Friday, October 2, 2009

Castles & Crusades Adventure Playtest Concludes

Last night Dwayne and Rob completed the playtest of the adventure I designed using Castles & Crusades. They died and were turned into zombies. Running and playing in GURPS campaigns for years it was difficult to switch back to a 1st ed. state of mind.

Mistakes I made.
1. I thought I was in charge.
In the village of Aberton I had a handful of skilled NPCs who could assist the players if needed. There was a 1st level mage, 2nd level thief and ranger and a 3rd level barbarian available. Depending on how they interacted with the village they would get certain NPCs to join. The ranger and barbarian went with them. So the players being 1st level and the NPCs being higher made them feel as if they were being led around. I had the players take the lead the entire time and only had the NPCs as combat enforcements, but because the NPCs were higher level Dwayne felt that it took away some of the players' thunder.

The solution for this will be to take the NPCs down one level and make it more of a farming village atmosphere. Also, the players requested I draw a map of the village.

2. Any more people in here we’re gonna need a lubricant.
This mistake came in two parts. I originally made the mine with a scale of 10'/square then reduced it to 5'/square. Wow, did things get crammed. Then to make it worse I applied the number of monsters with a heavy hand. I didn't realize this until I started putting miniature tokens down and thinking, there is no room in here. The players used the small corridors to their advantage. They fell back and funneled the monsters through so only one could attack at a time. But because of the number of monsters they were still getting whittled down at an alarming rate.

The second part of this mistake was I had too many HD worth of monsters in the room considering the level of the players. I designed this adventure to be for 1st through 3rd levels. One or two good cracks from a zombie and all of a sudden Mr. Balls to the Wall fighter is having a very bad day. In one room I had 8 zombies, 16HD worth of critters. The players and I agreed that was too many.

The solution for this is I plan to keep the map at its 5'/square because it is a mine and the crammed spaces was the effect I was looking for, but for each room I am cutting the number of monsters in half. That one room where I described had 8 zombies, it was only a 10' x 15' room. This solves the cramped conditions and the reduction in HD per room.

3. Me and my Shadows.
As above I had some rooms with too many HD worth of creatures and in other rooms the abilities and challenge levels of some of the monsters I included were too high, like a Shadow. I had two Shadows in one area. With two 3HD creatures with an AC of 18 and a strength draining attack can cut the adventure short.

Solution, I think the Shadow is a good challenge so I am keeping one of them. The players will need to learn that sometimes hightailing it out of dodge is the better, wiser part of valor. You can't spend all that gold if you're dead.

4. Huh? How did we get here?
Usually this is something I do well, but for some reason did not bother to include it in this adventure and that is reason why the players would be involved. I like to develop three to five possible scenarios why the players would put themselves into the current situation. I like to have something better than, 'because that's where the action is'. Although I pretty much did that this time.

Solution, write the three to five hooks to get the players involved right away.

This is the first time I've playtested an adventure of mine and I learned a lot. When I finished writing the adventure I thought it was good, but did not see the problems until I played it. So thank you Rob and Dwayne for helping out and your suggestions will definitely make this a better adventure. I hope to have the adventure completed and posted by next week.

Where are you??


  1. Great example of why playtesting is essential. Sounds like you have a good group to provide feedback as well. Thanks for the post!

  2. but because the NPCs were higher level Dwayne felt that it took away some of the players' thunder

    Indeed. You might think of hiring NPCs not as hiring muscle, but rather as hiring Levels. At the rate the PCs are paying, would you let them temporarily level up to 2nd or 3rd level? If not, then being strict about hirelings always being lower level might be appropriate.

    On the other hand :) I would like to solve this problem by transferring the levels from the hirelings to the PCs for the duration of the session - the Barbarian drops to L1 and one of the PCs jumps to L3.

    If the Barbarian's morale breaks, she quits, or is slain, the PC's original level is restored.

    Just a thought... I don't think levels need be sacred or immutable.