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A Song of Dice and Fire: My 29-session Fantasy Age Campaign [Game of Thrones Spoilers]

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  • A Song of Dice and Fire: My 29-session Fantasy Age Campaign [Game of Thrones Spoilers]

    • 6 Players
    • 10 Levels
    • 29 Sessions
    • 19 Months


    Last sunday, I wrapped up my Fantasy Age campaign based in Westeros. It took place in the Vale of Arryn. The premise was this: with Littlefinger's death and Robin Arryn still too green to assert control, power in the Vale fell to a council of lesser nobles (The Lord Protectorate). Opinions in the council were divided on whether to keep the knights of the Vale committed to the North, or to pull them back to protect the homeland as winter sets in.

    The PCs came from a variety of backgrounds: A spy in the employ of Varys, a noble from the Reach with a grudge against the Lannisters, a couple northerners, and an orphan slave from Essos with mysterious powers. All had the goal of keeping the knights of the Vale in the North, visiting various nobles and trying to win them to their cause. Over the course of the campaign, they had to reclaim a tower taken over by hill tribesmen with Lannister arms, uncover an assassination plot against an heir to a great house, make investigate a lost tribe of Children of the Forest in the snakewood, and explore the ruins of an ancient Valyrian keep.

    For the finale, the council was set to meet at a tourney at the base of the mountain where the Eyrie sits. A white walker attacked with Viserion, the undead dragon, killing enough people to raise a small army of wights, and holding up in the Eyrie. The heroes had to lay siege to the Gates of the Moon, ascend the mountain, and fight the white walker and Viserion in the Eyrie courtyard.
    Overall, we all had a blast, and I think the flexibility of the rules gave me a lot of the tools I needed in order to build the story I wanted to build.

    -------------------

    Some thoughts on running a complete campaign:

    *Six is a lot of players for this system. Combat can really drag on--we know that the issues of HP bloat and stunt point shopping can slow the game down, and those are both even worse with more players. I even implemented the rules from the companion for players only gaining their CON when they level up, and it was still really hard to have a threatening encounter that didn't last two+ hours.
    --The HP reduction rules in the Companion helped a bit when I first implemented them (at level 5), but they fell apart a bit at higher levels. Max health was reduced, but not healing from breathers and sleep, and if you have someone with magical healing, they continue to gain max MP as normal, so the ability to heal quickly outpaces max health and makes multi-encounter adventures kind of trivial.
    --I really wish The Expanse had come out before I got started, because I think I would have adapted the Fortune system. It didn't really fit with the narrative for everyone to be damage sponges and not fall after several hits. I think it would have made much more sense to have a lot less Health but to have some "plot armor" so I didn't have to narrate how a player got hit by a wildfire vial and didn't immediately die.

    *I had two players that were really familiar with RPGs and the rest were novices, and it really showed in their ability to optimize their characters. You make a lot of decisions when you build and level up a character, it's possible to end up with something really underpowered. I tried to counter this by giving magic items geared towards certain players who were lagging behind, which had mixed results.

    *Running a lower-fantasy campaign where the PCs were fighting a lot of humans, I benefited greatly from the NPC creation chart in the companion. Other than basic NPC classes in the Adversaries section, like Bandits, I had been creating all my NPCs using the PC character creation rules, and it was a pain in the ass. The Companion came out when the PCs hit level 5, and that section in particular was a godsend to me.
    --Still, I wish it were easier to just pull up stats for a level 6 knight or a level 4 assassin. I'm hoping that when the Community Content Program comes out (Soon™), someone just creates character sheets for level 1-20 of the major specializations. (I'll do it if nobody else does).
    --Also, I think my NPCs were just a little underpowered compared to where I wanted them to be. Encounters on the whole were a little less threatening than I wanted. I think that's because I was balancing them for being played optimally--and being a GM and keeping track of everything in combat is a lot harder than being a PC and just keeping track of one character's movements, so I wasn’t always using my NPCs to the best of their abilities.


    *Having the right tools made my life a lot easier. I used battlemaps, because variations in character speed make a big difference, and I got these flat plastic minis in order to not having to keep buying miniatures for what I happened to need that week. When they came out with the numbered bases, the possibilities really opened up for me. It became really easy to throw out 8 petty archers and keep track of how much damage each had taken. I also got some counter dice to help players keep track of temporary bonuses from things like Aim and Guard Up.

    *Advanced tests are really versatile for a lot of situations, and I really like how they were fleshed out for mass combat and chases in the companion. I would have appreciated having a little bit more guidance on employing them in social encounters. I think I did a pretty good job of making it work in situations where making a single argument wasn’t enough to persuade someone to commit their army to a cause, or a single wry smile wasn’t enough to seduce someone into a marriage proposal, but it was hard to know how to treat failures and how many attempts a PC could make.

    *I don’t think the character creation rules gave me enough tools to get my players to give their characters actual personality--like the ideals, bonds, and flaws in D&D. I did wind up giving them RP warm-up questions about their character at the start of every session, and forced them to talk to each other in character during long travel sequences. But I wish they had a stronger sense of their personality from the start.

    This is not an exhaustive list of the issues I ran into--just the things that I think might come out more over the course of a full campaign than in the first few sessions. But I will say, none of this really got in the way of everyone having a great time and collaboratively telling a great story.

  • #2
    Re: A Song of Dice and Fire: My 29-session Fantasy Age Campaign [Game of Thrones Spoilers]

    I love this premise! Funny thing is; my friends who like GoT are not fans of RPGs and my friends who play D&D/Pathfinder/Cypher/AGE/etc don't watch GoT. The AGE system is great way of introducing new people to roleplaying and, like Star Wars, this IP would be a great to adapt to AGE and would bring a lot of new people into the hobby.

    --Still, I wish it were easier to just pull up stats for a level 6 knight or a level 4 assassin. I'm hoping that when the Community Content Program comes out (Soon™), someone just creates character sheets for level 1-20 of the major specializations. (I'll do it if nobody else does).
    The Bestiary was nice and admittedly I have not dug too deep into the Companion, but a large cast of pre-made NPCs makes things a lot easier. I never lacked for content when I ran Star Wars, because there was already so much to draw from.

    *I don’t think the character creation rules gave me enough tools to get my players to give their characters actual personality--like the ideals, bonds, and flaws in D&D. I did wind up giving them RP warm-up questions about their character at the start of every session, and forced them to talk to each other in character during long travel sequences. But I wish they had a stronger sense of their personality from the start.
    D&D did a great job with this. I had someone who was completely new to RPGs come out to a random game night, and the way I explained her character sheet is that her ideals, bonds, and flaws help defined her character's personality and her states helped defined her capabilities. Having her focus on the left of the character sheet and only worry about the right side during rolls was something she really caught onto and helped her catch on to roleplaying.

    Anyway, I think your GoT idea is a natural fit for the AGE system and glad to hear that it was successful.
    Star Wars: AGE of the Empire: An ever-expanding adaption of the Star Wars universe utilizing the AGE ruleset and compatible with the Fantasy Age Basic Rulebook.

    Expanded Classes Playtest: Adding the Bard, Swashbuckler, and Templar classes. As well as introducing archetypes that gives players different options from the start of play.

    Dustin & Dragons.com: A very uncreative name for my blog on my RPG-related creative projects.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: A Song of Dice and Fire: My 29-session Fantasy Age Campaign [Game of Thrones Spoilers]

      This sounds like a ton of fun, wish I had been one of your players! thanks for sharing what you learned during the process.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: A Song of Dice and Fire: My 29-session Fantasy Age Campaign [Game of Thrones Spoilers]

        Thanks for sharing. It’s all been very interesting.

        If you can do it differently all over again, what would you do differently in terms of houserules? Would you implement the CON bonus only HP gains from the beginning, for example?

        Just want to learn from someone who had run the game to level 10 PCs. Thanks in advance.

        Comment


        • #5
          I definitely would have started with the CON-only bonus for HP from the beginning--but I think that's a factor of both having a large group AND going to a relatively high level. I also kind of set myself up for failure in that, in trying to apply the CON-only rule halfway through the campaign, I told them that if they spent an ability advancement on CON, the advancement would also give them an HP boost equal to their current level--that's how D&D does it, but not the rules as written in FAGE, but I didn't have a good way for them to reset their max HP applying the rules halfway through without doing that--they hadn't been keeping track of what level they advanced their CON. And then it later levels, that meant boosting your con made you get an extra 8-10 HP on top of what you get for levelling. (That really only became an issue very late in the game--most players still weren't spending their ability advancements on CON. And by then I knew I was planning on throwing an epic undead dragon and a level 20 ice/death mage at them, so I let it go.)

          If I was doing it over again, I can think of at least one adventure I would have just cut. Everything took longer than I thought it would, and I know I wound up railroading them in a couple places just to make sure I would finish before the TV show picked up again. The siege of the Eyrie was 4 sessions and it could have easily been double that if I had more time. I felt a bit rushed towards the end.

          I'd say I really leaned into the rules provided for GMs about enemies retreating more as the campaign went on. Some of my more successful late-game encounters involved lots of enemies (8 or even more if they attacked in waves) who had stats that emphasized attack and damage, but who would retreat after half their allies were dead rather than fighting to the last man. These wound up being challenging for players without being a slog. But with player psychology being what it is, it's not always easy to convince players that its a victory if half the enemies get away.

          Something else I did in terms of house rules was port the Conviction rules from Blue Rose. These are like Action Points in the Companion, but they don't regenerate at the start of a session--they're a resource to manage throughout the campaign. I really like the idea of players getting to choose when to will their way to success when they would normally fail, but there were a couple problems with it--first of all, I had a hard time challenging them in general, so they didn't need to use Conviction very often. One of the things you can use them on is a reroll, but with 6 players, they could all specialize and for any given challenge, one of them was pretty well specced for it--and it's hard to fail a roll you're really well specced for given the 3D6 probability curve. They wound up saving their conviction up and blowing through it all at once when I threw epic-level monsters at them. If I had to do it again, I might tie it to the willpower stat rather than give everyone the same number of conviction points. Also, I would have said that losing face in a social encounter could cause you to lose conviction--this would give some more consequence to social encounters. But the whole idea may have just overcomplicated things for new players and made things too easy.

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