Revelations from Heaven - Observations & Nitpicks

  • Hello to the echoing area for English DSA players who can't speak German.

    Somehow I thought this board would get more traffic than the Ulisses-NA forum.

    My home group and I have just started the "Revelations from Heaven" adventure. And I thought I would put down my observations here since I can't really find adventure discussion in English elsewhere.

    We previously played the DSA5 quick-start with the pregenerated characters and had a bit of fun with that so I pitched starting this introductory adventure to have more fun with DSA.

    • Two players created their own "Ordinary" level characters. A dwarf ranger and a half-elf blessed one of Phex. It took longer than anticipated but was logical enough. The core rule book is clear but still involves a lot of flipping around. I wish special abilities where grouped with Advantages/Disadvanatages for character creation. We later found Optolyth which is fantastic.
    • Three players got handed pregenerated characters that we made for them. A foppish noble with fencing, a Elf spellweaver, and a Thorwal sailor. This was kind of a problem because, as a whole, the group did not have any heavily armed fighters. Dwarf ranger was out for this session and the Sailor was lightly attired and armed with a cudgel.
    • The adventure itself does not seem bad, but the approach and structure that the text has laid out is kind of choppy. It seems like there are portions of the body text that should be made "read-aloud" text for the players. All the NPCs should be in one spot in the book.
    • There are a lot of characters and social information to pick up on, but not a good outline of where and how the players should get it. For instance, the first tavern celebration has a lot of color and information that the players are supposed to get that is vital to the narrative but not too many easy ways to dole this out to the players. The text says to just weave the information into the dialogue, but there is a limit to how much rumor and pumping of information that the players will look for while gossiping. The local tales and flavor are good for giving the GM a picture, but hard to translate all that into play during that first village scene.
    • Ultimately one of the player characters seduced the bar-maid after much talking, information about the "theft" from the grocer was given by the grocer's drunk wife, information about minor thefts were leaked. Gunelde and the Blessed One of Phiaos were introduced, I wrote many of the villager names down on index cards for player reference.
    • We ended the session on a cliffhanger with the discovery of the theft of the tithe box the next morning.
    • The BIGGEST issue of course is that giant HELL-BEAR in the first action encounter. The only character that even tried to intervene was the sailor and he almost died. The other players tried to back off and use their bows. The blessed of Phex mostly ran away because he just had a dagger. I think I would take a look at the characters involved and downgrade the threat in the first encounter to wolves. The characters survived with some minor fudging on my part (I "forgot" to attack with two actions each turn for the bear. It also made it's willpower roll to not go into frenzy and ran away after it was bloodied.)
    • Side note: some lesser-experienced players who are mainly used to D&D, kept rolling their eyes over the fact that they had to spend actions to reload their bows. This was alleviated somewhat when the noble scored a hit with his long-bow, doing hefty damage. A transitional issue I am sure, but something to watch out for with players who have not played more exacting combat systems

    Overall, I like the flavor of the adventure and the writing, but I am also reminded about how I recently find it easier to run my own adventures because I can adjust to suit my players and outline the activity better. All the linear social clues and interactions in this adventure makes it hard to pace out, unless the GM outlines everything ahead of time. I was always afraid I would leave a key morsel out of the progression.

    Hopefully we will get to a second session. Some of the players are not very proactive in play or scheduling.

  • A few comments if I may:

    • The text is most likely structured this way because it is the most likely order (or the order that the writer thought was most logical) in which event occur. For a similar reason, the NPC's are not all in one place because it is not without logic to explain a character when it appears in the story, rather than having to search through an entire list of NPC's somewhere in the end of the book. When information is once again needed later in the adventure, the book usually gives the correct page number so it should be easy to find (especially if you make notes beforehand)
    • Not sure if it very different in D&D, but in this game, the social interactions and the discovering of information lie in the hands of the players. This is also why the text is written the way it is. The players are supposed to ask for things and the GM has to answer the irrelevant questions based on the lore/info in the book, and the relevant information is clearly indicated by the book (and it also gives a few possible facts and rumors). I understand that it can be difficult for the players to get used to the idea that they have to ask for the right things in order get relevant information, but it can be implemented in different ways as well. If ever an occasion arises that requires certain prior knowledge which the players have not discovered yet, you as a GM can usually implement it in some other way that makes them discover it on the spot (one of the nearby villagers says something). Or you can let the players do the wrong thing so that they are corrected by the NPC's later or they have to live with the consequences of their actions. The most important intel can usually be found at the end of each chapter, which you can make a checklist of yourself. The intel in the conclusion can usually be provided through natural events that happen in the story. Take the intel from the first chapter, the first two points are things that players can conclude themselves after the bear and the description of Oldenbridge, and the rest of the points can be made clear by inquisitive villagers who ask about the heroes and in return talk about their village as well (people in real life often like to brag/talk about their hometown as well, so why wouldn't the villagers?)
    • The bear is indeed a difficult fight, but if the heroes finally beat it/scare it off, it will make sense that the villagers are praising the players so much. Think about it, would it have made sense that the entire village would be in awe of a group of adventurers that took down a few wolves? Probably not. This is why the beating of the bear truly gives the heroes a reputation. If you want to disregard that, then you, as GM, should be able to find a suitable replacement as an enemy (even for a group that doesn't have a heavily armed fighter).
    • Finally, the transitional issue is indeed not something the book can do anything about, but it is something the GM needs to look out for.

    In the end, what's truly important is that you can have a good time with your players. If that requires you to deviate from the story written in the book, then so be it. You as GM decide which is the best course of action, to try and stick to the book, or to use it as a guideline for the basis of the story you wish to play. To each their own style of playing!

  • Thanks for responding Thomasvp! I am jealous of all the activity on the German side of the forums.

    I just want to reiterate that my problems with the adventure are more "nit-picks" or small irritations rather than game-breaking issues, so I do not want to sound too negative.

    • I think the main issue with the text arrangement in the game is that it is written more in a linear style with the three main chapters as opposed to a more usable location break-down. For example, when the party is dealing with Jadewine the Huntress and her hunting shack, there are two or three different text passages that discuss the shack and Jadewine in the book and I have to flip back and forth and look at the sidebar to know what type of plants are growing there and the total contents of the hut. (And this is important because the plants and items are clues to the adventure, and there is a real possibility to the players visiting the hut two different times.) I think the text would have been more usable if everything was listed by location (Grain Room Tavern, Smithy) and then each location had notes about what the village characters are doing at different points in time. This is because the players might investigate something early in the narrative that has important details discussed later in the pages of the book.
      For example: when the village tithe box first goes missing, the players want to investigate Priaonde's wardrobe where the box was kept to check for clues. I told the players that there was no trace of anything to find (because there is nothing mentioned in the early text). Only later in the book (after the players have to break into the temple) does it mention that there is are rat droppings close to the wardrobe. I could have used that clue earlier, but didn't remember it. Typically, when I GM a game, I like to thoroughly read or outline the adventure and then reference the books as little as possible at the table. I only look at lists or combat stats when called for. For last session, I printed out the "stat-blocks" of all the possible combat encounters and pasted them into my notebook so I could have a writable area for all the combat when it happens.
    • My gaming group and I have played a lot of different RPGs and I don't think it was my players inability to interact or ask questions, or my inability to set a flavorful scene in the session. I think that there is just so much "GM-facing" story information without quite enough play events given to get that story to the players. The story is really good, it just needs a way of presenting itself to the players "in-play". Here is what I would do in the beginning.
      • Guneld the tavern keeper is a key part of the adventure and it mentions how she is one of the main foundations of the village of Oldenbridge. But there are no events in the story that show her as being very important to the village. Priaonde the Blessed One is the other pillar and leader of the community and she has two scenes showing her leading the villagers at the temple and commissioning the players. This establishes her as vital to the village. I would give Guneld a scene of curing Irmi the injured shepherdess, and actively bossing around villagers. Perhaps she could lead a meeting for calm after the tithe box has been stolen to soothe the panicked villagers. This way, Guneld's betrayal will have more of an emotional impact.
      • There are a bunch of Kosh folk-tales, rumors, and menu items at the tavern that build flavor for the story. I would have a drinking contest in the tavern where the players have to exchange tall tales and stories with the villagers. This way the players have to make stuff up and the Kosh folk tales can all come out. Make it a specific event and work it into the game. Also make a game out of squeezing rumors from the villagers. Perhaps every time the players buy a new item of the menu to share, they get a rumor. General roleplaying and talking to characters is effective but I think with all the information presented in the tavern at the beginning (admittedly optional) I think it is good to build in game challenges and events top draw it out.
      • I wrote all the names of villagers down in my notebook for quick reference and I wrote all the characters names on index cards with colored marker and short description that the players could share in the middle of the table. That way all the NPCs could be referred to by name instead of "the lumberjack" or "the innkeeper" . I would also have the two families that were stolen from have a more active role as background and red herrings (Oakenbush?). This kind of fleshes out the village as a community.
    • I do understand the hell-bear is a great threat to the villagers in the story, and it makes for a heroic victory worth celebrating. BUT, it also could very easily kill off a couple players if the party group is not large enough or does not have the right mix of characters. Once again it is a matter of good story, but difficult to play with. It seems particularly odd since it seems to be the most dangerous encounter in the adventure, but is at the very beginning, of a "beginner" adventure. Hard for a new GM to judge that threat. I don't think it would have been bad to include stats for a slightly less-vicious bear along with the big one. (It is also odd that that encounter is the only one without the red and green difficulty/challenge sidebar to advise to make it easier.)

    Overall, I think the adventure is a good story with a lot of character and flavor to offer. My comments are just little things that I would rearrange to make the book more usable in play and not just reading. My group has played two more sessions that went more smoothly and we left on the cliffhanger of the Blessed One of Priaos going missing in the morning.

  • No problem Greengoat! Considering how much bigger this game is in Germany, it makes sense that the German side of the forum is bigger ;) (not that I'm from the German side :S). I understood that your comments were minor irritations, don't worry. Similarly, my comments were just me giving a different perspective on the issues that you mentioned :cool:

    • You have a point. The location information is sometimes repeated but not always completely, which means that problems like the one you described can occur. In fact, the same could be said about the NPC info at times, though I'm not sure if that is as prevalent in the English version. A good solution for the problem would be to give the description of a location only once in the linear style, but give the changes that occur over the course of the adventure, when they occur. For instance, Gunelde's room being a mess after she disappears, only occurs later in the story (though access to her room is very difficult beforehand anyways).
    • I think the three ideas you gave are excellent ideas to implement into the story, which begs the question: Why don't you add them to your playthrough? As GM you can freely choose to add and change things (as is described on page 19 under "Everything is different"), and with those three examples I'd say that you'd be good at it too!
    • You are right, but then again, I think they assume that the GM is going to read the whole book first, then start planning/preparing the playthrough, and only then start the actual adventure with the players. If you do it like that, you can detect some problems beforehand (like the bear being one of the strongest enemies in the story) and change things to suit your group better. To explain it with a reference: the book is more what you call guidelines, than actual rules.

    At this point I feel like I'm nit-picking as well :D so don't take my comments too harshly. Personally there's other changes that I would like to see as well, but I don't think I'm really in a position to really change the much about the book :-/. This is especially true considering it's a prologue to an even bigger event that happens in other adventures so they might not worry too much about this adventure (though I have no idea how important these kind of things are to the original creators). And like you said, it's still a good story.