Last night’s session was dedicated almost entirely to hunting and fighting the Werewolf of Mirkwood. Despite being, basically, 2+ straight hours of fighting a single monster, it was a surprisingly satisfying session.
* I have moved from being meh about the Encounters system to actively disliking it. It’s dumb. It doesn’t work. Given the extraordinary popularity of the system, I tend to think I’ve missed…something. I don’t know what! OTOH it wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve discovered a fatal flaw in something and stood as the lone voice of reason howling against the fandom hordes.
My gut is undecided on this. My most likely scenario is that my NPCs need to be pushing back in Encounters, making their own personality rolls. The game is totally unclear on how binding or effective NPC social effects may be. Can an NPC Persuade (via “personality”) a PC? No fucking idea. But this would, at the very least, allow for compromises and partial victories. As it stands, between the one-way nature of social conflict in TOR and the stupid Tolerance system, the characters don’t ever face possible failure or even compromise. I hate it. It’s broken.
TOR veterans, please tell me how you’re working Encounters. I need to see how it’s been drifted into something functional.
* I used the Hobbit Tales deck to generate hazards. Works okay. A little generic but also a little faster than rolling on two tables. I’ll use it again. The illustrations are nicely inspiring, at least. Allowing these hazards to play out into full scenes (and not just one-off resolutions, depending on the mood at the table) is healthy and good.
* Everyone’s finally earned enough XPs to up their Wisdom/Valor and get new Virtues/Rewards! Fun. After the godawful beatdown of hunting and killing the Werewolf of Mirkwood, they went straight to Fellowship and just blew off the rest of the year. The Hobbit, who through player bravery and some lucky rolls ended up being the one to kill the Werewolf (amazing, really), bought himself the Confidence virtue, and just in the nick of time: he was down to 2 Hope and 1 Shadow after the fight. Of course he won’t be buying Confidence again for a very long time.
Everyone took the title “Hero of the Woodmen” as their Fellowship action, which is just perfect. I’m loving that they can build and maintain their Standing across multiple locations via Titles, clever and smart. So now they have homes scattered across Woodmen territory. Neat!
Meanwhile, the players think it’s weird that the only thing Treasure is really good for is buying Standing. Since they don’t have any, it’s hard to illustrate the difference in the fiction between having roots in a community and being an untrustworthy wanderer.
Gonna try and get at least a couple of the characters involved in Holdings (per Darkening of Mirkwood). I think that’ll be interesting.
* Reverting the advancement point system to RAW was absolutely the right call. In fact my player who really wanted to just use Traits for everything saw it immediately. “But I like leaning on my Traits!” he says. And I’m like, go ahead, nothing’s stopping you! And sure enough, he looked at his APs and saw the work ahead of him. So, yay, correct diagnosis and an easy fix.
*Also on the Trait front, regarding the extreme ease that players can opt out of the Journey system entirely by spamming a good Trait (i.e. Bardings and their Hearty trait): my ad hoc ruling is that you can use any given Trait once per Journey. That makes for an interesting gamble, especially if they’re going somewhere new on the map and don’t know how hard it’ll be. It also helps mix up the fiction a little more.
* There’s this thing that wears me out, maybe more than anything else at any gaming table for any game: when a player maths out solutions with a complete disregard for fictional consequences. Turning a fictional situation to make a character statement into a math problem to solve just bums me out. Maybe it shouldn’t! But it also feels like taking the player at their word and letting them live with the fictional consequences is kind of passive-aggressive bullshit on my part. I’d prefer my players just talk honestly when these situations arise. But then there’s the investment and the winning. :-/
Ugh, agendas. Also Agendas.
The big one last night was the point at which the company has to decide whether to venture into the Mountains of Mirkwood — the single most evil place in all of Middle Earth, right alongside fucking Mordor — or possibly turn back (which of course is a completely false dilemma: someone else suggested setting a trap and using their brains and, hey, awesome idea). When I heard “well, I can take four bouts of madness and still survive,” I had to scratch my head. Really? That’s your criteria? Your character isn’t saving the world, he’s on a critter hunt. Yeezus.
I mean maybe, right? Do I take a player at their word? Do I stop the proceedings and try to have a heart-to-heart? In the moment, I hate this. As a practical human matter, it’s really fine as long as everyone in the conversation is participating honestly. Boy that last part, though. Hard to know for sure.
The Darkening timeline proceeds to the next year! My feeling is that, like The Great Pendragon Campaign, the passage of years is important enough that I should be keeping the Adventure phases of each year short and snappy, and focus more on the heroes’ lives during Fellowship.