High Seas

Posted on July 3, 2012 by

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As a year and a half long game came to an end, DMed by the immensely talented Alex Frane, I knew that I had giant shoes to fill.  A large scale planar game with the most dynamic characters I’ve ever seen, gods, demons, a secret weapon, and Bane’s Dusk War that we had to personally bring to a close, it was an experience that I will never forget.  Now I had to follow that act?

The Miranda game (named after our astral ship that we sailed around the cosmos) is something that I often thought of as something in the vein of Farscape, Firefly, with perhaps a dash of Star Trek.   Although it was an epic and sprawling game, it dealt largely with the chaaracters and their emotional states.  The hopelessness of the Dusk War, the guilt that we felt for things we had done, the sadness we felt for losing friends, all of these things dragged us down until finally in a moment of fate and excellence, we pulled it all together and kicked some serious ass.  As befitting a DM inspired by a lifetime of Joss Whedon, it was an emotional rollercoaster, and we loved every twist and turn.

I knew that High Seas had to be different, had to be something we hadn’t played in a while.  I decided that I wanted to shoot for an epic feel, something that would make the players feel like heroes and badasses every step of the way (with the occasional pothole to keep them from getting overconfident of course).  Running giant, video-gamey, over the top boss fights has always been a strength of mine, and I was eager to apply it to a swashbuckly setting.

It all began with a month of Facebook roleplaying as we wrapped up the other campaign.  What was effectively the first game (a captain recruiting his crew to find a long lost treasure), took place entirely online, and I could not have been happier.  Not only did it get that awkward “party meeting up in a tavern” game out of the way, but it really allowed the characters to come to life.  Jacobi Rizzo, the amateur captain, like the bookish half of Indiana Jones, and his recruited first mate Thestrel, a half elf with a rough past and a rougher future.  Via Facebook we were introduced to Caecius, a wind Genasi of immense power in search of his lost brother and the cult that tortured them both, we met Lorenzo DeCosta, an aged mercenary veteran on the run who had never been on a ship before in his life.  The crew was rounded out by Aziman, an amnesiac blade dancer with a strange power, and Mae’va the goliath sea witch who was secretly manipulating Aziman towards a destiny of her choosing.

With the crew assembled, and the waiting complete, the game kicked off strong as Jacobi led the heroes in the pursuit of Captain Cragfall’s treasure and the legendary Skycutter, his ship.  Over the course of the first arc, the crew of the Dawn’s Arrow raided two pirate fortresses, boarded a ghost ship, slew an undead kraken, made their way through a giant vault of a pirate king, sunk three different pirate ships, freed a dark mage, and fought no less than three dragons (okay, the undead bones, muscles, and skin of the same dragon, separated and turned into three different monsters).  The arc was only four adventures long.

That’s really what has made the High Seas game so incredibly successful, the four game arc.  I’ve been thinking of the arcs as “seasons” and the games as “episodes” and by keeping the seasons so short, it really keeps games concise.  Four seasons of four games each, a sixteen game run loosely planned out before it even started.  No filler games, no side quests, just adventure and plotline from start to finish.

I’ve come to the realization that life (and by that I mean the life of a good gaming group) is too short for sidequests and filler.  At any given moment our group has no less than three games waiting to be played, and I owe it to the other members of the group to keep things moving.  Also, are there really any stories that can’t be told in less than 8 games?  Stringing these arcs together to create something larger, I believe, is where a DM can really shine.

The tough part for me is that as I approach the end of the third season, Chasing the Past, I know that the game is more than half over.  I’ve been writing stories based around these characters for so long now, that I’ll be sad to see it come to an end.  As Aziman’s destiny comes full circle, Caecius and Thestrel are reunited with long lost family in the worst possible way, and Decosta’s past finally catches up with him, I know that what has been the greatest game of my DMing career slowly moves towards its epic conclusion, and Jacobi will be there to chronicle it all.

I will miss these characters that I have spent every Monday with for the last four months, but my melancholy is mitigated somewhat by knowing how much adventure they still have left in store.

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Posted in: Game Talk, High Seas