Thursday, July 12, 2007

the session that wasn't

So last night was supposed to be a session of Beyond Vinland, wherein Our Heroes trap the duergar chieftain inside a barrow mound inhabited by the Union of the Snake, a yuan-ti death cult from the 80's. But the adventure never quite started. I accidentally sent the group off on a 3 hour tangent by attempting to handle some campaign business before we rolled initiative against the first band of snakemen.

As longtime Gameblog readers will recall, the Gestalt PCs in my last Greyhawkesque outing reached 23rd level or so. That got really boggy mechanics-wise towards the end of the campaign. Part of the problem was the sheer awesomosity of Gestalt characters, but the other part of the equation is that D&D at its highest levels bends the system in ways that I just don't plain dig. Prepping games for high level 3.5 seemed less like fun and more like doing homework. And the combats felt like we were swing swords in a sea of molasses.

So I asked the table what an appropriate cut off level for this campaign would be, a place on the advancement chart where we would stop and go play something else. 3.x D&D's structure heavily favors longterm advancement planning, so I thought the players would want to know in advance that their PCs would never advance beyond level X. I felt a group consultation was in order, in case some player was just dying to get a special ability only available at a certain level.

In my mind's eye we would all agree to end the campaign when the PCs reached some level in the low to mid teens. Instead, Doug said "If you're talking about switching to Star Wars Saga, I say we stop the campaign at level six." The PCs are 6th level right now.

Doug went on to explain that the present campaign was a good time, but that he was eager to play the shiny new Star Wars game. And we had kinda lost campaign momentum with the Sunken Ziggurat module, which I still think is awesome but just doesn't fit my high octane/low attention span style. And losing Jason as a player also took some wind out of the sails of the campaign. Meanwhile, I am also very keen to try out the new Star Wars game. It looks pretty damn sweet.

So we spent the rest of the night talking out the dimensions of a new Star Wars campaign as Stuart and Pat flipped through my copy of the rules. We played my copy of season one of the Clone Wars cartoon, as Stuart hadn't seen it yet and a Clone Wars era game was one of the possibilities we discussed. Although Doug made some very good arguments for a Clone Wars game, we eventually settled on a Rebellion era campaign.

As I see it, a Rebel campaign provides at least three big advantages to a Star Wars GM. First, kicking off adventures is a piece o' cake. Mon Mothma/Princess Leia/General Dodonna/your mom gives the PCs a mission and they fly off to adventure. Or the Empire shows up to wreck everyone's shit. Second, the Rebels are the underdogs, not backed up the resources of the Republic. And third, I get to play Darth Vader once in a while. On the players end, they get to stick it to the Man and any Jedi in play is one of a mysterious handful in the campaign, not part of a stodgy order with 10,000 members and a bunch of stupid rules.

Beyond Vinland is not going away immediately or altogether. In two weeks we'll fight some serpent people as planned. But that session is going to be the end of Season One, so to speak. The plan is to come back to that campaign later, perhaps after retooling it a bit and recruiting a fourth player. But in August we'll be starting Rebel Scum, which will begin just a bit before Episode IV and play out adventures running parallel to and weaving in and out of the Original Trilogy.

The first mission for the PCs: steal some boring technical data to this new space station thingy the Empire is building.