The Gnarls got the short end of the straw again!
I ran some measure of the Titan Wake adventure at Go Play Leeds this weekend with four great players for a (roughly) four-hour session at the BrewDog in central Leeds. We had Bartolom the Wizard, Niho the Changeling, Lestro the Witchhunter and Kvarek the Barbarian going up against an army invading Ambria – and the immediate threat of a Gnarl pack.
Alas, I managed to run the slavering Gnarls as little more than decomposing dogs, failing for the second time to make better use of their Traits/Abilities. Also, with just four players, I probably should have dropped a couple of adversaries from the pack.
Overall, I had a successful day – as I managed to tip the balance for Paul (far left), who played Bartolom, into picking up a copy of the game. The feedback on the pre-generated character sheets was good and I generally feel the feedback was positive. I think I manage a fair job of promoting the subject matter and setting of the game – offering the right level of spin to set it apart from other games that might fall into the Dark Fantasy category.
In typical self-critical mode, I felt the adventure didn’t run anywhere as smoothly as the first outing. When I first ran it at Concrete Cow, I felt I got the balance just right across the players – offering each just enough spotlight – and across the styles of play – combat, exploration, diplomacy and a macro-level of influencing events in massed combat.
Here the middle two got lost because I think the battle with the Gnarl ran longer than expected and it didn’t feel like it flowed quite so well. I’m at a loss to pin down the precise issues – and suspect that I’ll have to engage in some more considered rumination on the matter.
Getting a chance to see Lestra/Lestro on the table, I noted that I forgot to remove the modifiers from the Attributes – given that I lifted them from the core book directly – and the Witchhunter can’t fight, which somehow I missed. He sucks, big time, in hand-to-hand. When I realised this I tweaked the battle and made the Gnarl Abominations rather than Undead so that the player could make use of the beneficial Adept Beast Lore. With that, he could deal +1D4 in additional damage, in effect fighting the battle by proxy. Certainly an interesting Ability to take a more guiding role – and likely meant that Lestro did as much damage as the other characters despite never hitting even once himself in the whole of the game!
I think I have to give the character a properly look over and get the balance right. If the Witchhunter stays as a pre-generated character he needs to have a set of Abilities and/or Powers that make him fun to play. More importantly, it needs to be reinforced that his role is not about the front line, but in providing support to his colleague – which nevertheless has a considerable benefit. It might even be interesting to let the player roll that +1D4 themselves – so they have more engagement. I think it could be an option to offer – one which some might go for and others will happily devolve to those around them.
I also feel that I need to get a slightly firmer structure in the midsection about the possible routes to the end game – and offer that information to the players clearly and succinctly. As referenced in the core book, you need to have a way to cut the distinction between what the player knows and what the character would know. The character has lived in this world for decades (or years in the case of Fenya) and will possess insight about the structure and organisation of society that all the players will lack.
Overall, I enjoyed running Symbaroum and introducing new players to the world. For next time, I have some work to do!