Welcome to the discussion of Wrought Iron episode 10, students. Crunch here to talk about one the of the most exciting and unique episodes we’ve ever done in an Actual Play podcast on The RPG Academy. I delayed the release of this article to try and give everyone a chance to listen before we get into spoiler territory.
This episode was another all role play episode that dug into the culture of the Reforged Isles and explored the social dynamic of a family. If you’ve already listened, you know that the majority of this episode focuses on a dinner party. As we discussed last week, I had no plans for this to happen. This all came from Michael’s idea. The story developed based on his input. I did come up with the twists and surprises that occurred at the party, and I worked them into the larger story that is developing, but none of this was pre-planned.
Before the party, though, a few interesting things happened, and they all helped increase and develop the flavor of the setting and characters.
One big development was the conversation that Captain Gurmudgeon had with the party at the Sleeping Sphinx. This was my attempt to remind the players and the audience of key details about the mystery that is happening behind all of the drama and action. I also wanted to make the players and their characters more curious. I think it’s obvious that the Captain knows a lot, if not everything, about what’s going on. My intent is to have him nudge the thought process towards solving the mystery, not just reveal all the answers. I think I accomplished that with his comments and suggestions.
I was cautious, though. There is a fine line between an NPC that provides useful information and an NPC that is being played by the GM. And there is also a like between giving the players an idea and telling them what to do next. I don’t think I crossed either line with Gurmudgeon. I did strongly encourage Cassander to do some research. However, knowing the character and how Matthew has been playing him, I figured it was likely to happen anyway. This also created a sense of Gurmudgeon knowing a lot more about the characters than just some random boat captain, which makes him a more interesting character.
The scene at the tavern and the individual ones that followed also gave each player a chance to highlight some flavor of their characters. Scott talking about cooking and his affection for Tilly added so much to Deign’s character. LIttle moments like this are very valuable to character development, which is crucial to keeping a campaign exciting and entertaining.
Enough stalling. That dinner party.
I want to say first that I feel really bad about how Arahamie was treated at the party. During session zero, Michael defined some very heart-breaking details about her and her family. This party took those details and cranked them up a few notches. Prior to this session, we didn’t have all of the details about her family. So when Michael decided that this party was going to happen, we all started defining these new, necessary details. This is a necessary part of any game. The story evolves and develops through each game session. As new details are required, they are added in and that builds and strengthens the story.
Interestingly, defining details about Arahamie’s family also led us to defining the yearly cycle and calendar of the island.
I came up with most of the aspects of the party on the spot. I wanted a real reaction from the players as things happened. But I did quickly discuss the details of Tilly’s pregnancy with Scott right before the game started. That’s also when I thought of it. My goal is for this story to be as entertaining as possible. What could be more entertaining than a surprise pregnancy and all of Arahamie’s sisters being allowed to join the Firebrands?
Admittedly, that last detail is extra rough. But it demonstrates an important part of this story that is slowly developing. The world around these characters is not friendly. They are living their lives, but they are caught up in events that are beyond their control.
I am sure that some of you are asking why all of Arahamie’s sisters are now Firebrands. I am sure of this because I am asking myself this same question. In the moment, it felt like the most dramatic and exciting thing to happen. More details will surely develop over time.
I absolutely loved every moment of the dinner party. The reactions and choices of the players were perfect. The jokes and comments were such real reactions. Humans act differently when confronted with awkward situations, but humor is fairly typical. These goofy moments were an attempt to cope with the heavy emotions that were flying around the dinner table.
One mistake I made during this game was involving so many NPCs. I realized too late that while having Arahamie’s entire family there was entertaining, it also meant that I had to take on all of their roles in the game. A great strategy to use when exploring role play scenes is to have your players take on the roles of some of the NPCs. However, I wanted to let Michael, Matthew, and Scott stay in the roles of their characters. I wanted their reactions. For this scene to work, they had to watch it happen. I think this was easily the best scene we’ve ever played in a game. But I learned that I need to keep the NPCs down to a more manageable number.
The ending of this scene was very surprising to me. I planned to have the Firebrands pulled away at the end of the party. There is a big event right around the corner and this is how it starts. However, my idea of the ending was that the sisters would get summoned away and the party would set off to figure out what was going on. Maybe there would be some stealthy investigation or some social information gathering. I was surprised when Michael just asked if the kid would give Arahamie the note because I didn’t even consider this option.
This is a great example of how much better a story is when everyone participates. If I had been simply been writing this story, the kid would’ve run off and the party would’ve had to sleuth their way into knowing what was happening. This would’ve worked out fine and it would’ve led to some interesting moments. But Michael’s question made a lot of sense. We kept in the audio of me figuring this out. In that moment, I realized that this was a far better way to not only end the episode, but keep the story exciting. Plus, it provided a far more direct route to the action.
Overall, I am incredibly pleased with this episode. It introduced some fantastic details to the world of this story and consisted of some amazing role playing. It strengthened the realness of the game world. More than anything, it was an opportunity for skilled role players to stretch their limits and try something new. It also leads into a very intense part of this campaign. And we haven’t even gotten to the big surprise twist that happens at the midpoint. I am very excited by how this story is developing.
For any of you that are missing combat, it’s right around the corner. I planned to follow all of this dramatic role playing with some exciting combat. What actually happens next is not what I expected. It’s far better. Stay tuned!