Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Evil Eye: Actual Play 4

A little late on this update. We did a Friday session, but it was pretty slow because the group is fairly chatty and I didn't really push to keep people on task as we were eating and drinking. I'm a little irked by the group composition and might not assemble the same people for another game. We'll see.

As before, no real spoilers. I'll post a big summary at the end.

In session 4, we finished up everything except the final chapter. I cut down chapter 4 as it was a lot of mood and storytelling plus we didn't hit it in the railroad order. I also had to do some impromptu fleshing out of the Midnight Slasher, as they ended up following up on that thread with a clever use of a locate item spell. I also Curse-of-Strahd'ed up the villains in this (making them more interactive), so the party did get to encounter the Dukkar and do a quick combat with him, which was somewhat satisfying (and will be more so for the final battle).

Overall, I'm a bit dissatisfied with this adventure. I really liked it when I first read it, except it was a bit light on combat. Now I feel like it has very little concrete goal for the PCs to achieve. Ravenloft is often a "stop the evil / escape" situation, but the players were definitely floundering a bit in terms of what the heck they're supposed to be doing. The presentation in the adventure is more railroady than the adventure itself is, but even adding in a second path to defeat the Dukkar, the party ended up going mostly by-the-book on this one. Also, there are some really long bits of exposition in the book to flesh out the background that could probably be given in other ways.

Some of my dissatisfaction is maybe with the group, as I mentioned above. I'm just not as excited to run this as I had been with Strahd. Then there's the problem with the melee-only classes. I'm finding that skills alone aren't enough to keep players interested for investigation. I ended up giving the Totem Barbarian the full druid ritual caster feat, so he could swap out the initial two selections and possibly learn a few other spells, I think that's a change I might keep in any other game I run. But honestly, the ranger has some nice features to help with travel, and spellcasters can do a bit with investigation and interaction that others just can't. The Barbarian, Fighter, and Monk just don't get that many skills that are grand, and many of their subclasses are 100% focused on combat. This didn't feel like as much of an issue with Curse of Strahd, but I'm sure some of that was the players and party composition.

I still do like the adventure, and it may fit well into a series of Ravenloft adventures with a Sliders style plot. You could even string it along before Curse of Strahd if you wanted to throw something like Night of the Walking Dead, this, and another one or two before they get to Barovia and ultimately deal with the Amber Temple. I just don't feel like this adventure quite lives up to its potential in terms of the adventure presentation, ease of use, and playability. It's got some great NPCs, and good background on the domain, but just lacks a bit in terms of the structure.

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