The concept that I got from Ambition & Avarice, when I first read it when it was in beta, was that it’s a game about murderhobos. Really really about murderhobos. Not heroes, but terrible people who are both skilled and dangerous. The session I ran last night, to 4 players who really go with the flow, was perfect as far as I’m concerned.
I had a plan to design this huge dungeon with all kinds of things to do some 2 weeks in advance, having more than enough back up plans and all that stuff. I procrastinated.
What I did end up doing was write up some quick sandbox prep. I decided to shift the campaign setting, with player approval, to a proper sandbox. Design, with help and advice from Paolo Greco, went quickly and swimmingly and was quite so nice and interesting, at least to me, that it might come out as a proper module.
My prep notes ended up being 17 locations with info and hooks and seeds, as well as a handful of meaningful NPCs in the primary population centers of the sandbox. I figured I wasn’t experienced enough with sandboxes and that my improv was too rusty to make true use of the very little I prepared. I was very wrong.
The session started off with an introduction scene. 3 of the characters were from the previous 3 sessions and I ruled they technically knew each other. The fourth was new. They traded their stories of how they ended up “volunteered” to the colonies, drawing from an extensive table I had prepared in advance. It didn’t come up after this scene, but they enjoyed roleplaying how they tell the stories.
They landed in one of the towns of the sandbox. The town’s a small trade hub with the empire, the capital of which the party arrived from. They were let out, the guard unfazed by the missing and unlocked manacles and chains. They got out of the wagon and promptly made way to the pub.
After getting some answers from the owner about the area and the town, and further after the gnome pulled off the old “I bet you all that I can piss all over the bar and the owner would be happy” bet, they were on their way to get some paid adventuring going. They met with the mayor and got hired to figure out the reason townspeople have been disappearing and solve the issue if possible.
They trekked to a vampire den some km south of the town and slowly, cautiously and surely got to slaughtering anything hostile within. The ghouls were essentially simple but still dangerous. The vampires less so, though, including the boss. The boss fell in a single hit due to good rolls and proper planning. Their supplies were relatively exhausted, though, so it evened out. After the looted the place clean, they truly shined.
The fourth player, a gnomish artificer with a scheming streak, brought back much less than the mayor would anticipate. After they discussed with him about payment, the went back to the den and brought back everything remaining. I allowed this all through roleplaying since said player was really good at it, really getting into character. The bottom line was a heap of hold each and a ton of XP. They leveled up twice.
All told, everyone had a glorious session that during it they figured out plans and ideas and decided what they will aim for, myself included.
Lessons I walked away with from this session, which I forgot to say – lasted 8 hours, are several:
- Curb the XP. Even with the exponential table, the power level and wealth of monsters will always cause such rapid growth. The table won’t fix the speed well enough so adjustments must be made.
- The amount of prep I had was enough to wing it, but not enough to do it comfortably. While I don’t need to stock every room of every dungeon in full, I should be ready with estimated wealth and monster stat blocks.
- Get travel speeds down. I nabbed speeds from Paolo’s Adventure Fantasy Game’s prepackaged sandbox, but they didn’t really fit. I should know the speeds well in advance.
Also for this session, I wanted to try out 2 houserules but only got to one:
- As taken and slightly modified from Monsters and Manuals’ posts: all weapons do 1d6 damage (2h weapons do another 1d6) and each +1 in to-hit give the character another 1d6 to damage. each die may be applied separately for monsters, monsters on the other hand got 1d6 per HD. This I did get to try and it had 2 effects – the first is that it made combat quicker and much more brutal on both sides; the second is that accentuated just how terrible a force a good fighter is and how important he is to a group.
- You get riposte tokens against monsters that had missed you and so do monsters get against you. I forgot all about it, so it didn’t come up. Report on effects to follow.
All told, I walked away fulfilled and had a ton of fun. Everyone got in character and roleplayed well, PCs and NPCs talked and not narrated conversation and most importantly – the group channeled the game’s intention well and had fun doing so. Talking over pizza afterwards, everyone confirmed they enjoyed the session a ton.
I am pleased.