Saturday, September 28, 2013

Ninth World Chronicles Episode 1 Retrospective

Greetings everyone.  So the first Episode of my Numenera campaign is up for your perusal. I figured now that I have some distance from actually running the session I would give you my thoughts.  Tell you what I think worked what I think didn't, what I intended to happen and other such goodies.  So needless to say spoilers will follow.

I'll probably do a retrospective from time to time on quite a few episodes.  This first one will be a bit long since I wanted to talk about why I wanted to do a podcast the genesis of the idea and then the Episode itself.  Sorry this post is lengthy but I hope it is an enjoyable read.

Well Episode 1's of just about anything are a bit rough.  This is my first time trying to record a game session on top of my first time trying to run Numenera, and the first time this group of players have played a game as a group.  It is a recipe for disaster.  However it appears things didn't go too badly.

Well there were a lot of awkward pauses and dead air from time to time when we recorded things as well as me as the GM confusing one player for the other on more than one occasion.  But most of that can be fixed with the magic of editing.  (However a few wrong names had to be left in as well as a bevy of gender swapping pronouns used by myself and some of my players)

When I decided to do a podcast I originally intended to do an Edge of the Empire play podcast.  However there are already a few out there and they are quite good.  Numenera was just about to come out and I had started listening to the Transmissions from the Ninth World Podcast and the world fascinated me. Unlike Edge with it's Star Wars universe the Ninth World is an untapped resource of awe and wonder.  I would not be shackled by cannon, lore or expected troupes.  I could describe things that would be totally new to my players rather than referencing things in films, games, and cartoon series. So I decided what the hell I'll jump ship and see what the Ninth World had to offer.  I figured if I didn't choose Numenera for the podcast I'd never get to play Numenera.

So once the descision was made to go forward I had to recruit players pour over the rules to learn them and come up with a compelling story.  Well I must admit.  I am not a rules guy.  I find them hard to memorize, hard to wrap my head around and mostly they get in the way.  Numenera alleviates some of that.  It's system has some very intuitive features.  Though others will take awhile to get used to.  But as a GM it's pretty crunch light which helps a lot in planning.  So right now I am flying by the seat of my pants as far as the rules are concerned and hope to get my sea legs soon.  I instead concerned myself more with story. 

I wanted to do an original story rather than use any of the published adventures that are available. I don't have anything against published adventures I mine them for ideas all the time.  However I find them constricting as a GM. If my players take a sharp left turn when running a published adventure I feel more obligated to steer them back toward the story at hand rather than explore this new direction. However the main reason I didn't want to run published stuff is because I wanted to make it a podcast, and I didn't want to spoil the plots of these published adventures for players in their home games.  The adventures out there look like a lot of fun and have some great twists and turns.  Broadcasting them to people robs them of the wonder of playing the scenes out themselves for the first time.

So what to do.  Well the Wander Walk in the Beale of Boregal I thought was rather interesting.  I liked the idea of a pilgrimage a great journey across this weird land. However for a pilgrimage there would have to be a purpose a reason for the journey and a reason that the party is all together and that really has to set up in the beginning.

How to start a campaign? "You all meet in an inn/tavern (since one cannot exist without the other in fantasy it seems) after responding to an adventures needed ad." or "you are summoned before the king/duke/mayor to help do something" or "the town you all happened to be in at the same time becomes under attack by big scary monster.. please please stay and help rather than just leave.  Ohh and please please like each other enough to stay together once the forces of evil are defeated"  The common gaming tropes don't exactly work here, and would have most of you groaning as soon as I started narrating them.  I instead went the movie route.  Years ago in a Scriptwriting class I learned that every movie should start with an event.  Some life altering thing that sets the entire movie in motion.  Whether it be a birthday celebration, (LotR) the capture of a princess (SW), or the death of someone important (way too many movies).  I chose to go with the later.  It's not original I know, but it works.

While pouring through the beautiful Numenera book, I really was fasciniated by the picture of the Beanstalk.  It intrigued me more that the floating monoliths of which there are many.  But there was only one beanstalk.  That coupled with the text about Jack the Giant Slayer, and fact that an entire 'class' is named after this mythic hero, I knew I wanted to incorporate it in a story. So I thought.  What if people who considered themselves 'Jacks' take pilgrimages to see the Beanstalk.  Well I knew my party would not be made completely of jacks and having one player be the catalyst for the entire journey would not be good either.  So the Person who died had to be a Jack, and they want their ashes laid to rest at the beanstalk.  Wha-la.  So I created my dead hero and told my players they would be attending his funeral, and then asked them why they were here. Who was this guy to you?

I found the answers fascinating and diverse. "He was my master." "I don't know him only heard stories about him, I have come to here with my old master the dead man's old friend" "The dead man got me out of a jam awhile back so I have come to pay my respects." "I've never met him, but saw him in a vision and have come to seek him out"  With their answers my players basically created plots and NPC's for me. 

So why Bodrov?  Well the concept of the city is fun. It's not too big, so a Hero of the city would be quite reasonable.  It was not too close to the beanstalk but not on the exact opposite side of the map.  It also has some interesting landmarks between it and the Beanstalk.

So now that the idea set the location is set then it's time for the show.

So my players are new to each other and so a bit tentative to talk at the start.  This led me to do a lot of talking a lot of describing and over describing.  Yikes.  The setup was a bit heavy handed to say the least.  I have pretty much forced them to go on this journey.  However I've told my players that they don't have to do anything they don't want to do.  I am going to be throwing adventure hook after adventure hook at them.  They will need to pick and choose which to take.  Not following the beggar with the sob story will not ruin my adventure for the evening.  I will just move on  to something else.  That is how I like to run games.  That beggar Idea the players didn't take I'll probably reskin it as something else and present it again 3 or 4 sessions later.

The Brain-sucking-squid-headed-needle-stabbing-killer-balloon-thing-a-magigs that's their full Scientific Name. I hope everyone has their own vision of what they looked like in their own mind.  I think I described them pretty badly. But what I think they look like doesn't really matter. For what you pictured while I described them is what they look like.   (I really hope you pictured something scary and not something funny)  I can't draw or else I would of provided a visual aid.  Me and art they don't go well together. 

Voice Modulation.  Yikes.  This did not turn out as well as I hoped it would.  You will see it even worse in episode 2, but it will be used sparingly after that.  I can't really hear what it sounds like while recording it, and my test records did not reflect the final product closely at all.  So lessons learned.  I like the idea of it.  I can do voices myself, but remembering how I voiced reoccurring characters one session to the next is hard for me.  That and my voices seem to all for some reason turn in to a bad Scottish accent after awhile.

The Ending.  Episode 1 ended with a whimper. I'll have to work on that.  Getting to a good stopping point every hour and a half, coupled with trying to make sure you the listener are excited for the next episode is going to a juggling act.  Episode 2 fails on this as well I fear.  But I think Episode 3 and 4 will deliver on a good ending a lot better and hopefully going forward.

Well let me stop. I have much more I could say, but this is already a wall of text.  If you have made it all the way down here to the bottom reading everything.  I grant you 1 EXP and 1d3 cyphers. Enjoy. 


Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Welcome to the Ninth World Chronicles website. The home of the Ninth World Chronicles Podcast. A play-sessions podcast in Monte Cook Games' Numenera World. Here you will find the RSS feeds of the podcast as well as discussion on my design thoughts and insights while coming up with the plots the creatures NPC and other random stuff. Expect the First episode to appear here shortly.