Greetings and happy GURPSDay, GURPS-fanatics! I hope you find all sorts of great gaming material out there in today’s blog offerings.
As mentioned previously, I ran the Game of Thrones-inspired convention game “In Defense of House Stark” three times at last weekend’s Gateway 2017. You can download the complete adventure package here:
In Defense of House Stark | Downloads: 167 | Size: 3.3 MB
All three tables were full (and with alternates!). I purposely kept the group size to four instead of six because, for me, it really does make the game just so, so much better in terms of every player getting moments to shine. It also makes it a lot easier for me to keep track of things and not lose details in the shuffle. Bottom line, my games are just better with four players than six.
The first group I GMed for was Friday afternoon from 2pm to 6pm (Mikal, Brooke, Matt, and Brian), almost entirely GURPS newbies but huge fans of “Game of Thrones.” As usual, the GURPS bits ran smoothly once I gave the five-minute “roll low against the target number, here’s where you can find stuff on your character sheets” spiel.
After the attack on Winterfell, they dutifully set off after the Stark girls and their kidnappers, and were ambushed crossing the White Knife river by archers and wildfire. Now, I know this will be divisive, but one of the PCs made a Search roll to check the archers’ ambush nest and rolled a critical success with a 4, so he found two small clay pots of wildfire amongst their belongings. This wasn’t in the GM notes, but I hate for a critical to go “wasted” so I added in a small prize. To me, this is improv and flexibility. To some gamers, this is dirty downright cheating and I should be hung by my heels for heresy. Not sure what to say other than that’s the way I GM, players always seem to have fun, and I’m unlikely to change. Let the (wildfire) flaming begin!
Past the bridge, just after midnight, they heard the screams of the poor girl from the “Ramsay’s Hunt” encounter. Unanimously, they decided “Oh, well, I hope she’s okay but we have more important things to deal with,” and never even investigated. Sorry, Relsin… it’s tough being smallfolk in Westeros!
Following the tracks and approaching the Dreadfort, they were stopped by a Bolton patrol that informed them a sickness (“Bleeding of the bowels”) had taken hold in the keep and all travelers were being turned away. The PCs killed the sergeant of that patrol and demanded to be escorted to the Dreadfort… reluctantly, they were. But as they approached, they spotted the kidnappers and the Stark daughters riding south, so they bolted and charged after them. This led to a grand melee between them, the remainder of the Bolton patrol, and the eight kidnappers (including Iggo the Dothraki and Ser Gregor Clegane, the Mountain That Rides!)
Ultimately, they used the wildfire they had found to douse Iggo and Ser Gregor and set them on fire, giving them the advantage against overwhelming odds. Battered and bloodied, the PCs managed to defeat all enemies and free Arya and Sansa. Success!
A couple of players stayed after the game chatting and giving very useful feedback for a half hour or so. In particular, it was mentioned that “I’ve played a number of Mook games, and you always include these long maneuver sheets, but I have literally never seen a single player try any of those options, so… why do you keep including them?” And he’s right — though I wouldn’t say “never,” it is actually pretty rare for a player (at least, a new GURPS player) to try anything off the menu except maybe hit locations. So, one of my next projects is to streamline the maneuvers and options sheet even more, to make it as crystal clear as I can what options are available and what benefits they provide.
On Saturday, I actually played (gasp!) in a super-fun Fate game run by JiB (“Well of Souls“), then on Sunday afternoon I ran my second game (still 2pm to 6pm). Most of the players this time around (Jeff, Candace, Anna, and Rodney) were more GURPS “dabblers” than complete newcomers, having played in one or two of my previous convention games.
They, too, set off after the kidnappers and defeated the archer ambushers at the White Knife crossing (though they didn’t find the wildfire cache, which I now considered part of the adventure). And when they heard a scream in the night much later, they went to investigate… but once they determined that the girl Ramsay and his men were torturing wasn’t Sansa or Arya, they turned and continued on their way (a very Westerosi reaction indeed!)
Instead of approaching the Dreadfort directly, they chose to scout from a distance and discovered that the Boltons were amassing their bannermen to march on, presumably, Winterfell. Seeing the kidnappers and the girls ride south from the Dreadfort, they pursued and intercepted (after sending their one raven with a warning to Lady Stark). It was a tough battle, as it should be, but they managed to overcome the kidnappers and free the girls with only a few fairly minor injuries (at least twice this was due to judicious use of the Luck advantage). Success, again! I may be getting too soft in my old age.
Monday morning, as the convention wrapped up around us, I GMed “In Defense of House Stark” for the final time. I really enjoy running games on Monday morning. It’s a bit of a ghost town as the stragglers shuffle about gathering and packing and checking out, and it’s a wonderful way to kind of mentally wrap things up.
One of the hosts of the gaming podcast I listen to most, Happy Jacks, calls it “the cherry on top of the convention sundae,” which I quite like. Here he is with some kind words about my Monday games, along with another host with even kinder words about “How to Be a GURPS GM,” if you’re interested. (NOTE: NSFW language!)
In addition to the players (Dave, Jason, Timothy, and Sarah), there were a few people who were curious about GURPS and had just come to watch, which is beyond awesome — I hope they liked what they saw! Also, I was extremely happy to see that Timothy and Sarah were able to get into the game. Sarah had pre-regged for the Friday game, and Timothy was the first alternate… but all four registered players showed up so, instead of not playing together, Sarah gave her Friday slot to that first alternate and then she and Timothy showed up super early for registration on Sunday to sign up for Monday’s game. Appreciate the perseverance, folks, hope it was worth it!
This was the only group to take Ramsay to task, not only breaking up his hunt and freeing Relsin, but capturing Ramsay himself and his men as bargaining chips with the Dreadfort. So, not only did they eventually succeed at slaying the girls’ captors and freeing them, they also returned to Winterfell with Ramsay Bolton as a prisoner. Three for three, all the groups managed to succeed at their missions and return Sansa and Arya safely home.
After the game, one of the spectators who sat in the room listening for the entire four hours asked me a lot of questions about GURPS, how best to approach it, how it did this and that, etc. I explained that the core books had everything you need, though you can save yourself a ton of time by plugging in various supplemental PDFs that do the fine-tuning and building for you. He said his group was starting up a steampunk/airship pirates kind of game, and he was thinking about trying out GURPS. I naturally mentioned the recently released “Vehicles: Steampunk Conveyances,” and that was the end of that conversation! Another group giving GURPS a chance, what could be better?
All in all, I had a very fun time at Gateway 2017 and consider it a huge success for this adventure. I ask for feedback on my games all the time, probably annoyingly so, but everyone said they really enjoyed themselves. In particular, I got a lot of compliments on the pre-gen characters being interesting, varied, fun to play, and with enough emotional “hooks” to grab onto that it was easy to get a feel for playing them. My biggest concern otherwise was that the setting and adventure “felt” like Game of Thrones, that the whole experience felt like playing in a George R.R. Martin story, and everyone agreed that was the case. So pleased!
If you get a chance to run this adventure, let me know how it goes — hopefully it’s as fun for you and your group as it was for us!
If you enjoyed this post and others like it, might you consider the Game Geekery Patreon?
A behind-the-scenes look at putting together "one-shots," from idea and first notes to the finished adventure. Here are the five most recent posts, or select "View the entire series."