Tabletop QOTD 2020-06-17

Borrowing from the idea of the Pluspora Check-in get some tabletop conversation going. If you have any questions that you want to get on the list to be asked, let me know. Also, if you'd like to be added or taken off the list of participants, let me know.

Last time, we asked "In your opinion, what sets the truly great games apart from all the rest?"

In contrast to this, "What sets the truly memorable sessions apart from the rest? Do you have any examples of a session that sticks out in your mind?"

Memorable sessions usually consist of unplanned moments when something truly extraordinary happens.


I have a few, but my most memorable one was in Shogun (Samurai Swords), where one player was decimated in the beginning, having only one army left, though it had a good composition. Normally, that wouldn't matter, as attrition hurts any army that cannot be replenished. But everyone else was rolling terribly that night, and he ended up somehow almost winning.


In one Rolemaster campaign based in Middle Earth, we had a series of bad choices that kept making the situation worse and worse.

It started with a 66 crit on our paladin that destroyed his helm, but did no other damage. Right after that, we found some loot- and in there was a helm. It turned out that it was a helm of opposite alignment.

The paladin's opposing deity which he now worshipped counseled him that a turning pont was coming and that he should hide his changes. I'll have to give it to the player- he played it well, and in retrospect, he threw out a lot of signs that he was no longer LG, but LE. But we ignored them.

The fellowship was ambushed because of information that he gave, and the split that happened because of Boromir happened because of this betrayal instead. We were tasked with taking up for the original fellowship and finding and shepherding Frodo and the hobbits. One of the nazgul attacked the party, and that's when the Paladin revealed himself, killing the hobbits, and throwing Frodo to the Nazgul, who took off with him.

The rest of us tried to recover from that, and get to Sauron before the ring did. We thought that we were fast enough, but we weren't, and ended up fighting Sauron at the height of his power. As we teleported in, he met us immediately with an amped up shock bolt of all things that incinerated one PC. Another attacked, and actually did damage- he cast 'Be Not' on that PC. The rest of us fled.

The only thing good about that encounter was that the PC that had 'Be Not' was one of those players that talks endlessly about his character's exploits. Whenever he started with "I remember when Renegade..." we'd interrupt him with "Who?"

#Tabletop #QOTD

@Eric Franklin
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@Keith Davies
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@Nathan V
@Marsha B
@Moe Tousignant
@PresGas (OSR) Aspect
@Craig Maloney
@Patrick Marchiodi
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@Charles M
I once played a game of Microscope (rpg) where things just clicked. It was me, @Rafu 🇮🇹 :heart_pan:, another friend of mine and maybe someone else. We created the story of how humanity eventually left earth and colonized other planets, and we were just somehow attuned, each contribution fit perfectly with everything else. I've played various games of Microscope, but that one was special
In board games, the memorable sessions are the ones where something unusual happens. Like the time when Steve's Hunchback went on a tear, managing four of five headshots with an AC/20 in Battletech ("Steve Rowe with his Magical AC/20 To The Head!"). Or the time Dave blew his stack playing Civilization in the Room of Electric Death. I clearly remember the first time I beat Christopher Boelinger at Dungeon Twister (the game he designed). There was the time Steve Williams had ONE GUY in Kamchatka who stood off more than 200 attacking armies in Risk. Or the time my Turkish Feudal Corps broke the British Morale in Empires in Arms.

On the RPG end, the memorable sessions are more divided. The first group of memories are times when the party pulled off something that was notable - the 13th Age session when we all thought the magical items the GM was giving us were a trap so we handed them to a random Goblin, creating a 14th Icon in the process - or that has become a running gag (ask my L5R group about forks sometime ... ).

The other memories are when something out-of-character happened that impacted play in some way. The last D&D session before the DM moved across country for college, for example. The Epic Snack Run. The time my car earned the nickname 'Vortex' by arriving second.
For the record: Dave blowing his stack wasn't rare. But Dave flipping the table after blowing his stack was a new thing ...
Some friends and I once played the movie Aliens (Travelers) before it was released. After seeing Alien, Curtis gave us lots to kill. My friend Darrell killed himself and several aliens saving the rest of the group. He blew up an elevator and three floors of the mining facility.

Hey @Chuck Dee, add me to the list. This looks like fun.
added! Glad to have you aboard!
Thanks @Chuck Dee. I miss gaming no longer having playing friends around. So I play a lot of Freeciv against the computer.

@Eric Franklin My friend, Curtis also designed games. We played a game he simply called "Caves" many many nights. Characters were loosely based on Traveler tweaked to fit a dungeon crawler. The dice based dungeon generator was all his. The map, monsters and treasures were all generated as we "saw" it appear on the previously blank graph paper. He also invented the dice roll yes-no table for questions in his game; we used it in Traveler games too.
@Patrick Marchiodi we played a _Microscope _session regarding the rise and fall of the Shen Lung Empire.

Round two:

Player 2: Genesis of a Goddess [dark] The council of evil dragons sacrificed five of their most powerful members (plus the capital city of the Empire, no big deal) to complete a ritual that creates... Tiamat.

Player 1: Can he _do _that?

Me: check palette I see nothing here that says he can't.

Player 1: ... okay, I guess we know how the Empire ends.

Me: Do you?
I have a few that stand out in my memory...

Call of Cthulhu I GMed a 1920s era Cthulhu session. The plot was a professor on his deathbed who tasked his students with banishing something he summoned in his youth. I think it was the 1 starter adventure printed in the Cthulhu rule book. The game would've been just ordinary, but in the final act, the players have to maintain a ritual chant for the whole night to finish the banishment spell. This was in the 1990s when Gregorian Chant was in vogue for some reason. By sheer luck, I'd grabbed a Buddhist Monk chant CD from the music store's bargain bin. I thought it might be like the Gregorian stuff, and it was only a dollar or two... well that shit was straight up terrifying as hell. 100% from a horror movie soundtrack, even though it wasn't meant to be. So during the session, I played that stuff while the PCs were fighting off the monster and trying not to fail -- their characters were chanting and so the CD played men chanting. It worked. Too well. About halfway through that part of the game, the players asked me to turn it off, because it was too scary. That was legit the only time I've ever seen PLAYERS get scared at a horror game session and not just their characters.

AD&D 1e, the Trap Back in the days of AD&D 1e, our GM set up a new adventure for us. The entry point was (railroad) for us to be kidnapped by the villains and then have to escape. The villains' means of taking us was for their magician to cast Sleep on all of us and then just grab our sleeping bodies and go. Well, the GM forgot that elves were immune. So our elven ranger just woke us back up by hitting us with arrows he'd broken the tips off of. the GM was mad for years that we'd foiled his great plan so easily. His lack of foresight and his anger over that is what made that memorable for me.

DragonCon 2004 At DragonCon in Atlanta, a group of us ran a multi-session D&D 3.5 campaign. We each were running pieces of a guild war. I had a relatively minor side plot that was kind of a throwaway to the main plot, but it hinged on raiding a small tomb and stealing some relic that was considered sacred to the opposing guild. The only reason this session was at all memorable was that it's the only time I've ever seen D&D players struggle with alignment. About halfway through the session, the players began to question their orders and really think about whether desecrating this grave was a Good or Evil act. In the end, they decided to cut out and leave. Their characters never entered the tomb, and it was the best thing I've ever seen players do: reject the plot and do what they felt was the greater good.

DragonCon 2004 That same story arc from above, but the final session was an epic battle between the two guilds. I was a player in this rather than a GM, since there were more GMs in the arc than this session required. We had about 20 or 25 players at the table, split into Guild A and Guild B, facing off. The goal was simple: Guild A wanted a young girl to escape and survive; Guild B wanted to capture or kill her. I don't remember the specifics on why: I think she was a kidnapped child of a guild leader maybe? Or something like that. Anyway, the GMs set up the board with us on opposite sides. There was a GM for each of the two factions who talked to the players, handled any questions / rules concerns they had, and tracked anything that was happening out of sight of the other side. Then there was an initiative-keeper GM. All he did was call out names in initiative order. Then there was a master GM who oversaw the board and ran the thing. I have never seen (A)D&D combat move so fast or smoothly. You had about 3 seconds to blurt out your actions. Within sight of your side's GM, you had already made any dice rolls, so there was no waiting on dice. No pauses to look stuff up. That combat ran smoother than anything I've seen. I died fairly early on, but the game came down to the last player on my side, trying to help the girl escape. As she ran off the edge of the table to freedom, he was taken out. So our guild won and saved the girl, but we all died in the process. That shit was about as epic as D&D can be, both from a heroic death perspective and from a smooth-running, massive, D&D session perspective. I've never seen D&D combat go that smoothly before or since.

In the dark two weeks ago, I played a D&D 5 game in which our combat encounter for that session involved no one getting hit and no one even trying to attack the bad guys. I've never seen a D&D combat encounter where no one even tried to hit the enemy. We were sneaking through a village that was magically darkened to pitch-black night (darkvision worked, but not my halfling eyes, sigh). The same bad guy who created the darkness has raised a horde of undead, who patrolled the village. We, being lowly 2nd level characters, knew if we "awoke" the patrols, they'd probably destroy us. So we had to sneak through the village without getting caught. So we had to pass through in the darkness, all the while knowing that if failed a stealth check, we died. I failed a stealth check. We survived by me casting a spell to make noise in an empty house, distracting the undead long enough for us to get away.
Memorable sessions in D&D... back in college one of our DMs took great pleasure in telling us that trolls are even worse than the books say. If you cut one in half and don't burn it all (i.e. enough fire damage to have killed it from full hit points) both halves would grow back. And this applies if you cut them into four, eight, and so on.

Time passes, months in real world, and we had flying galleons, with specialty gear that he didn't think through... especially clear to me when he let us hire troll mercenaries. (Which were great because not only did they hard to kill, they were so gung-ho they asked to not have parachutes so they could aim themselves when plummeting from our galleons.)

We were flying up on the campaign's BBEG when I asked the DM a couple of questions. Happily he had the integrity to play it straight.

"Trolls don't actually die unless they are totally immolated with fire or dissolved in acid, right?"

"Yeah, three hit points per round... and if they're cut into pieces, both pieces grow. It's how they reproduce."

"Hmm. According to my notes, it's all pieces, if they get cut up more than that."

"Yeah... wait, why?"

"No reason. 'LISTEM UP YOU TROLLISH BASTARDS! Want to make some REAL money? We will pay a bonus, full bubble to every last one of you that makes it back!'"



"Wait, what?"

"You said..."

"Shit. I did too. 'RAAAWRRR!!'"
A GM didn't think it through when he told a group of us to design one item that we want. Instant tower, fully furnished and equipped. It got used as a HUGE bag of holding.
At the Windsor Gaming Society which was being overrun by collectible card game players. The only game I brought was Vampire the Masquerade but that session got cancelled due to the crew coming in from Essex having car problems.

We weren't interested in playing cards so I made up an RPG on the spot.

It was called Pirates of THE Spanish Highlands and was one of the most ridiculous and over the top games I had ever run. It was 100% improvised.

For some reason, Barnacles were the currency in the game, and when you got XP a Sea Captain with 2 peg legs and 2 peg arms would roll into the scene cartwhealing on all his peg appendages and his head. Tink, tink, tink, ouch!, tink, tink, tink, tink, ouch, tink, ARR Ye get 10 XP, tink, tink, tink ouch, tink, tink, tink....

That was one of the most fun RPG sessions I've ever had in my life and the players all agreed. From that point onward I improvised a lot more in all of my games and went from spending like 20 hours a week prepping to maybe 2 hours.