Friday, September 28, 2012

The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas

I know, another post without complaining about how late kickstarters are? That’s okay, October is right around the corner so I’ll tally up the process and see how things are going by then. If its based on anything like previous months, no change.
However, despite working six and seven days a week, I did manage to read another book. I had honestly forgotten how much I enjoy reading with all the beating my mind has taken at work and various dreaded ‘real life issues!’. Its good sometimes to sit back and read a book.
The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas is a fun romp into dragon territory. While TSR and then Wizards of the Coast has plowed the field with many standards that fit into a dragon society with Dragonlance and of course the revered grand dame of Science Fiction Anne Mccafre has Pern, Stephen still manages to make it an interesting and fast paced book.
From what I know, there are already other books by Stephen Deas in the series and if time and finances permit, I’ll be sure to hit them up as time allows. I’ll be doing my usual rambles below and that includes spoilers so if you want to avoid those, read no further.
One of the things I enjoyed about the Adamantine Palace, is that the author, much like George R. R. Martin, Glen Cook, and a few others, isn’t afraid to kill off, what to that point, had been main characters. It provides the setting with a quick slap in the face and makes the reader a bit unsure of the standing each character has. One of the problems with long running campaigns, is that unless the Game Master is willing to smash his toys, the players may feel like actors on a stage rather then adventurers in a deadly setting.
Another thing I enjoyed is the role of the dragons themselves. Like in some settings, they have their place for their role in society, including hunting, war, sports, and status, they have a darker origin. It seems, from the flashbacks, which are not complete yet, that the dragons were the rulers and that mankind uses alchemist to subvert their minds and free will so that they are slaves.
Yet strangely enough, it doesn’t take too much to knock one out of that stupor. Indeed, it seems shockingly easy but no sane person would want to do that. Initially I was highly skeptical of it. I thought, what society would dare try to harness something that could turn on them so easily? And then you look at the ‘real world’ and remember that during the first big old bomb testing they were worried it was going to ignite the sky.  But hey, test away right? That doesn’t count reliance on nuclear power and the price Japan paid for that during their recent issues or the myths that have grown up around Russia, mainly in the comics about their own incident.
So in the end, harnessing a power that can turn against you? Easily something man does all the time in both the real world and the of fiction. I’ll be curious to see where Stepehn Deas takes the ideas that he presents here as if one ‘accident’ involving a single dragon can cause so much potential harm, what the final resolution of this harnessed power will be.
In a role playing game, most creatures that are above animal intelligence will have their own motivations and means of working with or against the characters. In the Forgotten Realms, many of the main races already have their motivations lain out for them. For dragons, the elves use of making the dragons go into a rage and destroying their ability to work magic on a regular basis is what brought the elves into power while humanity’s numbers brought them into power.
But what if you were staging a game during that time when dragons ruled? What if instead of a temporary madness the initial plan was one that made the dragons creatures of mindless rage at all times? Or that ‘star’ mages or another type of magic was used to control dragons?
For those looking for a book where the heroes are all slick and happy, this is not the book for you. One of the main characters, Jehal, is a master manipulator. He manages to play all sides and still comes across, at least to me, as an interesting character. He has some internal conflict and that’s enough to make you wonder where he’s going. His arrogance and pride make him do things that put him in positions he may not be able to control, but that’s part of the ‘charm’ of the character. 
Others in the book range in their motivations and methodologies but many of them have an overriding motive that makes them easy to identify with or at least follow and that makes them good archetypes.  The interesting thing to me though, is that these goals and motivations are things that don’t necessarily fall into ‘alignment’ patterns that are familiar in games like Palladium and Dungeons and Dragons. If you’re main goal is to advance your family, murdering off a rival that stands in your way may not be good, but it is something that would be taken into consideration. Personal happiness goes to the side when planning out not only your future, but your family’s future, even if that means alliances that would normally be taboo.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Beyond The High Road by Troy Denning

Because I have several Half-Price Bookstores within driving distance, I’m rarely at a loss for reading material. Time on the other hand… but reading material? Inexpensive reading material? The Half Price store on Touhy has a nice dollar spinner rack and I buy a book or ten from it every now and again. It’s one of the reasons I have a hard time paying some of the prices that Kindle books are marked at when not on the Daily Deal or the monthly deal.

In this case, Troy Denning brings us Beyond the High Road, a Forgotten Realms novel set in the Forest Kingdom known as Cormyr. This is one of those that I believe is set firmly during the 3rd edition era and while it has a lot of bells and whistles and some efforts at political materials, is really a good quick popcorn read. I finished it in a few hours and enjoyed it for what it was.

When I look over at Amazon, it is available as a Kindle Book , a little over $5 bones. Not a bad price but I’m more happy with the $1 paid from the ole rack.

The novel does bring up a few interesting threads that can be fun when throwing them into a campaign.

1.       The Old Evil. Yeah, overplayed extremely but if it’s a well known old evil, that usually works out better in my opinion that some whack job monster that is some ancient evil that no one has heard of or bothered with before. In those cases I wish the author would just go to a “NEW” thing. “Yes, I have brought about never before seen enemies and powers to deal with you. Forget Orcus. You’re my bitch now.” Or something along those lines.

2.       Politics. While the book is certainly no Game Of Thrones, Troy does bring in the problems of having a Royal Church, one approved by the royal family, when the setting is home not to one faith, but home to many deities, some of which have actually walked in the country before. It adds a nice touch when the idea of having a royal church is first introduced and then the feedback, both from other religious organizations wondering when they can get their official royal church and from organizations already well established that quickly seek to hold onto their current power by shutting out any competition.

3.       Old Friends: While Cat and her man Grigori aren’t the main stars or even really anything other than a cameo here, it’s always nice to see a character well known in another series in the same setting make a pop up here and there without taking over the story. If you have some NPCs that the party knows are in the area, don’t go out of your way to hide or not-use them but make it clear that those individuals are not there for the story, just there to keep the continuity of the setting alive.

4.       Magic Items. If you’re playing in a high magic game, use it. There are several individuals here who use the Cormyr armory to armor themselves in magic. It makes sense in the context of the story because the Forgotten Realms is a high magic setting and the Forest Kingdom is known for its war wizards.

5.       Slap Magic Down. On the other hand, when magic becomes too easy, there are often things in the game that are designed to get around those limitations. Sometimes it’s a well placed Dispel Magic spell or an Anti-Magic Shell or a monster with immunities to various common spells or a monster that has a high magical resistance or a mirror like ability to reflect attacks. In this instance, the monsters can absorb magic. It’s a good trick that doesn’t make them exactly completely immune and doesn’t take place instantly but does bring up the limits of magic.

6.       Magic Commonality: One of the problems with magic follows the old saying if all you have is a hammer, all of your problems become nails. In this instance, the head war wizard finds himself, while not helpless, at least far less able then he should be given the resources at his disposal. In a society where magic has replaced technology, imagine what happens when it fails. It’s a similar theme we see in modern takes when electricity or physics fail and man is forced to a more primitive life style. Whatever is making you too comfortable then becomes a crutch you must endure all to save.

7.       It’s a Dangerous World Out There. One of the things that draws the characters out, is blighted farms. Initially its thought that the orcs, often a dark and cave dwelling race, have brought some type of fungus based blight to the lands they raid due to the various locals they inhabit. In other venues, the characters come under attack by goblins. Most Dungeons and Dragons settings are not for the faint of heart and a good reminder of that every now and again with ‘random violence!’ is a good way to remind the characters.

Troy Denning made Beyond the High Road a quick read and while the Royal Family does come across as a bit spoiled and out of their element in a market where A Game of Thrones and other novels try to emulate a deeper and richer complexity, the magic and relationships of the characters in the book to each other make it worth a read.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Heartstone by C. J. Sansom

Heartstone is the fifth book in the Shardlake lawyer series set in the 1500s. This one involves Shardlake going to unravel a mystery that involves many a party interested in him not finding out the root cause of the problem against the backdrop of war. I'll be discussing the book in full below so if you're eager to avoid any spoilers read no further. A quick review would be that C. J. Sansom is a solid writer and if you want to bring something like mystery to your games, you could do worse then read some of the Shardlake series for inspiration.

War is often written in fantasy genres as something that the main characters are themselves involved in. That they are at the forefront of. But sometimes the material fails to bring home some of the common practices of war preparation. For example, England has a rich history of archery. I've spoken of archery in the past and some of the battles England was involved with that were turned by the skilled English longbow man thanks to another writer of historical material, Bernard Cornwell, but there are still some differences.

For example, in Bernard Cornwell's archery books, the main characters are consummately skilled archers. They are at the forefront of things. Here not so much. Shardlake's servant, Barak, is almost recruited to the war effort because of his backtalk to a recruiter. Well, recruit is too kind a word. Drafted is more accurate.

And these soldiers are supposed to keep their own gear and weaponry. Many people didn't have them. So of the fees they earn, they have to pay back the crown. And those who are supposed to provide those equipment? Well, if you can charge a premium price for something and provide something old that's already paid for? You can pocket quite a penny in the process.

Another venue of war, is how much it takes. I'm not just talking about the manpower fighting in the war, but the manpower not fighting in the war. Depending on the length and duration of the war, the farming back home may not go well. Farming in these times is heavily labor dependant. In addition, the manpower recruited for the war may not be all that useful if it's made up of individuals not suited for such a life. Mind you it can be fun to have a campaign staring a 'Dirty Dozen' type of individual but that's not necessarily on a large scale such as portrayed here.

A third venue of war is the scope. On a huge ship with some odd five hundred people, Shardlake almost drowns when the ship sinks. The root cause of the ship's issue's aren't made known but could include incompetence. In the anima and manga series Berserk, one of the reasons Griffith, a charismatic and effective commander is able to rise so rapidly, is that most of the people at the top are grossly incompetent. Being wealthy and a noble does not provide some magical and mythical ability to rule wisely not command smartly. Too many people in this battle on both sides prove to be useless in terms of winning.

The size of the ship, with five hundred people, may not be that impressive if you think of something like the Death Star that had to have thousands and thousands of people on it, or indeed of the first planet destroyed by the Death Star where millions of people were. Imagine players being in those situations where something like a flying citadel is under attack and is going down regardless of what the player's do. It can provide them with an experience that actually repelling the attack may not.

Another bit about war and the resources it consumes, is how much money it all consumes and what it does to the economy. In his time here, the King has literally debased the money to pay for the war effort. Currency takes on a new name. Funds take on new values. People can tell the difference based not only on the look, but the feel of the coins. Players may come across silver and gold coins that aren't what they are supposed to be. Will people in the town accept them? Will they have to accept a lesser amount for them? Are they worthless? In the modern edition, coins like electrum and brass pieces have been given the boot to keep things simple. It's a worthy goal.

But in a long term campaign that isn't dependent on gold coins to be some type of magic fuel, it can be fun to throw a wrench into the works. "No lads, I'm sorry, these are Mulgin Silver. The darker red color means there's a lot of copper mixed in there. Takes three Mulgin to make a standard." Or something along those lines.

Of course the opposite can also be true. In most games. the age of the coins isn't a deciding factor but when talking about the purity of the coins, the older coins may be more pure or have more face value due to people having better ideas about what those coins are actually made of. All of the sudden a few hundred silver might be worth a few thousand silver.

For characters, both in terms of character development and the sign of the times, the notion of a woman's empowerment during these times is a theme that crops up at the end. Some find that its easier to pretend to be a man during these times and take advantage of the strengths that men have, not in terms of physical power, but in terms of social movement.

Mind you, in most fantasy games, there is a passing effort to make such issues moot to begin with but when actually looking at the setting, if you're not seeing stripper ninjas or what not, the social structure upon anything resembling a closer inspection tends to be based on the same old same old. This can be fun to play against if its something the group wants to explore.

For character growth, having a family will change a body. Barak for instance, has gone from a street smart agent of Cromwell to a husband and in this book, to a father. He is not quite so quick to put his life on the line. In a role playing game, that can be a difficult role to get a player to embrace and some Game Masters abuse the whole thing by giving the players contacts only to have them brutally taken away and then putting the min the position of vengeance seeker.

In terms of gaming inspiration, there is a investigative book out for Pathfinder called Lorefinder. It's a well done short book but in my experience, running a game as a mystery can be a little harder than just throwing some monsters into the balance. C. J. Sansom does a good job of providing a lot of characters, which is what makes a good mystery, into a very detailed setting, which helps cement where the mystery is taking place. If you're looking for something to add details to your campaign in the little things, this is a good book to read about the various events in a setting that could easily be a fantasy one.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

September's Kickstarter Bitching

So on Kickstarter, I checked to see how many projects I've backed. It's twenty two. Mind you, that doesn't count Indiegogo where I've backed a few.

I've gotten music (Amanda Palmer for the girlfriend), board games (Zombicie), miniatures (Kings of War by Mantic), art prints (by the awesome Jeff Dee!) and e-books(Tales of the Emerald Serpent).

Roleplaying games? I've got bits and pieces of a few pledges thanks to pledging at a level high enough to get previous material released or future material released.

Actual product?


Now I know Gareth from Adamant Games feels, and quotes directly from the source, that a Kickstarter is not a preorder. You're helping to pay for the 'process'.

As I mentioned when Gareth first brought that up, I feel that's nonsense. Tell people that they 'may' get something. Tell people you don't know when it'll be ready. Tell people they're not paying for actual product. See how far that kickstarter gets.

In all the various projects I've backed thus far, it's the role playing ones time and time again where the taking of the money is no problem but the actual getting the product out the door is. This includes with people I have a great deal of respect for. In some instances, product has been sold to the public like Rappan Athuk at Gen Con by Paizo, before the people who made it possible got their physical copies. Some vendors actually allowed people to pick up their kickstarter packages and customized them there. I don't recall that option here. I checked the updates again and I'm still not seeing it. Things can be done to make the whole process better.

Me? I'm going to bug Kickstarter and Amazon about putting some feedback in there just like you do for third party sellers at Amazon's site. Things that cover simple bits. Was the project delivered on time? Did you feel the final project matched the intended project. Was communication clear throughout the whole thing? That last one really bugs me. If people have bothered to give you money and you can't update a few times a month, is using a digital medium really the way to get your funding? Try a newspaper ad or something eh? Things like that.

For me? Unless these RPGs just blow me out of the water, like I'm sitting there going, "WTF!", it's highly unlikely I'll be backing more RPG projects. It's just too much of a vanity fair thing where the end result may not mean to be, "it'll get done when it gets done" but we all know what the road to hell is paved with right? Intentions are not results.

I hope that we don't see some of these companies try too far and too hard and fall on their face because much like the d20 glut, it's not just going to effect them. How many other people have decided to stop backing projects because of this failure to deliver?

Mind you, it should be expected. Game companies, without kickstarter, without being 'some dude', are notorious for missing release dates. Their notorious for missing Gen Con or for having to air ship out products to try and make up their show precense. Why I thought it would be different when, it's, you know, your whole brand on the line? Well, that was just me being too optimistic.

How's everyone else doing? I've seen some I've thought of backing, but... let's look at Rappan again. It's late. It came out at Gen Con. I don't like the download delivery method. While there are a ton of bells and whistles you can get with it, I went with the 'cheap' option of just the book and PDF's. By the way, that was a $17 shipping fee EXTRA I had to pay. I can probably get it from Paizo cheaper, since I'm a subscriber to the adventure paths, the Paizo downloads are much easier, and I doubt I'd be paying that massive shipping cost. If I'm just getting 'core' stuff, why on earth would I ever support this company through a kickstarter again?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Gen Con 2012: Overall Impressions

I was running a lot of games. So many that I didn't necessarily have enough time to take in the rest of the con to provide anything other than a brief look at some things.

For example, I wasn't hip to any new product announcements or any of the various panels. Heck, I didn't even go see any of the movies the Con usually has playing.

Last year I would've swore that laptops were on the way out and tablets in. Maybe next year. Most of the people I saw were still using their phones for a lot of things and no one at any of the games I ran actually used a tablet outside of myself. For me though, it did replace my laptop. See, my laptop actually died right before Gen Con. I thought about getting a new one but with the convention itself being a place where I spend a lot of money and with the new Windows coming out supposedly at the end of October... yeah, I was going to wait on that one.

And that worked out fine. I was still able to read my PDFs and everything so that worked out well.

In terms of free wifi though? Man, last year it seemed to be everywhere. This year every hotel I was at had some premium membership you had to be a member of to have it or pay some outrageous fee to buy it. Suffice it to say that did not happen for me at least.

My purchases this year center around a few spots. As I was working for Cubicle 7, I did receive some credit for every game I ran. They make some great and beautiful games but alas, those games are not inexpensive so I went well over my credit limit. Many of these I bought because I wanted either a hardcopy reference, like the new Doctor Who boxed set or Yggdrasill, or they were new and might be handy to show players of the sesson like the Loremaster Screen for the One Ring and the new adventure. Some of it was just stuff I was interested in for a while like the new Runequest and one of the setting sourcebooks as well as some Legends of Anglerre, which some of my friends swear by, although we never play it. Oh, and dice for the One Ring. While its not a HUGE deal to use regular dice, having the special d12 does give it a bit more visual appeal.

I also stopped by the auction hall this year. Twice even. Apparently the material starts at one price Thursday and often is marked to go down Friday and Saturday. Mind you, this is in the 'store' part of the auction. I didn't stay in the auction proper or do any bidding. I still managed to spend quite a few dollars in the hall on miniatures I don't need but at the price was thinking... why not? Some of these were from lines I've bought before because they're a little off the beaten path and are nice simple casts while others were for good old Warmachine.

One of the biggest booths I stopped in had to be Cooliminornot. They were promoting the hell out of various games and had some fantastic set up all around them. Being a huge miniature game fan, I spent not as much money there as I would have liked, but more than enough. I picked up a Kingdom Death Flower Knight, which I haven't even meseed with yet as I'm still cleaning up my apartment, as well as a Dark Young.That sucker is huge. I bought it almost entirely on the strength of the paint job and its size. Looks like it could easily be a prime monster for any type of campaign.

At the Paizo booth, I saw a ton of third party Pathfinder material including one I helped Kickstart, Rappan Athuk. That pissed me a little. Some other Kickstart projects allowed you to pick up the book. I could be smoking dope here, but I don't recall that being an actual thing here. It's not the first time a Kickstarter I've backed has allowed the product to be put on sale before the people who you know, made it possible to actual exist got their copies first and it probably won't be the last but it is annoying as hell.

I also stopped by the Warstore, another miniature specialty place. Here I just picked up a ton of bases from Microart that were on sale. Maybe a few other things that weren't standard either but nothing out of touch with things.

Another place I spent money on was the Something Positive store based on the webcomic. I wanted to pick up the Super Stupor comics for a while and finally managed to do so. I'd still have prefered to pick these up in digital format from say Comixology but hey, if the guy isn't going to do it, have to get 'em any way I can right?

Games Workshop had a presence this year and were selling Forgeworld stuff. Everything that I wanted was out of stock and the guy was practically grabbing my leg and begging me to buy it now and they'd ship it free to my house later on. Uh... no thanks.

I was going to pick up Dungeon Crawler and the miniatures and the maps but they weren't set up to take credit cards. In the year 2012, when people are pulling out tablets and letting me sign for my toys on these tablets, or phones in some cases, to not have that ability well... it cost him a sale of over one hundred bones. I know someone is going to say that I should carry excessive amounts of cash on me for the chance that yeah, someone is not going to take credit but... here's the thing. That company takes credit online so if I really want to buy it, I'll just order it online. I don't. It was a "hey, this looks neat thing' and now sanity has returned so no sale for him. Maybe next year.

I also spent a lot of money on shirts and goofy hats for my girlfriend. She likes some of the stuff they have and its not quite so 'corporate' funny like a Simpson's tee-shirt so I wound up picking her some odd five shirts and two different hats. She likes them so that's great.

There were a few bits in the hall that I didn't get to check out as much as I wanted. For example, Gale Force 9. Apparently they had some new miniatures that they weren't selling for WoTC but did have on display. I went there to pick up a bunch of pressed wood bases that you get to shop out in a Chineese take out container. I was hoping to pick up some terrain as well but too busy.

The art gallery is another spot I didn't get to check out. It was huge and had a ton of people there but I had limited time so, like the author's alley bit, maybe next year.

In terms of my own patterns, I'm an early riser thanks to working first shift where that means getting up at five AM every day so I was always up even without the alarm clock. Meant I also always went to bed early too. Or at least as early as I could.

I find it interesting that the hall is dominated not by publishers, but by stores these days. The two miniature stores I was at had huge presences. Mind you, that could be because, at least for Coolminiornot, that they were demoing Relic Knights, Super Dungeon Explorer, Dark Ages, Wrath of Kings, Confrontation, and other games and needed that space. Still, there were multiple shirt sellers and video sellers as well. I guess its a consequence of the convention having a name for itself where you can make some money if you have the right mix of products. I expect that aspect of the convention to grow.

The convention also seemed very crowded and apparently broke more attendance records. Most of the people seemed pretty well behaved but man, there needs to be a course on learning how to walk. I know that sound stupid but there were numerous times when people walking in front of me would just stop and start to look around at a booth or pick up their phone or engage in conversation. Don't like, you know, move to the side and do any of those things. Just stand there like a slack jawed dumb ass and do it. Ugh. Ah well, crowds have that effect one me regardless and I'm sure I'm exaggerating a bit but not much.

Another pisser for me, is in the past, my mom would take the car and go visit her relatives also in Indiana. She hasn't been doing too well these last few years so in the garage the car goes. So almost one hundred bones to you know, park the car. And gas. I remember back in the day Indiana used to be far cheaper for gas than Chicago. Mind you, it's still cheaper, but the comparative price is nowhere like it used to be.

Foodwise I didn't do bad. We have a 'biggest loser' contest going on at work and since I am a fat ass, I've joined just to see what I can do. We get free breakfast at the hotel so it was a few eggs, always bad, some fruit, some juice, and some coffee and then for lunch and dinner, most of the time it was power bars. Ugh. Not the most tasty convention I've gone to but that did save me a LOT of money compared to how much I've spent in previous years on food.

Don't know if I'll be going next year, but one of these years I figure I'll have to go just as a jack ass who isn't running any games or manning any booths and just roam about. I have a hard time justifying that 'sell' though because I get to game on a fairly regular basis and don't really need to leave the state for that. However, I would like to go to some of the various painting sessons or enjoy the paint and take itself again some time. I'd like to check out some of the other games I never get to play thanks to my group's love of Pathfinder. Still, the whole hotel and pass fees can be daunting. Something to think about next year.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Games I Ran At Gencon Four: The One Ring

Sorry about the pause in updates there. Came back from Gen Con and had to pull overtime on the weekend both Saturday and Sunday and then some ten hour days in the last week as well, you know, end of the month push and all that. Thankfully I was still able to get into my regular Pathfinder game yesterday and because of a cold or allergies or something, decided to avoid the booze so am relatively sane this calm Saturday morning with no hangover.

Anyway, another game I ran at Gen Con was The One Ring. It's been out for a while and it's a great looking book with a fairly simple system that revolves around a target number and all sorts of other nifty bits. Cubicle 7 also had a new screen that came with some information on Lake Town, as well as a new adventure source book, all with the same format and art and style as the core book.

Despite having owned The One Ring for a while, I'd never run it before. While my friends all dig the movies and the original stories, they are all about the Pathfinder/3.0/3.5/OGL variants. So while I'd prepared myself to run, I was uncertain how things would actually roll out.

In my first two games, I had some fantastic players in terms of knowledge base. They really added to the game and helped move things forward. With their assistance I was able to kick up my rules mastery of the system very fast.

In the first game I ran, the players and I fumbled the first combat a little in terms of the stances and how they worked in terms of player going on group initiative and monsters going on their initiative. Some of this was due to my lack of actual play but by the end of the session it was under control. One of the players was such a rules guru that he had a few links for me, that of course I promptly lost, that had links to a massive twelve page index. Despite being a beautiful book, the One Ring's index is not one to make you go, "Ah, found it first try." It's a modest two pages so there was some page flipping during that all.

In this game, I didn't bring up the ability of traits to make automatic successes because I had completely forgotten about it and in their haste to play, apparently the rules guru always ran, they didn't actually take advantage of it themselves. But at the end of the game, I always ask for feedback either positive or negative and this one was one of the things brought up so I made a note of it.

In my second game, one of the players took a blank piece of paper and some prepainted minis he had and did a grid for the stances. Wow. That worked fantastic in terms of not only keeping the players in line for their initiative stances and their target numbers, but quickly and easily showing the players where they were in combat order and what they were committed to and made a great visual reference. I snagged that for my third game with no problems.

Traits still didn't get a use as I don't think the players were absolutely sure of what they were used for but I did try to go through their utility at the start of the session.

For my third game, one of the players, a dwarf, was always in the most aggressive stance and rarely got hit in return. The dice were kind to him, even as they were not kind to others.

This one traits came into their own for a few skill checks as we had several new players and I tried to make sure to point out when they could use them.

The 'problem' with a convention adventure was in full swing here though. The One Ring is a pretty rich game for home gaming where things are going to take a long time. For a convention game, there's really not a lot of fear of burning through your starting hope. There's no chance of getting blight. There are no cursed magic items. These limitations make the characters far more powerful then they would be in a home campaign because all of those things become 'real'. You might not necessarily have to conserve hope, but you're not going to be spending multiple points in multiple combats over the course of a single session.

Overall the experience for me got better and better but as it did, the adventure got shorter and shorter. The players were able to take advantage of my growing knowledge of how to run combat for example, and cut through those combats far quicker. One of the prebuilds for example, has a character with a spear that has a fairly low 'Edge' and that came up a lot and took out a lot of foes. The dwarf, as mentioned, took out a lot of foes in that third game. The more aggressive and lucky the players, the better off they were in terms of getting combat done quickly in most cases although a few did take a Wound here and there.

I'm looking forward to trying to get my players into this one again but since I'm a player in a Shackled City campaign using the Pathfinder rules and we'll still stuck in that first adventure, I think it will unfortunately be a while.