general excitement about the game and our heroes' starting character hooks and backgrounds. There's a lot of things that went right last night and over the course of this past week to make this game a success. One of them, and also my second major success, was made possible through the use of my Droid X as a GM's tool.
First things first though, this post is overall a testament to how far technology has taken us in gaming. Yes, the Droid X is AMAZING as a tool for tabletop role-playing, but I want to discuss the usefulness of more old-fashioned form of tech - email. You see, if you read the post detailing our characters' backstories, you'd know that the magi were working towards a farily non-specific goal of "more power." How they both want to reach this goal is unique and provides a lot of opportunities for great role-playing, but it still wasn't epic enough to match the sweeping story-telling shown off in the video game Dragon Age: Origins.
So after I made my post, two of my players, the two most experienced with the setting via the video game, shot an email out to Chuck and I with some more story-specific stuff. Basically, they wanted a reason to be heading specifically towards the Brecilian Forest other than the fact that it was rumored to have a lot magical items and access. Through email we discussed different options, and came up with a much cooler mission. They had a mission now - two of their peers in their magical studies, a Dalish Elf woman and a Human man, ran off. They escaped their vows and the magi in our party believe they ran to the Brecilian so the woman could rejoin her tribe. Two young magi, in love no less, without a Templar escort could mean two demons could easily break through from the Fade and take them over. This would be catastrophic.
So the three heroes set out, the two magi and Keegan's Templar-in-training with Keegan's master, the Templar Brelind Catar. Sir Brelind was using the phylacteries of the renegade magi lovers to track them down (basically using their blood to track them), but was lost in battle in the Brecilian Passage, and Keegan's character was only able to save one of the phylacteries. To make matters worse, since the young warrior has not officially been made a Templar, he has no power to track the renegades using the phylactery.
This was all figured out before last night's session started. All because of email. What did players and GM's do in the 80's without email? I'll never know. This worked so well to build a story because I knew the overall story of the adventure, and they knew what kind of mission they wanted to play (player buy-in to the extreme here!), so I was able to nudge their chosen mission to match up very closely with the intro adventure. It was amazing synergy. There was kind of one nagging problem though throughout - we have a fourth player. Mike (you may know him as The Sleepy DM nowadays), is playing a dwarf rogue with a taste for the drink - not exactly fine company for a templar apprentice and two magi. That's when I decided to look to the adventure to figure out how they would all gel together. It can be difficult to bring heroes together, especially when one's an outsider and the other three are long-time companions. Instead of shoe-horning him in, I decided to give Mike's character a lot of background information on the village that the adventure focuses on. Vengest the dwarf has been in the village for a week and so has seen a lot of action go down. When the heroes arrive, he's pretty much the only one who can give them any lead to follow.
I hadn't planned it this way, but it actually really felt like I used Mike's character as an NPC at the beginning. Don't get me wrong, he role-played and made all his own decisions, but it was a unique experience giving him insider information on the story. As the other characters talked to him, I gave support, but Mike played it out, and it was kind of awesome, I'm not going to lie. I felt much more like an arbiter of the rules and story than the one responsible for telling the whole story, and it was good.
The other part that worked really well last night was establishing meaningful relationships with the PC's within the party and with NPC's. Keegan's character is in a unique position in that he has just lost his life-long master (think Obi-wan losing Qui-gon in Episode I, but awesome), so he's mourning, but he has to put on a front and try to deceive strangers into believing he's a full-fledged Templar. There were several times where the PC's faced some very aggressive, unfriendly, and sometimes down-right hateful individuals. Magi in general are untrusted, but to make matters worse, Chuck's mage, Pylos, is an elf. Elves normally face bigotry, but given the recent encounter with the Dalish tribe the people of Vintiver experienced, they're just plain unwelcomed. Chuck attempted to have Pylos use his intimidating magical powers a couple of times creating even more conflict and hate, and often Keegan's character would step in and point out how he would be the insurance policy against him losing control (Templar are tasked with killing their assigned magi if they lose themselves to the Fade and become a demon). Of course Keegan's character has little to offer in the ways of demon-slaying right now, so that's a deception as well. Anyway, this kind of back-and-forth created real in-game bonds between the characters.
The players had very strong reactions to the NPC's as well. Chuck's Pylos seems to be growing in a bond with the Dalish Elf Eshara, and spoiler alert, we may actually try some romantic development between the two characters (we've never even tried this seriously in a game before). Keegan's character has gained the respect of the village warden (sheriff) Tarl. It turns out that Tarl served under Sir Brelind for a time before he settled into his role in Vintiver. He was able to share in the young apprentice's mourning and provide the players with supplies before they left on Eshara's mission. Of course there are other kinds of reactions. The village's smithie is a true rasict scumbag, and they grew very quickly to despise the man.
It was a great game, and I'm very much looking forward to future sessions. We're about a third of the way through "The Curse" and chances are good Santa will be bringing me the DM screen and Blood in Feralden providing me with four more adventures and seeds to go for forever. The two fights we've had were both fun, and the guys are really hitting their stride in how the stunt points work. Combat is incredibly easy to run as the GM. Speaking of which, my GM'ing experience was incredibly elevated by my use of the Droid X. You'll have to come back tomorrow to see exactly what I mean. I promise, there'll be tons of pictures to go along with it! Dragon Age has me incredibly pumped to be a GM and plan future games, and I can't wait to hear when we get the second boxset (hopefully early Spring 2011!).