Dragon Age, TPK, and dry-run gaming.

So… last Sunday night we had a TPK in the Dragon Age game. Our characters were wiped out in desperate battle in a lost temple deep in the Korcari Wilds. We fought some serious blight owls and giant spiders — but honestly it was the terrain, and some bad choices we made as a party that killed us. It was okay. We’re a group that enjoys our RP — and we were a pretty fun party of characters — but our group is also happy to ride out a TPK, cause, you know, PCs just die sometimes. We were on a great quest, fighting the good fight, and we fell to the forces of evil…

So, we grabbed the books, whipped up some new characters and really enjoyed having a chance to dive back into the game with a little more knowledge of how the system works in play. We traded roles, tried some new things and broke out the playtest document for the 6-10 set. It was a different discussion the second time around. As we talked about our new characters it really turned out that each of us had already been thinking about, you know, “What we’d play if…” And when that “if” happened, we all got a chance to try out something new. (Exiled Upper Caste Dwarf for me, thank you very much).

One of the best aspects of this experience was the ease of making new characters. We stopped in the middle of a night’s play, after all dying, made new characters and still had time to start another adventure. Really felt good to pop right back up…

But it also got me thinking about the idea of having a dry-run on a game before diving into a campaign… When I was introducing a group of traditional D&D players to Amber DRPG, I ran a short, month long game for them, using a full attribute auction, etc — with the understanding that if they liked the game we’d play it again, that this was just a chance to see it. That first game was awkward, the auction was tough, and we stumbled some — but they had fun, loved the universe and the play style. We tried again, and ended up running a two year long campaign that spawned a sequel campaign that lasted nearly as long.

When I ran my game, Legends of Ryllia, that I wrote a few years ago (well, more than a few now…) I did the same thing, gave them a short adventure to get a feel for the rules and the world — then had a whole new creation session and dove into the process anew, with new characters and a new story. We also ended up running that game for over a year…

In the long run, it seems as if I’ve actually had good luck with this dry-run idea, though I wasn’t really doing it with a particular awareness or “plan” in mind at the time, it just seemed like a good idea. And even though a TPK set it in motion, I think we all seem really happy with our new Dragon Age characters, our GM seems pretty excited about the new adventure, and that initial outing gave us a sense that we really enjoyed the system and a chance to learn it.

How about you? Ever tried this, or had an experience with taking a system for a test-drive before diving in? I’ve been doing it for years without ever thinking about it — I’d love to hear others’ ideas on this.

As always — thanks for reading.

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3 responses

  1. Funny you mention this… I’m about to do a “dry run” with a bunch of complete newbies tonight. The game plan is for them to pick a pre-generated character and run through a “sample” adventure or even just a few encounters to get the feel of a game system. Then, once that “intro” adventure is finished, the players create their “real” characters and we move on to the actual storyline. The idea is that the “pilot” adventure gives the players a feel for the setting, theme and tone for the game so they can better create characters that fit the game. This lets the players new to the system get an idea of how some things play and see better what they want to play in the long term.

    Got the idea here: http://www.gnomestew.com/gming-advice/the-pilot-adventure

  2. I usually try to at least do a dry-run of a combat encounter. Either with some pre-mades or with their characters, but n a make-beleive scenario. Also for the first few “real” adventures I try and keep the combat easy to manage as they feel their way around the system I am using.

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