Friday, August 18, 2023

My PCs Died for the Glory of Old Fashioned Campaign Structure

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I was on the receiving end of a hell of a TPK in the Blueholme game tonight. Our GM is running a pretty rich Gygaxian campaign where there are large stables of PCs, and multiple groups of players playing at different times of the week in 1-to-1 time. It also has a handful of Patrons: players who intrigue against one another as lords, dungeon boss monsters, dark forces, guildmasters, etc., in a Braunstein-style Free Kriegspiel that has an impact on the events of the campaign.

And tonight it all came  together in a spectacular imbroglio. The players who play in the other group ambushed us with 60 Heavy Infantry and 30 Cavalry.

They accused us of a wide range of nasty sabotages, sleights, and thefts. Now, my PCs were out of ciculation for a month as I was dealing with health issues, I was not there when the parties started intriguing against each other. I gather that a couple of the charges they laid at our feet were our actions. But it is also clear that a patron, some NPC villains, and random happenstance had led them to believe that we were an active meance out to sabotage their every move.

Literally, we no idea of what 60% of what they were saying was about. (I wasn't there for another 30%)

And so they put a spy among our hirelings, knew exactly where we would be and when... and took us with overwhelming force. Nothing we could have done (Hell, I tried a plea for divine intervention...) was going to get us out of that alive if we had fought.

And then they executed our characters when we refused to surrender give up our treasure and equipment, and instead demanded they let us get on with our holy mission or be cursed and have their men know them for cowards.

And you know what? Fair play.

Not every player on either side was happy. A few of them were downright pissed off. I gather some of the Tuesday group had taken some of the things that they thought we had done personally. And there was some mouthing off and trash talk from both sides that may not have been taken in the spirit of good fun in which it had been intended.

But I was blown away by the sheer elegance of what happened:

Both the intrigues of both parties, and the work of subtle evil forces, patrons, and NPC villains had led to a tragic standoff between the players. Spies, curses, mayhem, and murder, and the GM had done very little to make it happen.

Strict timekeeping and letting a few players run a portion of the game had doen all that.

There really is an incredible elegance to running the game in this style.

I shall have to pour one out for Barber, Funeral, and Banner, my three lost PCs, knowing that they died well and left me with an amazing story.

Funeral, Cleric of Hades

Barber the Fighter

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