(My prior posts on this subject can be found here:
Part One Playing it as a roelplaying game
Part Two Playing as a roleplaying game (part II)
Part Three Playing it as a roleplaying game (part 3)
Part Four Playing it as a Role-Playing Game (part 4)
Simply put, we’re playing the Labyrinth of Ruin Campaign as a role-playing game. The party is not allowed to look at the quest book, and each encounter is a bit of a mystery to them at first. I am playing as the Overlord and using the Basic II deck and filling with Punisher cards.)
We started this session with some narrative-heavy role-playing decisions. The group had retrieved a mysterious map from the fallen corpse of Huldyr the Dwarf, and Raythen was (supposedly) a member of the departed Huldyr’s group. Leveraging off this, I prepared a REALLY LONG text description for Raythen. The resulting two pages of text were read aloud to the players. (In this campaign, Raythen is a bit of blabbermouth and tends to ramble on quite bit.) In summary, he had deciphered the map and it led to two potential locations, either an abandoned temple of the Sun or a dwarven tomb, ripe for looting.
To play off this, I gave Leoric a full page of text that was not read aloud, but was used to start a conversation with Raythen. He confirmed some of what Raythen was saying, and added some additional tidbits regarding some less savory religious practices. He was also given a hint that the temple would be ideal to discover the secrets of the campaign. On the other side of the table, I gave Kirga some information about what kind of treasure might be “rescued” from the tomb/treasure vault, as well as quoting back some her own backstory to indicate that the temple would not be a “profitable” location. (I also took the opportunity to give her a free dig at Leoric.) For Augur Grissom, I set the stage by providing some really creepy dwarf fairy-tale stories about how tombs were bad places, and, while yes there was treasure to be had, it was not worth the effort to reclaim. Trenloe was the simplest of all. For him, he was told that temples didn’t have anything to kill and often have tricky puzzles and traps. (Our Trenloe only cares about killing things.)
This initial setup took only about 20 minutes (for the reading and dialog). The resulting discussion and debate took nearly two hours to resolve. Easiest GM-ing ever! I just sat there with my arms folded and watched the different players try to argue for their personal preferences. And since almost all of them are strong willed personalities, they really weren’t willing to make any sacrifice on their point-of-view. After a (long) while, I noticed that a couple of the players were starting to lose interest (understandably, since “nothing” was going on!) and called for a final “vote” on where they were going to go. Sitting in the Camp wasn’t getting them any richer or discovering anything - after all, this is an “adventuring” group, not a “sit around the fire and talk about things” group!!
The final decision went the way I preferred. I had deliberately set up the weighting in the “opinions” that I had started each player with to go away from my preferred selection, mostly because they had “won” the prior encounter, but they surprised me. Leoric was a strong voice (as always), but Trenloe surprised me by favoring a (supposedly boring) temple run instead of massacring monsters in a treasure vault. (Later the player confided to me that he thought it sounded more interesting.)
Overall, the roleplaying setup phase went exceptionally well!
The encounter started well. A few mistakes were made on both sides. I, as the GM/OverLord, completely missed the ability on my Sorcerers to let them switch range into damage and vice/versa, which made it nearly impossible for them to damage the statues. On the flip side, the players took their sweet time moving towards the “holy water” – even though I had provided a TON of hints that the water was the key to the encounter. They tried several ridiculous things (in character, but still silly) like pouring wine on the statues, drinking the wine and urinating on the statues, trying to destroy the statues….
The first statue fell quickly. After several turns, the party FINALLY made started carrying water to the closest statue and opened the entrance portal. About this time I realized I had been playing my Sorcerers incorrectly and almost instantly killed the second statue. Poor Leoric went through the portal alone (this party has a really bad habit of splitting up, something I use to my advantage nearly every session) and started a duel with Ariad. A few easy swipes at the statue closed the portal and some stalling tactics at the holy water pool meant that the party took nearly three turns to start ferrying water back to “heal” it. Geomancer Leoric was using his standard "run and hide" tactic of using the summoned stones to completely block Ariad from moving while doing absolutely no damage to her, but staying safe and out of sight. In the meantime, my Sorcerers walked to the third side of the temple completely unmolested, and easily finished off the third statue, ending the game with an OL win.
I had a nearly full-page of text prepared for the end of this encounter. This was simplified by the fact that the story elements were the same regardless of which side “won”. After reading the story and pretty explicitly pointing the blame at the party (which is suggested but not explicitly stated in the default flavortext) I set the stage for a long march back to Pylia in near darkness.
When they got back to Pylia, I was able to wrap several prior story elements back into the game. First, Lord Merrick Farrow was now in charge of the encampment. Previously, he had been trying to get various people in the party to join up with him for “something” – my original intent was to ask one or more of the party to backstab the others, but since that never happened, Lord Farrow turned out to be perfect as a “bad guy turned good”. At least for as long as “being good” meant that he was still moving forward on his own personal goal. Kind of an enemy-of-my-enemy relationship. Secondly, since Merrick had “won” a much earlier encounter and had used the Sunstone against the party (with devastating effect) I used that power to create a kind of “safe zone” at the Pylia Camp. After all, they wouldn’t just hand over power to this guy unless there was a good reason, and the SunStone was it.
This left the party at the mercy of Lord Merrick Farrow. He used the chance to really dress them down about how stupid and shortsighted they had been, pointing out specific instances where, had the party only listened to him and done as he had asked them, this disaster might have been avoided! (It was actually quite fun, and at least one of the players was nearly giddy seeing how the plot had twisted. On the other hand, a different player who had been 100% convinced that Farrow was The Bad Guy for the entire campaign was disgusted by this turn of events.)
Breaking from my tradition of always allowing the players to choose the next encounter, I used Farrow to direct them to the next encounter by telling them that this was their “last chance” to repair some of the damage they had done, and pushed them to the “Let the Truth be Buried” encounter. (In my GM-ing backstory, LMF has been racing with Ariad to reclaim the power of Sudanya to use as part of his rituals, but she got there first. He is telling the party to remove Splig from the equation to give himself a bit more leverage for reclaiming that power. In the meantime, he’s running the Camp and will undoubtedly present some more interesting narrative options to the party as we move towards the Finale.)