The opening scene was in the arena of course...
Later a fight in the desert...
The final battle...
My goals for this game were:
1. To use C&C to run a Dark Sun game that is not a 100% conversion of Dark Sun but instead a "thematic" conversion.
How did C&C do? Really well. I find C&C plays a lot like 2nd edition but faster and easier.
Some of the conversion mechanics included;
A. No psionics - this did not appear to be missed and it still felt like dark sun to everyone.
B. Using a variant of the Microlite20 magic system for wizards - this worked extremely well.
C. Custom Gladiator class based of C&C's Knight class worked well. The player really took to it during the arena combat. Also, the Fighter, Ranger and Gladiator all felt very different from each other.
The use of lots of props, art work and music really helped with the Dark Sun feel.
2. Run a high action, heroic game that still feels like Dark Sun
I am pretty lenient with the use of C&C's siege mechanic to do all sorts of crazy maneuvers and stunts so this lends itself to the characters feeling heroic. The grittiness of Dark Sun was communicated by stressing slavery, the tyrannical power of the sorcerer-kings and the harshness of the natural environment. Only one PC death as the wizard was blasted with a lightening bolt in the final encounter.
3. Develop a fast and furious non-railroaded one-shot
I had 5 encounters roughly sketched out. A lot of pre-planning went into making sure there would be at least one opportunity for each character to come to the forefront but, as they typically do, the players surprised me at every turn. The only encounter that went as I expected it to was the initial battle in the arena - tough for that one to get off the rails. From the second encounter on the players tried things that I did not expect.
What worked really well?
A. All the time and effort I put into making props, visuals and the soundtrack really enhanced the game.
B. The encounter design. Each of the 5 encounters was designed with a specific goal, a list of obstacles that needed to be overcome to reach the goal, and the "push" - the element that kept the players moving. Each of the 5 goals formed the backbone of the "story". However, the method to accomplish the goal was left entirely up the the players and there was enough wiggle room for how players accomplished prior goals to affect how later goals may be reached. The push for the overall story was a time limit on finding Mr. McGuffin. Each encounter also had a specific push. For example, an encounter in the desert was pushed by the need to find water.
Maybe a Thundarr-type one shot using Mutant Future, one of the scenarios out of Barbarians of Lemuria, the Burning Wheel scenario "The Gift" using Risus, or maybe a sequel Dark Sun game.
What didn't work?
- Mainly that in a format such as a one-shot, I need to do a better job moving the action along and framing the next scene. In my Northern Marches game this isn't a requirement as it is an exploration based sandbox game. the methodical exploration of every hex, passageway, nook and cranny is part of that game but in a more "story"-based one-shot it is more important to cut to the next scene to keep the tension and action ramped up. There was a brief part in the middle of the game where I started so see things flag a bit and had to really make a conscious effort to bring the intensity back up.