We had an interesting week on the two Dark Heresy games and I thought I would post up an update here. As a quick recap I run two campaigns, game one is held at our regular game nights and is played in between the many other games the Monday Night Adventurers run. The game two is held monthly with a slightly different group of players, but all are also Monday Night Adventurers.
For game one we decided that I needed to refocus the campaign. The group is doing an investigation on Scintilla, the capital of the Calixis Sector and we realized we were suffering from both too much info and not enough clear result and it was leading the players to feel there were too many avenues to investigate. So, as the GM is ultimately responsible for delivering a fun framework for the players to build a good story in, I am doing a mild reset. I am moving the game on a couple of years after assuming the players have hit a wall in their investigation. This will allow me to flesh out the characters role on the planet, fill in some background to help guide the players along in the scenario. Hopefully this will allow the players to better connect into the world and the story and get us through the story.
The second game has had a much tighter story brief, it is a monthly game so I need to make sure every session has a good hook to it as bad game won’t get a chance to move on for at least another month. In addition both games are played on week nights so the sessions are short compared to the legendary all day sessions of old so for the monthly game so I often have the session tightly planned and while the players have a lot of choices the story line pushes them in more direct ways in the monthly game than it does for the regular session game. So after deciding that the regular game spent too much time investigating without clear results, I naturally had the second game spend all of last night doing an investigation.
To keep the investigation moving I used a technique stolen from 4th Edition D&D, the skill challenge. Now in 4th ed D&D it is somewhat controversial, it can be played like a formula and I am told bad D&D DMs are running these by saying ‘Ok this is a skill challenge, roll your skills and tell me if you crit.’ but I am stealing the idea of moving from player to player and challenging them to use their skills in the investigation by role playing their character. In practice I went around the table from player to player and asked them what they were investigating and what skills they felt were appropriate for that line of investigation. For instance the Priest used his skills to investigate Church contacts. He would tell me his question, point out a skill that he would be using as a base, make his roll and if information was available I would either give a brief answer or provide a quick character bit if an NPC was involved. This differs from our traditional methods of doing this sort of thing which is the entire group thinking as a committee and often circling around each other in that way committees tend to do. After each pass around the table I would allow the group to have a quick group pow wow, and I would check in with the Officer to see if he wanted to put any direction in, but I would then circle the table and work player to player again. As in D&D I counted successes and failures and opened up more clues as the challenge moved on based on the result checks. This could have been trouble, as you don’t want bad dice to completely derail the group so I set a minimum amount of info available that I thought should move them along, but as it happened they had hot dice and they got good info down one line of questioning they followed. I won’t say which one they did best on, but it was nice to be fairly free with clues in one area. I will certainly be using this technique again as I think it got us a much tighter result than we had been getting in the other group for investigations. You can see the results of the session from the Game Summary and get a feel for how it felt during the game.
So to sum up, a refocus is in the works for the the first campaign. This will force me as the Gm to tighten up and give the players more meat to bite into. This was our first group and we started pretty cold with it so I don’t feel too bad here, but it is sign that I didn’t have game as well focused as I should. Good that the players let me know their feelings before we came off the rails, but a reminder to me that even after thirty one years of GMing I am still far from an expert. The second game let me play with a different method of handing the non-combat elements of a Dark Heresy investigation and I think it worked well. It won’t always be the perfect method, there are times the group should be investigating as a group and the character interplay is critical, but I am happy with the steal and it let players who might have otherwise mostly sat out this sort of thing get involved and really contribute.