Tag Archives: dnd academy

Night of the Ghoul – Quick FAE one-shot

I mentioned in a recent post, “Fate takes all my money.”  that I had started playing through a FAE conversion of a one-shot adventure called Night of the Ghoul. I got to play with my twitter buddies Michael and Caleb of DnD Academy. Tonight we got to finish that adventure. Short version: We had a blast! The game was fast and extremely fun, and naturally lead to some wild and pulpy action scenes. We played over Roll20.net, which I highly recommend!
Night of the Ghoul was originally written by Grant Erswell as a World of Darkness introductory adventure. It was delightfully easy to convert it for use as a FAE/Fate adventure. In our first session, we took about 20 minutes to do some quick character building. Our heroes were Peter Flynn, a middle-aged college professor and cricket coach turned monster hunter when his family was eaten by ghouls, and Mason, aka “Ace”, a college all-star cricket player who followed Flynn into a double-life of monster hunting. They were one part Sam & Dean, two parts Buffy & Giles. We used the quick character creation as presented in FAE, where you just come up with the essentials (High Concept, Trouble, one other aspect, Approaches, one stunt) and then started playing. From just that simple start, we had colorful cricket-bat-wielding characters that everyone was excited about, and started playing. Additional elements, like each characters approach to cover stories, were discovered and added during play.

We started out with them getting tipped off by a suspicious newspaper article about a freshly buried body being exhumed from church graveyard, supposedly by “animals.” This immediately set off Flynn’s “ghoul-alarms” and they did some clever investigating. This led to some great starting social scenes at a police department, and then with a Reverend at the church where the body was disturbed. That led to a great great fight scene with a drug dealer named Big Al, where they hilariously stumbled into the aspect I’d built for him “No one calls me Fat Albert!”. Mason slammed the drug dealer with their van door, while hopped out of the van door brandishing his bat and layed him low, scaring away his thugs.

This led to a stake-out at a convenience store with an clerk who bore a startling resemblance to Apu, which was great fun for all.

When their targets, some trouble-making teens, showed up, I had the perfect chance for a compel on Mason’s Trouble of being stuck between worlds, and had his girlfriend call his cell phone and demand his attention at the absolute worst moment. The next scene led to Mason hanging onto their car bumper while skate-boarding, a la Marty McFly, in a sort-of car chase. This gave Mason the chance to really shine and we were all laughing our heads off.

There were a couple investigation rabbit-holes we would have kinda liked to explore, but we were limited on time, so I steered them in the right direction, which led to our final encounter with the “fake-ghoul” of the story, Bill Chester, in a cramped tunnel. I compelled Flynn’s hatred of ghouls to cause him to charge ahead into the lair throwing all caution to the wind, and basically begging to get ambushed, which I was happy to oblige. Flynn quickly realized that Bill wasn’t a ghoul at all, but they still had to subdue the wild man before he took a bite out of Mason. It ended with them hogtying him with zip-ties, and calling in an anonymous tip to the police, and a heart-warming epilogue where they learned the guy got the mental health treatment that he so desperately needed.
I feel like we got a really good feel for how FAE plays. I really enjoyed DMing it. There were a lot of cases where I simply didn’t ask for rolls (investigation, knowledges, etc), and just gave them the info and kept moving. When rolls were needed, the system felt extremely easy to manage and adjudicate. The characters were very easy to latch onto. Combats were fast and fun, and lent themselves to very exciting descriptions. The use of FAE’s Approaches constantly kept me asking them, “Tell me what you’re doing, and HOW you’re doing it.” Things were easy and fun. But we did have some mixed feelings about Approaches. Things felt fast and loose, but they also felt fast and loose. Next time we play we’re going to try out the Approaches & Abilities method that I’ve been exploring lately, and see how that feels. Who knows, we may decide that we like the original Approaches method better. I certainly had fun with them.
All in all – GMing with the FAE system was delightful. It felt extremely liberating to not worry so much about whether things were possible, but to instead focus on how entertaining they could be for all involved.
Next week I’ll post their PC’s and several of the NPC’s I statted up, just for illustration purposes.

Intelligence-based Challenges – A Response to Dungeon Talk #20

This weekend I was listening to Dungeon Talk #20, one of the awesome podcast segments put out by DnD Academy. There was a good discussion around a listener email asking about how to best handle the topic of handling intelligence-based challenges with players, specifically puzzles. The discussion centered around the classic question of “how can someone roleplay a character smarter than themselves?” which is a very legitimate question. Roleplaying is all about being larger-than-life heroes. I can legitimately fight with a sword and throw a punch, but I’m no professional warrior. And I fancy myself a pretty smart dude, but I guarantee I’m no Master of the Arcane toting around an 18 Intelligence. We play heroes that we wish we could be. I am personally a fan of playing very clever and intelligent characters, but I am only so smart. So how do we handle challenges in-game that require the players to be quite smart, and how do you shine the spotlight on the appropriate character, even if that particular player isn’t capable of solving the puzzle on their own?

Here’s my thought based on how I’ve seen this handled in a past game. Note that this is taking the approach of a challenge that is meant to challenge the players not the characters.In the particular example, this DM was using a challenge the drew on some piece of music theory that he was confident one of the players would know. I can’t remember if that same player was playing the bard, but for the sake of this argument, let’s say someone else was playing the bard. So we have a puzzle requiring knowledge XYZ, and one player has the capability to answer to XYZ, but a different character  is the one that would make the most narrative sense to know the answer.

  • Present the puzzle/challenge to the group.
  • Allow the group to talk through it, work it out and figure out the solution out of character, as a group. Let them put their heads together and even maybe allow searching the web for ideas. Let them be as communally intelligent as they can.
  • At this point have all of the appropriate characters make their knowledge/skill rolls, ability checks, or simply nominate the character most likely to have that solution from a narrative standpoint. In the case of rolling, the highest roll gets the spotlight. That character steps forward and gets to activate the solution that the group came up with.

Since the challenge was intended to challenge the players instead of the character, I’d say that the roll is really irrelevant here, but if you want to use the roll, if none of the rolls succeed, the “fail forward” approach makes a lot of sense here. They manage to open the special door, but spring a trap, the path behind them caves in, or it took too long, and they get attacked while the spotlight character is inputting the solution. But because the group came up with the right answer, they solve the puzzle, since the point was for everyone to have fun solving a puzzle together. This approach allows you to challenge the group in a way that personally engages everyone, but still give the narrative spotlight to the right character.

Do you have any further thoughts on this idea? Join the discussion on their forums.