I can easily remember my time as a rank and file unaffiliated PC who always resented the way that plot also got solved in the insular noble clique and the rest of us just tagged along to town fights and never knew what was going on.

    When I finally made my way into the noble ranks my perspective obviously changed. The one thing that surprised me a bit and that I hadn't quite seen before was how much more efficient it was to solve plot by keeping it concentrated in a small group. I found that the best way to get plots solved was to recruit a reasonably sized team of high achieving players, work over all the clues and plans in that group, keep the moving parts to a minimum, and only involve everyone else when presented with a fight that requires the entire town.

    And that is more or less how the previous generation of nobles worked. They had their A team of players and they were a plot solving machine. I've made it my mission to instead try to bring as many people as possible into the plot solving aspect of the game, and what I've found is that it sometimes bogs down the process considerably.

    Planning in particular suffers hugely from bringing in more people. Players all have widely different schticks and focuses and contacts and ideas, and they are passionate about them. A planning session that might take 5 minutes with me and a couple of my close associates may take an hour or more if I try to bring in anyone who wants to participate, and invariable ends with me just having to make a decision that leaves several players pissed off because they couldn't convince me of their idea because I “just wouldn't listen”.

    In effect what I discovered that if I played my role as a noble with the goal of efficiently solving the problems of the land and defeating evil as quickly and painlessly as possible I would always be assigning the problems to a small set of highly skilled PC's. This would get good plot results, but would frustrate many other players outside of the “in crowd”. If I instead work hard to find some sort of role or place in every plot for as many PC's as possible even if they are less skilled or new or from an outside chapter, I get a slightly more satisfied, invested and motivated group at players at the event at the expense of making the plot solving a lot more difficult. I have in fact at times found myself being criticized for being a rather ineffective noble in part because of this.