Wew lad, it’s been a minute since I updated! I’ve moved back to day shift at work and it has been… an adjustment, to say the least. Coupled with the holidays, and I honestly haven’t had much time to type anything up. Until today. Which I’m typing at work to upload later.
We’ve since had our sessions 0 and 1. During session zero, our crew (only one of which has ever played SOTDL before) decided they wanted to play the game straight, with minimal house rules. This did not bother me greatly, but I did insist that I would be keeping strict time records and using my own encounter rules rather than the game’s encounter rules. I wasn’t nearly prepped enough for the first session. I had written some notes, but failed to bring them to work with me, and left straight from work to the session. As a result, I stumbled a little bit getting the campaign underway (and changed a bit since I couldn’t remember exactly what I had prepared), but ultimately we got moving.
And I got to work with the time records. I wasn’t super strict with it, since it was their first session, but I felt like it flowed fairly smoothly and kept me and the party both on task. Also complicating matters was the SIX players I had for the first session. Remembering to get all of them to take an action each turn or watch was much. Next time I will probably just set an arbitrary order (clockwise from me or similar) and use a written list. I did use the notes I did take in reference to the time records to reconstruct the session log, which was handy. I didn’t have to rely much on my memory.
The large party did trivialize the single combat encounter which may have the players thinking this system is as soft as 3.5, but honestly I failed to scale the encounter appropriately (it’s supposed to scale up with additional players which I forgot about). A lot of OSR blogs and luminaries talk about not balancing encounters, and I can understand why. My players, though, want to engage with the combat system of whatever game they’re playing, so I took a modified tack: each encounter type on my encounter table is divided into five encounters: Very Strong, Strong, Average, Weak, and Very Weak. These are developed using guidelines for party level in the SOTDL core book (using their difficulty system). Then, each one is assigned to a 2d6 distribution, paralleling the reaction roll: 2 is a Very Strong encounter, one from which the players should probably run. 3-5 is Strong, 6-8 is Average, 9-11 is Weak, and 12 is Very Weak, which should be trivial for the players. This gives me the best of both worlds: they can engage in combat relatively reliably, but it can still be unforgiving, and if they decide to engage in a combat that they probably shouldn’t, I won’t pull punches, so if they don’t have a solid plan, they’re probably going to die. I do also use reaction rolls, so an encounter doesn’t HAVE to mean combat, so really, if they end up over their heads, they probably deserve it.
My encounter tables (which I built using Abulafia’s Encounter Table Generator, then hosted on a hidden blog) are built per region, and start off rolling a general encounter type, using 2d6 distribution (using Nick’s rules for his ORWA encounter tables as inspiration). After the “power level” roll above, another 2d6 roll is used for the actual reaction roll (so 6d6 for each encounter, once an encounter comes up on the Hazard Die, which is another 1d6). This would normally be very unwieldy and take some time to reference all the tables, but with the HTML generator, it’s a single click. I’ll have the encounter table pulled up on a tablet at the table, so easy one-click solution once the encounter is rolled.
I felt a need to rush the end of the session so all 6 characters weren’t still tied up by the end of it. Several of the characters elected to stay where they ended the session to guard some treasure, which I decided to resolve online (we have a Discord for between session banter, and now I think I’ll use to resolve situations such as this), which also allowed me to fast forward through a faction turn. In the future, for smaller parties, I may keep the characters in limbo until the same party can meet again, and let them roll new toons to play until then, which will lead to each player having a stable of characters instead of just the one. This will also reinforce the idea that their characters are exploring a living world and are not necessarily stars of the show. Then again, I’m not sure. With online communication being possible, it’s always an option to wrap a session up after the fact, so I guess we’ll see how that goes.