Simultaneous Sacking of Castle Zagyg at Fal-Con

JoetheLawyer* and I are going to be running simultaneous, competing expeditions into Castle Zagyg at  Fal-Con on Sat., Oct. 16. I hope all readers of the Mule who are in the area will join the race to loot the Upper Works!

The idea is that we’ll each have adjacent tables so that we can eavesdrop on what one another’s group are doing and keep abreast of where in the dungeons they are. We’ll be doing two runs apiece, so in the afternoon session there’ll be the possibility that adventurers will enter rooms ransacked that morning. Savvy parties will presumably hide the bodies, lest the freshness of the blood tip their rivals to their proximity!
Some questions:
  • Anyone have experience with something similar to suggest what works, what doesn’t, etc.?
  • As a player, would you be disappointed if you did/didn’t encounter the other party?
  • Tips on communications between the DMs to help us know when the parties are near enough to influence one another?
  • Tips on summarizing the dungeon (even the fragment of CZ that got published is big!) in such a way that we could deal with parties going anywhere & knowing roughly where the other group is?

* Joe is better known to the White Sandbox players as Theos, one of the slayers of the Beast Lord.

4 Responses to “Simultaneous Sacking of Castle Zagyg at Fal-Con”

  1. September 7, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    This is a great idea. If I were setting this up I would try to arrange the tables so that the 2 DMs sit back to back. Also, I would call a very brief DMs conference every 30-45 minutes to make sure no important details got missed. Everyone else can take a break then.

    One thing I definitely would NO do is trust technology to help out. Wireless headsets or communication by twitter or whatever sound good in theory, but unless you can do some practice sessions (note the plural there) ahead of time the technical snafus will end up outweighing the hoped-for advantages.

  2. 2 MikeHamann
    September 7, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    I’ve GM’d multi-party scenarios at conventions a few times, and have some suggestions.

    Make sure in advance that all of the GMs will run combat the same way. Do not rely on an assumed understanding of ANYTHING with respect to rules and rulings.

    If anyone needs to make a unique ruling on some odd situation, make sure the other GMs know quickly.

    Don’t try to hide the meta game situation from the players; the presence of some number of other parties is a feature of the game, not a “bug”.

    Avoid trying to prevent parties from (ultimately) merging. By all means give them reasons to fight each other, but realize that the “survivors” might want to stop whacking each other in favor of ganging up on the scenario DESPITE what the background material says they ought do.

    If you don’t have a coordinating GM (who would do nothing but track and communicate updates and help out with combat when needed), have very brief (2 or 3 minute) regular catchup meetings with your other GM(s). In any case, have a “halftime” meeting limited to 10 minutes to exchange updates, ideas, and stories.

    If possible, get the convention to arrange your tables so that all of your GMs can see each other, or can talk directly to one another (“back to back”) making it to decide when it’s time for an update meeting.

    You will not need 100% correct updates from the other GMs at all times. Concentrate on changes to major encounters, treasures, and providing party locations. Small inconsistencies can be handwaved by the table GMs, and will likely either be ignored by the players or attributed to Sinister Forces they haven’t sussed out yet at work.

    Leave tons-o-space in your key and on your map so that you can make notes.

    When parties encounter one another, think about keeping the combats separate to maximize uncertainty, then merge them at the same table once it is obvious that PC parties are fighting one another. Work out what “obvious” is with your other GMs beforehand.

    If you want the possibility for confusing or (potentially) fatal encounters between parties, you will want to add something to the scenario that makes it difficult for players to know that an encounter is with another PC party; for example:

    * Have some number of hostile NPC parties kicking around the scenario. Emphasis on hostile.

    * Have some other type of wandering group encounters (orcs, bugbears, whatever) that could plausibly be mistaken for another party.

    * Make it difficult for parties to communicate with one another due to conditions. Environmental: illusions, fog, confusion related effects, etc; cultural: all parties speak disjoint sets of languages.

    The important thing is to make sure that every encounter with a red herring is run the same way as when the encounter is with another PC party. If you decide to have the GMs to communicate directly with each other every round always do it when both groups are in an encounter– and especially when they are having different encounters. FUD is your friend.

    If you don’t mind over-the-top coincidences in your game, consider making sure that all parties wind up in a potential combat at the same time all the time. You only want to do this if you have a tiny number of parties (2 or 3) since you should expect the parties to casually keep track of what is going on at the other tables even if they don’t know the details.

    You could take the other tack and make it a point for the parties to join up as part of the game. This makes things MUCH easier to manage, though there is still the possibility of a party dropping its guard for something that LOOKS like their allies are supposed to, but turns out not to be them after all…

    Do a dry run of the scenario using a single person to represent each party. You’re less interested in the outcomes than in rehearsing your coordination with your fellow GMs. If you need to, “force” a party to party encounter to practice it. Ideally, you’d get several runs in before the convention.

    Try to avoid developing any new techniques or using technology that you are not already using, and and EVERY other GM is not already using. Every GM worth anything has their own approach and methods. You want to enable everyone to do their best using the stuff they are most comfortable with. Concentrate on normalizing game rules, rulings, and scenario details and leave running the game to your GMs.

  3. 3 ragnorakk
    September 7, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    This is really cool, wish I could attend. Don’t have any tips but the advice above seems sound – the idea of a runner between the GM’s particularly, someone who can keep the DM’s aware of updates quickly and also appear to pass information w/o actually doing so (on the ‘red-herring’ of NPC party encounters).

  4. 4 James Nostack
    September 8, 2010 at 2:06 am

    Middletown is Cindy’s home town. Depending on what happens, we might come up to see friends, but would be willing to share transportation.

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September 2010

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