06 March 2007

Theft, Thorgrim, Time Travel and Tights

I've been a bit remiss of late with my actual play summaries, having missed out 3 sessions. These three sessions wrapped up the present game, and as of tomorrow's prospective session I shall be running a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay game in its place. As the sessions are now several weeks back I shall not attempt to address my failures by now writing full summaries for all of them; I couldn't do them justice. Therefore I shall just briefly summarise and give an overall feeling of how the game turned out.

Unfortunately the heights of the last session I described weren't met again for various reasons. One member has had to drop out of the group for the time being and there was a two-week break due to difficulties with scheduling which both threw it off course to some degree. The theft of the skyship didn't quite go as planned - others were already trying to steal it. After facing off at first it soon became clear that our faction and theirs needed to work together as incredibly powerful forces from elsewhere in time arrived to hinder the theft(s). After a showdown they were seen off through the instruments of Kelvin's ingenuity and the craft was eventually mobile. It appeared to be powered by a 10' tall figure bounded in a lead coffin. When he woke, the ship lifted off and headed toward Skygarden. This figure was Thorgrim, who claimed to be human. He spun the tale of being one of 26 heroes fighting at the fall of a previous civilization and, amidst much confusion, it was told by the speaking stone that he had been asleep for 84000 years. Skygarden, it turned out, was the location of a fabled city at which these heroes had made their last stand. Something they had done had frozen them, locked in standing stones at Skygarden until the creation of the 13 flying cities (for which 13 of the "Gods" were appropriated).

Thorgrim powered the ship to Skygarden and those onboard dismounted and headed to the site of the standing stones. Thorgrim lost his temper seeing his friends "imprisoned" as they were and started to smash the stone prisons, whereupon things went weird. The first shock was that the figures he was releasing looked like 10' tall doppelgangers of those who had arrived with Thorgrim, but that was minor indeed compared with what happened next: time shattered and the whole contingent minus their 10' tall companion were catapulted violently backwards through time to a point when there had been life and civilization on Skygarden. They arrived just before the "last stand" that Thorgrim had spoken of: the city was all that was left of the former civilized world and it was under siege from beast-like monsters of the ilk our heroes had met under Surtur's throne back in the "present." After much discussion it was decreed that the way to save the world would be to send a small group forward in time - further even than the present - to battle those responsible for temporal incursions in their own place and time. These things, known as Githyanki (stolen from DnD, as were a number of tropes that turned up in the campaign), were responsible for the assaults on civilizations both past and present and the destruction of the time stream and the world.

Naturally the PCs were part of the group sent forward. This involved another trip throughb time which also radically altered the PCs themselves: to put it simply they went from fantasy characters to superheroes. There was then a final showdown with the Githyanki - also known as the Smiths, whom the group had encountered before in their own time and forms - which, when won, signalled the end of the campaign (a little rushed for the session itself was running overtime).

That's a very rushed summary, but the fact I can squeeze (what I consider to be) the major points into the same, or less, space than I used to summarise single sessions earlier on is telling. For me the game fell apart a bit after the planning session in terms of its delivery as well as the issues mentioned up top. Once we got onto the ship it all felt a little railroad-y and given that I thought it could have moved on faster. We spent a whole session trapped on a ship we couldn't control heading to Skygarden and then being taken backwards through time and whilst the reveals were interesting enough there was no engagement for me as a player (though I think the others may have enjoyed it more).

I'll say at this point that I liked aspects of the plot and thought the ideas were good; the riffing off established fantasy properties produced enough knowing chuckles and groans to ensure it did its job. The ending didn't work for me in practice but the idea was fascinating and appropriate. In the end though it felt like a letdown, and one that didn't work at that. We'd spent 10 games or so developing characters mechanically and dramatically to varying degrees only to essentially rip up those sheets and make new ones for the last hour of the campaign. While this suited the resolution planned it was a suckerpunch too and denied a chance for the characters in final concept to shine. Moreover I don't think a climactic session is a good place to mess about with rules and systems; the game came to a stop for half an hour to the detriment of the conclusion (it also contributed to overrunning and the rushed ending). At least the system switched to was nice and simple - that was a plus; if you're going to do it, do it with something intuitive!

I also felt that, as interesting and surprising as the twists were, it divorced the characters from any real sense of investment and I was thrown entirely off kilter for what it meant to Zeff. A large part of this may have been down to the enforced break and Adenaar's player having to drop out but I think the main culprit was the combination of long passages of travelling, removal of the established set and waiting whilst plot-related happenings we couldn't affect unfurled. I will not deny that part, too, might be down to my looking ahead to the game I shall be running.

All in all, this was a game with definite highs and lows, the dragon kill and planning the theft of the Trebizond stand out as really fun sessions, whilst the final three were disappointing given the strength of the lead in and I feel that the system and character switch for the finale was an interesting but badly judged move.

No comments: