Are We There Yet? Encounters, Combat and Journeys...

Adventure in the world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Learn more at our website: http://www.cubicle7.co.uk/our-games/the-one-ring/
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Oskar
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Are We There Yet? Encounters, Combat and Journeys...

Post by Oskar » Tue Nov 19, 2013 2:15 pm

Why play the game?
Most would answer: to have fun.
So far so good, right?

How does this translate into The One Ring?
Structurally this game is built around three different modes of play (when in adventure-mode):
Encounters, Journeys, Battles/Combat. (I recently played "the Marsh Bell", act I and II, with a new group.)

Encounters
The encounters were a blast when we played. The players had a chance to roleplay their characters and how they interact to solve social problems. I let them roleplay the whole encounter and required a few rolls for introduction and a few for interaction, but the emphasis was on roleplay. They liked it.
The dice-rolls decided what level of success they achieved but the roleplay-effort dictated that they passed the "good enough"-level. (That's what I want to reward - good roleplay, yet not diminish the importance of skill-points in social skills) Long story short: Encounters are fun.

Battles
Battles were fun as well. They had a chance to try combat stances, talk about team-tactics, try aimed shots with their bows and how armour-rolls and endurance loss works. What happens when a characters gets weary. Then the character who threw the killing blow got to narrate how the troll was felled.
Long story short: Battles are fun.

Journeys
...I did my best to weave the journey and the search for dwarven tracks into a meaningful part of the story (if you read/played the Marsh Bell, makes sense),,, but this is the part where the game always struggles. It's a series of die-rolls, mechanical things happen to their character-sheets and I as a LM try to narrate how they "feel watched", let the Hunter narrate what she found after her (game mechanically) extraordinary level of hunting-success and the ensuing feast mid-journey. Que the Social Encounter with the Eleves etc..
Okay, after a day of boating, searching for clues,, "This is what you find............"

It's hard for the players to roleplay and it's quite tedious. I mean, no matter what they do, they will eventually find the trail and the story will lead on to something more interesting. It's on rails the moment they decide to try to achieve the goal. When I LM it, it's the thing they have to do before the fun begins, be it a social-based or combat-based showdown. It could be summarized in "Are We There Yet?"

The simulation-aspect of it is very real - it is arduous to be on foot for a long time and the heroes tire. But as of now,, it's a very accurate simulation because the players tire as well. Yawn, stretch in the sofa, space out/daydream, loose interest, etc...
I try to ask focus the group with questions about: what the cooler-talk is around the camp-fire; weave encounters with npc in to the journey. (the ferry-men at the Stair of Girion, how they long for tales of Heroism and how they leave additional clues when they are content etc)
Long story short: Journeys are not fun.
Or more humble: I cannot make the Journeys fun.

LM Skill?
I guess that there is a level of LM-skill involved in this. The LM need to make the scenery come to life, narrate the journey, set the scene for battles and encounters, direct the players so they understand how they can affect their game-environment and each other, understand the game-mechanic so that it doesn't get in the way of the story. Crafting long-term plot-twists and prepare for different scenarios so the PCs can explore the world in a sandbox-like manner. And this probably gets better and more fun with more practice. I'm confident this game will let me improve and make for a fun game.

But I can't make the Journeys fun. How do you guys make it?

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MrNidnan
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Re: Are We There Yet? Encounters, Combat and Journeys...

Post by MrNidnan » Tue Nov 19, 2013 4:15 pm

Hi there,
You're not alone here and I'm pretty sure others LM have faced same issues with travels. I feel myself dissapointed after fmy irst long journey adventure.

That said check revised Journey Rules from Francesco: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/14117990/TOR%2 ... %20III.pdf

I find them simplier and they solve partially the main problems of convert a long journey in a dice-rolling fest and at the same point emphasizes the importantcy of each member of the community as there's individual rolls.

In adittion to adapt the new rules change
What I try is
- Make short descriptions and few stops to some short scene, even not important, similar to the one in Marsh bell adventure narrating a dinner with the fisherman's people.
- If no hazard has to happen due to lack of sauron eyes in the rolls I include some hazard, normally narrated, though withouth high impact in players or none at all.
The idea behind this is to try keep your players thinking that any moment can happen anything, that you are not only gonna stop on important and key events and they don't have all the control.
- And well that depends on players but as LM I'm not anal with rules, and at the end I'm the Master, so if I see travel is slow, or that day my players are not in the mood of travels or descriptions, I make travels fasters. Description on how they happily start, how they finish tired, broken shoes, mount died...
Or if it's easy travel just... you travel fast almost as a bird on the sky. Feel free to be creative.

I'm willing to see how other people plays them, but I can tell you know there's no a perfect way. It's the most difficult part. As a LM you have to improvise, and adapt and keep in mind that not everything gonna happen as expected.
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.
-- Fellowship of the Ring

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Oskar
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Re: Are We There Yet? Encounters, Combat and Journeys...

Post by Oskar » Tue Nov 19, 2013 4:43 pm

Hi MrNidnan.

I agree, the revised Journey rules takes the worst edge of the Journeys. (my summary of your first line of thought)

I feel like I would like to take a step back and wonder what the point of the Journeys are. Because if it is simply a means to an end, a "jump-cut" to something more interesting should be adviced. Imagine watching a movie where everything happens in real-time, but being forced to do everything "as it should be". What a bore! I feel that in the books and the movies, the Journeys are important to give backstory to the characters, let them interact and make room for character-development; meet high-lvl NPC that can give them important plot-device-loot and etc. And also, to switch between different narrative lines to let everything happens "at once", but at different locations.

I further on agree with you that the LM needs to adapt the Journey to the adventurers attention-span/ daily form / longs and needs. I have a few ideas but am very curious how others deal with this. Maybe I'm just doing it wrong.

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Magus76
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Re: Are We There Yet? Encounters, Combat and Journeys...

Post by Magus76 » Wed Nov 20, 2013 11:07 am

Hey everyone,

As LM I use the journey rules as a framework to build on. If the journey is unimportant to the story, then the rolls make out the bare minimum of events/hazards/effects that concerns the characters. But if the journey is important to the story, then I use the rolls made as a starting-point and then go from there, adding encounters, hazards and such as I see fit to lift the story to another level.
For example, the rules wouldn't specifically know that I have an npc tracking the characters through the wilderness, and so I add tests to see if they notice, outside the standard rolls. The rules wouldn't know that my random weather indicates a severe thunder storm that could affect the characters abillity to find their way, or scatter their horses, changing the mode/speed of travel and so on.

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MrNidnan
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Re: Are We There Yet? Encounters, Combat and Journeys...

Post by MrNidnan » Wed Nov 20, 2013 11:32 am

I do as Magus76 explained, that is exactly as I do in old MERP or other RPG.

To me journey rules provide a way to make the feeling that every rol in the community in the travel is worth. Not just we go in group of 4 for a road until dark and camp anywhere. No, you need food, you need guide, scouts... it's a dangeours place! But everything else is up to LM.

As I read your description, you have good example of this in Marsh Bell adventure. The travelling there to the south is that. A night in a village from where you can get information and make some friends (or enemies! Some of my PCs are quite cocky :P), a encounter with the elves and important char (or not), a treasure finding, Dwarf encounter... (or not) But that's because in this adventure journey is more important and is already planned.

TOR tries to make journeys allways important but in the end that's a decission of the LM. If you want to make journeys that way you have to prepare options/encounters/hazzards/variables and assume that a journey can become a new adventure itself. Lose time there and affect the main plot... or not. Like a choose your own adventure type of books ^^
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.
-- Fellowship of the Ring

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Oskar
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Re: Are We There Yet? Encounters, Combat and Journeys...

Post by Oskar » Wed Nov 20, 2013 1:01 pm

I feel like there is a lot of trail-and-error involved in LMing. As I am new, it's hard to know where to attribute the problems. Is it me (that needs to get a better grasp of rules / richer description of the world etc) or is the prolbem with certain aspects of the game mechanic (or how I make it come to play?) or it is something completely different.

My next attempt to make Journeys work will be to start the journey-phase with explaining that they indeed will reach their goal. Then letting them make crucial rolls or etc to decide "How and in what condition?" And, if possible or plot-imporant: "What else of note happened along the journey?"

Adding fluff-roleplay scenes like: "One night was more memorable - Character X opened up to the others and told the following story: [Roleplay a hero telling a story of their past (preferably prepared by PC).] Transform the Journey-phase into a roleplay-phase when one hero / session tells a story from their past. This would fit nicely in how the heroes get to know each other better as the adventure continues, without silly attempts for small-talk.

Continuing the narration of the Journey with more game-mechanical die-rolls:
"Some unexpected things happened along the journey...". At one time, the path onwards was no-where to be found. The Scout of the group set of, looking for the trail. Narration. Dice-roll. Resolution.

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MrNidnan
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Re: Are We There Yet? Encounters, Combat and Journeys...

Post by MrNidnan » Wed Nov 20, 2013 2:59 pm

Yep, lot of testing is involded in LMing. Then you must find a way that's fun for you and your players.

I don't think is it you. Maybe a mix of beeing new in LMing and missunderstanding of the game, the game talk about travels and how important they're but in the end to make travels important you need to work out them. Same as encounters, if you don't develop them... they can feel like. Hello, 4 rolls, bye.
Rules and mechanics are only a base over which you, as LM, want to set up an history. And that history can be withouth any travel/combat/encounter and still be fine. Don't feel obliged to incorporate allways everything.

In my experience all RPGs, specially fantasy ones, can be like a Movie , like you described
Imagine watching a movie where everything happens in real-time, but being forced to do everything "as it should be". What a bore!
the only who can prevent that is how LM directs and how PCs are. Because sometimes PCs enjoy beeing in that kind of movies.

Next attempt seems fine, good luck with and don't quit LMing TOR ;)
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.
-- Fellowship of the Ring

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jamesrbrown
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Re: Are We There Yet? Encounters, Combat and Journeys...

Post by jamesrbrown » Wed Nov 20, 2013 6:33 pm

Oskar wrote:My next attempt to make Journeys work will be to start the journey-phase with explaining that they indeed will reach their goal. Then letting them make crucial rolls or etc to decide "How and in what condition?" And, if possible or plot-imporant: "What else of note happened along the journey?"

Adding fluff-roleplay scenes like: "One night was more memorable - Character X opened up to the others and told the following story: [Roleplay a hero telling a story of their past (preferably prepared by PC).] Transform the Journey-phase into a roleplay-phase when one hero / session tells a story from their past. This would fit nicely in how the heroes get to know each other better as the adventure continues, without silly attempts for small-talk.

Continuing the narration of the Journey with more game-mechanical die-rolls:
"Some unexpected things happened along the journey...". At one time, the path onwards was no-where to be found. The Scout of the group set of, looking for the trail. Narration. Dice-roll. Resolution.
I like this approach when a journey is plainly the transition to another, more important, Part in a pre-written adventure and there is time to recap the most memorable days of travel. The rules for journey resolution are simple enough to quickly summarise the effects of a journey or to actually play things out in detail.
Please visit my blog, Advancement Points: The One Ring Files, for my TOR Resources

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