Sunday, August 16, 2009

After Action Report: Frozen War: Downfall

See? That wasn't so bad.

As a game master, I think I can tell when a session goes well, and when it does not. A poor session has distracted players, slow responses, and quick goodbyes at the end. A good session has eager players talking over one another, and babbling commentary at the end. Last nights game had all the signs of the latter, oh boy did it.

The tricky part with a war game, particularly a futuristic one, is the lethality of the weapons. While futuristic soldiers get great armor, their opponents get even better weapons. However, Dr. Kromm had some great advice on how to run a cinematic war: use lots of suppressive, have grenades and such hit some distance away, and keep most actual gun fights with pistols and other light weapons. I also used "goon" rules for most of the enemy soldiers (and allied goon-soldiers too, to be fair), where they didn't bother to defend, and only had 1 HP before they passed out. The result had the contradictory "scary but cinematic" feeling I was hoping for: I managed to take an arm from a player, badly wound one, knock out another, and scare the holy hell out of the last one, but I didn't actually kill off any PC. The players wanted it to be a mark of honor that they survived, and I wanted them to actually survive, so walking the line between cake walk and slaughter-fest wasn't easy, but I pulled it off, thanks to Kromm's advice, and the surprising versatility and realism of GURPS.

Story-wise, I managed to keep the pace up. It took nearly 7 hours to play out (with interruptions), but nobody actually complained (Tony had to "leave" early, but instead kept coming back to play his character when we needed him. Kudos!), we managed to get alot done (I didn't have to shortcut through anything), and they did all three final missions. And won. Crazy. I also introduced, uh, 18 NPCs, and the players actually kept them all straight, and cared about everyone they were supposed to care about.

I don't think I could possibly run this game more tightly. Swift pacing, sweet action, great player response, rich characterizations all around, I'd have to rate this session a rare, golden 10. I bet I'll have my players beating down my door for this. My only complaints so far: Tony seems weak on the RP front, but that's to be expected with his lack of experience, and I failed at several rules, forgetting encumbrance, not specifically targetting players when I really should have, and gravity, and finally, I need to stat up my hardcore NPC bad guys. That will come, I think.

All in all, a success. I am pleased.
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