A while back we played our third session of Harrowlands, with mixed results. It was kind of a bummer for me as we set up and then couldn’t play for very long – about half a session – and the kids were already pretty much wiped and had very little attention to give to the game.
One thing I notice, is when the kids are distracted, I get really distracted and have a hard time GMing, I forget things and have trouble making the non-player characters fun. I’m definitely going to think on ways to improve my improv when my children are involved.
The session I was setting up had a little too much chat in the beginning and not much action. I probably should have jumped right into action, but since I’m setting up the location as a potential “quest hub”, I didn’t want to blow through things. The next session will hopefully go longer and be more action packed.
I’ve been putting off editing the audio for some time, and just finally muscled my way through it. We recorded for 38 minutes, but the final audio – subtracting long pauses from the GM, fits from the kids, and a couple other uncomfortable and distracting noises – only ended up being 25 minutes. The audio is a little less clear of the players as my Blue Yeti microphone got disconnected and apparently all the audio was coming in from my laptop, so I am really loud and the others pretty soft.
I’m definitely no audio guru, but I cleaned it up as well as I could.
The group finds themselves stranded at a farm and go to ask for help where they interact with three NPCs: Gurla, Momma Yrla, and Sluglump. They receive a somewhat cold welcome as they seek help getting their cart fixed on the night of the Butcher’s Moon and the Alfablot.
Hopefully, we can get a game in next weekend before the holiday and see where they go when the Alfablot truly begins.
Last weekend, we ran the second session of the Harrowlands game with the kids and everyone had a blast. The party ran into swarms of frenzied bees on the road through Saksaland and had mixed results during the encounter. The audio is below.
Unfortunately, my production on the game has come to a halt, as I’ve been dealing with being sick. It’s not likely to pick up soon as I’m heading out to Seattle for Emerald City Comic Con in a few days.
Hopefully, I can find a little down time and get some work in during the convention. The coolest part is the boys will be coming up to meet me on Friday, so I get to show them around all day Saturday.
It’s been nearly two weeks since we made our first foray into the Harrowlands game. I figured it was finally time for me to write up my thoughts. There were some things that I liked and others that I didn’t, which is to be expected. More importantly, the boys had a really good time and are still talking about it nearly two weeks later. It helps that they’ve been watching me put together the audio clips and they’ve asked to listen to them over and over again.
In this session zero, we did the following:
1) Explained the core rules and basic moves of the game, including reviewing the character sheets and the various props (10 minutes)
2) Went over the guidelines for how we would play: be respectful, work together (no PC infighting), and no death. (5 minutes)
3) Player Character backstories (20 minutes)
4) Travel montage and local lore (10 minutes)
What Worked Well
Player Ownership. One thing that seemed to resonate was when in each backstory I had the player choose the villain from a couple of options. Additionally, I made them roll one of their moves to see how well they fared. The backstory was completely railroaded, where the outcome was written regardless of the rolls, but the dice revealed how they got there. The kids responded well to being able to choose, and it was kind of neat for me to be able to later illustrate their choices for the audio clips. (I’ll also be repurposing the illustrations for the Adventure Journals)
Fart Jokes. This one is pretty obvious, but once I threw in that Plunk was gassy and smelly, it really upped the engagement with the boys. They’re still talking it two weeks later: “Daddy, you know why I didn’t like Plunk?” “Why?” “Because he kept farting all the time.” I guess it really helps to know your audience.
Recording and Camera Setup. I definitely wanted to have a record of the session, so I recorded with OBS. I set my laptop on the game table in front of me, a webcam on the kitchen counter to get the whole table, and my Yeti microphone. I played around with some pretty basic overlays for the video, and was pleasantly surprised by the results we got playing on a folding table in the middle of the living room. This was the first time I used the Yeti to record audio for an entire table and I feel like it picked up all of the voices without being overly loud with the items on the table (the padded dice boxes definitely helped).
At one point, my oldest pug decided to trot around on the hardwood floors which was quite distracting. I may have to lock them up somewhere during the sessions, but they are pretty needy and would likely bark or whine.
I don’t know if I will put up the video or not, but really glad that I put in the effort to get it going. I believe it will really help me as a GM to hear and see where I tend to lose the thread and fall short, and where I have everyone involved and where I lose them.
What I Didn’t Expect
Playthings. I was so focused on making sure that the gameplay would be a visceral experience for the boys that I did not stop to think about how all of the stuff I was putting on the table would also serve as distractions and playthings. My wife and I quickly took away pencils, extra dice, and candy hearts so that the boys could focus and work on sitting still.
Basic Moves. Part of the distraction problem might have been that I started with some boring rules. I’d spent a lot of time going over the custom moves and they boys were already pretty well acquainted with what each did. However, I just kind of threw together the basic moves and it really showed while I was trying to explain each one quickly. The boys eyes glazed over pretty quickly and they focused on the toys in front of them.
Some of that was the approach. I could have just skipped it entirely and worked it in later. I’m planning to have mini-quests where I explain a related basic move in game play context, so Saturday’s session will have a good amount of focus on Discern Realities, with possible use of Defy Danger and Spout Lore.
Scheduling. We started the game nearly 40 minutes later than I wanted to as we were working on other projects. This added a little tension for me to try to figure out the timing of the session. In particular, once the backstories were done, we only had about 20-30 minutes to go and I struggled with rushing through the travel montage portion or spending more time on it. I ended up doing the latter, but it felt pretty awkward as I was distracted on if I would have time to get the actual gameplay quest in.
Overall, the experience was really positive and I’m sure as I learn to roll with the game. Next session will have some actual game play and player interaction, so it should be a much different experience.
This is the final audio clip for the first session of our Harrowlands game. We were coming up against time, so it ended up being a little bit more of a travel montage than I was expecting, but the boys had fun and that means we will start right into the action with the second session this weekend.
In the audio, the party travels with Plunk through Saksaland on their way to Kraghall Academy, braving skeletons and foul odors along the way.
This last week has been a little difficult getting items posted to the blog, as my routine has been messed up. I typically get my posts ready in the mornings after I drop the kids off to school and before I have to log in for the day job, or on the weekends when Monica takes them to the gym with her in the mornings. So far this week, I haven’t had any of that morning time and therefore no posts.
But with only 4 days to go until we run the game, I’ve definitely been busy with prep work.
Since I’m going to be recording the game, I have been a little worried about the sound quality and reducing things that will make it difficult to record. I don’t have any solid plans for what I will do with the recording. It’ll probably be some time — if ever — before I get into putting the recordings up on a podcast, let alone doing video on Twitch or Youtube, but I want to make what I do have as clean as possible.
The first thing that came to mind was dice trays. First, to reduce the audio clatter of rolling, and to temper the enthusiasm of six-year-olds who will hurl the dice across the room.
Initially, I thought about making my own from scratch, but I just don’t have time for that right now. The boxes would be simple enough to cut the wood and assemble and probably even stain, but I’m not the quickest woodworker and I think it would take me a while.
I can’t afford the beautiful trays from Wormwood and I would have some serious reservations with letting the boys play with them if I could afford them. So I chose the next best option: quick and dirty dice trays.
I picked up some cheap unfinished pine wood trays from the craft store for about $5 apiece, and come sheets of foam in assorted colors.
For the first session, I am just cutting the foam sheets to size and sticking them on the unfinished trays with some wood glue. Perhaps if I find a little time, I’ll go back and stain them with a little weathered stain I made using steel wool and vinegar.
But for now, the kids can roll their dice for the game in their cool dice trays and the foam keeps it nice and quiet. Not a bad deal for the time and money.