Topic: GenCon 2018 play report: Death Frost Doom

I ran Death Frost Doom at GenCon this year, and am sharing some notes.


I play-tested DFD several times, and I took several points from that:

- Players don't seem to be that interested in searching any more.  I had to either make an extra effort to drop clues - like, a lot of clues - or set expectations at the start that they should heed the Chekov's Gun principle and investigate everything or risk missing 75% of the experience.

- On the other hand, some players like to explore all the nooks and crannies of the map, and not in the order I expect - there are some details I needed to be careful about elaborating on, in case they reference a place the party had not yet visited.

- Similar to that, all the groups spent a lot of time with Zeke, sometimes being silly, sometimes extended questioning and role-playing.

- There's a lot of detail the players should remember.  Some groups write everything down, some don't.  Since I hate running things like an extended narration, I put a lot of those details on index cards (perfect example: the names of notables written on the cabin's exterior) and just handed them the card - then they can be actively reading and discussing, instead just passively listening to me drone on and spell names.

- The first play-test I forgot to describe the changes in the background "music" as they moved, and that's a big mistake - setting the tone and constantly, steadily increasing it is key, even if the players seem to be ignoring it.

- The first play-test I also started, but then stopped, tracking time.  That's another big mistake, as sometimes players explore exhaustively, but sometimes they deep-dive straight to the end, and the timing makes a difference.

Based on that (and responses in this forum and others), I decided that for a four-hour slot we would skip both the town and Zeke, and I just give the players a summarization, verbally and on an index card.

The decision to skip Zeke was hard.  Play-testers sometimes spent waaay too much time with Zeke, and since the whole point of this gig is the money shot at the end, I decided to err towards that.

The players were given level six pregens (although level is almost irrelevant), some with a +1 magic weapon (shout out to Last Gasp for the awesome LotFP character sheet), and off they went.

The GenCon group hit some of the cabin items, but like most groups did not search everything - they hit random items, even with some hinting.  Gold was on their mind, as per the intro statement, and it was gold they were interested in.

This group was the first that suspected the nature of the skulls.  After a close encounter with the organ, and exploring North of the temple, their suspicions were confirmed.  This group was also the first that remembered poor old Norquist had teeth.

They zipped through everything, having convinced themselves gold was at the end, and so skipped what could be skipped, more or less.  Despite their fast play, they had still exhausted time reaching the second altar (the trip back to Norquist ate much time).  This group, as opposed to all others, read aloud *all* the inscriptions, including this one, and failed all their saves.  After some arguments, and some very good role-playing, a sacrifice was made just in time to escape the inevitable.  They shot straight to the end, where a surprise offer was made ... and it tore the party apart.  After considerable discussion, which got heated, some made the practical decision.  Some chose not to ... but it no longer mattered, as that was the end.

It was beautiful, and the players loved it.

Other notes:
- Not a single group - play-testers or GenCon - tried the purple lotus dust.  How depressing.
- Not a single group tried to play one of the tunes on the organ.  Some suspected, but none dared.