A series where Joe rambles on about a Fantasy Age Campaign he’s running. Analysing what worked and what went wrong each session for self-improvement and hopefully provide advice for other GM’s.
When session 1 came around, I was surprised to find I was nervous. I know Fantasy Age fairly well and I was opening the campaign with a simple heist mission with minimal NPCs. Two of the players had never played an RPG before, so I felt responsible being their guide into the hobby.
During Session 0 I was fairly explicit that the campaign will eventually be fairly sandbox-y but as the players are starting with no connections I was going to keep warm everyone up by keeping things a bit linear for at least 4 or 5 Sessions so that they can really coalesce into a party. Otherwise as soon as Minsc gets a lead on the whereabouts of his missing sister he’ll immediately leave to go find her and the other party members won’t care enough about it to go with him.
So, the immediate ‘Need’ is a reason for the party members to work together. Having the players start in a city in the grip of organised crime gave me an easy win with the plot hook being that at some point in the past each character has requested a favour from Don Corozzo, head of the Corozzo Family. The first session will start with the Don calling in that favour. Here’s what the players came up with:
|Minsc||Was rescued by the Don’s men at the same time him and his sister were being kidnapped. Has owed the Don ever since and believes Don Corozzo will help him find his sister.|
|Sinn||Upon his fresh arrival in the city on a religious outreach mission, Sinn used magic when cornered by muggers and wound up in jail. The Don got him released in return for a favour.|
|Peppy||Got stuck in New Corleone with her friend Soren without a way to get a permit to leave. Peppy bargained for a permit for Soren but at the cost of being in debt to the Don.|
|Prin||With no official documentation, Prin was forced into the Brighthelmstone military. Don Corleone arranged to get Prin out of his indentured military service.|
3 out of the 4 players had no experience with Fantasy Age so this first session also had to serve as our teaching game meaning it was important to include examples of all the 3 pillars of RPGs. The general outline for the session was being given the quest by Don Corozzo, heading off to steal invites and costumes from The Don’s chosen target (The Marquis de Vere) and then ending the session on the way to the Ball they would later infiltrate and rob.
I outlined the elements I wanted to hit, then made sure that there were multiple ways to arrive at ways to show off those pillars.
Roleplay – in the initial conversation when The Don gives the party their mission, I always try and make sure these are conversations rather than exposition. If the characters want to know about the security arrangements at the Party they’re stealing the priceless artefact from then they need to ask about it. Having said that, The quest giving NPC is on the players side and wants the players to succeed, so should be forthcoming when questioned. Therefore I didn’t need to have many rolls in this section, as I didn’t want to hide anything the Don knew behind a dice roll.
Exploration – They will hopefully end up sneaking around the house of The Marquis de Vere. Only exploration on a very minor scale but ideally there will be some strategy employed and some stealth rolls.
Combat – The Marquis is rich and employs a small household guard, it seems unlikely that combat won’t occur at some point.
What went well about the session?
- The scope of the session was stuck to, with the players ending the session exactly where I’d hoped they would.
- The players who were completely new to RPGs took to them very quickly while the players who were new to the system seemed to be really picking it up be the end of the session.
- The backstory hook worked really well! The players were railroaded into the adventure but because it was justified within the backstory, it acted as a good starting adventure.
- There were good ideas by the players in order to try and shift the blame for the attack onto one of the other crime families. They ‘let slip’ to a surrendering guard that they were there on the orders of a particular family and stole some personal items in order to plant them on people later.
What could have gone better?
- The players came up with a good plan to get into the house without triggering combat but unfortunately rolled so badly that they didn’t even get past the first guard. Then they failed to stop him ringing a bell which called the other guards into the fight. This made the confrontation of the session a bit messier than intended but failed rolls are the cornerstone of a good RPG experience.
- The Don was perhaps a bit too forthcoming with information about the organisation and plan after the heist. However the players have run with this information and it didn’t seem to take anyone out of the scene.
- A bit too much exposition in genera., Hard to ignore for a first session when there’s so much worldbuilding to do. Plus the players continually scored high on Cultural and Historical Lore checks meaning a fair bit of detail had to be provided about their enquiries.
- The description of the priceless artifact being stolen was slightly incorrect and had to be changed over facebook before Session 2. This was the most damaging error as I was hoping to not have to telegraph the importance of some aspects of this item.
Ultimately, the mistakes I made in this session weren’t too damaging and easily rectified. I don’t think it’s possible to run a mistake free adventure and we had a lot of success with onboarding the new players so really, the wins here definitely outweigh the losses.
We left the players in a stolen carriage heading towards the ball, with everyone eager to meet up next session and see how the robbery at the party goes.