Sailors on the Starless Sea - Session Recap

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NauticalSoup
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Sailors on the Starless Sea - Session Recap

Post by NauticalSoup » Fri Jan 17, 2020 7:16 am

Greetings celestials!

I ran my first session of DCC last weekend and wrote an (overly long) session recap with some review elements of Sailors on the Starless Sea. I probably went overboard on the detailing so it's probably too massive to mirror here - hopefully nobody has an issue with external links, it's just a blog post. I originally wrote it for my players so they could review past adventures and get a little insight into my DMing, but I was encouraged to post it here where others might find the content interesting.

Linky

I loved running it and thought Sailors was a lot of fun - looks like our group will continue with this campaign and I plan to keep doing recaps for our sessions.

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Re: Sailors on the Starless Sea - Session Recap

Post by burbigo1 » Fri Jan 17, 2020 10:59 am

That's really cool and I would love to do the same thing

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Re: Sailors on the Starless Sea - Session Recap

Post by Judge_Yossarian » Sun Jan 19, 2020 1:01 pm

This was very useful- thanks for posting it and I especially appreciate the advice on tweaks for first-timers. I am running this for an online group next week (almost all of whom are new to RPGs in general) and your experience is consistent with how I expected a lot of things to play out.

One tweak I planned already- to help combat the "motivation" problem- is that I made one of the kidnapped villagers the daughter of the town Reeve, and the party contracted to get her back specifically, ensuring that negative consequences will affect the players if they get back without her (or proof of her death). Since of course I will make her one of the ritual sacrifices at the end, I hope this will encourage the players to continue... As for the problem with the censer, it seems like your crew handled things well enough without it, so hopefully mine will too if they decide not to take it along.

My group has 14 zeroes, and 2 one-levels (warrior and elf) who survived a previous run of Portal Under the Stars; based on what you're saying it seems like that should be sufficient to get through it, and if not I suppose I can reinforce them at the halfway point. Does anyone have advice on running this with a mixed-level party?
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Re: Sailors on the Starless Sea - Session Recap

Post by NauticalSoup » Mon Jan 20, 2020 10:56 am

Based on my experience at least that should be more than sufficient given how much stronger a 1st level character is than a zero. A warrior will make short work of everything short of the leviathan and chaos lord and spells have a ton of utility.

That is as long as your level 1s don't get insta-gibbed by any of the traps lol

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Re: Sailors on the Starless Sea - Session Recap

Post by Bobjester » Tue Jan 21, 2020 7:36 am

NauticalSoup wrote:
Mon Jan 20, 2020 10:56 am
Based on my experience at least that should be more than sufficient given how much stronger a 1st level character is than a zero. A warrior will make short work of everything short of the leviathan and chaos lord and spells have a ton of utility.

That is as long as your level 1s don't get insta-gibbed by any of the traps lol
That's why 0 level characters are called "ill-fated peasants"; you send them in first, and the 1st levels come up to the front when there is real trouble. :wink:
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Re: Sailors on the Starless Sea - Session Recap

Post by Judge_Yossarian » Tue Jan 21, 2020 3:25 pm

NauticalSoup wrote:
Mon Jan 20, 2020 10:56 am

That is as long as your level 1s don't get insta-gibbed by any of the traps lol
I'm giving it about a 40% chance one of them looks down the well :twisted:

I actually ran the first bit of sailors at an impromptu session Monday with some other friends who were new to the game, and they lost someone down the well, then actually hatched a plan to send someone else in with a rope around his waist to try and save her... I was disappointed that they decided against it at the last minute. That would have been a great welcome to DCC moment for them.
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Re: Sailors on the Starless Sea - Session Recap

Post by Starbeard » Wed Jan 22, 2020 12:43 pm

These are what have surprised me in each of the three times I've run Sailors:

1) No one picked up on the censer clue, but all deduced other means to bypass the beast without too much trouble.

2) All three parties took much longer than expected figuring out how to summon the boat, and two were on the verge of never figuring it out.

3) No one has bothered to explore anything in the courtyard at all, with the exception of one character creeping up to the pit and then backing away immediately. All parties immediately made a beeline straight to the tower.

…and the big one:

4) No one has bothered to take the robes. Seriously, without the robes, I cannot figure out how the party has even any sliver of a chance in the endgame. Even if they aren't spotted approaching, they will be outed as soon as the first rank attempts to rush up the ziggurat, leaving everyone behind them having to deal with the beastmen; plus there is no guarantee that the front rank will be able to dash past each guard by surprise, and as soon as the surprise is lost then the whole charge is halted. Couple that with how many rounds it actually takes to make your way up the ziggurat, battling and/or grappling the whole time, and it becomes an exercise in futility.

In principal I don't have a problem with that design, but I also didn't want to just end the previous 5-7 hours of play at such an anticlimactic and hopeless dead end, especially for these groups in particular. Instead, on the spot I altered the power of the beastmen's trance so that the party could sneak past them on pretty easy rolls just by creeping quietly and in single file, doing everything they can to describe not drawing attention to themselves. That way they at least got halfway up before the trance was broken and they had to make a dash for it.

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Re: Sailors on the Starless Sea - Session Recap

Post by GnomeBoy » Wed Jan 22, 2020 3:21 pm

Starbeard wrote:
Wed Jan 22, 2020 12:43 pm
4) No one has bothered to take the robes. Seriously, without the robes, I cannot figure out how the party has even any sliver of a chance in the endgame. Even if they aren't spotted approaching, they will be outed as soon as the first rank attempts to rush up the ziggurat, leaving everyone behind them having to deal with the beastmen; plus there is no guarantee that the front rank will be able to dash past each guard by surprise, and as soon as the surprise is lost then the whole charge is halted. Couple that with how many rounds it actually takes to make your way up the ziggurat, battling and/or grappling the whole time, and it becomes an exercise in futility.

In principal I don't have a problem with that design, but I also didn't want to just end the previous 5-7 hours of play at such an anticlimactic and hopeless dead end, especially for these groups in particular. Instead, on the spot I altered the power of the beastmen's trance so that the party could sneak past them on pretty easy rolls just by creeping quietly and in single file, doing everything they can to describe not drawing attention to themselves. That way they at least got halfway up before the trance was broken and they had to make a dash for it.
I've always run it with the beastmen being enthralled by what's happening at the top, and thinking that they are just about to get their own personal chance to resurrect the big guy.... Plus one-in-three of them is pounding on a drum, and they are ALL chanting LOUDLY. I've never made the beach landing anything that wasn't a sure thing, unless the party was actively doing something that would somehow draw attention from all of that noise and reverence.

If the party runs up the Zig from the base, they only draw in those beastmen they approach, for the first couple rounds. And I play it very cinematically, so if they want to climb to a new level, that just takes a move action. I had one group who were playing it (entirely on their own accord) as you describe, with an impossible "distance" between them and the top. I wasn't doing anything to drive that, but I did have to actively shift their mind-sets, and once that was done, they really got into the chaos and potential of the situation and had fun with it. Some groups have had good tactics to even the odds, like climbing up the side, drawing beastmen to them, jumping down to the sand, and running "away" back to the base of the ramp, thus tying up some number of beastmen in a simple chase, while the rest of the Zeroes hack other beastmen and start havoc at the top of the Zig.

It's sort of like giving the players a break in an impossible situation. But the flavor and atmosphere of the enraptured beastmen, all the noise of drums and chanting and the screams of the victims, the flickering and flashing torchlight, the showers of sparks coming out of the top of the Zig with each sacrifice of gold and lives... it's a SPECTACULAR reason to let them have some breathing room to get started on their task.
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Re: Sailors on the Starless Sea - Session Recap

Post by Vort » Thu Jan 23, 2020 11:22 pm

Excellent write-up, NauticalSoup! These are the kinds of reports I tried to find before I started running DCC, and reminds me of the ones I've been doing for my games (and not publishing anywhere). In depth write-ups like these are great for introducing aspiring DCC judges to funnels and for giving them an idea of what to expect. Plus the kinds of tips it generates in responses from others is a goldmine for anyone wanting to run the module -- I haven't run Sailors yet but it's on my list, and now I have some tips on things to watch out for and how to deal with them. So, if you write any further, make sure you post them here! Or, you could signup on rpggeek.com and submit them as game session reports there, to the benefit of even more.
Shaky, Gambler, N, AC 10, hp 1, S12 A9 S5-2 P9 I9 L9, r+0, f-2, w+0, club +0 (1d4)
Shifty, Smuggler, C, AC 11, hp 1, S9 A15+1 S5-2 P13+1 I8-1 L8-1, r+1, f-2, w+1, init+1, attack rolls -1, sling +0 (1d4)
The Illuminating Anhk, Elven Artisan, L, AC 10, hp 3, S11 A9 S9 P13+1 I10 L15+1, r+0, f+0, w+1, fumbles +1, staff +0 (1d4)
---
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Re: Sailors on the Starless Sea - Session Recap

Post by NauticalSoup » Thu Feb 06, 2020 8:20 am

Vort wrote:
Thu Jan 23, 2020 11:22 pm
Excellent write-up, NauticalSoup! These are the kinds of reports I tried to find before I started running DCC, and reminds me of the ones I've been doing for my games (and not publishing anywhere). In depth write-ups like these are great for introducing aspiring DCC judges to funnels and for giving them an idea of what to expect. Plus the kinds of tips it generates in responses from others is a goldmine for anyone wanting to run the module -- I haven't run Sailors yet but it's on my list, and now I have some tips on things to watch out for and how to deal with them. So, if you write any further, make sure you post them here! Or, you could signup on rpggeek.com and submit them as game session reports there, to the benefit of even more.
rpggeek eh? I'll have to check it out.

Plan to continue this campaign and these write ups but had to go on temporary hiatus due to school. Will definitely post the next one there as well!

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