Monthly Archives: October 2016

Picking a Backpack

The Tom Bihn Synapse 25, AKA the backpack I am currently balancing my laptop on.

The Tom Bihn Synapse 25, AKA the backpack I am currently balancing my laptop on.

Ok, you’ve decided you want a backpack. I’m not going to worry about how you came to this conclusion (though I have opinions) , but  whatever your reasons, your back thanks you.

I’m going to broadly assume that this is a backpack for day to day use. Maybe you need to tote your computer and papers too and from work. Maybe you need to haul your gear to the coffee shop. Whatever the case, we’re not talking about hiking or other specialized uses here. Even if you need it for a specific case (like a bag for a trip of convention) you’re mostly talking about something the cool kids would call and EDC (“Everyday Carry”) bag.

IF YOU REALLY DON”T CARE then let’s cut to the chase:

  • Got to ebags and search around til you find something cool. Their filtering tools are awesome.
  • Check if it’s cheaper on Amazon.
  • Order

If you do care, then please continue.

When you pick a bag, there are five things you want to think about: Cost, Utility, Durability, Comfort and Fashion.

We’ll talk more about cost in a little bit, but this is probably the easiest one to judge: Is the backpack within your budget? If yes, then the cost is fine. Easy peasy.

Utility is all the factors that make the backpack useful to you, which in turns depends upon what you want to carry in it. If you just need to carry your laptop, some cables and maybe a notebook and pencil, you need a much smaller backpack than the one you’re going to haul all of your D&D books around in. Stop and look about what you actually carry now. Take the opportunity to decide if there’s any dead weight you could trim, but also make sure to capture things you might regret the absence of (like power cables). When you look at a bag, think about where those things are going to go. A few items to consider for the utility of your bag:

  • When in doubt, be wary of too many pouches and pockets. Some amount of organization in a backpack can be useful, but too much and you end up wasting a lot of space, both for the pockets and for all the things that don’t fit them exactly. Better to get a bag with large compartments, then divide it yourself with sub-bags. There are reams of bags available for this use, but for my money there are few things as useful as a 6 dollar zipper bag, the kind banks used to use – You can get them on Amazon, no problem. Toss your pens or cables into one or two of those, and any bag becomes organized.
  • Pay attention to how the bag closes and opens. There is a tendency among fancier bags to use buckles or funky hooks because they look great, but they are usually a pain, Often they require two hands to operate, or require you to hold the pack just so. That may seem like a minor thing, but the hundredth time you fish something out of your bag, you’ll notice.
  • Also pay attention to how you’ll carry it. Obviously, you’ll use the shoulder straps a lot of the time, but when you set it down and pick it up, it’s very useful to have some other strap or handle on top of the bag that you can easily grab to haul it around.
  • Most bags will have a laptop sleeve, and that’s great, but they’re not necessarily created equal. First, make sure you can get to it reasonably easily. Some backpacks (especially TSA compliant ones) require unzipping a LOT to just get at your laptop. Be careful of that. Second, check the bottom of the laptop sleeve: if it is flush with the bottom of the pack, you’re more likely to damage the laptop when you drop it. If the bottom is separate, that space buys you a little bit more protection.
  • Regarding TSA compliance – it is not worth having a crappy bag to make your trip through the X-ray fractionally easier.  If that is an issue, consider investing in a laptop sleeve and just pulling your computer out fo the bag.
  • Very few bags are truly waterproof, though they may offer varying degrees of water resistance. Look at the zippers, closures and materials to get a sense of how comfortable you’d be out in the rain with it. If you’re worried, but you like your pack, consider a backpack cover. It’s effectively a poncho for your backpack – inexpensive and easy to pack.

Durability is a hard one to judge if you’re buying online (and you probably are). Some brands, like GoRuck or Redoxx build their reputation on their durability, but that is baked into the price tag. Rather than worry about this too much, pay attention to how the brand of the bag handles returns. Many bag makers will stand behind their product 100%, no questions asked, and you want that confidence. Not only is is an indicator in their faith in their product, it is a safety net for you.

But that said, don’t just read the blurb. Go do their website and start doing a return – you’ll quickly see which bag makers really want to help you and which ones make it a pain in the ass.1

Comfort is also tricky online. The best backpack in the world is still going to suck if it pinches your neck. A good return policy can help with that, but there’s no substitute for actually going into a store and walking around. If you go to an outdoor store, like REI or EMS, they will have weights (usually over by the climbing or hiking gear) that you can stuff into the backpack to simulate a full load. Otherwise, just bring your own load (books are great for this), fill it up and walk around for a while. Places that know their business are either used to this or don’t care. If they do care, that’s not a place to spend your money.

Fashion probably made a few few folks sneer or shrug, especially the guys, but this is a thing. The backpack is a very visible thing that you’ll be carrying a lot, and like it or not, it conveys a message about you. What more, you probably have an image of yourself – a writer in a cafe, a business professional, Indiana Jones – that you may want the bag to align with. The two mains axes for fashion are material and ornamentation.

For materials, most bags will be nylon, canvas, cloth or leather. Nylon is the most utilitarian (it’s durable can be used in many ways) but since it’s the default, it’s easy to dismiss as uninteresting. That’s unfair in some cases, but I must concede Nylon is the choice you make when you don’t care.

Canvas usually looks much nicer than nylon, but it’s much less reliable as a material. There is very good canvas, but also very cheap canvas, and it can be very hard to tell the difference just by looking. Waterproofing is an especially pernicious question for canvas. Be explicitly warned – there are a lot of really nice looking, really cheap canvas bags coming out of China these days, and their durability is in line with their price.

Cloth is something of an oddball – often it’s just a shell wrapped around a nylon core, so it’s entirely a function of appearance. But sometimes the whole bag is really made out of wool (or “smartwool”) or something, and that can be a little weird. If you like it, awesome, but just make sure to look closely and be confident it will hold up to wear and tear.

Leather is, of course, the deluxe option. It can look nice, feel nice, and hold up very well. But it’s expensive, and it often offers less modern design than other material (because you can shape and pad nylon shoulder straps, not so much with leather). If you want leather, nothing else will do, but be skeptical and demanding. Cheap (or fake) leather will take your money and leave you weeping as your beautiful backpack falls apart.

Ornamentation is simpler, and can be summed up with these two images:



Both are nylon business backpacks, but they have very different external styles. Both are fine, but be cognizant of what you want.

Such tactical. Very straps.

Such tactical. Very straps.

One particular style you’ll see a lot are molle straps. These have many practical benefits because they are designed to let you attach things to your pack. It’s a module design with military roots that is super popular with people who like to use the word “tactical” in their fashion discussions. I won’t say to avoid these – they make great pen loops – but be aware that they read as “military enthusiast” for good or ill.





Ok, with all those details out of the way, let’s talk about actually buying the bag. The earlier advice about just going to ebags and poking around still stands. It’s an amazing site, and you can probably find what you need there.

That said, let’s talk about cost.

Budget ($50 and under)

If you are one a tight budget, less than $50, your choices are limited, but there are more than you might think. In this space, the Jansport (yes, that Jansport) brand and the ebags house brand offer a number of very nice, very practical packs. High Sierra and Swiss Gear also make some packs in this space, and they’re good, but I don’t trust them quite enough.

If you really want quirky style on a limited budget, then Herschel Supplyhas a number of nice options. They’re very bare bones, but they’re solid canvas bags without the risk of Chinese knockoffs. Look for them on ebags or amazon – they’re cheaper than the main site. Also, keep an eye on the bags sales – sometimes they can be amazing.

The last option is to shop secondhand. This can be a roll of the dice, but if you familiarize yourself with the better brands, you can often find them very cheap secondhand. Be very leery of packs whose brands you don’t recognize, but attentive for the brands that you know stand behind their product. They will frequently fix or replace them no matter the source.

Intermediate (up to around $100-120)

This is the sweet spot for most people, and absolutely the space I’d recommend for the best balance of price and quality. It’s also the space where you’re going to find more options than you can possibly get your head around, so I’m just going to suggest a few brands with comments.

  • Timbuk2 – You probably know them for their distinctive messenger bags, but their backpacks are also worth a look. They are well constructed and rugged, and the company stands very strongly behind their product. They also come in a wide enough array of colors and designs that you can often find something to your taste. They’re hard to go wrong with, and for a lot of people, Timbuk2 is the first “serious” bag brand they buy.
  • L.L. Bean, REI, and EMS – I mention these three together because they’re very similar. All three are primarily outdoor stores, but all three carry a wide variety of EDC packs, including their own (excellent) house brands. All three stand behind their products admirably.
  • Jansport – I mentioned them in the budget section, but they also have a wide array of very well designed intermediate bags. These guys know their stuff, and I have been consistently impressed with how smart their designs are. Herschel and Bags brands also have some strong contenders in this space.
  • Chrome Industries – These guys are on the pricey side of this mark, but worth it. Curiously, I’ve never owned a Chrome bag, but every time I get in these discussions with friends, the people with Chrome bags are guaranteed to chime in with how happy they are. It’s happened enough that I’m willing to accept it at true.
  • North Face – They’re primarily an outdoor outfitter, and their packs largely look it, but they’ve been branching out into the daypack space, and have a few interesting designs. They’re reliable.
  • High Sierra, Swiss Gear and Ogio deserve mention because you will see a lot of their packs around. They are almost always good looking, well designed and reasonably priced, but I cannot recommend them as strongly as other brands because their durability is only ok. This can be heartbreaking – finding a bag that is perfect but which breaks is worse than never finding it at all.
  • Carryology (A lovely blog) had a recent roundup review of the best backpacks under $100. I don’t 100% agree with the list, but it’s a good read all the same.

Fancy Pants (Up to the $300s)

Ok, fess up – if you’re buying a bag in this price range, you’re a bag nerd. This is a really interesting range because it’s the very bottom of the fashion price range (Tumi has some lovely packs that start at around $400) but it’s the sweet spot for utility packs. These tend towards the extremes of design or durability (or both) and tend to be produced by smaller, somewhat fanatic, companies in America. Again, a few brands worth looking at:

  • Goruck – Goruck bags are designed to go on multi-mile runs through obstacle courses while carrying 10 or 20 pound metal plates. This may seem oddly specific, but it’s actually a thing, and it makes for a bag that is well designed and very nearly indestructible. The Goruck GR1 is a gold standard for backpacks.
  • Redoxx – Founded by paratroopers in Montana, Redoxx delights in pictures of their bags taken all over the world and put in impossibly tough situations. I particularly love them for their bags, but their backpacks are also indestructible. In particular, they use amazing hardware – the hoops and zippers on my Redoxx gear seem very nearly bombproof.
  • Tom Bihn – Compared to the first two, Bihn bags might be described as merely indestructible. They’re not quite as manically rugged, but they’re incredibly well made and incredibly well designed. Of particular note are the Synapse 19 and 25 – they’re great packs of different sizes, and suited to greater and lesser heights. Under 6 foot? the 19 is probably right. Otherwise, the 25 is likely the way to go.
  • Waterfield Designs – We start dipping into fashion here because these are achingly lovely bags, combining wonderfully well done leather and canvas while still being incredibly practical.
  • Briggs and Riley – When you need a backpack that screams “BUSINESS”, these are the guys to go with. They’re so professional looking it hurts, but are very well made and very well organized.
  • Bonus North Face – North Face has a new backpack called the Access. It is new enough that I still have not seen one, as they seem to sell out instantly. As such, I cannot recommend or criticize it, but I do share that it has a really awesome video.

Super Fancy Pants (Everything Else)

Ok, at this point we are outside of my area of expertise. Not even going to try. Suggestions welcome.

So, hopefully that’s a useful starting point.  I suspect that folks might have opinions, so feell fee to add em in the comments!

  1. You can also mitigate this risk by buying from a retailer like REI who will stand behind the product even if the manufacturer drops the ball. ↩︎

7th Sea: Session 1

routeSo, first Full session of 7th Sea was Saturday night.  It went pretty well, though I’m still juggling some system mastery concern.  

The characters are:

  • The Captain: A large Avalonian man possessed of superhuman luck
  • The Swordsman: Once a bodyguard of the Hierophant, then a failed seeker of revenge, now he is a very dangerous drunk.
  • The Professor: A Vesten woman serving as axe-wielding accountant and quartermaster working on a theory of economics.
  • The Acrobat: A Vodacce fate witch who hid her talents in the circus, but has been forced to flee her home.

The plot was simple and classic – they were in port at Vesten, but near broke. They approached The Professor’s Patron (Guildmaster of Usury) for a loan to take advantage of a tip she had on wood prices in Rurik.  They met in a coffeehouse (of course) and the Guildmaster took the opportunity to play chess with The Captain (who lost well), and the Guildmaster made an offer: She would cut them a loan at no interest in return for them delivering unspecified cargo from Rurik back to Vendel.  They, of course, agreed, took the loan, bought two shipments of Wood and set sail.

They managed to avoid trouble on the trip over, though the winds were unfavorable – what should have been a 3 or 4 day trip took 6, but that was still in bounds.  They sould off their cargo, turning a very solid profit – between the tip and the Professor’s skills, they doubled their money.

Their contact for the Guildmaster’s delivery was a veiled lady, accompanied by an obvious duellist and half a ton of war dogs. They had a very civilized afternoon tea while she got a read on them (and to a lesser extent, they got a read on her)  before they took possession of a mysterious chest. The Acrobat saw to it that the transportation back to the ship was well-concealed, as no one noticed one more wagon of produce going through Rurik.  

All was going well, except the Acrobat had also been contacted by The Daughters of Sophia, who needed someone smuggled to Vendel. She met up with them, and arranged for the young lady to meet the crew at a bar near the docks.

Things went a little wrong there.  The Acrobat paid a drunk to make some ruckus when the lady arrived, but left the details unspecified (which pinged her Hubris).  When she arrived and lowered her hood, The Captain was utterly smitten (his Hubris), the Professor was distracted by a discussion of currency policy (not technically her Hubris, but close enough) and the drunk grabbed the lady and started dancing with her, forcing The Swordsman to step up to her defense.

Which meant no one was watching when a couple of guys knocked The Acrobat over the head, threw her in a sack and dragged her away.  When they realized she was missing, they rushed the lady back to the ship and prepared to go looking for her. Well, everyone except THe Captain.  He had to make sure she was ok. Possibly over wine.

Meanwhile, The Acrobat came too as she was tossed into a carriage. She used a hidden knife to cut free, but discovered she was under close scrutiny by two thugs and a Vodacce gentleman who was very clearly their boss. The boss seemed upset at the thugs for grabbing the wrong woman, but they protested that they had grabbed a small Vodacce woman.  Dripping with false remorse, he pressed The Acrobat for information about “his wife”, but seemed to accept her denials and released her back near the bar.

And so it was that she was returning to the ship as the search party came out, and when they met, the Vodacce gentleman and his band of thugs emerged from the shadows, intent to board the ship and reclaim the woman.  Naturally, this lead to violence.

The Swordsman and The Vodacce Gentleman flashed their swordsman pins and opted to fight as gentlemen while he ordered his thugs to deal with the rest of the rabble. They fought for a time, with both taking fairly severe wounds. Meanwhile, there was a reminder that while the professor may be an economist, she is a VIKING economist. One of the Brute squads was reduced to a pulpy mass in short order, and another terrified into retreating.  Meanwhile The Acrobat split her attention between the brutes and manipulating the strands of fate surrounding the fight.  The captain also emerged and pitched in with violence and luck.

Matters ended somewhat inconclusively, as the newly-cowardly (thanks to Sorte) Vodacce Gentleman retreated with the remainder of his men, and The Captain deemed that the number of the bodies suggested that a hasty retreat was in order.  There was some resistance from the crew to a late-night departure (leading to a conflict between a crewman and The Swordsman), but The Captain made it clear this was not subject to debate, and they made a night departure.

Yet despite that, when dawn rose, there was a ship on their tail.  Inconceivable!  Unless they had been trailing debris, which explained the absences in the stores The Professor had noted.   Rather than test a tail chase, the captain ordered the ship turn towards the dangerous and foggy shore, taking a highly risky route in hopes the pursuer would not follow.

This forced the betrayer (the same who had argued with The Swordmaster) to attempt to flee in a launch with the cargo. The Acrobat spotted him,  The swordsman pursued (and resolved the matter decisively), but was now in a launch that was not attached to the ship. Thankfully,  The professor lept with a rope and managed to secure the launch before they had gone to far.   The pursuer, meanwhile, was not as nimble as The Gates, and fell behind.  The rest of the trip to Vendel was uneventful, save for the interrogation and execution of the mutineer.

Upon returning to Vendel, they delivered their cargo and tried to sell the furs they’d bought in Rurik, but they did not get a very good price for them, and after paying back the loan, paying the crew and performing maintenance on the ship, they ended up having exactly broken even.


  • We have 2 Sorcerers, 1 Duelist and one non-of-the-above. This is proving a really interesting spread to test out the length and breadth of the game.  
  • Notably, the sorcerer’s are much more Hero Point hungry than the non-sorcerers.  Curiously, Our Duelist probably generates the most Hero Points, but also needs them least, so he helps a lot.
  • That point when The Acrobat got kidnapped may have had all the earmarks of a GM force, because it did, but it’s a little more interesting than that because I had the player’s permission going into it. She had a two point story queued up, the stages were “Get captured” and “Free myself”, so I was responding to her invitation.  It made for a much nicer dynamic this way.
  • When she got away, I presented the risks as follows: There’s an opportunity to distract him and dive out the door of the moving carriage, but that will come with 2 wounds that you’d also need to mitigate. Alternately, 1 raise and he’s not sure if you’re lying.  2 raises and he seems to believe you. 3 raises and he *actually* believes you.  She got 2 raises.
  • I am going to need to generate a *lot* of reference sheets for this.  The core rules are super simple, but things like keeping track of what each sorcery does (because they all behave differently), the various dueling maneuvers, the Arcana (because we have a fate witch), plus the Hubris, Virtue, Story and Quirks of every character. Oh, and maps.  Flipping through the book for all this was SUPER awkward, so I’m going to need to figure out how to condense things into a tight match.
  • Holy *crap* the GM’s ability to spend a Danger Point to make raises cost 15 rather than 10? That is, SUPER nasty, and really needs to come with a warning label.  Outside of a scene, it’s a good way to convey “This is hard”, and I’m ok with that, but in a fight scene? Can really hurt.
  • Two duelists with similar weapon skills going at it involves a *lot* of negation.  It was not hard for them to fall into an alternating slash/bash cadence, which makes the fight very nickel and dime. It only sped up when I opted for the bad guy to risk a lunge (to which the appropriate response is also a lunge).
  • I frequently found myself thinking “I really want this to be a difficulty 3, and I’ll shape the response based on how close they get” but that’s on the way it should be done. I am working on ways to think about difficulty:
    • One approach is very much “Success, but…”.  1 Raise gets you success with one or more consequences, and successive raises mitigate those consequences. Using the same kind of thinking that helps come up with good moves can help here.
    • When the players are looking for information, my instinct is to say “One fact per raise”, and there are situations where that works ok (albeit as a little bit of a boring risk), but I’ve found it works fairly well if you use an elimination approach. That is, when The Acrobat was trying to spot the traitor, I said “Ok, there are 5 people who might look suspicious. Each raise will let you eliminate one”.  That felt a lot better.
  • I am not satisfied with how I offer opportunities yet, partly because they serve two sometimes conflicting rolls.  On one hand, they’re bonuses, things you can pick up with an awesome roll. On the other hand, they’re temptations – reasons you might mitigate your own success to grab a cookie. A lot of time, an Opportunity that is really good in one role may not fit for the other. Not sure if that’s a structural problem or just a drawback in how I think about them, but I definitely need to chew on this a little more.
    • The roll by The Acrobat in the carriage was a weird one because I explicitly offered a branching choice in that via Opportunities.  I’m not sure that’s strictly legal, but I’ll probably toy with it more.
    • I am tempted to prime the pump with opportunities. Figure out things that might appeal to players or take things in cool directions and just have them in my pocket, waiting for a chance to offer them as opportunities. It’s an area where light prep may save some headaches.
  • We used my house rules for trading and travel and they worked pretty well.  I made a very small tweak to allow for more chances to roll the dice, and I’ll probably add that in, but otherwise it held up very well.
  • I spent a fair amount of time before the game trying to figure out how fast ships traveled in Theah. The real answer is: it’s complicated – wind and currents and seasons and complicated cull-to-sail math all play into this.  At some point, I’m going to map the winds of Theah so I can get super nerdy, but in the meantime, I settled on a rule of thumb – 9 knots is a pretty good clip for a sailing ship, and it’s about 10mph, so it makes for easy math.  So the VERY simple navigation rules are:
    • Assume your ship will go 10mph under optimal conditions (and remember, it moves 24 hours a day, so ~240 miles).
    • Every Journey has 3-5 risks (maybe more), which might be things like:
      • Unkind Winds (-2mph, can be taken many time)
      • Rough Seas (ship takes 2 hits)
      • Spoilage/pilferage (lose a point of cargo)
      • Sickness (lose a point of crew)
      • Danger! (Catch the attention of pirates or similar)
      • Interdiction (Get stopped by a patrol boat. Lose a day, possibly other consequences)
      • Misdirection (End up off course by some amount)
    • Each raise on the Sailing risk can mitigate one of these
    • If you support the idea that different ships have different speeds, you can use these rules, just start from a different baseline than 10mph
  • The Captain has invested heavily in Mad Luck, and I think that’s going to be *terrifying*.
  • I need to figure out what to do with Lashes that are still in effect at the end of a session. The player can dump them relatively safely when all is done, and it seems untoward if the GM could just hold onto all those Danger Points between sessions, but seems cheap if they don’t.  But the alternative seems to take some to the tooth away from Sorte.  I think I need to read the chapter again, build my cheatsheet, then see if anything springs to mind.
  • My players are conspiring to try to convince me to buy more dice from them, which suggests I need to spend my Danger Points more liberally.  I can only remind them to be careful of what you wish for.
  • I am regretting the absence of a “wildcard” skill, and may end up adding one in my game.  For the unfamiliar, this is an idea stolen from Eden’s Cinematic Unisystem – the skill list included one skill that was just a blank line, with the expectation that if there was some skill that *really* mattered to a particular character but wasn’t really relevant to the game as a whole, it could just get added there.  “Merchant” might be a good example in 7th Sea – not really relevant for most games, but for a character like the professor, it’s pretty relevant.
  • I still need to come up with a name for this campaign.

New 7th Sea Campaign

sailingWe ran chargen for 7th Sea last night. I don’t have a name for the campaign yet, but we laid a fair amount of groundwork. This is going to be an interesting game, since my tastes usually run to the Musketeer end of things, but the players were explicitly interested in the seafaring route. And I cannot fault them – the rules make it VERY easy to start with a a ship (as it should be).

The characters are pretty fun: We have

  • An Avalonian captain, who has bought a fair amount of Luck sorcery and ties to the Brotherhood of the Coast
  • A Once-great now mostly drunk Castilian swordmaster who will eventually be on the path to redemption.
  • A Vodacce Circus performer, assassin and secret Fate witch
  • A Vesten Scholar/Accountant/Quartermaster who is developing early theories of the so-called science of “Economics”

We’d all talked a little bit before chargen, but we’d explicitly held off on decisions until we were all at the table, and we walked through the process together. A few observations and notes:

  • All in all it went very quickly, and the only real slowdown came in picking advantages, since they are slow to process. I’m not sure there’s a solution to that.
  • There was a certain amount of angst that not being a duelist would be a real problem in combat. I am hoping that’s not the case, but honestly, we’re all going to find out together. Of all things, it made me wish there were a few more flavors of badass available that didn’t just stack with the dueling schools.
  • When Hubris and Virtue came up, I gave the players a choice for each – choose, or generate it randomly. If generated randomly, they got either 2 points of skill or 1 point of advantages for each. Yes, it was a bribe. Most of the players took it, except the swordsman who felt it as worth picking The Wheel (Unfortunate) for hubris, and I cannot fault him because IT IS THE BEST HUBRIS IN THE GAME (It’s the “gain two HP when you choose to fail” one).
  • The players were glad to get a ship, but it was immediately apparent that while the ship rules were suitable for a game that happened to have a ship, they were a little sparse for a ship centric game (though we all love the achievements). I’ve written some house rules for that and I’ll be doing something with them.
  • Picking languages ended up being a fun dance, mostly for what it suggested about relationships between characters, but it made me glad that Linguist is only one point.

We actually got chargen itself done quickly enough that we had time for a brief tutorial scene. I had a moment of inspiration and realized I could kill to birds with one stone, and also illustrate how the story system worked. I asked everyone to find a skill they wanted one point in (in retrospect, I would have suggested a skill or a 1 point advantage) and have them write up the one-step story necessary to get it. I took those stories and used them to craft a fairly simple scene (a barfight, followed by quickly fleeing town) that incorporated them all, allowing them to try out the rules and see Stories in action. it worked pretty well, and I’d absolutely recommend it for anyone kicking off a game. A few thoughts from running the game:

  • It is going to be very tricky for me to get a sense of how to throttle opposition. I threw fairly weak opposition at the players (intentionally) but I hadn’t really gauged how weak. Going to be a while before I figure out how to strike that balance.
  • We had a weird situation where things were almost resolved when we ran out of raises. The next round ended up getting cut off short because otherwise it was an exercise in overkills.
  • I had intended to use these awesome pirate coins I’d brought to track raises, but honestly, the physical dice are more useful for that. I will instead use the coins for Hero and Danger points.
  • I ended up answering my own question of how I’d handle social combat (answer, just like anything else) as my players went heavy on the intimidation in the bar fight, and I was entirely happy to treat it as damage.
  • The rules for acting without a skill are REALLY harsh. Maybe a little too harsh. I’m ok taxing one raise, but taxing half the characters raises (on top of what is going to be a not-great roll) feels onerous.
  • The scene was not complicated enough for context-switching to raise its head, so I’m still waiting to see how that plays out.
  • Opportunities can be tricky to come up with on the fly. I kind of want to attach them to characters. Skullduggery had a fun mechanic where the player was primed with a number of one liners that the GM knew about, so the GM could set up the moments that would be perfect for delivery. I wonder if I could do something similar with these characters – come up with a handful of opportunities (in general terms) that match that particular character, so I can queue them up as moments of awesomeness.
  • I need to do a better job of communicating what can be done with raises. Cheat sheet incoming.

All in all, we had a good time. First session glitches aplenty, sure, but I think we’re all ready to start up the adventure next session, and I am going home with 4 stories that I can use to build that, which is a nice place to be.