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Ran My First John Carter Game

For my first game I ran the quick start adventure, but with the core book’s sample characters. The players chose the duelist and the thark guide. The events in the first scene went OK. It seemed weird for the lieutenant to also be a minion since they cost extra to add to the scene so I made them a full villain and only had one at all.

I played with the rules as is, so I did use the momentum once per turn rule. The first few turns were a problem because I had to get the players over their aversion to the threat pool so they could get enough dice. A few turns in I spent threat to coincide with the ship getting shot to tilt the deck and increase the difficulty for attacks and movement/defense for everybody. That encouraged them to go for the extra dice, but nobody thought to go to the helm and try to right the ship to get rid of the complication. Over all nobody really accumulated any momentum for very long though.

The white ape was a bigger problem. If I’d followed the adventure guidance of 1 +1 per 2 PCs they’d each have just been ripped apart. One ape brutalized them. Their dice turned against them for sure but the ape was brutal. I eventually forced it to make some rock attacks because I figured it would miss with those and waste a turn. They kept on having to throw threat in the pool to get enough dice to hurt it–especially once one PC took multiple afflictions. I kept spending reasonable amounts because otherwise I’d possibly have run out of beads (and I brought dozens). Even when I just bought 1 die I’d end up with like 5 successes. They finally won because when they hit I just said “Please just throw like 8 threat in the pool on damage dice” twice. There was no way I would use the ape’s hard to kill. I’d have been such a jerk to do that.

I’m not sure what went wrong in the ape encounter besides the players’ dice going cold. Sure the apes supposed to be scary tough, but there’s no way that they’d have survived two. Maybe I spent too much threat, but I’d have had a massive pile if I hadn’t. The game didn’t run as quickly as I’d expected.

I was disappointed with the quick start. No actual ending. It just stops. It’s not a complete adventure, just a demo that took almost 4 hours to run.

Hellos!

Isnt a quickstart a demo?

I’m used to quickstarts being complete adventures that have a whole story with a start and end.

Hullo, Werlynn,

Oy, vey… Sounds like an interesting game, if a bit of a mess. Before going any further, I’ve got two questions…

First off, did the two players enjoy the game and want to play more in the future?

Second, was this the first time you’d actually run the game?

With that said, I just want to say that the Quickstart Adventure, which I call “The Diplomats of Mars” for my demo games when I run it, is literally that, a demo. At the time it was written (and I don’t know if there’s an upgraded version of it, since the five playtest characters for it aren’t anything like the ones in the back of the Core Rulebook), it was meant more as a taste of the game, rather than a full-fledged starting adventure. To be honest, taking the five characters from the back of the Core Rulebook - Dejah Thoris, John Carter, Tars Tarkas, Kantos Kan and Sola - would be a better bet than using the ones included with the Quickstart.

Forgetting about whether the duelist and the Thark guide were good choices for the two player characters for the game, since one could debate the merits of the pre-gens from now 'til eternity, I’m glad the first scene went well. Did the characters get to do a few Attribute tests and challenges before the arrival of the enemy flier? Since they don’t start with any Momentum (though they do have their Luck), some tests would have generated some starting Momentum. Heck, even the roll to spot the enemy flier coming out of the sun would have generated some starting Momentum for one of the characters.

I suspect that the reason the Lieutenant is a Minion is because it’s the first chance the player characters are going to have to engage in combat, and they may not have any Momentum to fight the sky pirates with! When you throw in the other Minions on the first flier and then the arrival of the second flier with its crew, things can get…complicated and messy.

I’m curious how you found the rules for Momentum use played as they were? Did this drag out the fights, making them longer, or…?

You say that the players didn’t accumulate any Momentum for long? How so?

The White Ape is another matter. Bear in mind the adventure was oriented for Carter, Dejah, Tars, Kantos and Sola… Multiple White Apes against them wouldn’t have been a problem, but would still have given them a challenge. For the two characters that were used, one White Ape would have been plenty for them to deal with. If the players are making poor dice rolls, then the use of Threat and Luck comes into play, depending on how the players want to handle things. I find the key when the dice start rolling poorly is the use of Threat and Luck, but sometimes the Talents that the character has can turn the tide of battle as well. Of course, one has to a) have useful Talents; and b) know when to use them.

In answer to your question, I don’t think anything went wrong in the White Ape encounter, other than the players’ dice going cold and betraying them. The White Apes are meant to be scary and tough, and even Carter had problems dealing with it in the book, so using only 1 was the right call.

Were the characters using Luck at all during the game? Did you allow them to replenish their Luck as you went on? As far as I understand it, that and their Talents if applicable would have been the only way to overcome or at least partially balance out the Threat factor in this case.

You mentioned that the game didn’t run as quickly as you expected? How so?

Finally, as mentioned earlier, the Quickstart is a demo of the game, more of a set of encounters than a complete scenario that can potentially lead to further adventures created by the Narrator.

Overall, I think you did a pretty good job based on what you wrote above.

Anyway, this post came out much longer than I expected. Sorry for the ramble on, but hope parts of this post have been useful to you. :smile:

JohnK

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I don’t think so :slightly_frowning_face:
One isn’t a fan of the system but I don’t know if he’s played Conan or Star Trek with any other GM. It could certainly be me running the system. Generally he likes my GMing (I think). He certainly knows what to expect after 7 years.

Yes. The first time I’ve run John Carter. I’ve run and played both Conan and a Star Trek Adventures.

The ones in the quickstart that I have are the characters from the novels. I used the samples from chapter one of the core rules because I’m opposed to “playing Drizzt.” (Even if I did enjoy that one Firefly game where I channeled my inner Kaylee)

No. I tested the water asking what they were doing but they didn’t present anything worth rolling for. I’d mentioned tharks don’t like flying earlier during the intro, so that player said his character was below deck so I couldn’t justify him getting the check to spot the flier. The other player just rolled 2 dice and got 1 success. That was before I got them to get over their aversion to adding threat.

Makes sense. I just don’t think his stats warranted 2 threat to add one. I probably should have made the lieutenant a “monster.”

It certainly made the threat flow freely, but they frequently barely rolled enough successes so they had to use threat a lot. I’m not sure how much that alone made the fight longer. I know I ended up with so much threat that it would have been weird not to use it.

They just spent it all right away on their next action. With the “use momentum once per turn” rule they were buying their dice with threat (my recommendation) so they could use however much momentum they had to amplify their results. The alternative could potentially have been buying 3 dice with momentum and rolling 7 extra successes but not being able to use any of that momentum for the check they rolled it on.

Threat was required regardless. If they relied on momentum for bonus dice and didn’t add threat to buy anything then they would only have the most rudimentary success on any die roll. No disarms or counterattacks. 1 or 2 dice of damage.

They both had talents that gave them extra dice and they used them.

They used luck, but didn’t do anything that really warranted awarding extra. I did forget to give one between scenes IIRC, but I could barely get them to describe actions well enough to justify different attribute combinations let alone cool enough to hand out luck.

I expect a 2 scene game to run a lot faster than over 3 hours. Especially when the system is streamlined to run quicker.

Hullo, Werlynn,

Before I try to answer the post, how the heck do I quote text here? :slight_smile:

JohnK

The editor has a chat bubble icon :speech_balloon:. After that I manually copied the beginning and end quote mark up to split it up.

Hullo, Werlynn,

I can’t say whether it’s your GMing or not, since I wasn’t there, but with 7 years of experience GMing and having run other 2d20 Momentum systems, I don’t think it was you. :slight_smile: The fact that one player doesn’t like the system may have been part of the problem, I suspect.

Out of curiosity, did you go through the rules for John Carter with them before play? There are differences in the rules that do influence play and make a huge difference.

Since it was your first time running John Carter, I’m assuming you encountered differences yourself between the rules and the two other game systems. Did you have problems with the game rules yourself?

Exactly. The scenario was designed to work with those characters from the novels. Hence the multiple White Apes. :grin: The Quickstart was created before the sample characters from the book were done up.

Didn’t suggest any of the ideas presented in the module? The idea of two player characters dueling on the deck would have started things off well. Definitely sounds to me like neither player was into it.

How did you get them over their aversion to using Threat? In most systems that I’ve GMed, players tend to be very averse to using Threat or whatever the system calls it that “powers” the opposition somewhat.

Actually, given how much problems they were having with the dice and all, leaving the Lieutenant as a Minion was fine, though making him a Monster would have just given him Stress and Menace.

That’s the problem with barely rolling any successes, thus not generating any Momentum, and being forced to use Threat. No players likes to be forced into using Threat, and that’s what happened because they weren’t generating Momentum.

With those two characters, you started with 9 Threat. How many did you have by the end and what was the most Threat you had at any time? (Just curious.)

Also, how high were you making some of the Difficulties for tasks?

Hmm, outside of combat there’s no limit on the Momentum spends, other than the limits placed on each use of Momentum listed. Inside of combat, yeah, that can be a problem. When I ran my first game using the rules as written, I realized why Virginia ran the game in the Modiphius videos the way she did.

That said, if they’re rolling too few successes, that’s a problem.

Okay, that makes sense with the rules as written. What Difficulties were you using for them making attacks on their opposition?

Hmm, if they weren’t getting rewarded with Luck through stuff due to warranting it and they’re not being overly narrative in their descriptions, then not only won’t they have the Momentum to do stuff, but they can’t use alternate Attributes to accomplish tasks. Hmm, not good.

Interesting observations, here. Technically, it’s a 4-hour game, so if you spend, say, 15 minutes going through the game mechanics, that leaves 3h 45m to run the game. That said, the airship combat battle can take significant amounts of time, and there’s the fight with the White Ape that can also take a while. Throw in the roleplaying stuff that’s going to (or should) occur, and that time seems about right.

And while I’ve never played Conan, though I have played STA, a streamlined system doesn’t necessarily mean it should run quicker. The more sandboxy streamlined the system is, the longer things can take.

Ymmv, of course. :smile:

JohnK

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Hullo, Werlynn,

Thanks for clearing up the matter of quoting. Much obliged. :slight_smile:

JohnK

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I went over what the stats on the character sheets meant to the system, and then when the first roll came up I explained how to make a check.

I felt comfortable with the rules themselves, with the exception of that one thing about core equipment that only came up because I told the players what it meant. Self inflicted problem.

I’d asked a lot of questions on the forums here to make sure I felt comfortable with the rules before running it.

Yeah. It ended up being “hey 2 of us came here to GM games, but counting all the players we have 3 people total. Which game should we run with 2 players?” so one person was “meh” on the system and the other was like, “I’ll play whatever.” :frowning:

Honestly I just begged them to get over it. I said you’ll get extra dice to roll with and multiple extra successes are your friend." Once they tried a couple rolls and got the feel for the odds of success they started being a more open to it.

The most threat was probably over 20 since I did at points say, “just put in 8 or 9 threat for damage dice to wreck this ape.” I was spending it to keep it from just piling up. I know I ended with close to 20.

They didn’t do much beyond the two fights. Repairing the gun was a 3 or 4 right from the adventure but it was during combat. I can’t remember what I set the difficulty at to not crash quite so hard. They searched around the crash and the fallen raiders at 1 or 2 after the landing.

Part way through the fight on the ship I spent about 4 threat to introduce a tilted deck of the ship as damage was causing it to start to fall, so any movement or combat task was +1 difficulty (so all 2s).

The only things above 2 that I recall were either from the adventure or the result of afflictions. Until they took afflictions the fight against the ape was all 1.

I wish there’d been more doing of stuff outside of the fights for sure. I’m still not sure I’d house-rule out the combat limit yet. Certainly not without running it a couple more times. I trust that it was put in there to achieve a certain intended affect on gameplay. That’s just my preference though.

Yeah. One of the players always seems to have a very “I push this button on my character sheet” approach in my past experience. That makes it hard to play systems that reward telling a story. :frowning:

Kaor, Werlynn,

Ah, so that’s what all those questions were about… Smart move on your part! :smile:

Yep, the two players in question were definitely not into the game. Shame that, since John Carter really is a remarkable game in so many ways and offers a somewhat different take on the sword & planet genre because of its style and feel.

Damn, but that is a lot of Threat! I don’t think in any game session I’ve run with the raw, even at conventions, that I’ve had such a high differential in Threat from the start of the session (the 9 to start and 20 later). Interesting dilemma, to say the least.

Those Difficulties don’t strike me as all that tough, so the fact that the dice were just rolling badly for the players is just someting that you had to roll with (so to speak).

Yeah, I suspect that their doing nothing outside of combat was part of the problem. Non-combat tasks are a good way to generate Momentum usually, 'cause the difficulty is usually D1.

Like you, I also assume the rule was put in there for a reason, but to be honest, I think I prefer the game with no limit on how many actions in combat you can spend Momentum on. Of course, if the dice are rolling poorly, then the point becomes moot.

JohnK

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