Primetime Adventures Pitch Session: Apocalypse Fairies!

So last night we got got together to work through the Pitch Session for a new Primetime Adventures game.

((For those who don’t know, Primetime Adventures is a game meant to emulate action/melodrama television shows. The purpose of play is to create a short-run television series (5 or 9 episodes) driven by the Issues of the show’s stars. Players in PTA are both the Actors of their protagonists as well as Authors of the TV series. The GM (called the Producer in this game) has two jobs: make sure scenes move toward Conflict and work the overall story arc for the Season into play.))

Pitch sessions for PTA are always strange beasts, because people come in to the session with random ideas for shows, almost none of which ever make it through the whole process, and by the end, you have something pretty cool that everyone’s excited about… and no one’s entirely sure how it happened.

I was going to cheat a bit on this post and find a previous post about a PTA pitch session and kind of map what happened then to what happened last night, but it turns out I’ve never written about a pitch session before. No easy-out for me.

Right, so here’s what happened.

First, I was running a little late from a class I was teaching, so we got going around six-thirty or so. I had a notebook in my pocket with a few pitch ideas, and not much else.

So we chatted a little bit and then I asked everyone what kind of television show they didn’t want to see / do. Tim said that he really wasn’t much into the idea of a ‘straight’ one-hour dramedy like Gilmore Girls or Felicity or something like that. No one looked too disappointed by that – I think we’re the sort of folks who expect a little genre weirdness in our TV. Cool.

Meera spoke up and requested we avoid setting things in any war between the Amercian Civil War and today, simply because her history-fu for that time frame was weak. Again, that sounded good to everyone (for myself, I was merely homesick for the “Strange Allies” PTA game we never finished.)

That was pretty much all the “I’d rather not”s for everyone, so we talked a bit about what kind of pitches we had.

Randy piped up (a bit tongue in cheek) with the idea I dubbed “Left Behind… Because You’re An Asshole”, where something akin to the Biblical Rapture occurs, but only people who are, objectively, good people actually transcend.

We talked a little bit around this topic, until I admitted that, while I liked the idea of a kind of “oh crap, all these people are gone, how will we survive?” event, the idea of an event with biblical elements left me pretty cold.

Tim jumped in and said he was also into the idea of a kind of a post-apocalyptic survival story, though not just “straight zombies” in the vein of The Walking Dead, which is an idea I’d mentioned earlier in the week.

((I’d like to pat us all on the back at this point for not mentioning the Swine Flu once the whole night.))

Right around that same point, Tim also mentioned that he enjoyed “resource drama” – where you’re scrounging for supplies and making do with whatever you can find. The A-Team was mentioned, which is a little too camp for me, but also elements of Mad Max and things of that nature.

We threw around a lot of Survival Drama at this point, and talked about the kinds of story arcs you could do in there: a hellbent run from Point A to Point Z, basic survival, defend the base, find a weakness of and destroy the Big Bad… things like that.

I thought it might be interesting to start well AFTER the initial “inciting event,” and Tim agreed, mentioning that flashbacks would certainly explore that event more.

So we tossed around ideas of what the apocalypse might have been. Zombies… vampires… dragons… robots… robots created to fight zombies (yes, seriously), then turning on their owners…

Somewhere in there, Tim commented that some kind of Faerie Attack had never been done as an Apocalypse Event, and I said something like “Well, then we should do that.”

(I believe Meera would like me to state, for the record, that the faeries were not her idea… she just (gleefully) went along with it.)

That seemed to provide quite a lightning rod for ideas after that point, and coalesced into a show concept that The Producer is tentatively calling Ironwall (until we think of something yet more awesome).

SOMETHING had caused the Fae to reemerge in our world, and those fae (a collective term that we decided encompassed everything from fairies and pixies to trolls and dragons to bakemono and oni — all presented in the style of Hellboy II and Pan’s Labyrinth’s art team) were Very Angry. The result of this re-emergence was hundreds of millions if not billions dead (either from fae attacks or from jumping off bridges when they realize that the bogeyman is real).

We tossed around several ideas about WHY they had come back, including:

  • The bio-organism of Earth was calling on its last, most vicious defenders, having failed through the ‘fever’ of Global Warming to control the human disease. “Giant T-cells shaped like Unicorns,” Meera quipped.
  • There was a regime shift in Faerie and the new King really hated us (a la The Golden Army).
  • The thousand-year treaty (involving a drunk Irishman, the King of the Fae, and a lost poker bet) finally ran out.
  • Old iron railway tracks had been torn up, reconnecting long-severed ley lines.
  • Nanites run amok. (which we didn’t exactly love)
  • Starbuck is an angel. (Okay, not really.)

… and in the end we decided it didn’t matter, or that it would come out during the show itself. The basic idea was that humanity was on the ropes, hiding out in the ruins of big cities, where the Iron content was high enough to weaken the fae magic. Something had recently happened to put the status quo in danger, and Our Heroes would be doing something about it.

Tim asked what would be happening that would bring the characters together, and Randy came up with a pretty awesome idea (and the First Scene of the Pilot): somehow the Fae had made it into the City (tentatively, Manhattan – Detroit would work better, but we know nothing about Detroit) where the Settlement was and had swapped in EVERYONE’S children for Changelings. The “First Scene” idea for the Pilot is all these adults dragging their crying, screaming children into the middle of the settlement and throwing them into a bonfire, where the audience finally sees that the people in the hoods and robes are not the bad guys, and that the things in the fire are monsters.

That opening scene lets us do a lot of stuff during the pilot:

  • Explain what the Fae can do with glamours and illusion and the like.
  • Visit a fae stronghold and see how the bad guys roll.
  • Show off the characters in an action-type situation.
  • Get everyone asking questions like “How could they do this? Why didn’t they do it before? WHAT HAS CHANGED AND HOW SCREWED ARE WE?!”

… which is basically everything a Pilot is supposed to do.

There was a bit more background stuff, during which it became clear that SEX was going to be a big element of the story, because the Fey need humanity to refresh their bloodlines (and humans… well, are human, and the Fae are hot and sexy). Plus, Tim made “Sex with Fairies” his character’s main Issue. I wrote all that background stuff down in the Series Bible on the Wiki page, so check it out.

Then we came up with characters:

  • Tim is playing a kind of mechanic-savant with natural animal sex appeal whose Issue is temptation: specifically, sex with faeries: *gasp* SLEEPING WITH THE (hawt) ENEMY.
  • Meera is playing a girl whose black magic led her to cut some pretty unspeakable bargains when the fae first arrived. Her issue is Atonement.
  • Randy is playing a border guard for the settlement – someone who survived another settlement in a smaller town being wiped out. He has issues with control, born of concern for protecting the settlement.
  • And Chris is playing a young man who was taken in by the settlement’s priest when he was a young boy and who has grown up as a pillar of the community. His issue is Self-Worth, because HE IS ACTUALLY ONE OF THE FAE, A LYING LITTLE CHANGELING THAT HIS “PARENTS” DIDN’T HAVE THE GUTS TO KILL.


So… right. That’s where we are now. Pretty much nothing at all like any of the pitch ideas we’d been thinking of, pretty cool… and no one really knows how we got there.

I’m rather excited to play.

We got our butts kicked by Shadows over Camelot, and it was excellent.

As I’ve said before, I’ve wanted to play Shadows Over Camelot for quite a long time. Two and a half years, probably. This desire hit a fairly significant road block in that neither I nor anyone I knew owned the game, and the price tag on the box discouraged whim-purchase.

I thought I’d found a loophole in February when I bought it for a buddy’s birthday, but it was not to be – he and I were both interested, but the familiarity of Catan lured in all of our playmates and when he went back to NYC, he took the game with him. The nerve.

But a few weeks ago, my darling wife picked up a copy we’d put on reserve, and I basically commandeered Dave’s impromptu game day on Saturday by walking in, pulling out the box, and setting up without so much as a by your leave.

Our version of the game looked something like this, except there were a lot fewer swords accumulated on the Round Table (far right), and the Deck of Evil Events (black deck) does not appear to be dampened with Manly Tears of Regret and Suffering. YMMV on that one, apparently.

So we set up, and I read aloud through all the rules (kudos to everyone for staying awake), and we played.

The basic game works like this.

  • Each player (minimum of 3, maximum of 7) plays a Knight of the Round Table – one of the named ones that you’d probably recognize.
  • You begin in Camelot, around the Round Table.
  • All around Camelot, forces array themselves to bring the Kingdom down. Seriously, there are more things trying drag down Camelot than there are knights to deal with them; (1) Saxons continually raid from the sea, (2) Picts raid from the forests, (3) the armies of Morgan and Mordred assemble Siege Engines to storm the castle, (4) the Black Knight challenges the might of the knights, (5) Despair of ever finding the Grail grows, (6) Excalibur is lost in the Lake, and might never be recovered, (7) Lancelot has abandoned Camelot, and will aid the King only indirectly… if confronted by a knight who can best him in combat, and (8) oh yeah, there’s a dragon.
  • King Arthur goes first, unless no one’s playing him, in which case the youngest player goes first.
  • On your turn, Something Bad Happens. For Something Bad, you either (1) draw from The Bad Deck (black cards) and do whatever it says (for instance, strengthen the Black Knight, Strengthen Lancelot, Grow the Pict or Saxon armies, increase Grail Despair, et cetera – or there’s some REALLY evil things that can happen, usually associated with Morgan, Mordred, or the Queen), (2) place a siege engine around Camelot (see the picture), or (3) lower your own Life by 1 to prevent anything else bad from happening.
  • Once Something Bad Happens, you then do Something Heroic. These heroic things are usually things that act in direct opposition to the Bad Things: Seek the Grail, face off against the Black Knight, lead forces against the Saxons, try to get Excalibur, simply destroy siege engines around Camelot (not at all easy), and things like that.
  • Once you’re done with your turn, play proceeds clockwise to the next Knight, and that simple cycle repeats.

Each of those Threats is basically a nigh-Sisyphean task. For example: you and several other knights might be working like crazy to collect White “Grail” cards to accumulate eight and finish that Grail quest, but EVERY SINGLE time a knight goes, Something Bad Happens, and if they draw a black “Despair” card, then “poof” goes the latest Grail card, and the balance swings back the way of Failure. That same teeter-totter action is happening all over the Kingdom, with slight variations.

And you can’t just place Siege Engines instead – if 12 accumulate around the Castle, then Camelot falls, and they’re damnably hard to eliminate once they’re on the board.

Winning the quests is the way to victory, but each one of those quests requires significant effort. Worse, some of those quests are perpetual (you can defeat the Black Knight, but he’ll just hold another tourney once he recovers; you can defeat the Picts and the Saxons, but they’ll just attack again next year); while others, even when won, cause the forces of Evil to redouble their efforts (once you have the Grail, any “Grail Despair” cards instead become “add another Siege Engine to the board” cards, for example).

So you can really band together to win a quest, but if you do, (a) you’re ignoring other forces attacking Camelot, and (b) once the Big Quests are won, they increase the rate of assault on Camelot.

You can spread out to handle everything at once, but then it’s a war of attrition. It’s a tricky thing to balance.

And by “Tricky” I mean to say “we played it twice and got our butts kicked both times.” Some successful tactics did present themselves, but we weren’t quite putting it all together yet.

That said, it seemed as though fun was had, and there was a strong opinion – dare I say a smoldering fire burning in the eyes of the failed knights – indicating that more play of the game lies in our future.

Then what? What happens when we finally eke out a victory and save Camelot?

Then we finally play the FULL game.

The version where one of the knights is a Traitor.

Why I wouldn’t use IAWA to run Amber (at least not with Amber players)

Wednesday night rolled around, and we were set to play In a Wicked Age. This was going to be my fourth or so time running the game, the second time for both Tim and Chris to play (revisiting the same characters) and the first time for both Meera and Randy.

Participant background

It’s not unimportant to note that I have a lot of play time with various story-games (not as much as I’d like) and that Tim and Chris have been playing quite a few different games with me in the last year or so, including Galactic, Dogs in the Vineyard, Inspectres, IAWA, and a couple others (I think). Meera’s played a couple of these types of games as well, most notably (in my head) Primetime Adventures. Randy’s played a little PTA, some Dogs, some Sorcerer, and I think that’s about it.

Significant (to me, at least) is that both Meera and Randy have a lot of play time with Amber DRPG (or some variation thereon) – enough that I think it’s fair to say that their experience with that game strongly informs and establishes their modes of play. I don’t say that to malign – I love em both, but the habits that Amber establishes are there, demonstrable, detectable even if you don’t know that’s what you’re seeing, and hard to break.

I bring that up because it mattered in play.

Now, first off, I think the game went well. We had a fun oracle to start out with, and there was a lot of stuff going on.

WHEN WE LAST LEFT OUR HEROES (read: last session)
* Farid Dafir, the marketplace snake charmer, had just reclaimed his rightful place at the head of the animal cult, ousting the woman Eil Bet.
* “Regano” al Aiqtanq, his cousin, had at least temporarily snared the heart of Kianna, the sneak-thief who’d gotten the whole mess with the released genii and the evil spirit started in the first place.

Chris was left at the top of the We Owe list. He picked NEST OF VIPERS as the Oracle and selected the first one. Tim crossed himself off the We Owe list to “just be” in the story.

The Oracles elements (from which one selects a character) are:
* A band of slavers, bold and incorrigible
* A moon gazer, possessed by 10 rival spirits
* Burglary of the storehouse of a powerful robber merchant
* The warden-ghost of the place, generous to the good-willed

Possible Characters, implied or implicit
* Any one of the slavers, including their leader, 2nd in command, or whoever
* Any one of the slaves, ditto
* The moon gazer, possessed
* Any one of the people burgling the storehouse
* The robber merchant, or one of his people
* The warden-ghost

From that, we came up with:

* Chris, playing his cult-leader/animal-charmer Fariq, who is also the moon-gazer with the 10 angry spirits within.
* Tim, playing Regano.
* Meera, playing Jessemyn, one of the slavers, who are all working for…
* Randy, playing Kadashman, the robber merchant and sorcerer.

The NPCs were:
* Natan, Kadashman’s eunuch major-domo, conniving to replace his master.
* Kianna, the thief from the first session, reincorporated as the burglar of the robber merchants ‘storehouse’.
* Saahi, the head of the slavers, in love with Kadashman.
* “Precious Dove”, Kadashman’s prime concubine, his conduit to the spirits he controls through sorcery, the one person who can put Fariq’s spirits at peace, the person Kianna was sent in to “borrow” (kidnap) by Fariq.

Much wackiness ensued. In the end, Fariq had his spirits sorted out, the concubines had all fled, Regaro had kept Kianna safe from the eunuch (who was rolled up in a large rug), and Saahi and Jessemyn were riding out into the desert with an unconscious Kadashman draped over the saddle. It was a pretty good session.

But there were still a few disconnects and weirdness. I, for one, automatically went into post-conflict narration once something wrapped up, and (a) that’s not always my job and (b) the results of the conflict hadn’t been negotiated yet, so I was totally going cart before the horse.

That wasn’t all of it, though. There were a few points in the game when what was going on at the table was sort of churning the water without doing anything, and a few points where the action ground to a halt when I’d turn to a player, ask what they were doing, and get a kind of deer in the headlights look. Analysis Paralysis, Tim calls it, and mmmmmmaybe that’s right. I’m not sure, though.

I am sure (pretty sure) what was causing it though.

Over on his blog, Vincent has been talking about different resolution systems. Specifically, talking about the ways in which the different games’ fictional stuff affects their system stuff, and vice versa.

The cloud means the game’s fictional stuff; the cubes mean its real-world stuff. If you can point to it on the table, pick it up and hand it to someone, erase it from a character sheet, it goes in the cubes. If you can’t, if it exists only in your imagination and conversation, it goes in the cloud.

Bear with me, guys, I’m going somewhere with this.

Continue reading “Why I wouldn’t use IAWA to run Amber (at least not with Amber players)”

A review of my recent gaming, via pictures.

Why yes, yes it can.
Played us a little Dogs in the Vineyard last week. The session ended on a cliffhanger. My prediction for the next session?
Interpret as you see fit.

MMO: Lord of the Rings Online
What’s been going on with Geiri?
That would be Geiri, Tiranor, and our new friend, level 60.
I’ve been trying to catch Finn up to Kate’s minstrel who, as of January 15th, was about ten levels ahead of him.
Mission: Accomplished. As an upside, while I’ve really enjoyed playing this character for a long stretch, it’s really given me an appreciation for other things… like playing my other two characters, extra writing time, and… you know… the touch of natural light on my pale, pale skin.
No funny action shot of what’s been going on with Emyl — I have really enjoyed playing a non-melee guy and hiding behind other people while THEY get beat on — it’s a nice change of pace. Also, playing as a trio (Kate on her Captain, and Tim on his shiny new Warden) was really enjoyable, although it seems as though one of us is always unable to talk on voice-chat, due to one ailment or another.

Since I never got the new expansion to the game when it came out (during NaNoWriMo), and all the people I played with aren’t playing anymore (or moved to another server — is it me? You can say if it’s me), I just figured I didn’t need to be spending money on the subscription right now. Maybe later, but not now.

Because what gaming post is complete without zombies?

Don’t Rest Your Head: All Your Dreams, Remembered

Last week, I had a chance to run Don’t Rest Your Head, a game by Fred Hicks of FATE and Spirit of the Century fame. The game is a bit hard to explain, but I’ll give it a shot.
First, here’s some color text:

You can’t sleep.
It started like that for all of us, back when we were garden variety insomniacs.
Maybe you had nightmares, or maybe you just had problems that wouldn’t let you get a good night’s rest. Hell, maybe you were just over-caffeinated. It doesn’t matter. Three AM, wide-awake, eyeballs kind of loose in your sockets and jangly nerves. We have ALL been there.
Whatever it was, eventually you got to a point where sleep became a choice, rather than a mandate, and then it just… dropped off the list.
And then, and only then, something clicked. You started noticing the extras.
An extra door here or there. An extra window looking out onto a city packed with surplus buildings, hodgepodge towers standing shoulder to shoulder, roofs angling into one another. Clocks chiming the thirteenth hour and unfamiliar stars twinkling in the too-clear sky. Streets and alleys that weren’t there before, leading to late-night markets that will trade you your childhood memories for things like laughter, forgiveness, and indecision…

There’s more, but that’s the gist. The flavor is Dark City, Midnight Nation, Neverwhere, Mirrormask, and a even little Keys to the Kingdom and The Matrix thrown in. ((With that list of inspirations, I think it’s clear why *I* was interested in playing it.)) The player characters are insomniacs who have found, wandered, or been sucked into a city full of the things that the regular world has lost or left behind. More importantly, their insomnia allows them to tap into abilities that are flat out impossible, from the point of view of the well-rested.
Aside from deciding what those special abilities are, character generation mostly boils down to answering five questions:

  • What’s Been Keeping You Awake? — the source of the character’s insomnia; sets up what the character’s immediate history has been like.
  • What’s on the Surface? — determines the first impressions the character gives off.
  • What Lies Beneath? — speaks to the protagonist’s secrets, the part that doesn’t show to the world if they can help it.
  • What Just Happened to You? — what happens to the character in his very first scene of the game โ€“ basically, this is the thing that puts the character in motion.
  • What’s Your Path? — this is a biggie: where does the character see things going, if everyone goes well? Put another way, what are they going to be working toward in any given scene, in the absence of any more immediate motivation?

I think it’s important to note that these questions are NOT some kind of fluff character questionnaire; this is the origin of the character’s insomnia (which provides them their abilities and access to the Mad City), the face they show the world, their dark secrets, their Instigating Event, and their primary motivation. They are IMPORTANT. I think I can illustrate how important later in this post.
So Tim, Chris, and Kate played, and here’s who they came up with.

  • Tim created Bobby Trunks, a genius robotics/gizmo designer and lifetime comic book nerd. He’s been obsessing about this ‘widget’ he’s been working on for over a year, but the pressure to get the thing working has been building up over the last few months, until things finally come to a head at the start of the story. In theory, his Madness Talent was that he could manifest any character from any comic book, and chat with them or make them help him (in the game, we saw Forge, Tony Stark, and the Joker), but in practice, his power was more commonly The Widget that he’d invented, which I’d originally intended to be a macguffin. Either way, it worked out.
  • Chris created Irwin, a contract killer who just woke up (in a cheap hotel room) from what appears to be some kind of surgery to repair damage done from a wound to his skull. The surgery seems to have activated his long-dormant conscience, and it’s playing merry hell with his normal calm. Irwin’s madness talent is that he can remove the ‘walls’ in people’s minds that keep their inner sociopaths caged.
  • Kate came up with Georgia Havermeyer, a law school grad student and intern at the Knight & Smytheson Agency. Georgia has too many obligations, too many people and things she needs to protect, and too much going on, all the time. Her Madness Ability is that she can be Two (or more) Places at Once. (And as we found out, when things get really crazy, those different locations don’t even have to be in the same time stream. Wackiness ensues.)

Initial Starts
As I mentioned previously, the players come up with their ‘what just happened’ answers, and I pretty much roll with that. In this case:

  • Bobby Trunks just got his widget working in some kind of inexplicable and impossible way (you feed items into one end, and get different things out of the other end — such as a long-box of comics poured into one side to produce… a kryptonite bullet). He rushes off to tell his wife, and discovers that she’s been working a starring role in the (cheap) porn industry to keep the rent paid on his workshop. Then a uniformed man with a stopwatch for a face shows up and asks for The Widget.
  • Irwin woke up in a hotel room with no clear memory of the last month or so, a bag full of money and weapons, and two men sneaking up on the outer door of the room. The two men inexplicable turn on and kill each other… and then the phone rings.
  • Georgia, working late in a filing room, sees her boss step into the room from the back … out of an old oak-and-iron door that should not — and never has been — there. Torn between her desire to follow her boss and kiss up… and see what’s behind the mysterious door… she does both.

Reincorporation and Pulling people together
Tim’s main concern with the game is that, with no unifying theme behind the characters (we didn’t make the characters up as a group, but via a quick series of private emails), everyone’s scenes and stories would be pretty disparate and unconnected, leading to growing disinterest when other people were doing their scenes. I worked to avoid this somewhat by distributing the GMing duties during conflicts — depending on the outcome either the player, or the person to their left or right or opposite would be narrating, which kept everyone on their toes and interested.
Also, Tim introduced a taxi cab early on, which is just this guy who is apparently ‘always’ his cab driver. He mentioned it off the cuff — nothing supernatural or weird to it.
Later, when things were getting weird for Irwin, I had The Cab (featured in the supplement to Don’t Rest Your Head) show up and pick him up off the street. Tim immediately said “and it should totally be MY cab… the same guy.” And so it was. Very shortly thereafter, the cab also picked up Georgia (well, actually picked up two Georgias — one from the Mad City as she was fleeing the offices of “Night and Smith’s Son”, and also “undergrad Georgia”, from a flashback), as well as Bobby. (But again, not current-moment Bobby, but Bobby from a flashback to the day he first met his wife.) Though once everyone was in the cab, they all became the ‘current moment’ versions of themselves.
So that’s how we got people together. Bobby took a look at Irwin and handed him the Kryptonite Bullet, saying something like “I think you’re supposed to have this.” Georgia handed Irwin a file that her legal firm had on him that she had been filing just before being interrupted by The Boss, and in it were instructions for Irwin’s next “possible” target… which was apparently “B. Trunks” — either Bobby or Beth.
Surreal? Yeah… You don’t know the half of it.
The next thing that happened was actually about an hour-long extended flashback to the moment when Georgia first entered the Mad-City side of the Mysterious Door, but THIS time, due to stuff going on the Cab, Irwin and Bobby were with her. A big bloody fight ensued between the trio and a horde of Pin Heads (think thumbtacks-for-heads), and lots of research (and torture) resulted in some answers for the group.
Irwin found how who he had to kill to get out of his contract with — apparently — Mad City’s District 13 bureaucracy. (Bureaucrazy?) Namely, the Tacks Man (head of the pin heads and chief administrator of District 13.
Bobby found a ‘file’ that Night & Smith’s Son had acquired from his friend “The Cabby” — apparently, the poor man gambled the “Last Memory of My Daughter” for a clue as to her whereabouts, and lost. Bobby took the memory from the Files & Trophies Room with a grim smile on his face.
Georgia made a deal with Night’s Personal Assistant, the eight-legged Mr. Nancy — basically, she would recover The Widget for the Agency, or take All Required Legal Steps For Breach Of Contract on their behalf (read: Kill Beth Trunks).
A word about Georgia’s bit here. At this point in the story, Kate was floundering a bit. She’d been really rocking the story up to this point (and rocking the hell out of her Madness talent in the process) but when it came down to this point in the story — this was where she needed to find something to move her to a conclusion, and she just didn’t seem to KNOW what she was looking for.
So I said: “What is your Path? Look at your sheet; let that answer inform what you’re doing here.”
And she blinked, and looked down at the sheet, and then this evil little smile spread over her face and she said “I need to meet with with Mr. Nancy.” From floundering to utter clarity of action in two seconds.
Those questions you do at character creation are IMPORTANT.
Building Madness and Exhaustion
As I said, Kate was rocking her Madness talent, and as a result Madness was kind of building up in her. By the last big showdown, she was teetering on the brink of Snapping. (Were it not for a mechanic called “Hope” that she tapped into not once but twice, she actually WOULD have snapped. Appropos, that.)
The other kind of “Death Spiral of Awesome” mechanic in the game is called Exhaustion, which is a resource you choose to introduce but which, once introduced, builds up and up and up… giving you more and more dice with which to kick ass, but making it increasingly more likely that you’re going to Crash (fall asleep and become a screaming neon sign reading “Eat Me” for every nightmare in the Mad City). In this game, knowing it was a one-shot, I was pushing the players pretty hard to get those Madness and Exhaustion spirals going, and Tim jumped into the Exhaustion spiral head first.
The Big Confrontation
With the Memory of My Daughter given to the Cabby as payment, Bobby asked him to take them right to the Tacks Man (who, as it turned out, was in the Central Tent at the Bizarre Bazaar, which was currently in District 13 — a reveal that used a LOT of reincorporation from earlier scenes that had seemed to be inconsequential at the time). Once the cab let them out (inside the tent itself which, Tardis-like, contained an entire roman arena), the group headed in a couple different ways. Irwin and Georgia went after the Tacks Man (he to kill him, she to serve him with a subpoena), and Bobby went after his wife (being held in the arena box seats by Officer Tock (the clockwork man) and his minions.
Lots and lots of dice were rolled (when the Madness and Exhaustion are at their peak, very little can stand against one of the Awakened, let alone three of them — the question isn’t will they win, but how much damage they will do to themselves in the process). In the end, the Tacks Man was served his papers and carried off by the members of the arena audience (all too happy to help jail their oppressor), and Bobby rescued his wife… then promptly Crashed and collapsed from exhaustion in the middle of a giant arena crowd with more than a few nightmares lurking within. Not good. Not good at all.
Post-Game Analysis: Biggest Powers, Stumbling Blocks, and Satisfaction
Kate had, earlier, voiced some concern that her little “Two places at once” power would never have the oomph of Tim’s “every super hero in the world is helping me” Madness talent. In play, nothing could have been further from the truth, as Georgia’s ability to manifest multiple (sometimes hundreds) of herself, or manifest younger or older versions of herself to act in previous or pending time-streams turned out to be THE premiere talent of the game.
As a group, we had to work hard to get everyone’s ‘stuff’ intertwingled enough to resolve people’s stories within the one-shot, but it worked. In hindsight, we decided that group character creation (we did it over email) or more ‘public’ character creation via email (letting people know each other’s histories and background) would have really helped during the game, especially when it was one of the other players narrating another person’s scene. Useful information to have for the next time.
But was the game fun? I’d answer a resounding yes to this — the creativity and just playing weirdness that everyone brought to their narrations and play just entertained the hell out of me, and all in all I thought it was a wild, surreal, and sometimes even poignant trip. Would I like to play it again sometime? I repeat: hell yeah. Hell, I’d like to play the cabbie. ๐Ÿ™‚ It wasn’t the ‘horror’ game I’d had in mind, but it was definitely full of disturbing and weird imagery and events. Like any good story, it didn’t give me quite the thing I’d expected, but what it chose to give me instead, I enjoyed.
And now, hands aching, I’m done with this recap.

Gaming recap and the dangers of a character concept

Not a lot of gaming going on, but what there was is worth a comment or two.
My MMO time has been entirely Lord of the Rings Online time lately. Wrath of the Lich King is out, but I haven’t picked it up largely because I don’t really have anyone to play with and any urges I might have to hit the new level cap are curiously absent (or redirected to LotRO). Likewise, I haven’t been playing WAR very much (or at all, since November 2nd), after a fiasco during a server transfer left me without my highest level Destruction character. Lee’s in his mid-30s now and my highest is level 8, so there’s not a lot of draw there. One or the other of those two games is going to stop getting my monthly subscription for awhile, I think.
But I’ve been having a great time in LotRO. With the Mines of Moria expansion (as a new expeditionary force of Durin’s Folk reenters Khazad-dum to learn what happened to Balin… and perhaps mask and muddle the passage of the Fellowship) a raised level cap, new classes, and new epic battles (a new Raid instance that pits you and 11 of your kin against the Watcher that was driven into the deeps below the 21st Hall)… well, I’m a happy dwarf, cruising toward level 60 (57 right now) at an exTREMEly leisurely and enjoyable pace.
One of the best things they’ve added to the game have been at least a dozen small-group dungeons designed either for solo play or 3-person groups, and in both cases able to be completed in less than an hour, and sometimes in as little as 15 minutes. Gone are the days when you need at least five other people and five hours of play to work through a massive instance filled with crowds of “trash” monsters to get to the good fights — LotRO’s largely dumped those designs in favor of smaller areas with less trash that you and two (and in some cases only one) of your friends can tear through in 30 minutes for great rewards (and 3 or 4 boss fights). All I can say is “Kudos” and “Where do I sign up?”
I’m also working on getting my Captain leveled up into the range of the expansion, but most of my non-Geiri time has been chewed up on an quixotic series of character re-rolls I suckered myself into.
See, one of our friends got started on LotRO, so I thought I’m make up an alt to play along with him. I’m interested in both of the new classes in the expansion (the agility+medium armor warden and Words-Have-Power Runekeeper), but as he was already playing a warden, I opted for the Runekeeper. Only the elder races (elves and dwarves) really understand the power that words can have in Middle-earth, and given those two choices, I’m obviously going to make a dwarf. While poking around in the starting area and chuckling over the names of the Runekeeper abilities (“shocking words”, “fiery rhetoric” or the threat-reducing “Master of Allusion”), I got to thinking about writers, writer-archetypes, dwarven stereotypes (drunk scotsmen) and bucking dwarven stereotypes (drunk RUSSIANS!) and found it very amusing to model the concept for the character off of a drunk, russian author I like. The name field wouldn’t accept Bรปkoskรจ, so I settled on another name.
And then some stupid part of my head whispered “you should try to get the “Undying” title.”
“Pff,” I said.
“A drunken, undying writer who can only create when he’s sober and can only bear the horrors of battle when he’s drunk?” It suggested.
“Whoa…” I was intrigued.
I was also distracted, and got my guy killed in the process.
So I deleted him, recreated the same guy again, and started over.
You see, to get the Undying title, you have to make it to level 20 without being defeated. At all. The best I’ve ever done is 13.
A week went by, with me cursing at bad luck, worse luck, and (to be fair) a couple really bone-headed moves on my part that got Attempts #1 through #6 killed, usually somewhere around level 13. In a way, it was a microcosm of the entire MMO experience: the joy of creation, the thrill of play, the disappointment when your plan and vision didn’t pan out, the abandonment of the character, and wondering why I’d just wasted the last two days. It got to be a vicious circle; if I made a different guy, or gave up, then not only would I not get the title, but all the time I’d spent on the damned project was wasted as well. (Seriously: the average of my six attempts totaled six level 11.8 characters in about one week. In that same amount of time, our friend had got his warden to level 16.) This is the danger of having a character concept. ๐Ÿ˜›
I rerolled one last time, declared (read: promised Kate) that This Was The Last Guy, No Matter What.
And I got to level 14. (Emyl the Undefeated)
And I got to level 17. (Emyl the Unscathed)
And, playing on a crappy wireless broadband connection in South Dakota, I got to level 20. (Emyl the Undying, Honourary Sheriff, Member of the Inn League, and (far more relevant) Sage of Fine Spirits)
A day or so later, I promptly pulled about a half-dozen goblins down on my head. BUT I GOT MY TITLE, DAMN IT.
Strange as it seems, I got a little tabletop gaming in while off in South Dakota. I sat down with my niece and nephew and played some Shadows. Malik (9) and Jadyn (5) were sleeping in the upstairs of their great-grandmother’s house (where we’d all just spent a day having both Christmas lunch and dinner) when they were woken by a strange noise. Investigating, they discovered a goblin was stealing the pies from the sideboard down in the basement and tossing them through a small, green-glowing doorway under the stairs to a waiting partner. Malik grabbed a skillet and smacked the thief on the head and tossed him in the fireplace, while his sister threatened the other with a plastic pie knife (“childhood, red in tooth and claw”). Then it was time for lunch, so we didn’t have time to crawl through that door-under-stair and see what was on the other side.
Best exchange?
Malik: “I have a pan, so you should grab a knife.”
Jadyn: “Okay, I’m going to get one like that green one that momma has at home.”
Malik: “That’s PLASTIC!”
Jadyn: “Yeah, but it’s the only one I’m allowed to use.”
Malik: “Oh. Right. That’s good.”
Priceless. I’m looking forward to getting some other gaming going soon.

Week in Review

Hmm. Let’s see what was going on.
In general
I haven’t been feeling very well. I haven’t been sleeping well or enough.
Syncerus is about half a level away from the level-cap, so that’ll happen pretty quick; this week, I’d think. It has taken me about 240 hours less playtime to get him to this point than it did on Grezzk. Given how much time I spend playing, that works out to getting him to 70 roughly three months faster.
And what then? Well, I’ve been amassing a lot of “requires level 70” gear for Syn, so when he dings I should be able to step into some fairly significant upgrades.
For healing, I’m already wearing the about a quarter of the stuff that I’ll take into end-game. I have a lot of the rest waiting in the bank — when 70 hits I should be doing VERY well on the stats I need. I’m actually ALREADY at the ‘ready for raiding’ level on my mana and mana regen rates — I need a bit more health (should come with the gear) and a bit more bonus to healing (ditto) for the entry-level raids… more than that to really walk in with the big boys to the big raids.
For tanking, I don’t have quite as much of the gear I need, though oddly, what I *do* have is for all the slots I haven’t been able to fill in as a healer — weird luck there.
So what do I want to do?
I’ve REALLY enjoyed healing in pvp battlegrounds — I know pvp well enough to know when my healing has turned the tide of a fight, and lemme tell you, that happens a LOT — having that kind of influence on a fight is really cool. Plus, it’s good practice — after pvp, healing a five-man dungeon run is a piece of cake.
Tanking… is just that. Tanking. I’ve done that a lot (and I get a good “sword and board” tanking ‘fix’ with Geiri on LotRO), so that’s all fine, but it’s not new. Healing is new — it’s more than a new area in WoW, it’s like playing an entirely new game. That said, I *do* have decent tanking skills, even in WoW, and I’ve tanked a fair amount of stuff in the end-game. Plus, as tanks are more in demand than healers (barely), being willing to tank kind of ensures I can get a group for whatever I need. As a bonus, if I get a tell like “we can take you if you can heal/dps — we already have a tank”, i can do that to.
I dunno. I like healing. We’ll see when I hit 70, I guess. I’m out of ‘rested’ xp bonus right now, so that might take a few days to do. In the meantime, i’m going to hit Battlegrounds for more honor — the battlemasters have a belt (and bear-form shoulderguards) I want…
Man I like playing this guy.
For the content my guild is doing (Working on Kaelthas in tier 5, hitting Mount Hyjal), there is very little stuff I can upgrade on Grezzk until the new expansion comes out. Syn is the main reason I log in right now — I just run Grez for a little bit each night to earn gold.
I can’t get LotRO to run reliably on my (old, tired) desktop right now, and I didn’t have a (either) LotRO-capable laptop home with me this weekend, so I haven’t played.
The game day for Sunday was called due to lack of interest. Next weekend I’ll miss the Colorado Springs one cuz I’ll be at a company picnic up in the mountains (tries to make an excited face).
Looking forward to (a) the DnD game, where the group is about to hit an encounter that has caused a lot of other groups to wipe, and (b) playing some more In a Wicked Age with Lee and De.

Gaming Update

Haven’t done one of these in awhile, mostly because I’d been updating WoW and LotRO play stuff using Twitter. However, Twitter’s API went completely kerflooey a month ago or so, which means that, since Twitter never updates in my feedreader anymore, I rarely think about it, and thus, never update it.
So, until I come up with another, better way to just give MMO character updates on the fly, here’s everything going on with anything that could be considered gaming.
I mostly just log Grez on for raiding and running a few ‘daily’ (repeatable each day) quests for cash. My guild has finished off Vashj, and is the only Hordeside guild to have done so on my server (Farstriders). We’re currently working on Kaelthas, the Blood elf ‘prince’, who is the other boss at the same Tier of difficulty as Vashj, and I’d expect he’ll go down in the next week or so… this will ALSO be a boss kill that no one on the Horde side of our server has completed.
Grezzk is pretty well geared at this point, because I’ve been working on such things and I’m considered a ‘contributing’ member of the raid, but one recent ‘gear ding’ made me very happy: I just got the second piece of a four-piece ‘set’ of items available only to raiders hitting the high level of content that we are. (In wow-speak: The Tier Five two-piece set bonus for hunters.) Getting two pieces of that ‘set’ gives me a really awesome bonus ability: every time I hit something, I heal my pet for 15% of whatever my damage was.
Just… ponder that for a second. If you don’t do wow, work it out for whatever game you DO play, where you have a pet. You’re on CoH? Okay… you hit a bad guy for 100 points and your Jack Frost heals 15 points.
As an added bonus, the threat generated by that heal doesn’t count toward me — it counts as the pet healing itself, so it actually helps the pet hold aggro and tank for me when I’m soloing, which is AWESOME – I do so much damage now that it’s really hard for my pet to really tank anything for more than a few seconds before my damage output convinces the target that I’m the (far) more serious threat.
Druids in WoW are a bit like Kheldians in CoH, only much, much better. Depending on the way I spec, I can play him as a Tank + backup Melee damage-dealer, a viable main healer, or a ranged damage-dealer (which I already have with Grezzk and have no intention of doing with Syn).
This kind of versatility has been a total joy to level with. I’m specced heavily into Tanking/melee, with a few good low-end abilities out of the healing tree. That, plus effort on my part to have both a good set of tanking gear and a good set of healing gear means that I can solo to my heart’s content as an extremely viable ‘big cat’ form (with stealth, which makes things even more fun), and then join a five-man dungeon run as either the Tank, the Healer (I’ve actually healed as many runs as I’ve tanked), or even melee damage.
When I want a break, I just strap on my healing gear and join a PvP battleground and heal like crazy — it’s great practice for when a regular old PvE dungeon fight goes haywire and everyone (including me) starts taking damage… plus I earn a ton of Honor I’ll be able to use at level 70 for some huge gear upgrades.
My goal is to get him to 70 as fast as possible (I’m at level 66, and it’s taken me approximately half as much time as it took me on Grezzk), respec into full-on healing mode, and join in the Raiding fun with the rest of the guild. Once I hit 70, I think about a few serious runs of some end-game content will get me to the point where I can actually contribute well to even the toughest of the raids we’re doing — I already have about half the gear I need (8 items) to be a viable raid-level healer.
Geiri and Tiranor (“Geiranor”) have leveled up to 46-of-50 in Lord of the Rings, and we’re well and truly into some interesting end-game content.
The progression of the storyline in the game has us to the point where the Fellowship is in Rivendell and is ready to leave on their great journey, but unable to leave because one of the Nine survived the attack at the Fords of Bruinen and is slinking around the Trollshaws and the Misty Mountains, spying on Rivendell. Gandalf surmises (rightly) that if the Fellowship set out while a Nazgul was around to report back to Moria, they’d all be dead inside a week.
So you have to eliminate that threat.
Yeah… we defeated a Nazgul, baby. (As part of a full team, but still.) Big epic fight in an old dwarf ruin in the Misty Mountains. The ground trembled and the walls shook, and when it was all said and done, the bastard went down. Pretty damn cool.
So we’ve four more levels to go to fifty, and I think something like seven more “books” of epic storyline to play through before Mines of Moria drops sometime later this year.
And we have a few alts we want to level. Kate took some time this week on her minstrel an rocketed up like 4 or 5 levels. It’s NOT hard to find a big group willing to help you with your quests when you’re a healer, I guess. WHO KNEW.
Why is that we can easily get five people to the table with short notice for a DnD game, but we can’t get three together reliably for something like In a Wicked Age on even a monthly basis?
4th edition is fun for what it’s good at. I’m kind of eliding the roleplaying stuff at this point while we learn the rules a bit more, and that means we’re doing a lot of fights, but the fights are fun.
in non-dnd news, Colorado Story Game is doing a gameday up at the Casa this coming weekend. I’ll either be running IaWA or The Mountain Witch, probably. I’d like to do more In a Wicked Age with Lee and De and Kate… the In a Wuxia Age with Dave and Margie and Kate… and Spirit of the Century.
Yeah… more Spirit of the Century would be GOOD. I keep thinking that being able to put Aspects on the Scene is the perfect way to reflect the kind of subtle magic you see in the Lord of the Rings books.

Actual Play: Keep on the Shadowfells, Session One

As I mentioned, had a chance to play the first couple events in the sort of “DnD 4th Edition Lite” Keep on the Shadowfells. What you get with this game is basically a DnD Lite version of the rules (somewhat too light in a few places — would have helped to know a few things that aren’t mentioned in the 16 page rules booklet, but it worked out), 5 pregenned characters with all the math worked out and put on a nice, easy to read sheet and their first two level-ups already worked out, and an 80-page adventure… a pretty good one, at that.
Oh, and you get all the maps you’ll need for any combat, so when I fight starts, you just lay out the map, drop down the tokens, and go at it.
Stuff I noticed about the game
1. In MSExcel-speak, 4e still tests as “True” for whatever value you assign to “Dungeons & Dragons.” A lot of people have been busting on it, saying that it’s all-combat, all the time, and there’s no support for anything else, etc. etc. This has pretty much been true for every iteration of the game. The people saying such things are very silly. We haven’t had a chance to do a skill challenge yet, but when we do, I expect good things.
2. You really do need mini’s or good counters to play this thing. I need to get better wood discs than the ones I made — smaller, and less splintery. Either pre-made, or I need to get a 3/4″ dowel and get a MUCH finer-toothed blade for the saw.
3. Combat is a lot more interesting than it’s been before, because…
3A. Everyone can contribute meaningfully to the fight, even/especially the (traditionally useless) first-level Wizard.
3B. Everyone can do a lot of crazy maneuvers and funky stuff. It’s entirely possible for everyone to “Use their Nuke” and really do something awesome.
3C. We did not make full use of it, but I did see that classes are designed to have serious synergy in combat: the Cleric’s maneuvers set up Paladin’s maneuvers set up Fighter’s maneuvers. You’re really a TEAM now. Heaven help me when Margie and Kate start coordinating their respective ‘battlefield control’ abilities — they started to get a handle on them by the middle of the second fight and suddenly my super-mobile Kobolds had a VERY difficult time moving around.
3D. The monsters are really a team too. I played stupidly with the Wyrmpriest in the second fight. I should have bombed guys with his acid bomb ability from long range for awhile first, THEN come in and drop his two AoE attacks once the battlefield set up.
3E. The monsters require so much less book-keeping than before.
3F. A lot of the crazy 3e complications are now much simpler.
3G. There’s some better rules on building an encounter so that terrain, traps, conditions, etc., matter more–the scene is more interactive… there are many more ways to interact and use terrain.
4. On the other hand, while fights require more intelligence and imagination than prior editions’ Rock-em Sock-em Robots combat system, fights last a long time.
5. There’s a disconnect at the table, because most of use have played 3.0 and 3.5 before — I’ve played a LOT, Dave and Margie and Jackie played quite a bit, and Kate’s played less, but MUCH more recently — so when a rule in 4.0 is different from 3.5, there was a bit of shock… sometimes it was “is that a new rule or a Doyce Houserule?” (disclaimer: I used no houserules) and stuff I remember from 3.5 that isnt’ true anymore (Example: Standing up from being prone doesn’t cause an Opportunity Attack — in fact a LOT less stuff does, which makes it easier to deal with… but leaves veterans with the niggling suspicion that we’re forgetting to do something.)
6. In previous editions, each class had a very different feel: if you were a 1st level Magic-User, you had to play the game very differently than a 1st level Fighter. This difference is FAR less pronounced now. Also, the classes that are “simple” versus “complicated” have changed. Paladins and clerics have a LOT of stuff on their sheets. Rogues LOOK simpler than that, but the way you apply what they can do during a fight is pretty advanced stuff.
7. There is pretty much no effort to make the mechanics hyper-realistic. Hit points are as much “morale” as they are “health”, and that kind of logic is the only way some abilities make sense. I like it.
Stuff I noticed about the play
1. All the characters are awesome. I want to play a fully tank-specced dwarven fighter so much I can taste it. Similarly, I think a rogue with a rapier, a ranged weapon (vs. twin-blade) ranger, and a cleric would all be a ton of fun. There are really no classes that, when reading about them in the PHB, didn’t sound fun and worth checking out.
2. Christ, but we are a persnickety, particular, optimizing bunch of nitwits. I mention this solely because Katherine played with us last night, running the rogue, and by the end of the night I felt positively terrible for her, because the nice nurturing adults just could. not. let. her. play. her. guy. and just do whatever she wanted, because there was a tactically better move to be made somewhere. We need to let her just ‘go in and hit that guy’ for awhile before we worry about shit like flanking and such. Let her GET flanked once or twice, and I guarantee she’ll learn to do it herself.
3. Along the same lines: good lord we’re terrified of taking an Opportunity Attack. Damn.
4. I was tired, and Kate was flat out exhausted — really, we shouldn’t have played, but I’m glad we did — it would have been close to a month before we could have gotten these specific people to the table again, and it was nice to pull out all the dice and really beat on stuff.
What happened?
Oh, Margie’s guy is friends with a sort of professional adventurer guy. Said guy is haring off on one of his wild adventures to find a Dragon’s burial site. He’ll be back in a month. It’s been three month’s and the guy’s wife comes to margie and guilts her into going and looking for him. Said dwarf recruits several mutual acquaintances to come with. His drinking pal the mage. The paladin he knows from the warrior’s guild. The cleric the paladin is tight with… and the rogue that the cleric has turned into a little “rehabilitation side-project.”
Right. Oh, and when word gets out that the priest and paladin are headed for Winterhaven, a friend of theirs in the temple who researches such things drops in while they’re packing and advises them to keep on the lookout for a death cult that was spotted heading that direction about a year ago. “You know, just in case. Sure it’s nothing. Ta-ta.”
So they’re traveling to the town and about three days in and getting close to the town they get waylaid by bandits. Little lizardmen- kobolds. There is fighting. The slinger gets away and the others die.
The group gets to town and starts talking to folks, asking after the dwarf’s buddy. Clues are had. The paladin approaches the Lord of the town and gets a promise of reward if they wipe out the kobolds that are harassing the town.
So they have to decide about what to do next: go down to the rumored dragon’s graveyard to look for the missing guy, or head for the Kobold camp? (Or even head for the old abandoned keep from the fallen empire, up in the hills — the one either haunted, or infested with goblins, or both.) They decide that the dwarf’s buddy is the first priority.
They head south out of town and are ambushed by more kobolds — a bit tougher group. The slinger had run back to camp and told such a tale of horror about the adventurers that some bigger guns were called out.
There was more fighting. A lot of “once per day” powers made an appearance, some of which healed the party for large amounts, others of which set large patches of foliage on fire. The group came out of the fight largely unscratched (thanks to healing) but with some of their bigger powers already used up for the day. They’re a little shaky about if they should move on or rest up. *mutters about over-cautious heroes*
And that’s when we called it for the night. I had a good time. I hope we play again.
At the same time? It made me really appreciate the kind of play we have with In a Wicked Age. Different (very), but also very good. I should always make sure to have a copy of that game with me when heading to someone’s house.
As a side note: I’m rolling all my dice out in front of everyone. No fudging, so there’s a good chance some folks are going to be making Death Saves at some point… heaven knows how many times I soft-pitched a fight in 3.5 to keep folks from dying (and the rogue still bit it like… what? Five times?)

In a Wicked Age

So I’ve mentioned this game a couple times on the site, but haven’t really gotten into the game that much or talked about the sessions. Let’s fix that.
A few months back, I went down to Lee and De’s with Kate, and we cracked open my copy of In A Wicked Age — a game designed to do Sword and Sorcery in the vein of Howard or Tanith Lee. There’s a cool podcast interview with Vincent about the game, here.
The game basically let’s you draw a few cards to define the elements of the setting, pick up some of those elements as PCs, some as NPCs or setting, get each of them pointing guns at each others heads (metaphorically) and then dumping them into a situation together.
Combat/conflict is about as complicated as any “roll initiative/roll defense/gain advantage for next round” game, and is basically perfectly designed to create a kind of an anthology of loosely connected short stories that involve many of the same characters (to a greater or lesser degree) in many sessions. Each session jumps to a new chapter… forward in time… backwards, sideways… whatever. It’s pretty hot, and the rules cool and pretty easy to ‘get’.
It hit the gaming community, and everyone promptly built like 300 million new oracles to use the system in different settings — unlike Dogs, it’s highly setting-independent as a system.
Anyway, we got to the game-starting, and I opened to that part of the book, and we did that stuff. Here’s what the book said to do, and what we did.

Continue reading “In a Wicked Age”

No, there haven’t been a lot of updates

… that’s largely because there hasn’t been a lot of gaming going on.
Sometime last month, Dave ran a session of Ill Met by Gaslight, and that was good.
A little while before that, I ran a session of In a Wicked Age down at Lee and De’s, and that was good too.
I haven’t run Spirit of the Century this year… maybe since last November.
I haven’t run a session of Galactic since mid-December.
Which would leave me posting mostly about World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings online (which, unlike my local playerbase/social calendar, is always available). I don’t really want to do that (though I may have a “WTB: PvE Hordeside Raiding Guild that won’t Melt Down” post coming up at some point), so that has left me with not a lot to write at the moment.
In lieu of slew of WoW/LotRO-centric posts, I’ve installed two twitter feeds into the sidebar to let me natter on, in a constrained fashion, regarding whatever bit of digital-adventure minutia I’m currently obsessing over.
And seriously?
“Skilled Orc Hunter WTB: Hordeside raiding guild that won’t melt down. Will transfer servers for new content and good group of players.”

“All right, you rudimentary-lathe people have gone too far.” (Galactic: introduction and Session One)

I’m really not going to be able to do the Galactic game justice with an Actual Play report.
First, we’ve had four sessions now and I haven’t done a report yet. The first one was back in late November, and the details are a bit hazy.
Second, a ton of stuff has gone on, and inevitably, I’m going to forget some stuff.
Third, I want to talk a bit about the mechanics in the game, so that’s going to color things a bit, and there’s a lot of that to talk about.
I’m going to give a shot, though, because the game deserves the thought and discussion.
So let’s start from the beginning.
In Session 0, we had too many players. That’s all right, because (a) one guy wasn’t going to be able to stay with us for the whole run and (b) with a few extra players, we were more likely to have enough people to play even if someone couldn’t make a session.
These are the characters we came up with. We each also had to come up with one planet and one faction that’s active in the setting, and you repeat that between each of your three quests, also, during the first session, every Captain comes up with their own cliffhanger for the first quest to start with. They also pick the world the quest will feature. The player on the left picks a faction that will be prevalent. The player on the right comes up with a central NPC for the quest.
So there is a lot of communal world-building going on throughout the game, which means that each game of Galactic is very different in tone, elements, and story than any OTHER game, despite the “main” story being the same. (Even the Scourge itself is different in each game.)
Now, on the surface, Galactic looks like the kind of game where no one can miss a session. The reason for that is the way character creation works. Everyone makes up a starship captain, and then we sort of ‘meet’ each captain in turn, and everyone else at the table (except the gm) makes a crew member for that captain. Captains and their ships can run the gamut from an officer of the Concordant Navy to the captain of a commercial cruise ship to the leader of a ragtag group of scavengers — it’s all good. Thing is, it seems like “if someone doesn’t show, then that crewmember isn’t there on every captain’s scene, and so forth”, but as long as you make the ‘minimum’ number of players (which might be three plus the GM, maybe, but which could work with just two players, short-term), you’re good to go.
The basic background of the setting is that mankind, after creating the huge Galactic Republic, was wiped out by the mysterious Scourge. One colony ship escaped the genocide, and founded a new home on a nasty, brutish world at the end of nowhere. They finally returned to the stars, found out about their lost history, and are starting to explore and colonize back in the direction of the “Core” — the home of the original Republic. On the way, they run into lots of alien races who were once part of the Republic (and who often revile or worship humanity, by turns), as well as the ruins and abandoned technology of their own ancestors.
And then the Scourge wakes up.
The game is about how these captains (working alone for the most part) try to stop the thing that no one could stop the last time. It’s got a strong feel of the new Battlestar Galactica for me, both in the story tone and in the mechanics and interplay of crew and captains.
This is basically how the conflict works out.
A scene opens with a captain. We set up what happens and we play. At some point in there — maybe right away, maybe later — we get to a point where either I or the Captain say that something happens that other one says “no” to, and that’s where and when we go to the Conflict system.
The conflict system works like so: in true Firefly- or BSG-style, there’s two sides to every conflict — there’s “what the conflict is ostensibly about” and “the relationship between the Captain and one of the crew that is either going to be strengthened by Trust or weakened by Doubt as a result of what happens.” It’s important to understand that Winning or Losing the Goal happens INDEPENDENTLY of the Trust/vs/Doubt thing with the crewmember. You can totally get your ass kicked in the epic space battle, but the crewmember who is “on the hook” for that scene could trust you more at the end, because of the WAY things happened. Or vice versa: you could kick ass and take names, but your actions fill the crewmember with Doubt.
1. You figure out what the Conflict is about, and which crewmember is ‘on the hook’. (This is my term for it — not the game’s.)
2. Then, the Crew who are involved take the one dice that they get to contribute to the conflict (there are painful and dangerous ways to contribute more dice — sometimes a LOT more dice — using what I and the author call the “leaf on the wind” mechanic) and decide if that dice is going to help the Quest or the Crew side of the conflict.
3. Then, the GM decides where he is going to allocate his dice in the conflict — is it mostly going toward weakening the crew’s resolve, or to resisting the Goal of the quest? Maybe an even mix? The GM has a budget of dice he can use on each captain (plus any Doubt the crew has in the captain), so I can’t just crush them every time with as many dice as I want.
4. Once the captain sees where the crew are putting their effort, and what forces are arrayed against him, he puts out his own dice, which can be quite numerous — he has multi-dice ‘archetypes’ that can be brought to bear, as well as the ability to utilize any Trust that he’s earned from any of his crew (like any captain, he can put the crew’s Trust to use, though that puts that Trust at risk — he can lose it). Finally, he can decide that whatever he’s doing might put innocent bystanders at risk, and the bigger those potential Consequences are, the more extra dice he can bring in. They are BIG dice too, those Consequence dice, so they’re very tempting.
When it’s all said and done, the dice are all arrayed against each other, and there is rolling, and comparisons a lot like the old dice game “War”, and narration of that round happens, and then folks might have lost, or they might ‘give’, or they might rally and go into another round and keep battling until the whole thing is resolved. At the end, the Captain has either won or lost their goal, and one of the crew members has either gained Doubt or Trust in the captain (and the same crewmember can totally have both Trust AND Doubt in the captain, over time, which is awesome.
Once that scene is done, we do it all again with the NEXT player; we switch to a new captain, everyone switches gears to playing a new character, and off we go.
So… that’s kind of what happens in play.
This is a very set kind of story arc. Each captain plays through three quests. A quest is over when the captain wins three conflicts having to do with that quest. Now… that might be three wins in a row, or 2 wins, then a loss, and then a win; or maybe five straight losses followed by three wins (which would be kind of cool). Doesn’t matter — at some point, they get the three wins, the quest is accomplished, and they move to the next, then the next. (Unless they die — they CAN die, and there are provisions in place for that.)
Once the third quest is done, we move to the Last Big Quest, and at the end humanity is either saved or it’s wiped out by the Scourge. The end.
Right now, we’re about four sessions in, and pretty much everyone is done with their first quest.
Session 1 (Chris, Tim, Dave)
We started with Tim’s Captain Nils, the captain of Isabel’s Dream, which is ostensibly a cruise ship, but is also a neutral ground for diplomatic meetings and happens to be armed (definsively!) to the bloody teeth.
Tim had a great cliffhanger set up, and I was looking forward to it, but I also wanted to make sure we were ‘getting our roleplay in.’ Matt Wilson is a great game designer, but in playing his other ‘big’ game, Primetime Adventures, I’d noticed that players got wrapped up enough in the mechanics that they didn’t… you know… “just roleplay” — they only did with regards to the Conflict — making for very focused, but very short scenes… maybe only a few lines of dialog and lots of narrative. That’s partly Matt’s playstyle (as I understand it), but I wanted to make sure that we were taking the time to roleplay just for the sake of roleplaying as well.
Also, this “who is the ‘featured’ crewmember” thing was kind of new to everyone, so I took a page from BSG and started the ‘show’ with a scene between the captain and the crewmember-of-note. In this case, that was Dave’s college student, working as an assistant purser on the ship.
We opened the scene with Tim’s captain briefing the purser on the seating arrangements for a big banquet that evening on the ship. This was an impromptu thing, but Tim really rose to the occasion, rattling off page after page of detailed “do’s” and “DO NOTS” about everyone attending the party — who couldn’t sit next to who, and why, and which group’s hated which other groups, or who needed special treatment, or practices, or food, or greetings — while the harried and utterly overwhelmed purser trailed along in his wake, nodding and trying to take notes. The scene really illustrates how good Nils is at his role (which is largely an act) and how new to the whole thing Dave’s purser is.
So now the cliffhanger, which is simply this:

During the banquet, as the Dream comes into orbit over the planet of R___, the mysterious black box in Captain Belinar’s room (passed down for generations in his family in readiness for ‘when the Scourge return’) begins to beep. The captain is called to his suite, and he and a few select members of his crew enter. As soon as they do, the box emits every more beeps, and the ship shifts perceptibly. The helm hails the captain, and informs him they have just lost all steerage control, and the ship has moved into a landing pattern with the planet’s surface.
There are a few seconds of silence, and the captain comments, “It’s unfortunate that we’re not atmosphere capable.”

The goal for the conflict was “Get control of the ship away from the box, before we enter the atmosphere.”
I’d love to give a play-by-play, but it’s been months, so here were the key bits:
* Dave’s neophyte-purser character was at some level mind-melded with the mysterious black box.
* Chris’ security chief/ship’s chaplain was a pain in the captain’s tuchas.
* The captain kept the ship from entering orbit by cutting all the main power in the ship (including things like the gravity control) and using on-board nuclear missiles (!), fired at the planet (!!!) to introduce enough counter-momentum to get back into a shaky low-orbit.
* Dave’s character, as a college-level historian, was shocked that the captain targeted the planet randomly to induce the right thrust for the ship, ignoring the fact that he was targeting key bits of the local ruins, such as the famed “Third Pylon”, but the captain’s plan paid off : the planet’s highly damaging Acid Raid (which actually shouldn’t have been falling during that phase of the planet’s weather) damaged the missiles enough that they didn’t damage anything of any importance on the uninhabited planet — several didn’t even fire.
We then switched to Dave’s character, Allysande Daen, who’s main goal is to track down her father, a former navy admiral, and find out what happened to him and What’s Going On.
We join the crew making planet fall on Ando III, a cool-temperate planet with a vaguely oriental flavor, on which “Zeno”, Daen’s father’s former XO, is living… in a well-heeled asylum.
Tim’s crewmember Bosley, Daen’s personal ‘batman’ is the crewmember on the hook. Chris is playing “Smoke” the stoner-mode mechanic who keeps Daen’s “Heart of Darkness” working. Daen and Bosley are heading to the Asylum. Smoke is heading to the local bazaar to scrounge up some supplies.
Bosley, who knows Daen well, is quietly talking with her during the mechanized rickshaw ride to the asylum. They’re discussing things like “Are you prepared to tell him how your career is doing?” (It isn’t: she left the navy to pursue this personal quest.)
Dave’s cliffhanger setup was the next bit:

Daen and Bosley walk into the public “sun room” where Zeno and a number of other patients are sitting around doing various sun-room activities. He looks up and recognizes her. She says “Hello, Commander. I’m looking for my father, and I was hoping you might be able to help me find him.”
The old man nods and says “I was afraid of that.” Then he and EVERY OTHER PATIENT IN THE ROOM pulls guns out from under their lap blankets and open fire.

The goal for the conflict is essentially “Win the firefight without killing Zeno.”
((A word about conflict goals: they are best when they have interesting failure options built into them. “Survive the fight.” is boring, but “Survive without killing Xeno” is cool: you can LOSE the conflict, but that could mean lots of things. Maybe you lose the firefight; or have to flee; or the police arrive and arrest everyone; or you win, but you shoot the one source of information you have… or a dozen other things. Setting up a good conflict WITH INTERESTING FAILURE OPTIONS is a key part of not just Galactic, but any game. Losing should be just as interesting, if not more so, than winning.))
So there’s a gunfight. Meanwhile, Smoke is in the bazaar, and only a few seconds after the shots start in the asylum, some guys jump him in the bazaar and he’s running for his life and shouting for help from the Captain as well. (His crew-dice were in on the side of winning the Crew conflict, not the Quest one — how well she handled Smoke’s problems would build Trust with Bosley. Bosley was ALSO in on the Crew conflict, not the quest.)
Again, I have only a few bullet points.
* The captain took a few bullets in this fight. Dice that get knocked out of a conflict stand the chance of being “impaired” – made unavailable for the rest of the quest. A LOT of Daen’s “Warrior” archetype dice got impaired during the fight, so that’s how that was narrated.
* Dave went to a lot of work to protect both Tim and Chris’s dice from getting knocked out — lots of shouted commands and shoving Bosley out of harm’s way and suchlike.
* Some ‘deep cover’ agents from the organization that Daen is working with a lot showed up to help out (use of her Connections trait, which allows (or forces) rerolls)
* Dave ended up winning the conflict, and closes in on Zeno, who’s run out of bullets. He agrees to talk, and then goes into a violent seizure (seizures being one of the “Scourge traits” in this version of the game.
And cut to the next guy.
Captain Argon Slash is docking his ship, the Legion, on “The Drift” — a massive space-station in the middle of uninhabited space, comprised of hundreds if not thousands of different ships crushed, bound, and welded together. Each captain has his own ‘flavor’, and Slash’s is a kind of mix between Firefly and an anime where the characters often make Super Deformed angry-faces. The crewmembers for this part of the quest are Sonja, Slash’s ex-wife and the ship’s negotiator; and Jake, who’s sort of a young, crazy, gun-ho shootist (and Slash’s fifth-cousin).
Slash, who collected crazy Solar Republic artifacts (and then tries to integrate them with his ship), has discovered a weird pyramidal object. He’s not sure what it does, but he’s heard a rumor that at the heart of the Drift are ships that date back as far as the Solar Republic — ships that still WORK. His ‘plan’ is to find a way into the core of the gang-turf-controlled Drift and plug the device in… and just… see what happens.
Which is his approach to most ancient tech.
The three are heading toward a meeting with a contact on the Drift who controls the territory they need to get through when they’re jumped by members of the neo-luddite, anti-expansion “Blue Sky” faction.
Slash holds them off — thermal detonator in Jabba’s Palace-style — with a Mysterious Ancient Artifact (or two). Jake is waiting (and eager) for orders to shoot. Sonja is verbally sniping at everyone. The following verbal exchange takes place
Sonya: “Listen to the man — I was once married to him, and I can assure you it’s dangerous to get close to him.”
Blue Sky: “Silence! We would hear nothing from someone who has succumbed to the sin of divorce!”
Sonya: “Excuse me?!?”
Blue Sky: “Quiet!”
Sonya: “All right, you rudimentary-lathe people have gone too far.”
And that’s when the shooting starts.
* Slash was pretty much conning the Blue Sky folks all the way through.
* Jake’s crew dice where very hot — he was shooting all over.
* Sonya was saved from ‘knock out’ by Argon’s love of tech. She takes a shot and the chest and Slash cries out, running over to her and pawing at the hole in her clothing. She protests that she’s fine — and he reveals he was just checking to see if the armor weave that he put into her jacket (without her knowledge) held. It did! Slash is happy — Sonya is pissed.
I put a LOT of dice against the Crew aspect on this fight, cuz I wanted Sonya to have Doubt in Slash, but the group banded together and held me off — Sonya, although she doesn’t *like* Argon very much, does *trust* him… at least she trusts his instincts with technology. (Ironically, it’s turned out that Sonya is the only crewmember who DOES have trust in Argon… maybe the other’s don’t know him that well?)
The Blue Sky scatters, and Jake runs off after them, whooping and hollering. Sonya storms off back to the ship. Argon is left by himself.
Back to Captain Nils
The goal of this conflict was not very good on my part — simply “Get Control of the Ship back from the Box.” It was a FUNNY conflict, to be sure, but not a good one — failure would have resulted in nothing much happening, which sucks. Luckily, they one.
What happened.
* The box used some kind of lightning on Chris’ guy… then sort of mind-controlled him. Nils had to incapacitate him with some other ancient family-heirloom widget.
* Dave’s character was the box-translator most of the way through this. (“No, no, using the blue lightning against the Reverend is BAD!”)
* The box was receiving a signal from the planet, telling it to come down to the planet. The Signal is on U-space frequency … ironically, from the just-saved-from-destruction Third Pylon!
* Nils is able to control the box by speaking commands to it in Trilatian. (The Solar Republic version of the /sudo command.)
And Allysande Daen…
With Zeno having seizures and possibly doing himself serious internal harm, SMOKE has to talk the Captain through dosing the man on something that will bring him out of the seizures and subdue him… without killing him. Luckily, Smoke is something of a ‘pharmaceutical expert’.
* Smoke gives quick, professional medical advice and actually shouts at Allysande when she hesitates at one point.
* She trust him and follows his instructions.
* Bosley now really trusts her for her success and for supporting her crew. (Though I think we awarded Trust wrong here…)
… and that was the end of session one. I’ll put another post up for Sessions 2 and 3 combined, and a third for Session Four, which is where we are now.

Week in Review

Got everyone together for the third installment of our Galactic semi-playtest this Sunday. Despite horrendous paint fumes and a cuddle-needy munchkin underfoot, we still got a lot done and… MAN I need to write up an actual play report for the whole three sessions so far.
This game delivers. Wow. Seriously. Unlike a lot of other games I really really like (Heroquest, Dogs in the Vineyard) Galactic is not the kind of game you can easily kitbash to work in some other genre. it’s hard to explain, but it’s designed very specifically to play several science fiction ship captains, with their crews, working independently to stop the destruction of humanity. It is really NOT the kind of game that twists and bends into some other genre very well.
However, the stories that you get OUT of the game will be very different, even with repeated replays, so in that way, it’s different every time. It does one thing, but it does it very well. More later.
After a two-month break from progression raiding for the holidays, the guild I’m in has started fast-tracking some raiding work. To this end, the officers have been recruiting and we took our single, over-populated, weekend Karazhan team and split it into one weekend and one weekday Karazhan team, which lets us gear more people up, more quickly.
The challenge there is that we’re then working with much leaner ‘rosters’ for both teams — we no longer have the luxury that we had over the holidays of swapping people in and out to create the perfect team to annihilate whatever boss we were about to fight. If we don’t have ‘enough’ priests to handle the undead guys in Fight B, then … well, we have to deal. If we don’t have “enough” rogues for the Aran fight? Tough. This has forced us to be a little more resourceful, coordinated, and willing to use some unconventional tactics to win what are sometimes ugly fights.
But win we have: three weeks running, both teams have had full clears of Karazhan from front to back. Cool.
Also: after our almost two month break from progression raiding, we took a brand new raid group back to Gruul’s Lair. With a significant number of new raiders in key roles, the result might have been tough to handle, but instead we handed High King Maulgar a flawless, one-shot kill. Seven days later, the guild downed Gruul himself for the first time in the history of the guild, which is awesome. (I wasn’t there to see it, but hopefully I’ll be in on the next one.)
The most notable thing about our first Gruul kill is that they took him down much more quickly than a first-time guild would. We’ve recently adopted a new strategy that verified what many have suggested all along — once we learned the fight, we would prove to have *more* than enough Damage, Healing, and Tanking to immediately start looking at the next challenge after Gruul.
In non-progression news: I’m leveling up a druid and a paladin. Grezzk is Damage, so one of these new guys will be a Tank, and the other will be a healer. Don’t yet know which will be which, though.
Hey: those folks who play LotRO and read this: we should set up a time to log in and do some stuff.

Week in Review

Just a quickie.
This was kind of an exciting week with the guild, as we expanded our raid schedule a bit to accommodate more people.
Normally, we do the (10-man) Karazhan instance on the weekends (most of the real progress is on Saturday and Sunday for a couple hours, though we do sometimes get started with a drunken Friday night ‘run’ for laughs).
This last week, we ran a Kara raid on the weeknights as well. This is a pretty big deal, because you can’t be saved to two instances at the same time, which means we had 20+ different people (or at least different characters) participating, and two runs means more gear upgrades for everyone. Both teams pretty much cleared the whole instance. (I believe the weekday team did it in three nights, and the weekend group did everything but Maiden in two runs and just decided to skip the Maiden of Virtue, as there was no benefit for anyone to doing the fight.)
That was cool, but even better was fielding a full 25-man group to take a shot a High King Maulgar (and his court of Ogres) on Friday night, followed by Gruul the Dragonkiller.
This was a pretty momentous thing. The last time we took a serious stab at that fight was in November, and we didn’t really get enough people: we didn’t actually even beat Maulgar, and we’ve had that fight pretty much worked out for awhile.
Now… this time… okay, the signs weren’t great. We took maybe an hour to get started, and we have a LOT, and I mean a LOT of new people. The guy who usually magetanks Krosh Firehand was on his healer, so Lee was magetanking with Wyrmeyed. We had a new guy tanking Kiggler the Crazed who’d never done it before. We had a new guy who doesn’t speak English very well tanking the Warlock. Probably half our healers were new. We brought a level 68 guy along just to fill out to 25 people. It was crazy.
So we fight through the trash to get to the High King, we explain the fight to the new people, and how complicated the five-simultaneous-pulls start is, and we say “go” and we go…
… and we one-shot it. Damn near perfect fight. After not doing it for months and then bringing a bunch of new people. That was cool. I was up around 900 damage-per-second, and another guy broke 1000 dps. Insane. In-sane.
So it’s on to Gruuls. The Raid Leader announces that we’re going to do three tries and be done with the fight, no matter how it’s going. No building frustration: we have a lot of new people (we swapped in a 70 for the 68 at this point, with no hard feelings), and a brand new strategy to learn.
Let me explain what kills people in this fight. It’s not really the Boss. Gruul is an incredibly big guy in a very big cavern, and he does this thing every so often where he smashes the ground. Again, this guy is BIG: when he smashes the ground, it jumps like a trampoline and everyone goes flying in the air in random directions. When you land, you are slowed… slowed… slowed, and six seconds after you land, you’re frozen for a few seconds, and then SHATTERED. Everyone who’s within 15 feet of you at that point will cause you (a lot of) damage, then you can move again, if you aren’t dead. Around four people or so around you, and you stand a good chance of dying. If no one is close to you, you take no damage.
The problem is, even with a big room, there are 25 people in there. The chance of you landing too close to too many people is HIGH, and it’s hard to get away when you’re slowed. So we have a strategy now where everyone but the healers and the tanks run to the walls before the slam, so we don’t fly around anywhere — just the healers and tanks do. Less people flying around means less damage from the Shatter.
And it works. Damn it works. We did not get Gruul down, but we got him lower than we ever have in the past (again, with a lot of new people and no practice in two months). We had some bad luck where all our healers got silenced at a very bad point in the fight, so the tanks died… and on another attempt, sheer bad luck bounced all the healers and the tanks on top of each other, so the whole healing and tanking groups Shattered each other to death.
But that’s just bad luck. We can beat bad luck. We totally have the damage-dealers we need (I broke 1000dps on one attempt, and another guy broke an unheard-of 1200) and we have the method we need to beat that bastard. It might even be this Friday night.
… when I will be on a plane to New York, which I’m very happy about… so I wish them luck.
ANYWAY: it was a very fun series of runs, and Grezzk got the last of the gear he can get from either of the instances (pretty much — I’ve given up on getting the Wolfslayer Rifle or Nightbane’s mail leggings, and that’s okay) — Curator in Karazhan dropped my Demon Hunter (Tier 4) shoulderguards and I got the matching gloves off High King Maulgaur, so not only are my stats pretty damn good, I *match* — at this point, I’m going along on the runs to help the rest of the guild gear up and to have a good time (which it almost always is). My last two major equipment upgrades until we get past Gruul and start doing the later 25-man raids are going to come through Arena pvp.
Syncerus and Thienedera
I’m leveling up two Horde alts right now. Syncerus the tauren druid (the bearcat cow), and Thienedera the paladin. Last week, they got a lot of love. This week, I’m leaving them logged out in Inns to build up their rested rating for that lovely double XP bonus. I’ve seen the low and mid-game content already — I’m not interested in dwelling on it this time, so I’m focusing on flying up to 70 as fast as I can with both of them. Thie is a little lower level than Syn at this point (she’s on a PvP server for now, so I’m a little more cautious), but I expect they’ll get a lot of playtime soon.
My grand scheme is to have one Damage dealer, one Tank, and one Healer at level 70 and reasonably well-geared by the time the next expansion hits. I don’t have much interest in alts past that point.
I have, really, one alliance character. I finally dusted off Kayti and took her for a spin this week, and it was a lot of fun. Spell casters are a total pain in the ass on a paladin, but if I avoid them it’s a nice relaxing solo grind. I’m taking my time on her because there’s stuff on the Alliance side of the mid-game that I HAVEN’T seen.

Kate was available to play this week, so we got on Geiri and Tiranor. We had a lot of Fellowship quests to do, so I got on the Looking for Fellowship channel and asked around for some more people. A guy sent me a tell and pretty quick we were in a group with a bunch of guys who all know each other in real life and were all on voicechat.
Two hours later, all those Fellowship quests were done, Kate had gotten hooked up with some new crafted loot from one of the other players, and I had built up a pretty good start on a “DPS” set of equipment to put on when I’m not tanking — something that will become a lot more useful when Book Twelve opens up new options for Guardians, and we had some new people in our Friends list. It was another good run with a random group of strangers — in that arena, I believe LotRO is the Best MMO on the market, bar NONE.

No gaming this week, but here’s what I having coming up:
* Galactic: We still have a lot of game left to do there.
* Spirit of the Century: Need to get those sessions started up again.
* I have Savage Donjon Squad ready for our next pick-up game session.
* Once Galactic is done, I want to take a stab at Bliss Stage with Dave and De and whoever else I can get in.
* I have the pre-order copy of In a Wicked Age, a sword and sorcery bit of genius from the guy who did Dogs in the Vineyard. Totally new system. Totally new kind of Awesome.
* Don’t think I’ve forgotten about our characters for Breaking the Ice, Kate. I haven’t. Also, I have been challenged to play a Paranoia-set game using Breaking the Ice, and I don’t intend to back down from that. That’s a two-person game — anyone out there want to learn a new game set in a familiar, crazy setting?

Week in Review

What can Brown do for you?MMO – WoW
Grezzk – level 70 (effective level: 117)
Most of my time on Grezzk has been spent on (1) Kara runs (2) getting folks qualified for Karazhan runs and (3) getting together supplies for the Kara runs. Which isn’t to say that they’re terribly time consuming, just that that’s all the time I’ve spent on him in the last couple weeks. Just a few updates:
Team Stuff:
I’m the default “caller” for the Infernal ‘bombs’ during the fight with Prince. Basically, while fighting the boss, these bombs fall out of the sky at regular intervals, flying in at and angle, change direction one time in the sky, then hit the ground. If they land near or on the team, the team probably wipes, and we all start over. The caller’s job is to figure out where they’re going to land, and get people out of the way. One of the members of the guild calls the fight “Grezzk vs. the Prince”, due to the way the fight tends to play out — everyone is doing their job, but it pretty much comes down to whether or not we can stay out of the Infernals long enough to kill the Prince. Some of it is just luck, unfortunately, but alot of it is good calling a group who follows instructions well, and quickly. It’s a tricky thing to judge when you don’t have anything else going on, which of course I do. As ranged DPS, I’m in a position where I can pan my camera around to watch for the Infernals as they fly in from the sky behind us, while still doing my primary job (kill the boss) and keeping my pet fighting and alive.
I’ve called the fights for about a month now, and we’ve been pretty successful. The raid leaders have been pretty vocal about my ability with the calling. Feels good.
I’ve pulled in quite a lot of heroic badges commemorating boss kills, which you can then use to acquire some nice loot, so I’ve upgrade quite a lot of stuff (my new leggings aren’t on yet, since I’m still waiting to get an enchant on them from a guy in the guild. I also got a really really sweet bow off that Prince fight last week, so right now my gear is pretty strong.
There’s really nothing I can ‘buy’ with honor from the battlegrounds right now that would be an upgrade for me as near as I can tell, so after I got a very nice ring, I’ve been giving them a pass for now.
HOWEVER, there is a very nice hunter’s axe I can probably pick up with a few more weeks of doing arenas. The “noob” 3v3 team I was on kind of dissolved, but another guy got a 5v5 team started this week, featuring some pretty major DPS guys from our Kara runs. I like 5v5 a bit more because I’m not ALWAYS the “first kill priority” target in the bigger group. In our first series of matches, we won something like 8-of-12, and we were actually short a healer for that run, so that group looks really promising, and they’re fun to chat in Vent with as we play. I like doing arena as a fun break from the typical activities in WoW — it’s fast, furious, and over quickly — you can get your 10 matches in in about 20 minutes and have the rest of the week to do other stuff.
Honestly, I think my favorite part of the raiding isn’t the gear (whatever) or the boss fights (though they are fun), it’s having everyone in Vent and talking while we play. It’s a very laid back, fun, social kind of thing, and I’m less interested in being on Grezzk just to make some gold and do solo quests than I used to be, simply because I’d RATHER be doing something that involves running Ventrilo. I probably end up doing more Instance runs because of that, since it usually means having vent to chat on.
MMOs — a social activity. Who’da thunk it.
Syncerus (level 31)
My tauren (minotaur) druid is a ton of fun, and that’s reflected in the time I’ve spent on him — I think I was level 22 or 24 about a week ago. For you CoH people, druids work a bit like a Kheldian. You can stay in your ‘native’ form and heal/cast damaging spells, shift into bear form to tank (or when you pull way more aggro than you meant to), and claw the crap out of stuff in a “cat” (read: lion) form when you want to sneak around and kill stuff super quick (read: scrapper). Basically, whatever mood I’m in, there’s probably some way to scratch that itch with this character. Right now, all his talents are going into stuff that makes his Bear/Cat forms stronger, but I have a pretty decent set of “healer/caster” gear that I switch into when that sort of thing is called for — I’m not sure what I’ll be doing with him at level 70, but he’ll be either a tank or a healer. (I already have a ranged DPS character, so as cool as the Moonkin (read: spellcasting, facemelting Owlbear form) is, that won’t be what I do.
My current project with him is doing the quest chain to give him the ‘water’ form — a kind of manatee — cuz I need a lot of stranglekelp for my alchemy right now. I have a non-combat ‘cheetah’ form for hauling ass on land and let me tell you — it actually makes gathering up herbs fun — looking forward to the same ability underwater. ๐Ÿ™‚
Herbalism aside, I’m not really stopping to smell the roses on Syn, though; I want to get him to 70 and join in all the big-reindeer games. Ultimately, I’d like to have one DPS, one CC/Tank, and one Healer available in the end game. Since I don’t know whether Syn will be a tank or healer, my ‘third’ guy should probably be someone who can go either way as well — that probably means Paladin, so I might be talking more about Theinedera in the future.
Kate’s been MIA for a couple weeks to get her company rolling and wrap up things in NYC, so I haven’t really been on LotRO much. I did get a chance to play a bit with Dave and Margie’s trial-characters last night, and I hope they decide to give the game a run; Dave geeks out on the lore like I do, and Margie seems to really enjoy the ‘mini games’ hidden within the crafting system and auction house, as well as the nuances of the skills and traits. They’re both adaptive and smart (obviously) and have quickly figured out the changes to gameplay that you need for different quests.
I leveled my little armorsmith a bit with them — one more level and he can actually wear the heavy armor he’s been making for other people. Really do like that game, and I look forward to some more time spent there once things settle down for Kate and myself.
face to face
No joy in mudville. We were going to run another session of galactic on Sunday, but I’ve been sick (not really feeling better even today), so I called it off and took a long nap. Hopefully we’ll get something going soon.

Week in Review: Online

Didn’t have any face to face RPG goodness going on this week (and yes, I know I have yet to deliver an actual play for Galactic — it’s just that it’s going to be SO LONG… *whine*), so here’s what went down in the world of Online Heroics.
MMOG: Lord of the Rings, Online
Tyelaf (hunter) and Tirawyn (captain) are level 25 and working with Radagast the Brown in investigating Things Gone Wrong in the eastern Lone Lands around the ruins of Ost Guruth. (the lands between Weathertop and the Trollshaws, for those soaking in lore-geekery). Throw in an encampment of Dourhand Dwarves, wights, more evil spiders than you can shake a flaming arrow at, and some sort of neeker breekers soaking in the waters of a swamp filled with the dead, and you’ve got some good times.
Geiri (guardian) and Tiranor (hunter) are in the North Downs past Trestlebridge (up the Green way from Bree a fair hike). They are also level 25, and the main thrust of the storyline in that region seems to be around a Ranger and a few organized Men who are trying to unite the free peoples of the North before the whole region falls to lawlessness and orc raiders out of Angmar. Baddies so far are mostly the aforementioned goblinkin, or are bestial in nature — lots of wargs, maddened bears and wolves, et cetera.
When they aren’t directly on the front lines, Geiri keeps working on the fine art of jewelcrafting — gold necklaces, intricate silver rings and so forth. Interesting, fun, with lots of benefits for those wearing the finished products.
Aside from a weird disconnect in my head where it feels like Geiri and Tiranor should be the ones fighting the evil dwarves, while Tye and Tirawyn help unite the Men of the north… it’s going pretty well.
Finnras (captain) is also in the Lone Lands, but a bit closer to the Forsaken Inn, so he can travel back to Bree and the Old Forest more easily when he’s working with Tirathien (minstrel). He’s closing in on level 20, which will give him access to a cooler man-at-arms, heavier armor, and… well… other stuff, but that’s what I’m focusing on at the moment.
Grezzk had a pretty good week. Early on in the week, the hunter class boss decided to spend a night farming up the materials he needed to give (give!) me a couple nice if minor upgrades to my gear.
Me: Did I mention how much I appreciate this?
Him: Did I mention hos much you deserve it?
So that was a good feeling. The guild had a Karazhan run scheduled on Saturday, but I had some stuff to do, so I wasn’t around for the first part. When I did get on, they had already taken out Attumen the Huntsman, Moroes, Maiden of Virtue, and were just starting on the Opera Event, which turned out to be Big Bad Wolf. The raid leader (who was that same hunter leader) got me into the group in his place (passing the leader rains to another guy) after that, and I stayed in for the rest of the run.
Result: total clear of all thirteen boss fights in about six hours, which is pretty awesome. I was in for… the Shade of Aran (1-shot), Chess, Curator (1-shot), Terestian Illhoof (1-shot, during which I disconnected and got logged back in in time for the last half of the fight), Prince Malchezzar (three attempts, due to some bad luck on the Infernal bombs), Netherspite (1-shot), and Nightbane (1-shot).
My personal performance was (I feel) pretty damn good. Aran went damn near flawlessly. Curator involves me a lot, since I’m pulling all the patrols prior to the boss, I did a LOT better on Netherspite and really kind of helped communicate the ‘rotations’ that have to happen during the fight, and Nightbane was okay — I got killed just before the last phase, but I wasn’t the only one, so I don’t feel that bad.
Prince? On the Prince fight, which I’ve only done twice, they put me in charge of Calling Out the Infernal Bombs.
How to explain this fight? Basically, there’s a big boss who knocks the tank all over, so he has to be fought with the tank’s back against a wall to prevent that. It’s a big open courtyard, and every minute or so, a big demonic stone golem thing drops out of the sky AT AN ANGLE and hits the ground. It doesn’t MOVE, but it it sends out an Area Burst of fire that ticks for damage every second. The damage will kill you in three seconds, or one, if you’re currently weakened by the Prince.
So it’s one guy’s job to watch them as they fall, figure out where they’re going to hit, and tell everyone where to move BEFORE it lands.
And they change direction in mid-flight.
Sometimes twice.
And you have to keep FIGHTING while you’re watching these things… while you have the camera swung around to look ABOVE and BEHIND you. The job always falls to a ranged DPS person, cuz healers and melee guys just can’t do it.
And when the Prince gets down to about 33% health, they drop every 30 seconds, instead of every minute, so you start running out of places to stand that are safe.
I’m happy to say that our first two fails weren’t due to my screw ups, but just bad luck on placement of the infernals or silly things like the tank getting bounced away from Prince and dying. I was kept on the Infernal calling for each try, being told by the raid leader “you’re doing a good job, and you’re getting better every time” and by the end I was moving people a lot more confidently. The third try was very clean.
Best of all, the loot off Prince included the hunter’s Kara-level (tier four, if you speak WoW) helm, so I really felt like I EARNED that sucker — it was very nice upgrade for me. (Picked up the Badge of Justice trinket, and I’ll have the T4 pvp shoulders this week some time.)
Best of all is the feeling that I’ve gone from the noob guy on the teams to someone folks feel like they can count on to do well. “Grezzk is going to keep calling the Infernal drops” is worth a lot more to me than a shiny new helmet.
We were going to try to down Gruul on Sunday (we totally have the DPS, Tanking and healing for this fight, we just need to manage the Slams and Shatters better), but with the holidays, we just can’t get 25 people on. It sucks, cuz I KNOW we’re ready to beat that big bastard.
And that’s it. Got another post coming up about Aggro and the fighting style in different games.

Week in Review

Sunday’s Galactic session (which was the second gaming session, and the third session if you count chargen) was covered in Awesome. I promise to post an Actual play report on both sessions, combined, this week.
I wish I could write a book based on this setting. Great, great story.
MMOG: Lord of the Rings
Mostly working on some crafting skills in mid-week and then got on Geiri and Tiranor for some grouping goodness on Sunday night. That went reasonably well as a duo, but we tried to do a six-man quest on Weathertop THAT I HAVE SUCCESSFULLY TANKED BEFORE, and we got owned repeatedly. Huge repair bills. We had a PuG-healer who was SEVEN levels higher than the rest of us and he couldn’t keep me standing against bosses that the healer on the last run had no problems with. I know why it was happening, and I also know why I don’t want to run with that guy again. Moving on.
Really like the tanking ability Geiri has right now. I’m holding aggro pretty damn well, and am quite tough. Now if I could only tweak a few things about the interface that i don’t like, I’d be really happy.
Grezzk finally got the horrible “KILL FIVE SONS OF A GOD” quest chain done, which opened up a whole slew of new quests in the Blades Edge mountains, and made him the King of the Ogres (the ogres in Blades Edge don’t aggro to you after that, and if you kill one, they say stuff like “Me so honored. Me killed by King!” — it’s funny).
I’m getting a lot better at the PvP battlegrounds with him. Last weekend in one match I got something like 97 kills in 14 minutes, 25 of which I dealt the killing blow for (which usually means I took them out one-on-one), and was defeated twice. One-on-one pvp fights pretty much used to mean I was dead — these days, one on one means I’m down about 30% health, and 2 vs Me is still sometimes in my favor, depending on what classes the other two guys are. I hate shamans a lot. ๐Ÿ™‚
Ran most of Kara on Friday and Saturday. Friday we one-shotted Attumen the Huntsman, Moroes, Curator, the Opera Event, and took out Aran in two or three tries. It was my first time fighting Aran, and it’s a very very fun fight. “Hit him hard. Okay, no one move at all, or we all die. Now there’s a Blizzard sweeping through the area… avoid it! Now don’t move again or we all die! Now run to the edge of the room before he AoEs! Now Freeze again! Now kill the elementals he summ– DON’T MOVE! BLIZZARD! KILL HIM! KILL HIM TIL HE DIES!” And win. It’s fun. We did Chess and Maiden of Virtue and Prince and Netherspite the next day. Netherspite was a new fight for me. I suck at Netherspite. A small upgrade for me dropped in the Chess event, which was cool.
My personal bragging, however, was on the Moroes fight the first night. Moroes is one boss with four other Elite Ghost mini-boss adds.
How it usually works: You have two priests in the group, at least. They each use Shackle Undead on one of the adds, which keeps an undead mezzed the whole fight. One tank takes the other two adds, and one tank takes Moroes. We kill the two ‘loose’ adds, Kill Moroes, then take out the two shackled mobs. Getting to the shackled guys usually takes like 3 or four minutes, which means the priests have to be reshackled about three times per fight.
We didn’t HAVE two priests. We had one… and me.
HUNTERS have Freeze Trap. it is pretty much the only thing besides Shackle that works on Undead. (Freeze Trap basically works on anything that can be mezzed at all, but it has Certain Downsides.)
The downsides:
– It lasts 20 seconds.
– It can only be cast every 30 seconds. (Yes, do that math — that’s not hunter friendly.)
– You don’t cast it on a mob; you drop it on the floor and then lure your target over it by hitting the mob.
– Hitting the mob once it’s trapped releases them, so make sure you stop hitting them when they’re getting close to the trap.
And… yeah, so for that fight I had to keep one of the “Shackle guys” trapped for … a long damn time. Normally hunters might have to ‘chain trap’ from one trap to a second one… maybe a third. This one was going to be more like five or six in a row.
…while continuing to do high damage to the group’s current target.
1. Drop a trap, which lasts for one minute, unused.
2. Wait 30 seconds until the skill is ready to use again.
3. Tell the tank to go. Hope he listens and doesn’t wait so long your trap expires.
4. Tanks pull. Hit the mob and piss him off, lure him to us, and into the trap, seconds before it would have vanished from the floor.
5. Take two steps off to the side, drop another trap.
6. Send the pet after the main target and start shooting.
7. About 18 seconds later, the trap breaks and the mob comes after me, hits the second trap, and freezes. I have 10 seconds left on the skill before I can use it.
8. Move a few feet. Switch to the Group’s Second Target and start shooting.
9. Drop the trap.
10. 10 seconds later, the mob gets loose and comes after me. He hits the third trap. I have 20 seconds left before my skill is ready, and the trap lasts 20 seconds,optimally.
11. Move toward the fight at an angle, while shooting.
12. Switch targets to Moroes and send pet.
13. Trapped Mob gets loose just as my skill is ready, but since I ran off a ways, I get it down before it reaches me. It is trapped (hopefully) for 20 seconds. I have 30 seconds before my skill is ready to go again.
14. Run all the way to the other end of the ballroom, shooting Moroes as I go. Turn back the way I came, keep shooting Moroes and watch my trapped mob.
15. Mob trap breaks. I switch to him and shoot him in the face. He comes after me down the long room.
16. Switch back to Moroes and continue shooting. Trap is still not ready.
17. He’s halfway to me. Trap is still not ready.
18. Someone on Ventrillo says “umm… the Trapped Mob is loose.” I say “He’s just coming to me, I got him.” (he is still controlled, because he’s doing what I want)
19. Trap is ready. Drop it just as he gets to me. Freeze. 20 seconds on the trap. 30 seconds on the skill timer.
20. Run 10 seconds away from him (counting in my head) while shooting Moroes, and repeat.
21. Moroes dies just as my baddie hits the trap again.
22. Everyone kills my mob, which by this point in time, due to the shots I used to keep him angry at me, is already down to half health.
23. I break my arm patting myself on the back.
… and I’m very lucky none of the traps broke early… which happens.
Anyway, I was proud of that. I was either second or third DPS for most of the Kara stuff, except for Netherspite. All in all, a pretty good run. I didn’t break anyone else’s mezzes, I didn’t send my pet onto any wrong targets, and I just generally didn’t screw up — after my second Kara run, where I was pretty unhappy with myself, this was a very good way for the run to go: uneventfully.
Aside: I’m just generally ‘better’ when things go pear-shaped, I guess. Seems like I screw up more in the controlled situations.
Case in Point: doing a heroic run of the Coilfang Slavepens, and the tank, mage, and healer die on a bad pull. There are two elites left to kill and it’s me and a warlock. Either one of these elites can two-shot either one of us.
And we won. THAT was a good fight. ๐Ÿ™‚

Week in Review

This one will be brief. I’ll got into more detail in some following posts.
Tabletop: Galactic
We played our first session of Galactic on Sunday, with three players. It was an good sized group for learning the rules, and we had some excellent scenes — a shipboard emergency, a big gun fight, a little gun fight, a mexican standoff, and some fun MIND CONTROL.
The mechanics are much cleaned up from earlier iterations of the rules, and want only some reorganization to really come out clear. The strategy you use in the conflicts is a lot of fun and easily as engaging at that level as the crunch you work with in d20 — it’s just a completely different KIND of mechanical crunch.
We got the rules, we laughed a lot, we enjoyed the scenes, and we’re excited to play the next session. What else to say?
Oh, a lot more to say, but I’ll save that for a post of its own, later this week.
Grezzk: Some new gear becomes available tomorrow in the game, ‘purchasable’ by using the honor points that one earns by playing the PvP battlegrounds. There are two pieces in particular that I’d like to get that total something like 27,000 honor: a total I believe I hit last night, and if not I’ll be able to get the difference in one run tonight, then log on Tuesday and two new epic pieces.
We ran all of Karazhan on Friday with a couple of tanks I’ve never worked with before. Normally, I target through the tanks for these situations, and that worked GREAT last week. This week, it was an utter horror.
I did about half the boss fights, but it was a frustrating run for me. The Raid Leader I’d snapped at early on (You want me to run without a pet? Okay, you run without a weapon.) sort of made me his pet (pun) project — get ‘im geared up and used to the trash pulls. I think they’ve just never had a hunter in the guild who gets offended when you suggest they don’t use their pets. We did some other runs later that weekend where I did perfectly fine — I perform quite well when I know the fights, really. The Dark Portal instance is particularly fun for me, even if I’m in charge of the waves of adds, and most of the rest are very comfortable as well.
Running Kara as melee or tanking seems like it would be a lot easier than ranged damage — it’s so damned easy to target the wrong guy and screw everything up on those group pulls.
Tyelaf the hunter and Geiri the Guardian both hit 24 this week. Geiri is probably my favorite character on there, though Tye is a close second and Finnras (oh captain my captain) a close third at level 18.
This week, Geiri got to tank the Great Barrows up to the first boss and a Cave Troll, atop Weathertop. The group for that run was moving very fast, so i’m not sure how I did on holding aggro on the minor trash, but the boss fights all went very smoothly — I kept them on me without any wavering.
Also: CAVE TROLL! So much fun.

Week in Review

No face to face gaming this last weekend (pretty much everyone was gone or busy), but a fair bit of online stuff going on.
Play by Post Galactic
Captain Finnras of the Binturong is shaping up to be a great, interesting, fun character… that I’ll probably never get a chance to really play.
Face to Face Galactic
Trying to use email to get done with the last bits of campaign generation, prior to our game this coming Sunday. Some silence from the players on this point, but at least one has really stepped up and given me a fun cliffhanger to start his story off with. Woooot.
Looking at the calendar, I feel a bit of mope. We get a game in this weekend, then I’m gone the weekend of the 30th, then we have the 7th and 14th weekends… one of which is probably iffy… so maybe we’ll get three sessions in. Maybe. If only we had more TIME. Eh. A noble effort, either way, and maybe we’ll get a chance to keep going after the holidays with the folks who aren’t off to another acting gig in some other part of the country.
Pretty much everything I’ve done on WoW in the last week has been Grezzk. It’s not because I don’t enjoy playing Kayti, or Theinedera (who I’d LOVE to level up with the speeded up leveling they put in), but Kayti’s Alliance-side in a guild I don’t know that well and who aren’t my level, and Theinedera is on another server entirely (really should move her to Farstriders).
Hellfire Ramparts, Blood Furnance (fail), Shattered Halls, Steamvaults (twice), and Arcatraz.
We one-shot High King Maulgar, AND the guy that “the hunters” are assigned to (Kiggler the Crazed) dies so fast that we have time to switch targets and help the melee dps guys kill their first guy. That has never happened before (granted, it’s only our third Maulgar kill, but whatever). The guild Hunter leader is VERY happy about this and personally compliments me on the damage I was putting out.
We don’t beat Gruul the Dragonkiller, but MAN it feels like we COULD, if we could just figure out where NOT to be when he shatters us.
We take down half the bosses. Attumen the Huntsman (an epic for Grezzk), Moroes, Maiden of Virtue, Curator… and the random “Opera” event, which was Wizard of Oz… so we actually beat Tinman, Dorothee, Lion, Strawman, and Toto all at once, and then Wicked Witch. They’re all one-shot kills with no one dying. I am in for every part of this run. (10 people can be inside, but your group can actually be bigger than 10, with back-up people outside to swap in on certain fights where their skills are needed or they need gear — they keep me in for everything, to teach me the instance. I *did* screw up one pull on the trash before Curator and wipe everyone, and died a few times early on as I figured out what was what, but otherwise it was good.)
At the end of the day, I go to repair my gear… and I notice that I have been given access to a guild-funded repair allowance.
We one-shot all but one boss (they have to do Nethersprite twice — I wasn’t in that fight), and I do well in everything I’m involved in — we nine-man Prince, which was cool.
At the end of this week of stuff, Grezzk has a two-piece “Beast Lord” set from the Heroic runs (which helps me trap stuff better), THREE epic pieces of gear from Kara (when you’re the worst-geared guy in the run, you want lots of stuff that no one else has an interest in), hundreds of gold worth of enchants and ‘nice to haves’ from the Guild Bank… and some personal compliments from the hunter leader and the Guild leader. A couple more heroic runs, and I’ll have some more pretty gear from cashing in Heroic Dungeon badges.
Plus, as I already blogged, it really feels like he’s part of the guild now. Especially when people can just BS on Ventrilo while we run instances.
It’s been a good week. ๐Ÿ™‚
I haven’t done much with Tyelaf since the epic battle with the Cave Troll on top of Weathertop. He’s level 23…
… and now, so is Gieri, my dwarven Guardian (tank!). This is where all my LotRO time has been going this week, and it shows — I’ve gotten some really nice tanking “Deeds” completed that are increasing the amount of threat he generates, AND the number of enemies he can keep locked on him simultaneously. It’s HARD to hold aggro in Lord of the Rings, and there’s some assumption that any but the truly crazy/dedicated tanks are simply going to let some of the enemies hit other characters.
I aim to be one of the crazy tanks. No one gets hit but me. Dem’s the rules. Generally, it works pretty well, though we have had a setback here and there. By and large, Geiri + Tiranor the hunter = EZ Mode. ๐Ÿ™‚
Finally, Finnras, who is my ‘third main’ character. The captain is level 17.9, and will be the next person I work on catching up with the other two. Once Kate and I have a pile of people all the same level, we’re going to play around with the team ups to see what different ones might be fun.

Galactic: good for the brain, bad for the eyes

I was going to write up a post about the character/universe generation for the Galactic game from this weekend (a complete campaign I’m foolishly trying to cram into the space between here and mid-December), but I wanted to transfer everyone’s notes up to the wiki first.
And reading their [censored] awful handwriting, I am now totally [censored] blind, so you’ll have to wait for the update until I learn how to read braille.
I thought *my* handwriting was bad. Holy hell.
Anyway, the stuff I sacrificed my eyes to transcribe is on the wiki here.

“I got Girl Cooties” (Weekend in Review, the MMO post)

Figured I’d split this up into two posts, since I have a lot to post about the face to face Galactic game.
If you want to know why the post has the title it does, you’ll have to read to the end.
Right then.
Who’s this? I haven’t mentioned her before. This is my level 20 blood elf paladin on Kel’Thuzad — a full-PvP server. I’ve been wanting to level up a tank on the Horde side, and while I’m still trying to get into playing a bear-form druid, I still REALLY LIKE paladins, and I already have a lot of experience playing a protection-specced pally on Alliance, so I’m working on Thienedera now.
The patch coming out on Tuesday is cutting the XP required to level from level 20 to 60 by 20%, and increased the XP from quest rewards, so I wanted to get her to level 20 to really set her up to smoke through the levels in a hurry. That meant getting her up 3 levels this weekend, which… I pretty much did just on Friday night — there’s a reason they didn’t speed up leveling from level 1 to 20. ๐Ÿ™‚ In the process I was invited into a Guild and … was really really surprised by a very supportive group. There are no 70s in the guild, but they’re a very good-sized group and the leadership seems really really focused on helping out everyone and really helping the group progress as a whole. That’s neat. I’m pleased I’ll be part of a guild like that as try to her up.
Also, I might have to make use of WoW new renaming service (which take all of 2 minutes, apparently). Kaylee informed me that Thie’s name is “Casey”, so I might have to rename her. ๐Ÿ™‚
After a couple weeks of fairly light play, I got Grezzk on and did some fun stuff. Said fun stuff included a run of not one or two but THREE five-man dungeons that I’ve actually seen before, and participating in Gruul’s lair, which is the first of the 25-man raid-dungeons in the game — a pretty short one that only takes an hour or so to do successfully, or longer if you’re still trying to beat the last boss.
The first instance was done as a favor to a friend of mine who is not in my Guild. He’s a tank, and a nice guy, and needed someone to provide damage in the Auchenai Crypts which, to put it simply, is my least favorite instance on Grezzk (I think I’ll LOVE it on Kayti — it’s MADE for AoE tanking). He talked up his guild a lot to me, how smart and quick they run things, and I’m at least five levels too high for it, so I figured I’d come help out.
Yeah, we team wiped probably 8 or 9 times. It was awful. I was pulling aggro off the tank with just my autoshot running, and … ugh. It’s a miserable mid-level-60 instance and they didn’t have the people they needed for it. Sucked.
The second instance was with my Guild in one of the wings of Tempest Keep known as Arcatraz. “Wings” is a particularly-apt name for it in this case, as Tempest Keep is actually a series of ornate palaces floating in open space — you can’t even get there without a flying mount. Arcatraz is essentially a prison for horrific critters that some bad people are keeping locked up, and whom someone is now releasing to wreak havoc — you must stop them, yadda yadda. I’m not sure, but I believe Arc is considered the hardest wing of Tempest Keep, which would then presumably make it the hardest five-man instance in the game (Again, the Crypts have my vote for MOST ANNOYING, but it’s not even a level-70 dungeon).
This is a particular FUN and FUNNY dungeon to run — there are two bosses in about the middle of the instance that have been working together so long that they really really HATE each other and each actually cheers you one as you kill the other one. The bickering and the cheering is done with some FANTASTIC voice acting. Also, the last guy in the run — a kind of powermad toady — is voiced beautifully by Curtis Armstrong, and always cracks me up.
This run went really well — it was a good group and everyone was guildies and on Vent together, so while we were a little tired and not too talkative, it still went really well. I found I was STILL pulling aggro off the tank (who is geared very very well and knows his job), so I’m not sure what happened there. Normally I don’t have aggro management issues like that, but maybe I’m starting to get into the DPS range where I churn out so much damage I have to routinely pull back a little. Would be nice if that’s so.
In any case, I was EASILY the top damage dealer in the group according to the DPS readouts which, considering I was running with some serious Guild vets, made me feel good. I also did a little chain trapping, which makes me happy when I can contribute in that way.
Saturday, the Guild was running the 25 man raid-dungeon Gruul’s lair. How to explain this…
There’s a giant that the Ogre tribes worship as a god. (For good reason.)
You go to his lair. You beat through his elite guards to the first main room. In it is the High King of the Ogres, and four of his closest advisors. These advisors are also full-on raid bosses in their own right. They are all standing in a pack AND HAVE TO BE PULLED, TANKED, AND KILLED SIMULTANEOUSLY BY FIVE DIFFERENT PEOPLE.
Kiggler the Crazed uses ranged magic attacks on whoever he’s fighting, and doesn’t hit too hard — anyone with decent health and a healer along for the ride can tank them — you just need DPS to kill him.
There’s a warlock who summons demonic pets the size of a bus and fears his tank all the time, so that’s a total pain. The fear is an AoE, also, so he has to be fought FAR AWAY from all other groups.
There’s a mage who keeps up a fire aura so nasty that it will kill ANYONE in melee range in a few seconds, so you have to take him down with nothing but ranged attacks.
There’s a priest who, unless interrupted by rogue stuns or silences or something, heals everyone ELSE, a LOT.
And there’s the High King, who just hits really frigging hard.
So you need
1. Someone to pull the High King off in to a hallway and basically solo tank him (with a healer or two to keep you standing, until everyone else is dead).
2. Someone to keep the fire-mage guy busy.
3. All the rogues and other melee guys killing the priest as fast as possible.
4. A tank (or two) on the fear-spamming demon-summoning warlock.
5. A five-man team of hunters, mages, and one priest to keep Kiggler the Crazed busy, and then make him dead.
It is one of the most complicated pulls around, and if the pull is good, and you kill everyone in a smart order, the fight is easy — if the pull is bad, the fight is very… short.
I got picked to pull and tank Kiggler the crazed this time — my second time in the run. Then when he (hopefully) dies, I’m to send my pet after the priest or warlock while simultaneous attack a different guy (the fire mage) and, when everything else is dead, join the whole raid in killing the King.
How’d it go? We killed everything on the first pull, and all 24 or 23 of us were standing at the end. We’re getting pretty good at this. I was really happy to be the guy in charge of pulling and at least initially tanking Kiggler, and really pleased to be in what is, so far, our best fight against the High King and crew.
Then we went on through another hallway full of tough guards to Gruul. This was really tricky and actually raid-wiped us once. Then we got to Gruul. People were told where to stand once we got inside. People were warned not to linger at the doorway when the fight started, or you’d be locked outside the chamber of this huge bastard…
… and I walked in a step too far, Gruul triggered, came over, and wiped us all out. &**&#$(&*@# . Dammit. Wiped out the raid. @#$@#%.
Anyway, we tried one more time, but folks had to go after the one try — we have yet to beat this guy, so I’m not going into all the stuff that happens in the fight, but suffice it to say it makes the fight with High King Maulgar look like a summer cotillion.
Peole were still on Vent after the raid was done, and some of us needed a run of another instance, so five of us reformed and ran and did that instance. I dunno if we were overgeared or what, but I’ve run The Black Morass before, and won… and this was a breeze by comparison. A BREEZE. 18 waves of dragonkin coming in through randomly spawning portals and trying to kill this guy behind us… with waves 6, 12, and 18 bringing along a full on Boss as well… and we smoked it. It was good and, again, among a group of vet characters, I was WELL in front on damage-dealt. I feel like I’m ready to sign up to participate in the (10-person raid, 13-boss, “task force in a box”) raid dungeon “Karazhan”.
I feel like I can contribute. I think I might do that this Saturday.

Saturday night (yes, after running Gruul AND the Black Morass instance), I got onto LotRO and Kate and I were running around the Lone Lands (the uninhabited region all around around Weathertop for miles and miles. We’re in a tricky place with Tyelaf and Tirawyn — lots of “need a fellowship” missions in both the Barrowdowns and Lone Lands, and not much else — in short, we’ve hit a wall we need some help to get over.
We were on no more than 10 minutes when Kate spotted someone on the Looking for Fellowship channel asking if people wanted to join them for “Clearing Weathertop” (which involves exactly what it sounds like — defeating the orcs and … OTHERS… that infested the area Weathertop after the Ringwraiths recently visited there.
We joined, and found out there was another player who also had the in-game voice chat enabled (a built-in push-to-talk tool that we use instead of Gtalk). We started chatting and coordinating that way, and eventually got the whole group on the tool, so we could get really teamed up well.
This was a GREAT group — one of those once-in-a-hundred pugs that just clicks. We had a great tank, some decent damage, and two Captains who, although not healers as such, do an excellent job of healing “morale” as long as you keep WINNING.
This was where I was really glad that I’ve played most of the classes by this point. The thing with the Captain-class heals is that they only become available when you DEFEAT AN ENEMY. If you just look at the skill list for the class, you see a bunch of heals and think “okay, they can heal, we’re fine.”
And that works great when you’re fighting packs of five or six orcs — bad guys are dying all the time, so their heals (and a number of defeat-dependent buffs) are available much of the time.
As I said, they’re really good when you’re WINNING.
BOSS fights, when you’re fighting one BIG thing, for a LONG time — they loose access to a LOT of those abilities, and become, basically, a mid-range damage dealer, which is bad.
And we had to kill a number of bosses.
So I’ve come off several hours playing WoW, where hunters can’t shoot things from too close in, and LotRO hunters have a HUGE range on their bows, so I’m WAY WAY WAY back.
And we fight our first boss, and I see that health levels are starting to drop all over, and finally the boss dies, and a heal goes up, and then his minions die, and we’re fine again.
So… the next boss guy… I switch to a minion. Hunters are like well-armored Blasters in CoH — we hit FRIGGING HARD. So I start on a minion, pull him to me, beat him up, and he dies in the middle of the boss fight.
And… I see a heal go up. I hear the other captain on voicechat say, six seconds after the kill, and one second after the “heal power” opportunity has dropped “dang, missed it.” She wasn’t expecting the kill, so she didn’t know all those buff powers were going to come available all of a sudden.
I kill another minion right about when the boss dies… so that doesn’t matter so much.
We get to the top of Weathertop.
There’s the big boss guy. None of us have ever been here before, but we’re ROLLING through the thing, so we (read: they) all charge in. It’s a toughish fight, but we win.
This guy has half-again as many hit points as the boss we just killed, we’re already down on power, and his had more minions. ACK!
So I shoot him a bit, and we’re getting POUNDED on. He smashes the whole group and everyone but me (who is WAY WAY back) is stunned. I switch targets off him so he doesn’t decide I’m his new target while the tank is knocked silly.
I’m on a minion. A HA!
I shoot the minion a lot. In the face. Health scores are plummeting and NO heals are going up, cuz nothing’s dying.
Just as I’m about to kill the minion, I get on Voicechat and shout “Captain! Heal opportunity is coming up… NOW!”
The minion dies. Beautiful green light floats up from everyone.
So. Damn. Cool.
We had such a good time with that we all just stayed in group all night and cleared Fellowship-only missions the rest of the evening. Good stuff.

So what’s with the post title?
I was in voicechat a lot this weekend. By and large? Everyone in charge was female, which I think is just unspeakably cool.
The leader for the Tempest Keep run? Female, as was the main melee DPS.
The Raid Leader, one of the tanks, and main healer on Gruuls? Female.
Pretty much the whole damn fellowship in LotRO were female — both Captains, the Tank… (And as much more of LotRO are 35 and up, it was a good group for that reason also.)
It was just a neat thing… and really made me appreciate the mental energy that that brings to a group.

Year in review

Yes, I know it’s not the end of the year yet, but since the holidays typical kill my gaming, I’m simply looking at the last 12 months, to take a look at what kind of face to face gaming I got done.
November, 2006
– A year ago, today, I ran the first/last game for the guys out in NYC. It was the “freebooters” scenario for Shadow of Yesterday.
– I also started up a play-by-post Mountain Witch game that sadly died of asphyxiation during the holiday doldrums. More sadly, in cleaning spam out of that forum last week, I accidentally deleted all the gaming-related posts. ๐Ÿ™
December, 2006
– Nothing
January, 2007
– Got together with the locals and made up characters for a clockpunk Shadow of Yesterday game.
February, 2007
– Nothing.
March, 2007
– Nothing again — I didn’t even post weeks in review for these two months. Sheesh.
April, 2007
– After two months of a big fat nothing, I am *rabid* to play, and fly to Chicago for Forgecon Midwest. There, I get to play Heroquest, run a game of Shadow of Yesterday and the Mountain Witch, and playtest Galactic with Matt. After I get home…
– I start up the Primetime Adventures “Weird War Two” game, and had the pilot session.
– I run the second (and apparently last) session of the clockpunk game.
May, 2007
– Nothing. Scheduling people for games continues to be a nightmarish endeavor.
June, 2007
– Stealing from the very best, I pick up on the NYC crew’s gaming plan, which is basically “have a huge group of players, and run a regular game for the first five who say they can attend.” I start a Spirit of the Century game and sign up 13 other people. Only one has not played to this point — most everyone has played at least two or three sessions, and EVEN I GOT TO PLAY ONCE! Success!
– I also start the Nine Princes in Pulp game this month.
– I get in the second episode of Primetime Adventures: Strange Allies — “Djinn” — it goes swimmingly awesome.
– Dave starts his Ill Met by Gaslight PTA game.
July, 2007
– Not one but TWO different FULL EPISODES of Spirit of the Century
– Another session of Nine Princes in Pulp — unfortunately, pretty much the last one, as we’ve yet to get back to that.
– Dave runs PTA again.
August, 2007
– Spirit of the Century and the ever-rotating player pool wins again.
September, 2007
– Nothing in here. How odd.
October, 2007
– More Spirit of the Century: Two new episodes, both on Friday nights. How unusual. And lots of fun.
– A session of Dead of Night: “Zombies At(e) my Homecoming Dance” Still need one more session on that.
November, 2007
– Flying in the face of history (and sanity) I’m trying to start, play, and FINISH a short Galactic game during the months of November and December. Chargen is this Sunday. No other gaming is on the docket yet, because Galactic is going to take scheduling priority, but I do intend to get in some more Spirit of the Century and finish the Dead of Night game.
Analysis, after the cut…

Continue reading “Year in review”

Week in Review

So here’s what’s been going on.
Face to Face
Ran a murder mystery for the most recent Spirit of the Century game on Friday night. “Doctor Brightman is dead.” Good stuff, for all that I suck at doing mysteries. It was “Margie’s session,” so I gave it a college try, anyway. There were investigations, autopsies, some wonderfully fun characterizations, a seance, and a whole lot of laughing. Present were Chris, Tim, Dave and Margie; again, I have to give a nod to Kate’s observation that I run better games when I’m NOT close friends with everyone at the table — we just generally focus more on the game and less on everything else.
Didn’t even seem to get too sidetracked by having Kaylee around for the first part of the game.
This Thursday, it’s Zombies at(e) my Homecoming Dance 2: The Revenge of the Hickey.
Online, not MMO
I’m going to be playing in (not running) a play-by-forum game of Galactic(!), using the ashcan edition that Matt did up for Gencon this year. That should be fun. No character information or even links yet — we’re juuuust getting rolling.
Grezzk is still level 70. I’ve actually being getting into some fun dungeon runs lately (there are only about… five or so in the later game that I haven’t done even once, if you only count the five-mans). I’m not UBER geared or anything, but at this stage my ‘effective level’ is 108, taking my gear into account. (Taking gear into account, the maximum level in WoW is somewhere around 150, while perhaps 125 is as high as I’m likely to get with the Guild I’m part of.) Anyway, I’m still having a lot of fun with Grezzk.
Hit 45 on Kayti. Nothing terribly exciting to report on her. People keep stopping in mid-run to ask me what kind of weapon I’m using, cuz they can’t figure out how a tanking paladin is topping the damage reports. I try to explain that the damage is all from the paladin abilities, and that I would do pretty much the same damage if i were naked, but no one seems to get it. Eh. In a few more levels, I can hurl an “Avenger’s Shield” (think Captain America-esque energy contruct) at enemies to pull them, and tanking is going to get a LOT easier. Woot.
I tanked a run into Scarlet Monastery’s Cathedral a few days ago and it went really smoothly. We obliterated everything and aside from one jackass who screwed up the boss-looting at the end, it was a great run.
There was one point where I TOTALLY “pulled a Hype” with her as well (which is a tactic that *I*, personally, have never seen work in WoW, that I used to do all the time in CoH). We were clearing out a big chapel area, one clump of guys at a time… like 3 or 4 guys at a time — it was SAFE, but it wasn’t particularly hard. About halfway through I told the other paladin “heal me, I want to try something” (I didn’t really tell the priest ahead of time. oops ๐Ÿ™‚ and I just ran through a couple (or three ๐Ÿ™‚ clusters at once and pulled them all back to the group — something like 8 to 10 guys. Got em all nice and pissed at me and the group just burned em down. I think most of them were JUST about out of mana when the fight ended.
The group’s response: “That was fun. Do it again.”
Tyelaf is level 21. We (he tends to work with Tirawyn the Captain) have done most of the quests around the town of Bree, and now have two BIG GROUP things to deal with — spying on the Witch King himself, and a foray into the Great Barrows that house the last ruler of Cardolan. Yikes. After that… folks need a lot of help in the Lone Lands, and a lot of that involves shooting Orcs, so I’m THERE.
Geiri remains my toughest character. I don’t know if he’s my FAVORITE, but he’s definitely tied for first. At level 16 (17?) he’s got considerably higher morale (read: health) than Tye, and he and Tiranor the elven hunter TEAR through quests that I recall being a pretty big pain in the tuchas with Tye. We were on last night for a few hours and finished up all the storyline in Ered Luin (the Blue Mountains and Celondim) and headed East through the Shire and into Bree, where we met up with Strider and continued to harass the kinda-sorta undead dwarf Skorgrim — that dude HAS to be tired of seeing use show up and mess with his plans over and over. It’s been like… well, for Tiranor, it’s going on 600 years, now. (God I love how the time-instanced storyline in LotRO works.)
Downside to Geiri: he takes half a coon’s age to kill anything on his own. However, this rarely comes up. ๐Ÿ™‚
His personal bane: creban. Friggin’ evil birds.
Oh, and elves that go running off of cliffs and break his damn ankles.
I haven’t played Yarren much, but she’s also wrapped up all the quests in the Shire and has headed to Bree to see what this “Strider” guy wants (something about heading into the Old Forest to look for some hobbits he’s supposed to meet up with in Bree). She’s also going to give up the plain-jane professions of farming and cooking. Poking at old scrolls and bits of lost lore from the Second Age is SO much more interesting (and likely to get her face melted off, but THAT’S FUN TOO.)

Zombies at(e) the Homecoming Dance

Caught up by the desire to play a little wacky horror roleplaying in the middle of the week, I got a few folks together, pulled out the pocket-sized campfire horror game Dead of Night, and we had ourselves some fun.
The players:
* Jay, in town from New York for the next few months — catch his part in Pride and Prejudice next month at the Denver Performing Arts Center.
* Meera the Fierce
* Randy
The Concept:
* It is 1985
* You are in High School
* Heathers and Pretty in Pink meets Shawn of the Dead
The Main NPCS:
* Meridith, the Homecoming Queen
* Troy, the “captain awesome”, knows-everyones-name, cool but cocky quarterback (played by James Marsden)
* Rick “the Hickey” – head linebacker, bully (played by Jake Busey)
* Sarah – salutatorian, on the field hockey varsity team, pretty, popular, and rumored to be pregnant (I said Julia Stiles was playing this part, but I was actually thinking of Erika Christensen. Huh.)
* Kinney(, Melvin) – an angry young man who’s been threatening to burn down the school since sixth grade
* Bender – the stoner dude
My constraints for character creation:
* Tell me why you’re NOT going to the Homecoming Dance
* Tell me about some kind of relationship you have with at least two of the NPCs above
Here’s what we got:
* Meera: Alice (“don’t call me Allison”) – the smart, acidic, Scary Goth Chick. Sophomore. She’s Troy’s little sister and dated Kinney in Junior High until he got “too intense”. She’s not at the homecoming dance because… c’mon, look at her. Look at THEM — it’s obvious.
* Jay: Chris – the slightly stoned, visionary singer/guitarist/songwriter of Beefcake Express (not the band’s actual name, which I can’t remember, but it was close to that). Bender is the bass player, and Kinney is the drummer. In play, we also discovered he had a one-night ‘thing’ with the homecoming queen, and he still has a thing for her. He’s a Junior. He’s not at the homecoming dance because the class officers selected a clearly inferior cover band to play at the dance.
* Randy: Jason – the rebellion-through-kleptomania kid. He’s a sophomore, and has a crush on Sarah. Rick the Hickey has selected him as a particular target for harassment, but Jason returns the favor by routinely stealing Rick’s stuff. ((He really doesn’t like Rick because he dated Sarah for a little while last year.)) He’s not at the dance because he didn’t have the guts to ask Sarah (who, because of her personal drama, is also not going). Also, as we find out with the first in-character line in the game, Jason always plays halflings.
What are they all doing during the Homecoming dance?
* They’re in the basement at Alice’s house, playing Call of Cthulu. Alice is GMing. Jason is playing a short british man.
Quote and other wackiness after the cut.

Continue reading “Zombies at(e) the Homecoming Dance”

Wish Fulfillment

Last night, Kate and I were running around the edge of this orc camp up the Greenway a few miles from Bree. We’re leaving, but one of the guards spots her and takes off after her. She ignores him, figuring (correctly) that she can outrun him and he’ll give up the chase in a little bit.
Me? I stop.
“You stopped you shoot him, didn’t you?”
But let me clarify.
It’s not because I’m bloodthirsty or need the xp or anything.
I (a dyed in the wool Tolkien fanboy) am given the opportunity to plant an arrow fletching-deep into the back of a fleeing orc.
It is going to be a long, long, LONG time before that gets old.

Playing to win

I actually had two points for my “serious gamer” post, but the thing was getting too long, so here’s the rest of it.
Let me pick out the bits in the first post that had to do with my second point.

Player B can have an extremely productive 90 minutes online and then go to a movie with local friends.

Productive. Getting stuff done.

Cleaned up some old quests, and started collecting some materials I need for the next ‘big’ dungeon I want to do with her.

How did I know I’d need them? I looked up dungeon instances for the basic level I’m at, focusing on stuff that was higher level by a little bit, because (a) it’s better rewards and (b) I’m a pretty good player, so I want to push myself.

Also, following some research on the “maintankadin” forums, I respecced her for a stronger tanking build, which cost me a ton of gold, but the results of which I liked.

I don’t just research what there is to do — I read about how to do it. Yeah, most of the posts are about playing at 70, and if I’m only level 40, that’s not entirely relevant, but it does tell me what to aim for, what to expect, and most importantly, what I will be expected to do if I want to team up with other people.

… spent some time in the afternoon doing more work on game-prep for that face to face game, and reading up on LotRO quests and appropriate surnames for Men of Gondor.

Prep, prep, prep. I want the face to face game to come off well, and while I don’t prep scenarios as such, I *do* prep by getting familiar with the rules. For this game coming up, I’m researching:
1. Half-life
2. Horror movies of the 80s
3. Mullets
And I’m looking up surnames of the Men of Gondor (note: they don’t use them) because at level 15 your LotRO character can pick a surname, and with the server I’m on, it’s important to me that it’s accurate. I’m a fan-boy.

Kate and did a little LotRO stuff, which mostly amounted to us running around the Old Forest in fear for our very lives.

Why do I prep? Why do I look stuff up? Because eventually the shit is going to hit the fan in whatever game you’re playing, and you want to continue to have fun — not have a frustrating night.
That’s the same reason I aim to do things that push my play ability. If my ‘safe’ play has more instances where I’ve pushed the limit and had to really work to succeed, then I’m ready for the times when I have to redline when I’m NOT expecting it.
Yes, we ran around all over, yes we scrambled — the only time I didn’t have fun was when I was defeated and had to retreat from some wild critters that really shouldn’t have been that much of a challenge — they WERE, because Kate and I got separated, which also shouldn’t have happened.
Saturday, I was on my paladin and teamed up with another one. I tank on my paladin, and I’ve done a LOT of reading on how to do well as a tank on WoW, because it is a LOT different than tanking on City of Heroes.
1. You don’t get any kind of front-loaded aggro. Most tanks in WoW only have a piddly little ranged attack — some (most paladins) don’t have any, and they have to build it by getting beat on for a good ten seconds. 2. Their aggro is FRAGILE. It is no challenge at all for a damage-dealing class to decide they want to pull the bad guy’s aggro from me onto themselves… the CHALLENGE in play is to do as much damage as they can WITHOUT getting aggro. (You can run an aggro meter to tell you were you are in relation to the tank.)
In CoH, Tanks get a ranged taunt that affects up to five enemies at the same time, and, once you start hitting them, pretty much guarantees you will never lose their attention that fight.
The only thing like that in WoW is dynamite, and I can’t MAKE dynamite.
So I was out with this other paladin, and while I’m still running up to the baddie, they throw off a holy smite — a ranged spell they get, because of their build, that I don’t have. Before you could say “What the…” I was running back the way I came, chasing the thing down as it went after the other character.
After the fight, I asked them to wait and let me build aggro on the mob first. “Five seconds,” I said, “during which you can even hit them with your basic attack if you want, just don’t use that Smite.”
“Why worry about it?” They said. “I can tank these little guys.”
Sure, but that’s not the point.
There’s something my football coach used to say. “You play like you practice.” Only into my mid-thirties do I really start to understand that.

Continue reading “Playing to win”

Gaming in review

A mix of gaming this weekend.
((Blogging bitching: it really should be possible to just hit Ctrl-B in Moveabletype to Boldface something. It worked in 2.0 for pete’s sake — you mean to tell me you can’t do it NOW?))
Played Spirit of the Century on Friday night. I pretty much went in with a scenario ‘aimed’ at two player characters who bailed out at the last moment, so I had to wing it.
Luckly, SotC is good at winging it. I had:
– The Daring Magpie – burglar and dilettante faceman, who has done a couple sessions already.
– Rami Samiti – East Indian psychic: ditto.
– Trent McCoy – new character for a player who’s been at all the games — a driver and ‘gun man’.
– Beau Brass – a musician and smooth talker.
My basic method with these games is to ‘focus’ on one or two characters in each session — specifically, I’ll pick someone who’s already been at the game a couple times, and make this ‘their’ session. I was going to game at the retired character for Trent’s player, but he was, as I said, retired, so that indicated The Daring Magpie and/or Rami as the focal point.
Those two characters are different enough, and I’m lazy enough, that I didn’t want to screw around with working out a story that featured both of them equally. Rami had a lot of stuff going on in “The Ape Soldier of Teyawasu”, so that mean The Daring Magpie.
Therefore: social situations, schmoozing, and possibly some sneaking about and stealing stuff. Main focus: something both urban and urbane (based on player comment).
Then, if we have new players, I try to throw something in for them. Trents a drive and shooter. Beau is also new.
So… I opened with a car chase, moved to New York City for the main action (since we’d already ‘done’ L.A.), and set the whole thing around a music festival at the Woolworth Building, to give Beau some musical spotlight.
The heroes started out in mid-chase, trying to stop the bad guys from delivering something to NYC for Doctor Methuselah. They stop them, open the crate with the MacGuffin inside, and find a note from Doctor M himself that reads:

Hello Century Club,
If you’re reading this, you’ve stopped my witless minions from delivering a key piece of equipment I require for my current project.
However, this puts you in a dilemma.
While the project in question would be a brilliant step forward for mankind, it also requires certain sacrifices you would likely find objectionable. You have, probably unknowingly, stopped that plan by acquiring the object in this box. Bravo.
However, the device that requires this object is already in place and will be activated on [date two days hence], regardless. Without this object in place, as a focus for the devices power, well over ninety percent of the population of Manhattan will perish.
So: Do you keep the object, foil my plans, but doom a city, or deliver the object and complete the device (and with it, my original plan)?
Either way, it is now your problem. Good luck, god speed, etc.

Then I just sat back and watched the fireworks.
We had a lot of digressions and such, simply because we hadn’t played or seen each other in a month, but all in all it was a good session and lots of fun.

Grezzk joined the Scholomance Debate Team on the Farstriders server a few weeks back. Since then, I haven’t done a LOT with the guild members, but the stuff I have done has been both fun and a good learning experience. I’ve also got a lot of good loot recently, but frankly that’s been mostly all my own doing.

  • Ran Mana Tombs, and tanked it with Tusker the wonder pig. Would like to do that again, as we didn’t finish the last boss.
  • Ran Auchenai Crypts with some of the SDT members. That went just fine, although the Tank… should play his other mains.
  • Pet-tanked the Coilfang Underbog. A competent healer that knew how to watch my pet and keep him standing meant that we cleared this with no problems.
  • Pet-tanked the Coilfang Slave Pens. Ditto here, though the healer was different. Tusker has tanked about a quarter of the high-level instances in the game now.
  • Ran “The Mechanar” instance with the guildies, and got a really nice gun that, unfortunately, I need to get some better gear to go along with it before it will be as good as my bow, despite the fact that it has better stats — basically, I’m just in better shape to use a bow right now than a gun.
  • Ran the 25-man raid “Gruul’s Lair.” Big group, but a short instance — just two big rooms with some trash mobs in between — takes about an hour. We downed High King Maulgar and his 4 Boss-level buddies (think fighting Statesman, Back Alley Brawler, Synapse, Positron, and Numina, all at once), but couldn’t quite take down Gruul himself — the Guild hasn’t been able to take him yet. Crazy fight. Crazy.

Heck, all the boss fights in WoW are crazy at some level. The easiest boss fights in WoW make the hardest boss fights in CoH look like a game of air hockey at Chuck E. Cheese… I have a lot to learn about most of those fights, but I didn’t screw up too bad (except for siccing Tusker on the wrong boss at one point in the Maulgar fight and feeling like a moronic “huntard” when someone on vent said “Grezzk, where’s your pet?”
Kayti the Paladin-tank
Got to level 43 with her, and continue to plow forward. I like tanking, and of the tank classes, I still like tanking with Paladins the best.
Syncerus the bear-cow
Played Syncerus the tauren (bull) druid (bear form!) with Lee’s little priest for awhile on… Sunday? Saturday? Got about 3 levels and most of a fourth, cleared all my missions for the first low-level Dungeon in the game, and got a bunch of new gear and abilities. Druids are like CoH Kheldians, except the nature forms they take (Tank, Melee DPS, Healing, Ranged DPS) are actually AS GOOD AS their equivalent counterparts, with different mechanics for every form. Very challenging class.

Lord of the Rings Online
Tyelaf the Hunter joined the Council of the Secret Flame, an Kinship. Good group of folks, and helpful. He’s level 14.
Yarren Heatherfoot the hobbit burglar passed Tye as my highest level character, thanks to lots of Bounders-related misadventures with her cousin Tirra. I don’t know that she’s my favorite character — I really like all of my characters on that server (Hunter, Burglar, Champion, GUARDIAN) — but with the neat crowd-control ability and funny situational stuff, she and Tirra (who’s also a burglar) are a LOT of fun to play.
Geiri the dwarf Guardian. Yeah. Stop me if you’ve heard this one — I get in front and do a lot of shield-meet-goblin-face-bashing goodness, and Tiranor the Elf Hunter shoots things until they are very very dead. It’s a match made in Valar. Although they are not our highest level pair, they are very likely our most deadly. Tiranor frequently kills stuff before it even gets to me. No oliphaunts, yet, but she’s getting there.

Tiny gaming update

Not a lot of gaming in the last week. Here’s what’s been going on.
Grezzk Level 70 orcish hunter. Farstriders server. Blood and Thunder Guild
Ding 70! Simul-ding with Lee’s warlock Blynd. Last week I mentioned some things I was going to do once I hit 70.
* Run all the Outlands instances. ((Not started yet.))
* Go to Mulgore and run all the newbie starting-zone missions for the Tauren to finally get my rep with them up to Exalted, so I can get a war kodo. ((Done! Got exalted on the second to last available mission. Did NOT, however, get the war kodo yet, as I’m saving up for my flying mount.))
* Get my flying mount. ((Not yet. Give me a few days.))
* I’m going to get a dragon (fine: netherdrake. whatever) for a flying mount, once I have the ‘regular one’. ((Not yet.))
* I’m going to figure out where the quest line is that lets me walk up to Garrosh Hellscream, kick him in the nuts, and say “man UP, for chrissake — you’re an embarrassment — you give ‘mamas boy’ a bad name.” ((Found the quest. Still need to finish it.))
* Leveling up Alchemy, having finally dropped Skinning. Just no money in it. ((Started that. Potions, Ho!))
* Get a firefly pet.
* Get Cooking high enough to make the uber pet-buffing snacks. ((Done!))
Kayti Dwarf Paladin (Kirin Tor server)
Level : 40 (Ding!)
I have a pony (or in this case a paladin’s warhorse)! I also have plate mail! Herbalism and Alchemy level caps both raised to 300! Two horrible horrible PUGs, but lots of good duos.
It was a good week to be a paladin :).

Week in Review

Here’s what’s been going on in the last week or so:
Grezzk Level 69 orcish hunter. Farstriders server. Blood and Thunder Guild
Ran the first Hellfire Peninsula instance twice, and got some phat loot from that. Cleared all the non-dungeon-group quests in Hellfire Peninsula, Zangarmarsh, and I’m through MOST of the stuff in Nagrand, except for the stuff that *really* requires a group (to differentiate between that and quests that say they require a group and really just require a hunter and his pet. ๐Ÿ™‚
Also got a nice new ranged weapon, and should get a real elephant gun of a weapon pretty soon.
Level 69 right now. 10% done on the way to 70. If things continue at their current pace (and there’s no reason to think they won’t), I’ll probably ding 70 on either Wednesday or Thursday this week, maybe Friday, and I should have enough money for the riding lessons and manticore flying mount at almost exactly the same time as I level. (No point in getting it earlier, since you can’t get the mount until level 70 anyway.)
I can’t wait to ding 70, simply because it’s going to open up so much more stuff to do without thinking about ‘is this getting me xp’ anymore. I’ve spent lots of time on little ‘non-earning’ side projects in the past, but now?
* I’m going to run all the Outlands instances.
* I’m going to go to Mulgore and run all the newbie starting-zone missions for the Tauren to finally get my rep with them up to Exalted, so I can get a war kodo.
* I’m going to get a dragon (fine: netherdrake. whatever) for a flying mount.
* I’m going to figure out where the quest line is that lets me walk up to Garrosh Hellscream, kick him in the nuts, and say “man UP, for chrissake — you’re an embarrassment — you give ‘mamas boy’ a bad name.”
* And aside from all that, there’s 3 more regions in the Outlands that I haven’t even touched yet, in terms of doing the quests and checking out all the cool content. ๐Ÿ™‚ That’s fine: I really like Nagrand — it’s a hunter’s paradise — so I think this will be a good place to ding 70.
Haven’t done a ton in the last week or so, but the Brightsides have gotten a lot of play recently, and they’re lots of fun to play, so that’s good. I think the last thing we did on them was the “Cape” mission… by which I mean “find a hero in Paragon City, beat them up, and take their cape.” Funny.
Lord of the Rings Online continues to impress me with the evocative setting. The interface is a little unfamiliar to me, still, but it’s getting better. Pretty sure I have one of every class and probably two of every race, just to play around with different stuff until I find the stuff I really like. Also, it takes a lot of work in the character creator to come up with a halfling male who doesn’t look dumpy as all get out.
Tabletop -Spirit of the Century
Kate was in town and I finally got to run session of Spirit of the Century with her in attendance. I asked her earlier that week to pick a good town for a pulp adventure and she said Hollywood… she was, unbeknownst to me, thinking “Noir” and not “Pulp,” but it worked out. The story opened at the grand opening of the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, with a big display of Egyptian antiquities that turned up missing…
… cue a car-chase (our first real use of the change mechanics that I like so much), a mook fight, the first use of the incredibly deadly explosion/grenade rules… and a MUMMY! Woot.

Week in Review

Played a little Spirit of the Century this last weekend. It wasn’t the session I’d dreamed up for the game I had to abort last week, since that would have been totally inappropriate for the group we’d assembled, but it was still fun. We had…
Mob Mooks
Mysterious Vanishing Zeppelins
Mushrooms, Giant
Mushrooms, Glowing
A lost civilization of cannibals (sorry, ran out of M’s)
… and a whole lot of fire.
Best of all, the most “turtle-up” player got drawn right into the middle of the story, which I think both startled and pleased him. He habitually makes people who are kind of distant from everyone else he’s working with, and hard to socket in, and with very little work on my part (and thanks to a great idea from Randy) he was right in the middle of the whole story. It was ABOUT him, really, which was cool.
I think the best part was when he rescued the starlet of his favorite Radio program — Esperanza Kittredge — and she threw her arms around his neck and said ‘get me out of here!’
And… see… he has this Aspect about how he loves this radio show…
And he has this OTHER aspect of “No one touches the Master of Shinanju!”
So I held up a Fate point and said “She’s sobbing into your shoulder, and her voice is even more amazing than it is on the radio, but No One Touches the Master of Shinanju…”
And he could either take the Fate point and shove her rudely away, or
let her cling and instead pay ME a Fate point (and it’s not like he had a ton at that point).
Does he comfort his idol, or stick with the hard line, elite attitude?
Bang, baby. ๐Ÿ™‚
And he thought about it a bit, and paid me the point, and let her cling to him as he carried them away from the giant burning mushroom on the rope ladder dangling from the escaping zeppelin.
It was cool.
MMO stuff after the cut.

Continue reading “Week in Review”

Fiddly Bits

One post before I hit the paving stones of the work-street… possibly with my face.
Hmm. I was going to make this a long, drawn out thing, but instead I’m going to boil it down to a few bullet points.
I’ve played CoH a long time. I like it.
I’ve played WoW not as long, but also like it a lot. Possibly more than CoH, but that’s an apples to oranges thing — CoH is not WoW, nor vice versa.
One of the things I DO NOT like about CoH is that leveling takes ages. This is a design choice from NCSoft, because there’s no end-game content in CoH — once you hit the top level, there is, in short, f#ck-all to do.
Compounding this is the fact that, between leveling dings, there’s nothing HAPPENING to your character. Except for the dings, there’s just nothing going on. When you get to a new level, you either get a new power, get a few points to improve a power, and can maybe upgrade the effectiveness of all your powers (with new enhancements for said powers).
But that’s it, and it all happens when you ding. Other than that, you just slog slog through the same 50-odd, random mission maps, reading the story-lines in depth because those stories are the only things differentiating the missions.
I think that’s why RP is so much bigger on CoH than WoW (in my experience) — adding your own personal stories to the characters is the only way to have new things happening to your characters with more frequency.
Contrast this with WoW. When you level, you ALWAYS get at least a new Talent point, which at the least is going to improve you character, maybe give you a whole new ability that not everyone has. Plus, you get new skills, et cetera. That’s all pretty much like CoH.
However, you level faster, MUCH faster, because there’s LOADS of stuff to do at the max level for the game — many folks actually think of getting to 70 as “the first part” of the game, while the stuff you do once you get there as “the rest of the game.”
But then there’s all the other things you have going on BETWEEN levels. Skill-ups as you’re moving around, doing stuff, be it for defense, weapons, fighting, or a profession. New gear that might possibly be an upgrade to the stuff you’ve got… maybe an obvious one, or more of a lateral promotion that emphasizes a different strength of the character… either way, something to look at and ponder.
In other words, fiddly bits.
Some folks don’t like fiddly bits. For myself, the fiddly bits that fill in the ‘in between leveling’ is what keeps the game INTERESTING, long-term.
No where near a level? That’s fine, I’m working on getting my Alchemy skill up — I wanna be able to make water-breathing potions! Plus, I’m working with the forces in Thrallmar a lot right now, and they have a lot of cool stuff that they’ll give you… IF you reputation is high enough with them, so I’m doing missions specifically for them, to get up to Honored, then Revered, then Exalted with them, cuz look at that fancy bow they ha–
Oh, I dinged? Wow, I didn’t even notice I was getting close — I was busy playing THE REST OF THE GAME.
There’s always something to do, and I really, really love that.
CoH folks are starting to get a taste of this with the Inventions system — now, in between those leveling dings, you can keep an eye out for cool inventions that fall your way — stuff that, just like cool new gear in WoW, tweaks, changes, and improves your guy without a ding — stuff that, in some cases, is really worth CELEBRATING.
Hell, Pummelcite make 2 million influence yesterday, just selling off stuff he had no use for — that damn near made back all the money I spent on upgrading him this weekend. That right there is a cool thing — between missions and leveling, I’ve got something to DO.
It made me really enjoy CoH more. It improved my experience, so kudos, design team.
Now let’s take it to the next level.
How about a series of missions you can do (like the police-band missions, yeah… tie it into that) that raise your rep with certain groups in the city, allowing you to get your hands on inventions, recipes, and enhancements that you can only get if you’re on their good side?
I’m not talking about a single mission to get you a Nemesis staff for three days, I’m talking about working SERIOUSLY with the Kings Row Police until they give you access to their “Riot Gear” inventions and craftable temp powers.
How about the idea that if you work your rep up really high with certain groups (Brickstown Police), it drops ESPECIALLY low with other groups (Crey Corp), who then randomly ambush you, because you’re on their most-hated list? Boom, you have a NEMESIS!
Repeat throughout the city. Repeat for the 35+ factions and groups around town. Wanna bet i wouldn’t dust off my level 50’s to ‘grind reputation’ with some of those groups? HELL yes.
Fiddly bits.
I think there’s an appeal here that goes beyond MMOs as well. Some games really attract their following through all the little fiddly bits that you get to tweak and play with on you character. DnD is definitely this way (and, to a comment De made, maybe so complicated it’s better handled by a computer), but also Champs, Tombstone, even Heroquest (little constant improvements), and maybe even Dogs (again, little constant improvements and character changes). Compare to other RPGs with few changes and ‘dings’ that are few and far between (AmberDRPG, even PTA).
Very interesting way to examine and evaluate some of the games on my shelf, and understand why I like some of them more than others.

And… Action!

As I already mentioned, we played some Primetime Adventures this weekend — this was the first episode after the series premiere of our “Weird War Two” show — and ***Dave has once again done fantastic work in putting together a great game log of Strange Allies, Episode 1, “Djinn”.
This was a revelatory session for me as a PTA producer — somewhere in there, I went from “okay, I think we’re at a conflict” to realizing “Oh, THIS is how you play Bangs in this game. WOW!”
Great stuff.
My only coulda-shoulda for the session is that I should have suggested that the climatic scene conflicts for Margie and Randy should have been more about their characters’ issues, but that’s a relatively minor thing.

Primetime Adventures: Finally!

Dave’s still putting up the AP from the Pilot Episode, but I wanted to get a link up to PrimetimeAdventures / Strange Allies. We finally got to play this game! Woo!
It was a little wonky, getting started, but we hit our groove near the end of the session and I do believe I’m still buzzing from this thing, a day later. Good good stuff. Some could-shouldas to consider, but good, good stuff.

Forge Con, the “quick” version

I left my journal/notebook at home today (along with a bunch of otther stuff I should have remembered), which included all my detailed notes on the happenings at ForgeCon Midwest, which I attended this weekend. Without the notes, I’ll just hit a few highlights:

  1. Contrary to my grandiose plans, I didn’t end up playing one ‘new’ game (defined here as ‘something I haven’t played before’, not necessarily ‘hot off the presses’). This was due partly to circumstances (I’d hoped to play Primetime Adventures or Agon, but no one was running it) and partly due to my own choices (since I had several options at times and chose games I was already familiar with over other stuff, for a number of reasons). With all that said, it was still really cool for folks like Ron Edwards to seeks me out and specifically ask me to jump into a session of It Was a Mutual Decision (the story of a romantic break-up, with wererats), even if I didn’t play it. This is also a good thing, since I won’t be coming back from the Con with my hair all blown back and white, proclaiming the next great game we GOTTA play — it reinforced my appreciation of games I already know I really like.
  2. So what did I play?
    • The Mountain Witch (GMd it) — this was during the first gaming slot, which got slarted late in general, and ended up being more of a two-hour demo of the rules than a full-on-and-proper session. That said, we had three ronin with some great abilities and neat backstory, a nice negotiation with my favorite tMW NPC, Uncle Tengu; a fight with some zombie soldiers in my favorite tMW ‘set’, the Black Meadow; an encounter with the Witch’s Mistress, and ended with a duel between a ronin with a sword, and a ronin with a rock. The one with the rock won. it wasn’t even close.
    • Heroquest (played) — this was a lot of fun for me, since I was playing with Mike Holmes, who essentially taught me how to run this game via his long-running ‘live’ IRC-chat-based game that is now into it’s third season, third in-game decade, and fourth year of play. We did a six-person horror-themed one shot in a traditional Glorantha village, and verily it was cool. I enjoy failing in that system as much as I do winning in other games, and spent a lot of time working out ‘bonus’ abilities like “bum hip” for my grouchy old sherrif. Tons o’ fun.
    • The Shadow of Yesterday: Brokedown Castle (GMd, with some actual prep) — this game took place in the evening and actually had a nice turnout, though pretty much no one who played were the people who’d voiced interest in playing prior to the con. Heroquest-Mike turned around and became the player for this session and proceeded to hand me a great NPC in the form of his Goblin translator named Glarb. Has Margie can attest, I have a lot of fun mangling the translation of things from player to the next, and Glarb became a plot-turning pivot on which several scenes hinged. Result: Lots of fun, lots of laughs, a good Bringing Down the Pain contest between the (PC) albino ratkin sorcerer and the (NPC) arcanely schooled nobleman. To contrast that, I should have prepped a stronger situation going in — I went in with some very sketchy NPCs with some leading bits of information about each of them, and asked the players to plug into that relationship map — that worked, and the stuff they came up with did (as I’d planned for) create a whole-cloth conspiracy out of the scraps I’d brought to the table, but just a leeeeetle more momentum from the NPCs would have helped things move a skosh more briskly.
    • Galactic
    • (Played — playtest) — Matt Wilson was down for the con and, once rested, wanted to try out his new version of Galactic. I GMd a playtest group for the game already, and REALLY wanted to see what he’d been doing with the game, so I jumped at the chance. This lead to some really great design talk with Paul Czege (creator of My Life with Master), Eric Finley, and Matt, and I think we really sanded down the last few ragged edges on that thing. Result: this is a tight, tight game. As good as the clunky draft of the game was, this is SO MUCH BETTER. Tighter. Cleaner. More focused. Gone or replaced are many of fiddley bits, leaving one system with a really unified, elegant feel. It’s not genius yet, but it’s totally fun and playable right now, and it’s going to get better — it cant not at this point, I think. Matt still hasn’t had a chance to playtest the system all the way through a whole ‘arc’ and into the end game. I pointed out that my play group is all ABOUT longer-form play and getting to the end game, and told him to get me the damn rules already. There was a lot of nodding.

  3. I should have brought Nine Worlds. My roomate Iskander/Alexander is very much in love with this system, which I’ve owned for awhile and haven’t read, and talked about a couple sessions they’ve played that seems to bring out a great kind of Nobilis-Lost-500 feeling that’s a lot of fun. Must go back and read that thing.

And that was about it. Lots and lots of visiting, and talking about gaming and games and stuff we liked and what we didn’t, about the direction the indie scene is going, and the fact that people in the indie scene don’t use editors, and really really should… and good things like that.
If nothing else, the con let me meet some people I should have met ages ago (Jae, Matt, Mike, Ron, Aaron, Eric, Blankshield… just off the top of my head), meet some folks I really enjoyed and have only recently become aware of through the forums (Clyde, Keith, Thor) and really get a sense of the people behind the UserIDs. Great stuff.
Also, there was a lot of talking about Space Hulk and Warhammer — that’s always good. ๐Ÿ™‚
And I’m now totally okay with not liking Capes. Or Shock:. I know I’m not alone, and I know my reasons are much like the reasons that other people have — people with whom I share many other gaming preferences. It’s not this thing that i don’t get — it’s this thing that just isn’t for me, for a number of reasons both artistically, enjoymentally (a new word) and just plain TECHNICALLY.
Like any of these sorts of things — it was a lot of time spent with folks who enjoy the same fun you do, talking, playing, and just enjoying being a part of a really grand hobby.
That’s a good thing. ๐Ÿ™‚

Week in Review

Can’t seem to get the momentum back up to pre-holiday rates on the Mountain Witch. Not sure what to do about it, as I’d really like to get that sucker moving again — it’s not like a play by post game needs any help being slow.
Got (I’d say) about half of the first honest session going in the “City of Petrana” steampunk TSoY game. I’m not thrilled with the amount completed, but I’m not surprised either, and I think we actually did pretty well — we made the characters up almost two months ago, haven’t touched them or the system (which we didn’t really use this go-round anyway) since, and haven’t seen each other really in almost as long — I felt a strong urge to just sit around and chat, compare notes on children’s programming, and share steampunk invention ideas with Margie for her character. ๐Ÿ™‚ That said, the scenes (all of which were freeform roleplay) had a lot of zing to them, especially with the ducal heir (Leo) and Dave’s Pietro — which is as it should be, given their relationship. I’d really like to get a much richer, thicker cast of NPCs introduced, and to that end I really need to sit down and get a solid relationship map for the Ducal palace worked out. The first mini-arc — call it the pilot episode — doesn’t really help me with that, since it takes them away from the city, but this is the pilot and lets us look much more heavily at the main characters instead.
Wouldn’t mind a couple more people in this one — should see if Lee and De are interested or something.
Timing: Saturday and/or Sunday afternoons are, I think, the way to go at this point — I might eventually run (or play?) in a Friday night game, but that’s only a realistic option on alternate Fridays, so I don’t have Kaylee. By starting in early afternoon on a weekend day, we don’t have as many interruptions (meals, bedtimes, time to travel home), and that theoretically allows for more focus. The requisite bedtimes and ordering supper can then mark the end of the game-play and the beginning of ‘visiting and being social’ — this might be the best thing, since we know that we’ll be ‘digressing’ LATER, and can focus on the game NOW.
Anyway — I was the worst digresser of the lot this week — just felt like an age since I’d seen anyone. Only one way to fix that. ๐Ÿ™‚
Didn’t do anything in the way of CoH this week. Only have a few toons in regular rotation as it is (Aeric, Markov), and they tend to get some playtime mostly as a social conduit more than as a game avatar.
I’m not really doing much on WoW at the moment, either — I’m essentially not allowed to play Grezz’k much, or I’ll level past whatever we’re doing with the NYC people, and I’m limiting my playtime on Kayti: when I run out of ‘double xp time’ I log her back off, and I’m basically following the same rule with the ‘little’ warlock I have as well. This means not a lot of time on, but I usually ding when I do log on — a level on Grezz’k, two on Kayti, and five or something on Kessana the Faith-look-alike warlock. I’ve got a few truly low-level characters I’m just screwing around with, but those are my three main ones.
I still don’t feel like I have a very good handle on group dynamics in WoW — even small groups — this is in part because I almost never get into a PuG when I’m playing (unfair to the other players, since KK could wake up at any point and pull me AFK — I’d rather that particular event only regularly killed *me*), except with the NYC group, and we only group when we’re doing an Instanced Dungeon, which doesn’t happen often and usually means it’s been two or three levels since the last time we grouped, and everyone has a new trick they want to use, so the tactics keep changing. That said, I’ve found that the game is quite satisfying solo, if (obviously) not as social — I compensate by cracking wise on the public channels.
At any rate, I’ve a lot to do in the next couple weeks with writing anyway, so it’s all probably just as well. Related: I’m not going to get the Burning Crusade expansion until I’ve sent out my next revision of Hidden Things, so as much as I’d like to try out the new races, it isn’t going to happen soon.

Week in Review

Again, no Face to Face gaming, due to no faces to face with. Holidays are Suck.
In the Digital realms:
The Mountain With game continues apace. (A slow pace, but apace, nonetheless.)
Got Aeric (Bored/WalkingAbout Prince of Niffleheim Ice/Storm Controller) up to level 16. Ran the holy ice crystals out of the Winter Event, finally ran the King’s Row Bank/Safeguard mission successfully, got flight, got 15, started the shiny new Faultline Story Arcs with Sophie, and dinged 16, picking up Freezing Rain. (I respecced him somewhere in there to get closer to Stamina, sooner, and the loss of an Area Attack isn’t… TOO annoying. Just kinda.) Clearly, he’s gotten all my CoH time. I’m still working out the Controller-with-Scrapper dynamic (I think it’s funny that I have a Controller/Tank mindset that really finds scrappers annoying, and a Scrapper/Blaster mindset where I do ALL THE SAME STUFF I HATE.)
I would like to get Damosel Distress, Zero at the Bone, Dolmen, and Strat through the restarted winter event — Anyone else past that… like Gilly… is a bonus.
Grezzk (orc hunter resurrected from my time on Forest’s Edge) is about level 27 on the Kirin Tor server. I’m playing him mostly solo (inasmuch as a Hunter is ever truly solo), then teaming up with the NYC guys for running Instances (think CoH Task Forces with multiple goals that all take place in a single, large location — a mission map the size of a small city zone, maybe — it’s essenitally that kind of time involvement). Last weekend, we annihilated the Wailing Caverns (except for one TPK that my pet might or might not have inadvertently caused), and I think we’re doing Blackfathom Deep this weekend — I’m a few levels ahead of everyone else, so the instances are pretty easy, but with cool stories and good fun.
Kayti (dwarven paladin) is level 21 and has her sites set on the Deadmines dungeon instance. Due to the situation with her, this will be a PuG group, so I’m a little leery. I’m also working her through a paladin-only quest that teaches her a few new powers and gets her a cool shield and a positively FANTASTIC main weapon (which quest in turn will take her into two more instanced dungeons). I’m in a really good guild (a casual-player-friendly, RP-friendly-but-not-mandatory, we’re-all-grownups-with-lives-who-like-to-play, with a massive playerbase and smart people — called “Knights and Weekends”), but most of the players are higher level than Kayti, so I can’t get a lot of help on these missions from them at this point. And I really WANT to get into group things with her, because large fights in the middle of melee are a LOT more difficult to do than Grezzk’s “stand back and shoot them to ribbons while Tusker the Super Pig tanks”.
it’s very interesting comparing the two games — there’s stuff that each game does better than the other — though both are very interesting, fun games. I think the most impressive thing is how different the power levels feel on the game — I’ve gotten two characters into the 20’s on WoW MUCH faster than I could on CoH, and with less experience, but “one, maybe two, enemies at a time” is still VERY much the rule to live and die by in that game — it’s very harshly realistic in that way. If you don’t feel ‘super’ in CoH (where I routinely bypass large parts of a mission even with my wimpy controller by just running by guys and ignoring their attacks), then play WoW for a bit — you WILL. ๐Ÿ™‚ Both games capture their genre (comics, versus gritty ‘every fight is a fight to the DEATH that could go wrong and kill you’ fantasy) extremely well.

AP: tMV in PbP (Actual Play: the Mountain Witch in Play-by-Post)

It’s not entirely true that I didn’t get any gaming time in this weekend: I’ve recently started up Play-by-Forum-Post game of The Mountain Witch, hosted on a new forum install I put up just for this purpose. We’ve been actively doing stuff with the game for about 10 days, and already have all the characters created, backstories worked out, setting background sketched in, and have just finished our first scene (in which introductions and foreshadowing were done). The game plays fast (1 to 4 sessions) in face to face, so I believe the pace and short format will counteract the glacial speed of forum play. So far, it seems as though it has. Good stuff. Also, it lets me run something with a mix of Denver and NYC people at the same time.
Keeley’s talking about doing something similar with the forum and My Life With Master after Mountain Witch wraps up — I’m very very intrigued and interested in that — My Life with Master was, in fact, the very first “Indie” game I bought, and the thing that got me reading the Forge and the games that were coming out of it. I’ve always wanted to play a game.


After nine months of dancing around the idea, I finally got a chance to run a game for the ‘geeks’ out in NYC. It came about in a funny way.
Their main GM has been gone (theatre work out of town) for awhile and has just returned. Talks as to what to play/run have commenced, and Kate mentioned that Keeley was wondering if I had any thoughts on the subject, and if I’d bring em along to share at a game-day thing on Sunday while I was in town.
The method of conveying this information left me thinking “I should run something.” I prepared to run something. (Specifically a run of the Freebooters scenario I’ve run before, using The Shadow of Yesterday, which I love, but haven’t touched since the last time I ran Freebooters.)
I chatted a bit with Keeley, and got that it was more of an informational chatting thing over card and board games. Ahh. Okay. I emailed myself my prep (to have for some other time) and unpacked all but one printed-out copy of the rules, ostensibly to leave with Keeley or Jay (their main GM) to check out.
Conversations over the weekend led me to say “Hey, I want to run something: pirates and zombies — who’s in?”
Response was good. Too good, maybe: six people showed up to play for a game where I had 4 pregens. Keeley and Kate made up their own people, of which I think Kate’s was more successful, just because I had more time to think about how to include her character in the scenario.
Everyone showed up. We played.
The Good:
Lots of fun. I laughed really hard. There were some funny scenes, and some REALLY funny scenes.
Several folks noticed parts of the system they really liked. Jay dug the Harm mechanic, and Timothy really got it well. Everyone seemed to dig Keys and Pools and Gift Dice and how they all worked. (I particularly liked Matt’s decision to give me a LOT of Gift Dice to use against Rob in a conflict, just because he thought it would be really cool if the witch of Rope Hill got what she wanted in the conflict. That is a can of awesome — player’s diving in and saying “This story would kick ass. I’m going to invest in making that happen.”)
It seems like a small thing, but everyone got the rules. Within the time it took to run the session (6:30 to 10:30) we’d done normal conflicts, multiple Bringing Down the Pain exchanges, bought new abilities, pools, and Secrets, taken Harm, used up Pools… even Kate (who does not usually think in terms of System stuff) pointed out a logic-error I was making in a major conflict; and observation that really helped straighten the whole thing out.
The Bad
I hadn’t touched the rules in awhile, and didn’t want to reference them much at the table (only did one time), and as a result I messed up a couple scenes a bit, notably the one with the Witch of Rope Hill, which was funny, but a bit confused and didn’t get straightened out until near the end. That shouldn’t have happened.
The group was too big. Five would have been okay. Six was too many.
The Ugly:
I didn’t have time, with everyone there, to give equal attention to al the players, and those at the far end of the table suffered for it. Apologies to Jay and Keeley and Matt, specifically. ๐Ÿ™ With that many folks, I would rather have played without a table. I think it would have worked better.
The new-ness of the system didn’t give me a chance to work some of the characters Keys into the scenes well enough. In other runs, folks have hit 3 or 4 advances in a night — in this run, only about half the people at the table even got one advance, even though they covered just as much ground. Part of that was…
“Don’t Split the Party.” This is a die-hard, carved-in-stone tenet of that particular gaming group (due to the fairly bloody nature of most of the game systems they play normally). The group’s normal GM went to great lengths to come up with IC reasons to get everyone working together, and within a few minutes of leaving the ship, five of the six characters were ganging up on various challenges that were meant to be fairly tough for one guy and reasonably challenging for two. They steamrolled pretty much everyone — the Witch of Rope Hill was the only thing that took them more than a few minutes of game play to crush. Interestingly, the grouping up ALSO cut into amount of XP the people were getting from hitting their keys, simply because people didn’t have a chance to hit them — Key of the Wanted Man is hard to make ‘important’ when you’re in a big group, for example. Very interesting.
All in all: A fun time. I’ve already played with most of these guys before, and I had a great time, found some fun moments, and basically walked away with a big grin and a strong desire to try it all again, but with more prep and a more personalized set up.

Week in Review

Marginally frustrating week, in that I keep trying to get some games going, and the combination of everyone’s schedules and the holidays continues to confound my efforts.
Said frustration was countered by a couple fun sessions of CoH, which hasn’t happened in awhile.

Continue reading “Week in Review”

Weeks and weeks and weeks in review

Been traveling for awhile, and scheduling is always hard during the holidays, so there hasn’t been much gaming going on.
Played the second session of Dogs in the Vineyard, which I need to write up a log for. Next game… maybe Sunday.
Played some CoH — mostly Pummelcite, but a smattering of other characters, including Hype.
Played and finished Prince of Persia – Sands of Time. Fun.
Played and quit Prince of Persia – Warrior Within. Not fun.
Reinstalled Warrior Within and approached it with a significantly different mindset. The first one is still more fun and more reminiscent of the original game, but I’m not hating PoP-WW this time — except that one of my fingers hurts from pressing the same button so damn much.


Somehow, I forgot to write down the Actual Play from the second Dogs session. That’s just wacky. I will fix soon.

Roached, again

Saturday, we picked up our Roach game again, and got quite a bit further through the razing of Pemberton University.
A Word on Our Playing Speed:
I’ve commented before on the fact that, unless I set up a game with none of the kids around offering up distractions, we just don’t get as much done as we would otherwise. For instance, I’ve run John Harpers “Freebooters” TSoY scenario twice, and in one case (no kids around) I finished the whole thing up in about four hours — in the other (kids around) we took about 5 or 6 hours to get about two-thirds of the way through.
Now, while I might like to set up a regular game that’s ostensibly kid-free, I shouldn’t like to let people think that I’m particularly frustrated by this — we have kids, we love our kids being around, and that’s just one of the downsides of the unquestionable good.
Or, as De commented near the end of the evening, “We could be playing through this faster than we are, but how we’re doing it really suits us.”
Well said. We had a lot of fun setting up the minutia and particulars of each scene during the events, with everyone jumping in and contributing additional NPCs and material.
To review:
* Doyce, as Douglas Dean (“Double D”) Blackburn, Asst. Prof of Poetry and Theatre Arts, into sports and debauchery.
* De, as “Kitty”, a hard of hearing full professor of Chemistry, into cruelty and deceit.
* Lee, as “Penny”, I think… damn I had a problem remembering his name Asst. Prof. of Art, also into cruelty and deceit.
* Margie, as “Benny”, I think… Asst Prof of Geology, into Gossip and… Something.
* Dave as “Pansy”, Full Professor of Botany, into Wit and young fresh men. err… Freshmen. Right.
I’m using the nicknames everyone had rather than their full names because I flat out don’t remember them — we used the nicknames almost exclusively during the game.
So, with our first Event done already, we started up with the WINE AND CHEESE SOCIAL.

Continue reading “Roached, again”

Dogs in the Vineyard: about damned time

Okay, so… it’s been two years since I got Dogs. More than that; I had one of the first pre-Gen Con copies of DitV and I loved it. My enthusiasm for promoting the game to the folks I play with was pretty high, and we even got some characters made, back in October of 2004, and put them through their initiations before it got too late to continue on to the first town. The response was… mixed — “cool setting, cool characters… but man… it feels like the dice get in the way of every single line I want to say when we’re RPing.”
And … after that, what happened? Nothing.
See, November rolled around a week later — I was GMing two ‘regular’ games and secretly participating in my third NaNoWriMo… I was putting down stone tiles in my kitchen and bathroom (which I’d never done before), the holidays were on the way, and on November 28th, I found out my daughter was nine short months away from needing a bedroom. In short, we never got back to the game.
Hell, I really didn’t get back to any game for well OVER a year… damn near two.
So, fast forward to a couple months ago. Things have quieted down a bit — a lot of different things are going on in my life now, but it feels like there’s a rhythm… like I’ve got a system that works, and that wouldn’t be shattered by some gaming, and whether or not I love gaming, I for damn sure hate sitting around with nothing to do, so…
So there’s been a lot of talk about some games, and of course I start pushing all the dirty-hippie games on my shelf, start up a short-lived HQ game, and head back over to the Forge for probably the first time in six months and start reading.
… and read.
… and read.
And there’s so much that’s out that’s new and good. And old and good… and oh my word, there so much I want to play.
And I start talking about all this on my blog, and Dave sort of picks up the vibe some and allows that yeah, he’d both like to play some of this stuff, and y’know, he’d like to GM some too, maybe. Heck, he’s always loved Dogs in the Vineyard, and we never got to play it… maybe he should run it.
And I say “You should!”
And then I say “But… y’know… before that… I could finish running the story for those guys we all made up.
And I read the new DitV book again.
And I read the old characters again.
And I find the first town I wrote up, as an experiment of transferring a relationship map from one source into a totally different genre, and I saw how it could be better…
And I get really excited.
And Friday, 23 months after we made up the characters, we played the first town. Virtue.
Here’s what happened.

Death! Debauchery! Tenure!

Saturday the 9th I rode down to Lee and De’s new place about an hour and a half away with Dave and Margie in tow. I’ve been trying to get our gaming quotient up a bit, and I walked in the door with five games prepped (in the sense that I had sufficient supplies to run each of them) — Jungle Speed (which I dropped on the table with a sticky note that read ‘not optional’), PTA, Shadow of Yesterday, Mortal Coil, and the Shab al-Hiri Roach. I just pulled every game out and set them out on the table to see what folks were interested in. I was pretty much open to anything, but if I was going to lay odds, I’d have guessed that we’d end up playing a one-shot of the Roach and that De would want to borrow Mortal Coil and angle for an ongoing game of same.
I would have been right.

Continue reading “Death! Debauchery! Tenure!”

Galactic, Session Two

Denver Session 2: short on scenes, long on RP, fun, and future promise.
Kate can attest: I came off this session engergized — wired to the point of being nearly intelligible. ๐Ÿ™‚ Little Chatty Kathy, that’s me.

The Princes(ses)’ Kingdom!

Last night, I got to run The Princes’ Kingdom for Katherine. I write about it over on the Forge in [TPK] First-time Princes’ Kingdom, with a six-year-old!
So awesome.

I asked her if she had any traits that would help, and we went down the sheet:
“Would your… Swimming help?”
“Would your…. Karate help?”
“You could kick your teacher in the face.”
“*giggles* Don’t be silly, Uncle Doyce.”
.. and so on.

I can’t stop grinning.

Galactic Playtest, Session One

Played the first ‘real’ session of the Galactic playtest on Saturday. Here’s what happened.
Forgive, please, the extra-super details on who rolled exactly what dice in each conflict — this is a playtest, and the game’s author has asked for lots of detail on how the conflicts balance out. Aside from that, the start of the stories are pretty cool.

Weekend in summary (more later)

There was actually a fair amount of game-type things going on this weekend. I will write a bit more about each individual element later (when I have my notes), but in the meantime here’s a quick summary posted mostly just to push the gaming calendar down the page a bit. (But isn’t it kinda neat that it’s there?)
Thursday: Played Paranoia for the first time evah, with a whole group of people I’d never really RP’d with before. Had. A. Friggin’. Blast. So funny. Very low-stress easy-learn rules and tons of Pure Funny pouring around. More later.
Saturday: During the Beach-House-Party the geeks from NYC commandeered the dining room table to play some Jungle Speed (first time for everyone but Keeley). While this is a great, fun game, it’s damned hard to play when you’ve had a corona or six two, so we switched to Pit, which was different fun, but still fun.
Monday: Played Cataan. My province was generally peaceful and agrarian, exploring for the sake of exploring and trading only insofar as was necessary to enable the simple lives to which my people had become accustomed. In short, we were simplistic but happy bumpkins who would no doubt have ended a ‘Protectorate’ of whoever actually *won*. I need to play this game more; it’s fun. Initial outlay for the basic game, plus the expansions, is a little prohibitive though. Ahh well.
… and that’s it. I’ll have more to say, later, about Paranoia, Jungle Speed, and Pit.

Weekend in Review

Hmm… didn’t do a whole heckuva lot this weekend, gaming-wise, due to Kaylee-busy-ness and yard work.
Friday: had a really good time doing this. (see also a summary of events here.
Saturday: Horrifying amounts of yard-work (HOA is busting my balls, not to put too fine a point on it), followed by Steak, baked beans, beer, and watching a bunch of Deadwood, season one, with Lee.
Sunday: Kaylee was pretty tired and having a rough day (turns out she has a low-grade fever that isn’t likely to leave her be for a couple more days), so I didn’t really get anything done at all. Did log into CoH that night and got both Markov and Mister Brightside dinged-up to a power level. Cool.

The Shadow of Yesterday: Freebooters One-Shot (Second Run), Post-mortem

So the HQ: Firefly game that we’d slotted to run on Friday didn’t come off. I think I need to restructure how we’re trying to make that game scheduling work. The current thing isn’t working — one every three months is barely gaming, let alone a campaign — and I’d really like it to.
So, with four interested players present, I decided to pull out the “Freebooters” scenario and pre-gen character that I’d used only two days previous with a mixed group of strangers, people I’ve played with a lot, and people I haven’t GM’d much a’tall, and see what THEY thought of the system.
The Good:
* A lot of laughing around the table and enjoyment, I thought.
* I think I set stakes pretty well in most cases, so that if the players won the conflict (which didn’t happen much, as noted in ‘ugly’, below), the results were cool, and if they failed, the complications were ALSO cool. Easiest example for that was “If you win, you get the lock open before the Guy comes back… if you fail, he comes back before you open the lock.” The player failed, and in walks The Guy. It was part of what made up what was probably the best scene of the evening.
* I tried to remember and use “Failure Doesn’t Mean the Character Looks Bad”, but there’s a corollary to this: “They CAN look bad, especially if that’s what the player wants.” There were a couple of failure-situations during the evening where player simply thought it would be cooler/funnier if their character just really flubbed up and looked kinda silly doing it. De really blew a “convince them I’m not a witch” conflict, and Lee actually had his character set his own beard on fire as the result of a too-cunning-plan-gone-wrong. It was fine for a one-shot, and honestly that kind of slapstickyness does fit the pirate genre pretty darn well, provided the characters get to turn around and be cool thereafter (which both did).
* Players taking charge and doing some aggressive scene-framing. This fell along the lines of “ooh, that thing with Jackie is cool for my character too: I want to be there. Jackie can I be there with you? Yeah? Okay, I’m there,” and lo, it was good.
The Bad
* Dogs in the Vineyard has this rule for the GM: “Say Yes or roll dice. I said ‘no’ on two occasions when I should have rolled dice or just said Yes. As impossible as I thought it was, I should have just dropped penalty dice on one of the sneak thief’s more hair-brained schemes, set Stakes, and let the situation fall out as it would, and I shouldn’t have balked Dave’s request for a few more XP from his Key as a result of a cunning plan. That last thing? I don’t even know WHY I did it. It was stupid.
* I wasn’t weaving the character’s scenes very well — there was too much downtime for some of the players, and not enough going on in the other scenes to interest them, AND *way* too much “wandering off when I’m not playing”, which was partly fed by the other two issues, and partly by outside factors, and it just made things not-hum. Also, when the other players aren’t really paying attention to or interested in your scene, you’re less likely to get Gift Dice from them spontaneously.
* Laughing and enjoyment is some good peanut butter to put on a sandwich, but I spread it out unevenly — too thick in some places, too thin in others, which means that I think the girls got a lot of screen time and the guys not as much. I just didn’t manage that very well. This ties into the scene-weaving problem as well, and contributed to the results.
The Ugly
* I was rolling really well, and the players were, as a group, rolling absolute shite. All night. It was truly atrocious. They would roll bad, then spend a pool point to get bonus dice, and the bonus dice would suck… and someone would give them Gift Dice, and they’re roll THEM, and they would suck EVEN WORSE. It made things a little frustrating for the players at times, I think; difficult to narrate at times, for me; and sort of ate into (1) the suspension of disbelief and (2) the enjoyment of the system and (3) their faith in their character’s competency.
* I used the exact same pattern for starting play as I did on Wednesday, part of which involved explaining the rules by using the character sheet right after everyone had selected their character for the evening. The problem that arose was that that period of play was the absolute worst 30 to 40 minutes of the evening for unavoidable non-play interruptions, which meant that for almost every one of the Six Key Points I needed to cover, I had to repeat myself at least once and maybe even four separate times to make sure everyone heard, didn’t check for understanding, got tired of giving the same examples over and over… and all that resulted in some confusing during play and mistakes. I’m not sure how I could have worked that better, except for maybe just jumping right into play, but that carries it’s own problems, so… that might simply have been out of my hands, somewhat — I’d avoided it on Wednesday night by having no kids around at all and no extraneous distractions, but that’s not something that’s going to be possible for years and years in my regular group.
All in all: fun night, definitely. One frustration was that we didn’t actually finish (some scenes ran quite long, the intro-rules portion ran about double of the first session, we were really laughing it up at times, and for whatever reason my regular group runs slower than a convention-style group) and I’m not sure when I can schedule a sequel without ‘using up’ a time slot in which I could be trying to get the Firefly game humming along regularly.
There is a lot to be said, as a GM, for having a simple, wide-open, reusable scenario with some easy-to-grasp pregen characters, then running the scenario two or three times with totally different groups; it helps you work on scenes and techniqutes where you didn’t do as well as you’d like “the last time”, it helps you hone some of your better tricks, and it illustrates in a very clear way how your player-friends are different from one another, AND similar. The danger in doing all that is that you can get in a bit of a rut, expecting people to react to a situation the same way as ‘last time” (they never do) and (the CARDINAL sin for repeat-sessions) tempts you to tell a later group some cool thing a PREVIOUS group did in a similar situation. Keep that crap to yourself — maybe forever, and at LEAST until the end of the session.

Week or so in review

Last Wednesday, had a great, unexpectedly great, time on Victory server. Good stuff.
Friday: Firefly game, using Heroquest rules. Set up and rules are here. Good time, if a slow start.
Saturday: Spring Fountain Heroquest game. Thought it might be the big finale, but we got started late and didn’t get as far as I expected. However, with that said, the scenes we DID have were great.
Monday: Munchies. A blast as always.
Tuesday: Epitaph founded the Boomtown Saints supergroup and applied for membership in the Alliance.
The end.

HQ-XQ, Session 1

Played through the first session of the Xian Quan Heroquest game on Saturday. I’d call it a decent if somewhat bumpy start (esp. in chargen), but everyone seems enthused and engaged, so we’ll call it a win.
Two things I think are fun
— I think every player in the game would tell you that they’re playing a character who is ‘against type’ for them. I wouldn’t disagree.
— Jackie is playing the ‘eurocentric’ version of Xian Quan with a different play group. Comparing how her character in “Spring Fountain” relates to Collette to the way her “Xian Quan” character relates to Kai Ling is… really wild.

Heroquest, Spring Fountain: 1

On Friday, the group for whom I normally GM DnD got together to play Heroquest. I’ve been nudging at the group to try something other than d20, and I’ve had a good responses from individual players in the past (with one exception, everyone in the game has played at least one session of what I’ll lazily term “forge games” — four have played InSpectres (but not together), four have played Sorcerer (though, again, not together, and not the same four), et cetera — but this would be the first time that the gaming group as a group would be trying out a more narrative (if not specifically narrativist) system.
This came about largely because one of the players couldn’t make the regular game (out of town for the holidays), and we’re coming close to the end of that campaign, and no one wants anyone to miss anything, so there was an opening. We ran almost 100 percent of (list method) character generation using a player-briefing that I posted to my wiki followed by lots of emails. Lots. The character briefing and character sheets are viewable here.
Between the basic setup and the characters that were presented, I’m half-expecting things to devolve into a Blood Opera, but I’m okay with that. ๐Ÿ™‚
Anyway, here’s summary of what went down.

Heroquest, the test run

Well, it was a slow weekend around the casa, so when Randy called up to see what we were doing yesterday, I proposed getting together to playtest Heroquest. He agreed, my wife agree, and we called Stan (who had been discussing HQ vs. d20 with me for the last couple weeks and had voiced an interest in trying out the system).
Now, I have a really bad habit of running games like this: call everyone, rush over on a Sunday afternoon around 3pm, start making characters… finish that by six, six-thirty, then run about half a scenario before everyone has to get home and crash, because tomorrow’s Monday.
That’s… basically exactly how this started… except, for a wonder, we actually finished the scenario!

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Dogs in the Vineyard, first group chargen

Justin and I have been messing around with Dogs in the Vineyard a bit. I really like this game.
Anyway, last Sunday while Jackie and Justin were out of town, I was hanging out at the Consortium and several possible activities were proposed (many of them chargenish, since that seems to be the mode we’re into right now). What we settled on was working up PCs for Dogs in the Vineyard.
Margie worked out Destiny.
Randy designed Eli.
Dave created Suzannah Paulson.
The links are to wiki pages for the characters (some of which need a few things filled in by their respective players (*coff*Randy*coff*), but all of which are quite entertaining.

Solo DitV with the Boy: Chargen

Every other Saturday, Jackie attends a game that I’m not involved in, leaving me and Justin to bang around the house for about six or seven hours. Lately, he’s gotten into the habit of requesting that we play some kind of RPG. Paladin was his first request, and following that I pitched the idea of Dogs in the Vineyard, since there’s a bit of a thematic similarity (at least on the surface).

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Sorcerer, Grimm Therapy, Session 3

I’m actually combining two sessions into one actual play, since they were each relatively short (poor planning on my part, but there it is).
Okay. When we last left our pre-adolescent heros…
[crickets chirping]
Right, that was quite some time ago, so for Katelyn and Nicky’s previous events, I direct you here, and for Kermit, Aloysius, and Jackson’s exploits, go here and here. Jason Remkiewicz is new.
Note: yes, that’s quite a lot of people playing in a Sorcerer game. Due to the weird nature of the dual sessions, it actually was only four people playing initially, and five later, but that’s still a lot. There are upsides to this, but mostly downsides, and I’m glad I’ve set this up to be a pretty short story arc this time around. For more information on the rules of this particular game and background info, just go to the Grimm Therapy section of RandomWiki.
Now then…

Things to do in Denver when your PC’s Dead

Doc’s Blog … Confessions of a Game Addict: Game Dream 14: He’s Dead, Jim!

Many “traditional” RPGs incorporate the possibility of the irrevocable death/disabling injury of a player character into their basic mechanics, yet often skirt the issue of what happens to the game in such a case, instead encouraging the GM to “fudge” the results if the GM doesn’t want a given PC or PCs to die.
How has your gaming group, current or previous, handled character deaths due to system-legitimate causes, i.e. combat or traps (assuming no intent on the part of another GM/player to kill a given PC or PCs)? Which methods worked well, and which didn’t?

I’ve actually had a fairly high rate of PC death during the DnD game — I think Whisper’s been killed two or three times… Gebbet two or three… and Grim was basically vaporized like a baloney roll in a Hellraiser movie, just last session.
The group as a whole has been pretty okay with such things when they come up — to use Grim’s death as an example, I really couldn’t have asked for a better bit of in-character decision-making leading to his untimely demise — it was pretty brilliant (assuming you can can be “brilliant” while playing someone who’s INT just dropped to 2… anyway).
In a system like DnD, where you’ve got multiple pet-doors leading back through Death’s Gate, it really doesn’t have a huge amount of impact. Gebbet’s running about a half-level behind the rest of the group, maybe, but that’s it.
I think the group’s putting off resurrecting Grim for about two or three more encounters, because then Whisper will be able to do a resurect with no downsides (she’ll have access to level 9 stuff) — mechanical OOC motivation, but I do like the fact that no one’s in a HUGE hurry to get him back on his feet (or, considering how he went down… I guess that would be “get him feet to be back on”).

Sorcerer, Grimm Therapy, group 2

The DnD game looked to be short a couple of players on Friday, so we decided to try something else. I ran a session of the “Grade School” sorcerers set up, as seen in the Grimm Therapy section of RandomWiki. (The first time I swapped in Sorcerer for the DnD game we did Clicking Sands — this might have been the perfect time to get back to the story, except that it wasn’t the same group of players that could make it this time. Someday… someday…)

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Sorcerer, Session Six, The Big Chill

We had our sixth session of the Bibliophage Sorcerer story Friday night. The whole thing is detailed here, along with previous session logs.
This was an interesting session, mostly because everyone was getting hammered with some relatively urgent priorities and were basically trapped in a small(ish) area with one another. That they don’t really get along just made it more interesting.
Right, on with the show.

Continue reading “Sorcerer, Session Six, The Big Chill”

That didn’t take long

Lee couldn’t make the Nobilis game tonight, so Randy, De, Jackie and I started what will be a short “Grade School Sorcerers” riff.
Notes to follow regarding character generation, opening kickers, and some observations on playing kids in a game that’s designed to create people in dysfunctional relationships, but for now, you can check out the wiki page for Grimm Therapy, which has the PCs, their demons, a fun little customized character sheet, and the One Sheet that describes the game’s customized Humanity and Descriptors.
Update: Here’s the rest.

Continue reading “That didn’t take long”

Sorcerer, Session Five (Bibliophage): Complex Conflict

We had our fifth session of Sorcerer last night. The whole campaign thing is detailed here, along with previous session logs.
This was a really interesting and challenging session — there was one metric assload of combat (something like six or seven different fights spread out in one long stretch of room-to-room warfare). There were a lot of interesting variables (Shannon was already a bit hurt, and no one in the reasonably well-armed group was particularly skilled at using guns on anything other than a firing range), and tons of currency exchange going on.
On with the show:

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Sorcerer, Session Four: Lexigrams

Our fourth session of Sorcerer ran per normal on Friday. All in all, I was pleased with some of the Humanity Issues that came up as well as (what amounted to) my One Big Bang of the night.
Intro Bits:
The Premise as defined by the group is, “What would you give up for Knowledge? Who or what would you trade for power?”
Humanity is defined as Empathy (connection to your fellow man).
First session is here. Second session is here. Third Session is here.
To sum things up briefly, the game is set in the North-Boston/Cambridge area, centering around (mostly) Harvard, with some off-campus business as well (both from the tech industry and the darker side of the ‘independent erotic film’ industry). In events leading up to this point, the PCs have become aware that various sorcerers of no small skill have died mysteriously. Also, several coeds have disappeared from campus and at least one of them has since turned up in a snuff video after her disappearance — Both of the missing girls are known to at least one of the PCs. It is mid-November and the weather is getting quite bad — freezing sleet has devolved into the front end of a major blizzard. For more detail, see the session links above.
Now then, let’s see how well I can do without having taken any session notes at all (cringe)…

The good side of bad things

Interesting quote from Mike Holmes re: Sorcerer on the Forge:

that [story] is what Sorcerer is about.
Not about character success – you’ll note that once you start playing that the dice mechanic makes characters fail in their stated conflict goal all the time, no matter how superior they are. It’s about what the characters decide to do that leads to their successes or failures.

I was just instantly reminded of the game tonight, in which Ken Osato needed to feed his demon’s Need for suffering. He did it neatly, quickly, very efficiently, and he used other people to accomplish it.
And I had him check his Humanity for it, because in this particular game, Humanity = Empathy for your fellow man, and using your fellow man “neatly, quickly, and efficiently” to elicit Suffering is simply not Empathic.
He rolled and his Humanity dropped a notch.
Question: did he fail? Personally, I think what he did perfectly illustrated the character’s goals and priorities at that point in time. Given time, he might have preferred to handle the Need in a more subtle, somewhat less directly callous way, but time was important, so Ken made a choice.
Good choice, bad choice… it was his choice, and that made it really cool, so of course it was a success.

Sorcerer, part 3 — Sex, Lies, and Videotape

Our third session of Sorcerer, which normally runs on alternating Friday nights, was preempted by previous commitments all around. Unwilling to give up the game momentum for another two weeks, I asked the players to meet up on Thursday night instead — a shorter session due to everyone having an early morning the next day, but certainly better than a four week hiatus from session two. All in all, I’m very glad we did it and quite impressed with how much we got done.
Intro Bits:
The Premise as defined by the group is, roughly, “What would you give up for Knowledge? Who or what would you trade for power?”
Humanity = Empathy (Connection to and investment in the people in your life)
First session is here. Second session is here.
To sum things up briefly, the game is set in the North-Boston/Cambridge area, centering around (mostly) Harvard, with some off-campus business as well (both from the tech industry and the darker side of the ‘independent erotic film’ industry). In events leading up to this point, the PCs have become aware that various sorcerers of no small skill have died mysteriously. Also, several coeds have disappeared from Harvard campus and at least one of them has since turned up in a snuff video after her disappearance — Both of the missing girls are known to at least one of the PCs. It is mid-November and the weather is bad and getting worse — torrential rain is quickly freezing to sleet and the weather service predicts a major blizzard. For more detail, see the session links above.
Now then, on with the show:

Continue reading “Sorcerer, part 3 — Sex, Lies, and Videotape”

Clicking Sands note

Re-reading, I found some excellent stuff on working Possessors-inside-the-Sorcerer (and also parasite demons) in Sorcerer’s Soul.
Like most everything in the Sorcerer line (or, really, everything by Ron Edwards in general), it made a vague sort of sense before but seemed quite obfuscated — then we did some playing — then I re-read it and it all seems terribly useful, insightful, and crystal clear.

Proving ourselves right

It was an interesting thing, when I wrote about the game session that Jackie and Randy did with the Sorcerer rules — Margie had read the game session and commented to me about it, but at that time Dave hadn’t read it yet.
When he did, the first I heard about it was a fairly determined “I want to play this.”
As I understand it, when he mentioned this desire to Margie, she shook her head, smiled and said “you go right ahead, dear.” The setting, the disfunctional relationships, the ‘take me to the brink of destruction and see what happens’ set up… it just wasn’t her cuppa.
Completely understandable. Heck, I can look at most of my games and think “this person will like this… this person won’t”, and I’m usually right — I never expected Margie to enjoy Sorcerer the way she might, for example, enjoy Trollbabe (which interestingly is written by the same guy).
Anyway, my point is, we both knew that about the game at first glance.
Now, we didn’t do the normal DnD game tonight, and I’ve been talking about trying out some other games when that game finished up, so I jumped on this opportunity to run… something. Whatever. Dave G and Robert were into the idea of the far-future, apocalyptic, sword-n-sorcery style “Clicking Sands” set up, so we decided to make up some characters and give it a try. Robert, Dave G, Jackie, and Margie, that is.
Well, with the session over, I can say that Margie and I had our intuitions in the right place.
Sometimes things don’t click. Sometimes you just can’t seem to get to the point where the upsides seem like they outweight the downsides. Sometimes the mechanics or the feel or the outlook just rubs you the wrong way, and sometimes it’s all of those things put together.
When the night was over, three people enjoyed their stuff and one didn’t and I feel kind of bad about that.
But, as the subject line implies — we both basically already guessed it would happen. Still, it’s too bad, since there was a lot from all four players that I really liked — I hope everyone still interested gets a chance to try that setting out again.

…make the worst actors.

“Hello, my name is Doyce Testerman, and I’m a Bad Player.”
A painful revelation I’ve come to in the last few months, but true nonetheless. I’m still trying to figure out why, because it makes me very unhappy with myself.
I’ve realized that what I really don’t want to do any more of is be a player in games that use specific systems. D20 is one. ADRPG is another, for different reasons.
In the case of d20, there are problems stemming from the simple fact that I know the rules system pretty well:
1. Being the ‘answer guy’ is irritating, which puts me in a fouler and fouler mood as the session progresses.
2. Being party to a ruling that I know is wrong… well, my hubris and OCD are both too strong for this, and I end up correcting the GM. This gets particularly bad in combat scenes.
2a. I can avoid this in Con-games because, if the GM’s wrong, I can just vote down on their rules-knowledge, scribble in a few notes on rules they should look up, and move on to play with someone else. Long years of dealing with ‘canonized’ incorrect rulings in home campaigns has, however, made me very sensitive about making sure that, for an ongoing game, the rulings are “right”. I hate retconning stuff because a rule was wrong and I hate rules that constantly change between sessions because someone finally looked it up.
Call it survivor’s guilt, whatever.
The worst situation for me right now is the game Jackie’s running. She’s a really fun GM and should be having a good time with her first ‘real’ campaign. She offered to run a game where I could play, but the original concept wandered… pretty damn far afield from “low-level, standard tropes, traditional game”. It’s her first campaign-length… anything and she’s dealing with with weird, high-level, non-standard d20 stuff — she’s struggling with all the weird rules that have to be remembered for all the wierd situations, running 15 NPCs in a fight, all of which are tweaked out… and I can’t seem to shut my goddamn mouth when I think we’re getting a rule wrong. Usually this means that we end the session with her feeling miserable and me hating myself — with good reason, I should certainly add.
With the other d20 game I play in we started at low-level, so the GM can learn about the characters from the beginning (like the players) a little bit at a time… also, it’s not in a genre I’ve been GMing weekly for 3 years, which means I’m (a little) less annoyingly all-knowing. The worst thing I do in that game is try to inject narrative control into the game, which is not what the system or scenarios are set up to deal with. It’s a spy-sim, and if I could get into that a little more instead of trying to lay out scenes and camera angles like I’m playing Wushu, I’d be better off.
I’m working on it… in maybe not perfect ways — I frequently try to ‘turn away’ from scenes I’m not directly in because my gut instinct is to interject with meta-interpretations which it is NOT MY JOB to provide and I’m trying desperately to do less of the things I’m ashamed of doing — cutting myself off cold-turkey seems the best thing — hopefully it’s not coming off passive-aggressive, but I can’t say for sure. I flat out told Jackie that that’s what I was going to do to try to curb my bad habits… I should probably mention it to Dave as well. (Then again, I probably just have. ๐Ÿ™‚
Maybe it’s simply that when you’re used to doing one thing (GMing) all the time, you don’t really quickly step out of that mindset. Sure.

  • I’ve been playing some kind of RPG since I was ten.
  • I can still count the home campaigns I’ve been a PLAYER for on one hand, and I’ve been playing for twenty-three years. (If I don’t count the ones that aborted in < 4 sessions.)

I really feel that, at least as far as I’m concerned, I would be a better player in more narrative-style games like… well, Nobilis and many things that have come out of the Forge spring to mind — really anything where the players contribute more than an actor’s portrayal of one character.
One character is… well, doesn’t matter how much I love the guy, one guy is going to get stale when you usually play “everyone else”, and handle behind-the-scene plotting, and the scenery, and the descriptions, and the rules.
They say that most directors make lousy actors. Living proof, right here.
So what does the GM do to deal with the problem player when the player is himself?

Sorcerer, part 1

So, with the Consortium out of town for the second weekend in a row, I found myself starting to suffering from gaming DTs. (You can’t just cold-turkey from three-to-zero per weekend, nor do I want to).
Anyway, by Saturday afternoon I was quite ready to do something. Randy has, as a result of my raving, already picked up a copy of Sorcerer and was interested in playing, and Jackie and I had gone through most of character creation, excepting naming the character, her demon, and coming up with a kicker.
Here’s the characters they came up with:

Continue reading “Sorcerer, part 1”

Trollbabe, 2

Played a little Trollbabe tonight, because I feel like I understand the conflict system better than I did during the first abortive attempt to run it… so we had… another abortive attempt to run it (we started too late, which was the problem the last time, as I recall).
Somewhere in the near future, I need to establish the rule that the games with small rulebooks to not get commensurately smaller time-blocks in which to run them. Then I put that reminder up where *I* can see it clearly. Oh well.

Continue reading “Trollbabe, 2”

Actual Play: InSpectres

So I got to run my first game of InSpectres on Friday when Jackie called off Necropolis (pleading no prep time due to imminent departure to France). Now, I didn’t prep either but with InSpectres it hardly matters — everything went like gangbusters — the group took to this style of play like veterans and made me want to cancel every regular game so we can to squeeze in Trollbabe, My Life with Master and HeroQuest alongside InSpectres. Terrific stuff.

Continue reading “Actual Play: InSpectres”

Weekend review 1

Friday: DnD. Talked about what we might like to do as a sequel game with a smaller group of players. Beat the crap out of everyone (killed the party thief, in fact), for which they earned a measely 2k in xp. To get big xp at that level of power, you have to pull out the world-shattering stuff.

Summary of the OA campaign

When the OA rules for d20 came out, I snapped them up — I’d always wanted to run a proper Oriental campaign back when Oriental Adventures came out for 1st edition AD&D, but the whole thing had never really gelled, and I was really psyched to do something with the new rules.
On the other hand, I really didn’t have time to mess around with writing out a whole new campaign in detail, so what I opted to do was the (slightly) less time-consuming solution of using “Living Rokugan” modules from the RPGA, coverting each of the ones I used from the original L5R rules into d20, while modifying each module to fit the “unifying story” at the same time.
The result is a bit more heavily influenced by Japanese themes than I’d originally envisioned (due to Rokugan’s setting), but on the whole it seems to work pretty well. The group consists of:

  • Hiruma Gu – Gu is a Crab-clan berzerker-fighter who owes Menho his life and serves him most willingly as a yojimbo and manservant. (Gu was originally envisioned as a clone of Number Ten Ox from Bridge of Birds.)
  • Shishiko – A cat hengeyokai (essentially a benign bakeneko) who was caught stealing Menho’s wakisashi by the samurai of Otosan Uchi. Menho saved her life by claiming that he had given Shishiko the wakisashi as a sign of her service to him. Shishiko functions as a sort of ‘eyes and ears’ for the samurai, as well as a sort of defacto eta.
  • Kakita Mushiyamma – ‘Mushi’ is a female Crane duelist of the famed Kakita school who met Menho during his time in Otosan Uchi. She responded to his (unspoken) request for aid in the matter of his inheritance because she is (secretly) in love with Menho (something blatantly obvious to the ‘commoner’ members of the group, but utterly hidden from the upper class members).
  • Kitsu Fenshen – a sodan-senzo (spirit talker) Shugenja-ko of the Lion clan. Fenshen’s alliegiance to Menho are still a mystery.
  • Tycho – A young member of the Ise Zumi monks, Tycho enjoys relative immunity from social conventions as a member of the monastic class: he occaisionally travels with the group for a period of time to ‘enlighten himself’, then vanishes again with just as little warning as before.

For the sake of clarity, I’m summarizing the scenarios the group has played through so far.

Continue reading “Summary of the OA campaign”

Game summary

Friday, the DnD group continued to wander aimlessly through a deadly forest that drives people insane, rots your food, and attracts things that go *munch* in the night. Huge surprise, there was combat, and lots of it.
Saturday was Jackie’s “high level” Necropolis game. (I put that in quotes because the group is three levels lower than the Friday night group, and smaller. Dave encountered first-hand one of the truisms of the d20 system:

In a module designed for high level characters, assume that all or nearly all encounters will factor in that level and be a threat to you, logic be damned. Bad guys, even in obscure little towns, will all effectively be 12th level, too, and be ready to deal with 12th level characters, even if that makes no sense. Consider yourself 1st level, and be appropriately cautious.

I think that might be a trifle overstated: it may be more accurate to say that the ‘lesser’ threats are simply so minor that higher level characters don’t notice them — what they do notice are the things that can hurt them — thus, from their point of view, “everything that happens” is stuff that can kill you.
Or, using a rule that applies more directly to the situation that brought Dave’s anthropomorphic elephant barbarian/fighter down: “If the bad guys see how big you are, they put more poison in the glass.”
Not that I haven’t said as much before. Once upon a time, I wrote:

it does not matter that a 15th fighter can crit and do 45 points of damage and a first level fighter can crit and do 16: the chunk that they take out of their opponents will remain roughly similar.
In fact, swing-by-swing, the amount of damage done by the hero vs. damage sustainable by the bad guy goes DOWN as you level — this is made up for by giving higher-level folks more attacks to bring the ratio back up.
Number of rounds to take down the main bad guy at level 1 or level 15 doesn’t change — number of hit points left on the fighter when the fight is over — almost exactly the same… about five.
The only things that change is that the costume budget for the main heroes goes up, and the bit actors run around inside bigger monster suits.

I was pointing out that the variations between power levels is largely cosmetic in ANY game (it’s not just d20 — in any game system, as you get tougher, the bad guys get tougher as well). The only real reason to begin play with higher-power characters is so you can play concepts/critters that don’t balance out at first level (or, if you’re thinking inside the box, you want the higher level to justify extensive character history).
One danger of the higher level game is that some folks who look for that sort of power level expect the skill/power of the character to counteract a certain level of player laziness.

Player: “I question the people in the bar.”
GM: “Who?”
Player: “I don’t know… the barmaids.”
GM: “What are you asking them?”
Player: “I don’t know… I’ll ask them what’s going on that’s interesting in town. I roll a 33 Gather Information, can we find our Secret Contact guy?”
GM: “Umm… with those questions, no.”
Player: “But… it was a 33.”

Or to use an example of my own laziness, allowing an NPC to partially get off the hook during a “Truth Serum”-style interrogation, because I asked one my big wrap-up question so poorly that he could, in essence, lie by using an easy loophole.
Anyway, live and learn: higher power characters still have to be careful and think: it’s an obvious rule that we missed, simply (I think) because we jumped right in at high level and expected, looking at our character sheets, to waltz through things — if we’d started out at lower level (which wasn’t really an option anyway), we’d have already been careful, and just continued to be careful.
Sunday was one of the two Nobilis games that I’ve created by splitting up the original group and adding a player. After the mess of Imperator and Chancel (re)creation was finished (taking a mere hour and a half :P), things got underway.
Most of what I have to say about this is very positive: I was really surprised and pleased by the Chancel and the Imperator that the group came up with — it immediately gave me ideas for any number of interesting stories — and I like the possibilities in the tension between some of the characters. It’s not exactly “Locus Partytown” by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s still an interesting group with some great players. We’ll see how far that gets us.

Jepteth a’Ghul: this is not your daddy’s cleric

Jackie’s running an Egyptian-style mini-campaign called Necropolis. Since the campaign itself is fairly high-power to begin with, we had a little leeway for people to do interesting things with their characters.
How interesting? Dave’s doing an anthropomorphic elephant, the background of which is over here. Margie’s playing a young Astral Deva, Justin’s playing a half-dragon sorceress.
Me and Randy? Just plain old humans. (Actually, I’m playing two: Jepteth a’Ghul (Priest/Divine Agent) and Aziz, his cohort (your basic ranger and comedy relief).) I figured one of the more interesting things I could do with a ‘plain old human’ character in a group like this is make up someone who looks at such a powerful montage of beings and immediately thinks: “Obviously, I should be in charge.”

Continue reading “Jepteth a’Ghul: this is not your daddy’s cleric”

“I attack… what’s going on?”

So on Saturday, Jackie and I played through the Living Greyhawk module “Isle of Woe”. This is a huge module of indeterminate quality (well, we didn’t know anyone who’d played it before, so we didn’t know) which is mostly notable for requiring a 16-hour time commitment.
I didn’t want to do it, since it pretty much meant 50 to 60% of my weekend, but we’d made a commitment…

Continue reading ““I attack… what’s going on?””

DnD Game

Friday night’s game was fun. I’m enjoying it quite a bit more than I used to — not quite sure why that is, but I imagine it’s basically because I go in cycles of enthusiasm with everything.
Also, there’s the pregnancy.
See, one character (priestess of the sun god) agreed to ‘do something’ that would immensely help out ‘the cause’ — she agreed to this during one of her many dream-time conversations with the god — he’s been visiting her a LOT lately.
Anyway, she wakes up the next morning feeling GREAT and with her eyes all… Glow-y. Really.
And morning sickness after casting Heroes Feast. ๐Ÿ™‚
I find that, as the group gets to be more powerful and capable, I’m able to use the sorts of plot ideas that usually work much better in a higher powered campaign like Amber. My original estimates that a starting Amberite would be, in the d20 system, about a CR 10 creatures seems very accurate, as least as pertains to the sorts of stories and scope that they seem aptly geared to handle. With the (large) group now ~level 12&13, these are the days of broad themes and plots… now are the times where they speak frankly with the Duchess over a private meal.
They can kick more ass, and thus I feel less compelled to throw combat at them? Very odd.

News Headlines from Around the Core Worlds

Short version of last night’s session: One player’s Senate Representative character and everyone else went to a Masquerade on a planet-orbitting ship — a fight ensued in a ship dock (they were trying to find a kidnapped ally).
To block the exit from the ship dock, The Senate-boy used his Noble Clout to order the valet to pull his personal ship to the outside of that airlock to block it… in order to DO that, he had to tell the valet who he was…
The real problem: one of the characters ‘finished off’ the two unconscious-but-stable opponents they left on the landing-bay floor, then they fled the scene in his ship.
There wouldn’t normally be an investigation (the partygoers are somewhat under-the-table types)… then the Valet got an idea about getting paid for the news leak.
And all this happened on the morning of the day that the character’s Uncle, Bail Antilles, is (possibly) being named as the minority nominee for the upcoming election of Supreme Chancellor…
The City
“Alderaan’s Golden Boy Hits the Town”
“Mysterious Deaths at Gala”
“Antilles Investigation Clouds Election”
“Senate Rep. flees Murder Scene”
“Bontraar Security Tapes Blank, Missing”
“Swank but Sinister Bontraar Masque Ends in Deaths, Accusations”
Coruscant Sun
“Twi’lek Dancing Girls: Simon A’s Kink”
“Meet the Antilles Assassins”
Alderaan Herald
“Baseless Accusations Fly in Core”
Dl Tgszlg [Bothan Press]
[Bontraar’s Gala Target of Terrorists]
O Po [Nal Hutta]
Senator Antilles kills five, Flees Scene

[with thanks to Stan for the idea]

Prince of Alderaan — 01/09/2003

It’s 4 AM local time and we open with an image of two towers — the two tallest buildings in the area. We see gritty marketplaces where dirty people buy dirty vegetables and speak some sinister-sounding language. A wiry thirty-ish Caucasian man enters a ground floor apartment whose bleached wood “hookers and beggars” exterior tells us it’s a seedy hotel. He enters a room, releases an electronic lock on a door inside, opens a datapad, picks up a comlink, and identifies himself as “Phin” and requests permission to log on. Permission is granted by the guy on the other end of the line, and with sweat dripping from his forehead, he uploads information. There’s a loud knock on the door, and guttural shouting in a harsh alien tongue is heard outside.

Continue readingPrince of Alderaan — 01/09/2003″

Price of Honor, Session 02/28/2003 — Keep on the Borderlands

When we last left our heroes…
With information in their hands the conclusively linked both Devilish activity in the area to a burgeoning slave trade and the hidden darkling city of Denab Knur, the group decided to head north (center of the Duchy of Caer Maighdean, home of the White Eagle Monastery, and the direction of Denab Knur). After some map review, they decided the fastest way to get north was to go west; specifically by following the Laigh River our of the foothills and through the southern reaches of Maighdean Forest to the coast of Northsea and the road that ran along the coast north to the County (and south to Hyrmsmir).
The hike took several days (during which Karina located them and rejoined the group, and group passed several abandoned or ruined strongholds along the banks of the river, but opted to avoid rather than explore them — most looked quite picked over or poor wooden contructs to begin with, so the possibility of loot was slim, and they wanted to move quickly.
That plan changed as they neared the edge of the forest and spied a relatively intact stone keep on a rise above the river. They planned to ignore it and move on by, but the inhabitants (though certainly not the original inhabitants) had other ideas.
Maighdean Forest has a reputation for deadly fauna and premiere among them are the Maighdean Grizzlies — great beasts that have been known to singly attack and destroy entire groups of foresters — they are normally solitary creatures.
Eight of them came pelting out of the keep’s gaping front gate or through the gaps in the walls and charged the group in a sort of rage.
Still, these were heroes who had faces the worst Hell could offer: surely these beasts were nothing to worry about?
The first charge nearly killed Karina (who found out that illusions don’t work very well on creatures with a good nose) and badly hurt Ran. The group slowly managed to pull themselves together, and only one beast survived to run off into the forest, but when the battle was over, the only thing the group wanted to do was find a place to rest and recuperate — the castle (surely abandoned now that the bears were gone) looked quite inviting.
What they found while exploring was a largely intact castle of quite good design — several of the walls had been slighted (either by the original battle that drove it’s inhabitants away or the depredations of it’s more recent owners), and most of the wooden interiors were rotted away or destroyed, but the overall edifice was quite solid and remarkable. The group rested up and continued exploring in the morning, having located a stairwell that led into the bedrock below the castle.
What they found beyond the basic pantry was a series of largely unfinished chambers that the original masters had never properly completed and one lone stair that led into very old construction that certainly outdated the keep they had seen above. Therein they encountered a skeletal knight gaurding the entrance, armed with a remarkable sword (claimed by Shayla after they narrowly defeated it). The battle was hard-fought and the group decided to rest up before continuing further into the crypt beneath the castle they were already beginning to think of as ‘theirs’.

Price of Honor, Session 01/24/2003 — All Tied Up

It’s been a long time since we’ve tuned in to the tales of the “Price of Honor” campaign, and a lots happened.
To sum up what’s gone before:

Two Years Ago: The Homely Hearth of Hyrmsmir was an Inn like many others: decent food, decent help, and a warm and cheerful fire lighting the walls and ceiling… Wait a second, that firelight is coming from outside the Inn; from the city walls, in fact. Are those screams you hear? The sounds of goblin battle cries? It doesn’t look like your going to get a chance to try the cook’s new dessert cake.

One Year ago: The city of Hyrmsmir had lost its treasured status as a small, safe port on the shores of Northsea. Hyrmsmir was well on its way to becoming a prosperous trading town until the armies came out of the mountains to the east and into the lands surrounding the town. Trade dropped off. Fewer caravans and ships arrived. Hordes of orcs, goblins, ogres, and giants marched as armies with order and discipline under the cover of night. When the armies came, Hyrmsmir was not prepared. The ?Battle of Hyrmsmir? was a massacre, able only to buy the inhabitants time to barricade off small portions of the city. Over the last year, however, men have returned to Northsea coasts, determined to reclaim their lost homes. Although the city proper is still held by the twisted armies of the conquerors, men have managed to gain a foothold in the ruined city, hiring adventurers to recover sections of the city, piece by piece.

Six Months ago: Our Heroes become entangled in the plots of the Duke of Hell behind the armies holding Hyrmsmir and are pulled into the 2nd plane of Hell itself, to the mirror-city of Harmsmire. After a series of (mis)adventures, the heroes narrowly manage to prevent the culmination of the plot that would have swapped the Hellcity with it’s counterpart on their home plane.

Six weeks ago: The group returns home, having discovered that their worlds the prizin an infernal contest — six Dukes of Hell are secretly competing to see who will be the first to conquer the Grand Duchy (or the largest part thereof) — they have set themselves against these hidden foes in hopes of stopping all of the other five Dukes of Hell and maybe even saving the world.

Background: The campaign takes place past the borders of the Duchy of Caer Maighdean, the shores of Northsea. More information on the campaign is here, and notes on the earlier game session and characters are here.

Following rumors of slave caravans and infernal activities, the group has left Hyrmsmir, moving north and gradually northeast along the lower foothills of the Peace Mountains, skirting the swamps of the Lizarim and moving into the Maighdean Forest as it climbs into the mountains — the altitude climbs as the temperatures drop, and the group finds out the the rumors of Devils in the Hills are true.
Two cornugon devils attack them on a mountain pass, and the group is tested (especially without their mage, who is on a personal quest creating several wands). They win through the fight, collect the booty and continue on to what looks like their bolthole in the mountains.
Unfortunately, the bolthold is guarded by a number of Ropers that have been modified in some manner to function out of doors. The party nearly overwhelmed, but manages to hold out… until Gebbet runs up and tries to open the door to the bolthole right away and triggers a trap that summons in another Cornugon. Oops. (He’d feel worse about it if Grim hadn’t told him to do it.)
The group camps out of doors and posts guards — convenient, since they’re ambushed in the middle of the night by hobgoblin troops that they handily dispatch even with Whisper staying wrapped in her bedding. The next morning they go through the hobgoblins things and discover that this operation is commanded from the hidden ogre city Denab Knur. They make plans to pursue this clue to it’s origin.

Session 16 – Prince of Alderaan

Star Wars: The Prince of Alderaan
The RimWorld Bacta War
Part IX: “Automatic”

The group on the independant space station (Corvo, Dag, and Keema) find themselves in a heavy gunbattle with two improved humanoid battle droids and a Droideka. Everyone is badly beat up from the battle, and nearly half of the Rim World Consortium is taken out (including the ship’s captain they were supposed to be introduced to by the 1st mate), but they beat the things down (and cart at least one of the droids (the droideka, natch) back to the ship under a tarp.

The Iktoch group (G___, Sharess, Nayda, and Simon) end up in a fight with themselves… or clones of themselves… or something. It becomes more evident as to what is going on when one of the attackers drop with sparks flying. The six attackers are all droids. The “jedi” have repulsor pads in their hands and feet to increase Jumping and simulate Force push effects. The false jedi’s “lightsabers” use a completely different technology, projecting heated plasma into a ‘magnetic bottle’ that looks like a blade. The weapon’s output is someone less than that of a Jedi’s weapon, it doesn’t cut through solid substances nearly as easily, and the power supply for such an inefficient design is tapped completely out in just under a half hour of use.

The group on the space station negotiates to follow the pirates to a neutral meeting zone on a nearby mining colony. Upon arrival, the pirates have left their ship and are chasing all over the base. It turns out that one of their own number was a spy for the Trade Federation and has jumped ship. The “old” captain was very careful about not mentioning their RWC ties to planets like Naboo (where they get supplies), but the 1st mate mentioned it out in the open to the PC’s after the fight. The fellow is obviously selling this information to the highest bidder (or taking it back to his employer).

Simon locates the speeder that their attackers arrived in. He works on the craft’s GPS for a few minutes and manages to create a ‘back track’ of the vehicles route out of the Iktochi wastelands. Everyone hops in and they take off into the wastelands (after sending most of the droids back with the police).
The wastelands are unfriendly, and the quartet’s speeder is accosted by a “tri-horn bull” (aka a “reek”) — a native, ugly herd animal that is very territorial. They avoid it and finally come to a narrow canyon that ends in a large concealed blast door. As the stolen speeder approaches the door, it opens onto darkness beyond — apparently automatically.
They have a bad feeling about this.

Last night’s game

An annoying railroad section of the plot has come and past, but besides that, probably the first game I’ve really enjoyed as a GM in this particular campaign.
Don’t know why, but I had fun.

Session 15 — Clanky Robot Love

Star Wars: The Prince of Alderaan
The RimWorld Bacta War
Part VIII: “Let’s Split Up”

Apologies for the lateness of this update, but I’d already typed this out at one point and then lost everything.
The group began the session debating how to get Simon and the two Jedi down to the planet of Iktoch to deliver a supply of bacta to their critically injured liege without getting shot out of the air by Iktochi space patrols.
The trick was to look harmless. The problem with this (which Simon was more than willing to point out) was that in order to look harmless, the trio + Nayda had to essentially be harmless.
Eventually, the group decided to jump the Knight Errant into the very edge of the system and jettison an escape pod with the ‘planet mission’ group on board. This seemed to work: they were picked up by a planetary orbital patrol and brought down to the spaceport, where they were immediately identified and confined until authorities could arrive. At that point, Simon talked his way into getting the Bacta to Senator Antilles.
The second complication was more challenging. There was clear (and convincing) footage of the group attacking the RimWorld diplomats during their last stay on the planet (one of the reasons they were being hunted), and equally convincing film footage of a fight they were involved in in the warehouse district at the same time. Simon got the Iktoch diplomatic liason to allow them to clear themselves if possible, and the four left for the area where they’d supposedly attacked the RimWorlders.
Meanwhile, those remaining on the ship tried to figure out how to find the RimWorlders to present them with an alternative to raiding the Trade Federation and immobilizing Hyperspace travel all along the major trade routes. Finally, they hit on a plan to go where the RimWorlders were going: that is, to anticipate the arrival of a Trade Fed ship coming into a nearby system and lie in wait, then follow the raiders back to a base if possible. (Thus far, the Knight Errant has proven immune to the virus that has immobilized any Hyperspace pursuit — no one knows why.)
This basically works. In a nearby system, the Errant lie dormant until the TF ship arrives, watches while the (numerous) RimWorld ships attack, collect the cargo, and jump away. Figuring trajectory, they deduce that the Consortium ships were headed either for an independant space station/trading hub, a farming planet, or a mining colony about 4 days away. They go for the trading station.
Having arrived at the station, they locate the RimWorlders (some of them, anyway, including the first mate), and make them interested in what they’re selling (which is: Bacta worms, with instructions on who to talk to to learn how to take care of them). The whole group heads back to the RimWorld’s docking bay for a nice public chat.
Hell breaks loose:
On Iktoch, our group of investigators are attacked by… themselves. One of the attackers shouts “no witnesses” and the whole group of imposters (?) charge in.
On the Space station, blaster fire and explosions suddenly echo from the vacinity of the RimWorld ship. The group runs for their own ship (and their heavier weapons), while Keema sends her droid to scout ahead. The holoprojected recording shows two Trade Federation Droiddekas clomping out of the RimWorld ship’s cargo hold — the TF apparently hid these little surprises in their cargo to punish would-be pirates.

Session 14

Star Wars: The Prince of Alderaan
The RimWorld Bacta War
Part VII: “Sometimes the Worm Eats You”

Dave Hill
12 July 02

After defeating the Labor Droids on Iktotchi, we took off from the planet and escaped the system patrols, aided by an astrogation virus that was blocking pursuing ships from getting into hyperspace. We still haven’t figured out why our ship isn’t affected.
Three days later, we arrived at system M13.
From the droid we’d recovered, we learned of the assassination of the entire Black Sun leadership, and how a Black Sun faction (apparently housed at a monastery on M13) could, if sucked into the Black Sun civil war, “disrupt pharmaceutical supply chains.”
Sharess had to be intensively treated for injury, using up most of our remaining medpacks; when done, only Corva had any left (two). He always seems to have some extra supplies.
We landed some distance away, under cover, and made our way overland to the monastery, which was some sort of ferro-crete landing platform/multi-level complex suspended over a lake on long sweeping legs. On the way, we were attacked by a long but very narrow snake/worm that seemed almost metallic and dove through the earth as though it was water. It injured Simon pretty badly (as it went through him with the same ease). Gan (the jedi padawan traveling with the Senator that we’d somehow picked up at Iktochi) slice-and-diced it. It was only after the battle that we realized that, as a metal-based creature, it would likely have been susceptible to ion guns.
With binocs, we surveyed the monastery. It all looked peaceful until we noticed the blaster-riddled monk hanging out one window. We sprinted the rest of the way to the stairs leading up to the landing platform, hoping to avoid more worms. It was desserted, save for the blasted ruins of a ship lying mostly under a movable cover. We headed down the stairs, which were formed out of cement to resembled carved stone, with old metal doors. It really felt like a primitive monastery in some places.
We exited at the first level to find the site of what looked like a major battle, all civilians (though armed), lots of bodies. We were able to recover a number of ion pistols and rifles, and proceeded onward.
On computer terminals we found a map, which listed an infirmary on the third main level and in sub-level 3. Level 1, where we were, was communal areas. Level 2 would be the monks cells. Level 3 would be the offices, as well as the infirmary.
The computer revealed records of some sort of enterprise the monks were into, and made reference to units of production and had inventory counts, but seemed vague about what it was all about. Simon was convinced the evasions were intentional.
We found much the same — both vague journals (“our distributors have arrived”) and carnage on level three. There seemed to be multiple parties that had fought there, and lots of bodies and weapons left behind — none of which boded well. The journals warned of potential dangers of the conflict — noting that the “unrest” was “very disruptive to our herd” that “the fighting is getting worse” and “the last shift never reported back.”
The infirmery at that level was ransacked. Lots of bodies, evidently taken out by a thermal detonator.
We found the office of the Abbot, Kostel Lo. Again, the notes in his computer were vague. There were references to ther temples in their Order, and how the Black Sun used them (or was used) for redistribution of “the product”. More references to “the product” and “the herd.”
We descended further, down a spiraling stair, encountering more bodies evidently caught by a trip wire trap.
Down at the bottom of the stairs, we found a freight elevator back up to the landing platform, as well as barrels of bacta, spoiled. Beyond was the door to the lower level. There we found various locked doors and impromptu welded barriers of debris, none of which made us feel any better. Beyond one such set of barriers (short work made of by the Jedi) and door, we found a (very) small sentry droid. Its memory showed it had been patrolling for about 10 days, and hadn’t seen any humans for five days. It was not triggered to attack by our entry, though. A review of its programming indicated it was there to protect against worms, of the sort we’d fought outside the complex, only much bigger.
From there we found the control room, much the same as what we’d already found save that the bodies were skeletons stripped of all flesh. There were big holes in the floor, too. As Simon put it, “Why are we here, instead of a huge army of people who know what they’re doing?”
Peering through the holes in the control room’s floor, we could see only that the large chamber below was … moving. More worms. Lots more worms. Agitated worms. Dag and Simon got the lights running…
The control room overlooked a vast chamber, filled with the worms. In the center was a large extraction tube, to pick up the … bacta that the worms produced (vomiting it over their eggs).
Looking through the computer records, we discovered that a few of the worms had escaped into the outdoors and subsequent explosions (from two competing factions of the out-of-control Black Sun fighting for control of the base) had ruptured their retaining walls. The worms would reproduce quickly with “robust” food sources — like the native animals beyond. Or, on an inhabited planet, the populace, which is why they were being raised on this un-colonized planet. Electricity, the records indicated, would kill them quickly. The worms were sensitive to psychic emanations, too, which is why the monks had been so well-suited to raising them, using their monastic calm to good purpose.
We made a note of the locations of the three other monastaries in the same Order (who were all apparently working on the “ends justify the means” philosophy, figuring that by keeping the bacta production secret and distributing it via the Black Sun, they were doing the most good while protecting the larger sentient galaxy from it’s own greed, bad luck, and stupidity).
Learning what we’d needed to learn, we prepared to depart, first we securing some cannisters of unspoiled bacta, and using the freight elevator (checknig the shaft for traps first) to bring it up to the top, where we could use a grav skiff to get back to the ship without having to walk over worm-ridden terrain.
It was around then that it occured to us that there had been multiple Black Sun factions fighting, but only one ruined ship. Which meant … the sound of an deorbiting ship we heard was Not A Good Thing. We headed back to our ship quickly, and took off just in time to miss encountering the assault cruiser that was landing.
Back in orbit, we fired up the new hypercom that the Senator had had installed for us. We learned that about eighty percent of the Trade Federation leadership had been assassinated during the talks on Eriadu (killed by their own security droids, of all things). The Nemoidians were now basically in charge of the Traders (since their representative in the Council was the only member who hadn’t been there when the droids had gone berserk — how convenient).
As a result, the Trade Federation had declared a state of emergency and cancelled any talks with the Rim World Consortium. Interstellar trade was creeping to a standstill due to the astrogation bug (which was apparently spreading) — which the Consortium was taking credit for, holding space travel hostage until they got more bacta to distribute to the outlying worlds.
We headed back to Iktochi to provide Bayle with some of the bacta we’d obtained. We figured the bacta would also be a useful trade tool with the government there when we turned ourselves in over the trumped charges of attacking the Rim World Consortium.
By the time we arrived there, though, we’d changed our plans. Nayda, Simon, and the Jedi would head down to the planet with bacta for the Prince, while the rest of us would try to find the Rim World Consortium to negotiate with them regarding the bacta sources we’d found.
You see, one of the canisters we’d picked up didn’t have bacta in it; it contained dormant worms. With that to ‘seed’ a new hive and contact with the monastic Order to train them, the RWC could begin production of their own bacta supply.

Star Wars – Session 12 & 13

Session 12 – Stunning Revelations
The GM has lost his notes on this session, so until he finds them, here’s the quick summary:
The party finds the backworld planet that Nayda visited, and backtracks along her route, trying to figure out what she saw or found that was dangerous. This eventually leads them to a secluded landing platform in the middle of nowhere. The group lands some distance away and tries to sneak in, but runs into booby traps.
At this critical point, Faloon betrays the group and stuns several of them, then pulls a thermal detonator, trying to stall until his allies at the platform ahead can get there.
Of course, the group fights, and we all learn how the new stun rules work. It’s very enlightening.
In the end, the group staggers away, some badly wounded, with an incapacitated Faloon in tow. When they reach the ship, they find a message waiting from Prince Antilles, instructing them to break off the investigation and meet him at the planet of ________.
Session 13 – Pieces of the Whole
The PC?s meet up with the Senator’s entourage at the planet of ____________, where he is representing the Republic in negotiations between the Trade Federation and members of the Outer Rim Consortium that has been “liberating” Bacta from Trade Federation shipments to redistribute to the Fringe worlds.
Antilles doesn’t know quite what to make of the information about Nayda. It appears that she simply stumbled into some sort of smuggling operation, except for the droid body that was in her locker at the starport, which seems to imply that she did a little bit more than simply spot a smuggling platform. Antilles confirms that it matches the head of the droid they recovered in Head Trip, and that the head is supposed to contain data directly concerning the bacta shortage, so the fact that she discovered it — in fact, the idea that she knew it was important — is very significant. Nayda has no idea why she would have thought it was important.
That afternoon will be the first meeting of the Trade Federation, terrorists, and Antilles. Antilles wants the group along as his personal entourage (including a Jedi padawan whose master was accompaning Antilles, but who was called away to a disturbance at Eriadu). Simon and Corvo are supposed to be directly assisting the Senator in these negotiations (the Senator thinks the Core Worlds should get most of the current Bacta Supply, based purely on population centers), but a few minutes into the meeting a message is delievered, expressing the regrets of the Trade Federation, who “have been delayed but the continued attacks on our ships”. The Consortium is angry and storms out of the room. The PC’s are on their own until an early breakfast meeting with Antilles.
The group heads out into what passed for the planet?s social life. Nayda tries to teach the farm-boy how to dance, and the groups gets spread out over the night.
Dag will get a call in the very very wee hours from Phin, who shares the ship access codes with him and tells him where he ‘stashed the droid’. He will be whispering the whole time, and will cut off the discussion abruptly. A few minutes later, Dag’s alarm will sound for the meeting.
Very early in the morning (about 3 am) Dag receives a com-call from Phin, who whispers something over the link about ?stashing the droid body? in a specific shipping warehouse and ?creating a diversion?. He gives Dag the access codes for the Knight Errant and his coms cut off. Shortly thereafter, the group is called by the senator?s security crew. The Senator has been attacked. Phin’s blaster is found at the site, tossed in the corner. Phin is missing. Digital recordings show that someone who looked like Phin from the back (the camera?s location), walked up the guards, spoke with them, dropped some sort of gas grenade, then walked into the Senator?s chambers, spoke with an unalarmed Antilles for a few moments, then shot him several times, dropped the blaster and leapt out the window.
There is some indication that the attacker survived the jump with the use of a belt-mounted, one-shot jetpack, used like a sort of parachute. Authorities have searched Phin?s chambers and found papers linking him to the Consortium, which the Consortium hotly denies.
Talks are called off, and the Senator is hospitalized in serious condition (the bacta shortage extends to this planet, and aside from what the party provides and what was in the Senator?s emergency travel store, there is virtually none available).
The group moves to look for the stashed droid body. At the warehouse, they?re attacked by a small group of well-training soldiers. Just after the fight and recovery of the droid body (which has a datachip stuck to it?s chest plate), the group catches a news broadcast that indicates they tried to attack and kill the Consortium diplomatic group (at the same time there were somewhere else entirely, being attacked themselves). Video footage is inconclusive, but does include the right number of light sabers.
The party needs to leave the planet, which proves difficult (especially to get to the ship). They are attacked on the tarmac by an assassin droid disguised as a walking labor droid. The party dispatches the first attacker, but more are coming. Nayda pulls up in a small speeder (with the droid head under her arm) and the party blasts off planet.
The other ships in orbit around the planet can’t seem the Hyperjump, but luckily the Knight Errant doesn’t seem to have that problem. The droid was stashed with a holo-projector chip containing a last minute message from Bail, not to them, but simple notes concerning the droid and what it might mean — he comments that he needs a tech to slice the information, now that all the pieces are together.
Initial slicing of the Droid gets some information — detailing the recent assassination of the entire Black Sun leadership, resulting in major infighting. One of the last entries concerns infighting apparently centered around a fringe-world named ____________, where the local Black Sun contact is listed as a reclusive mountaintop monastery. The logistics analysis on the droid shows that if this particular base is compromised during the civil war, ?certain pharmaceutical supply chains? will be seriously if not permanently disrupted.
(Side note: the Senator arranged for a Hyperspace transceiver to be delivered to the ship. It has yet to be installed, but is much anticipated by the group.)

Sessions 9, 10, and 11

A Scrolling intro for Session 9, 10, 11 (and probably 12 and 13) can be view here.
Here’s a summary of what’s been going on.
Session 9: (03/22/2002)
Sharess is at the academy in lightsaber practice.
Corvo and Simon are at the senate in the Alderaanian pod with Bail, where there is a discussion about bacta shortages. Investigation is put into committee, since there is disagreement between core and fringe worlds about how to split up the existing bacta.
Distributing the Republic surplus based on Senate representation, few of the Fringe worlds would get supplies since many have traded away direct representation to the Trade Fed. Bail is disturbed about the ‘indirect consequences’ of this shortage, and the fact that no one is investigating why there is a shortage in the first place.
Keema, Dag, and Phin receive a call meant for the Senator to help out Nayda, who has OD’d on deathsticks in a downbelow bar. The three investigate, retrieve Nayda, head for a discreet high-income detox clinic.
Nayda is in bad shape — death sticks are notoriously dangerous and she’s been dosed on several, which both speeds up the reaction (resulting in violent fits that require help from several other people to control) and makes the downsides much more pronounced. It’s unclear if she’ll survive.
Those investigating the deathstick dealer back downbelow end up spotting him; he runs (they always run), but this chase changes it’s face when it turns out the guy has (lots of) friends. A nasty firefight ensues, and everyone (Phin, Simon, Corvo, Keema) think it’d be just swell to get out of there. The wounded rest at Nayda’s clinic.
After several tense hours, Nayda regains (exhausted) consciousness, but doesn’t remember anything about how she got down to downbelow. She denies having taken deathsticks as she’s ‘bored, but not stupid’. Bail personally visits Nayda for a private talk. There is an attempt on Nayda/Bail’s life at the hospital, involving an incendiary device and the high oxygen content of the room. (Probably planted by one of the ‘helpful’ individuals who helped hold Nayda down during the fits.)
The only thing that’s clear is that Nayda’s been targetted because of ‘something she saw’ when she was off-world recently. Problem is, she doesn’t remember anything important that she saw. She actually remembers only a little of the trip, because of the deathsticks, and doesn’t remember how she got back to Coruscant (she was on Malastare).
The Coruscant Opera. Bail had to attend, but this assignment is urgent, so the players are given passes to his V.I.P. berth. Finis Valorum meets the PCs at one point. Palpatine makes a point of speaking to one of the characters (Simon) congratulating them on the “Kashyyk business”, talking about protecting the rights of all sovereign states. Sate Pestage nods to Corvo, knowingly.
Bail explains that he is sending the characters, with Nayda, to backtrack her trip and see what is going on. He believes, based certain information, that what Nayda may have seen is very important.
Leaving Coruscant: ship preparation (Corvo picks up some ‘duty-free’ liquor for trade in the Outer Rim) and travel, final destination of Malastare. Sharess’ master will head off on his own for
Session 10: (04/05/2002)
Opening: Dogfight: Trade Federation bulk freighter “Aurodium Sun” is being attacked by pirates. They are asking for aid. Tne local picket ships are quite far away. The party engages two Z-95’s and two Cloakshapes, backed up by a larger gunship that stays at the edge of long range using a large ion cannon against the TF ship. Simon couldn’t even get an ID on the ship’s transponder code, due to the Knight Errant’s much-abused sensor package.
The heroes manage to hold off the pirates until the locals arrive. The gunship jumps out, and the locals find they are unable to pursue. The TF ship is also unable to jump. Everyone is getting a message from their navcomputer that their destination is invalid. The Knight Errant has no such problem. The ship is somewhat beat up, but the group decides to continue towards Malastare, since there’s ample evidence that some sort of local virus has infected all the ships that’ve docked at this Starport.
The party stops for supplies at a slightly-frozen, swampy, ball-of-mud mining colony. No one’s interested in Corvo’s booze, although a number of dealers approach the ship, looking for any surplus bacta.
The trip continues, and Nayda (bored) tries to teach Dag and Sharess how to play Sabaac. Most everyone on the ship gets involved (Keema just watches), Corva digs into his ‘barter stash’ of alchohol, someone comes up with the idea of “Strip Sabaac” and things spiral madly out of control from there.
The jedi lass leaves the room, clutching her robes to her, about 6 hands in. Simon holds his own with Nayda very respectably, but it’s Dag she wakes up with the next morning.
(If only he’d known: Keema was about to call on Simon in his quarters, but just then the ship was hailed by system-edge pirates outside Malastare space.)
Simon keeps the pirates talking while Phin manuevers through the asteroid field that edges the system. (Meanwhile, Corvo and confused Dag discuss women in the Galley, ignoring the klaxon alarms and the abrupt shifts in momentum.) The crew makes it to Malastare space without a serious firefight and the Malastare authorities drive the pirates off.
Session 11: (04/18/2002)
The group is disembarking on Malastare and runs into Falloon, a twi’lek that apparently ‘knows’ Nayda. He’s being followed, and when the group gets outside, they are accosted by a group of thugs while they’re getting into a waiting aircar. The thugs are dealt with, one of which is collected for questioning, and the group flees the scene.
As they flee, the group question Faloon, who explains that he’s been holding a spaceport locker key for Nayda ever since the day she disappeared a few weeks ago. He was going to the spaceport to see what was in the locker when he realized he was being followed and spotted Nayda. Falloon reveals that he’s part of the RimWorld Consortium, a ‘terrorist’ group that’s pirating Trade Federation ships to liberate supplies of bacta and redistribute it to the Rim Worlds. They hope to get enough attention to force some sort of formal negotiation that will get the Outer Rim more rights if and/or when the Mid- and Outer Rims are officially made Taxed Trade Zones (the motion is currently being debated in the Senate as a way to enforce law in the pirate-heavy region).
The thug they captured says that there’s been a price put on the live return of either Faloon or ‘the girl’. Successful bounty hunters are to bring their captives to Shuttle T_____ (lost my notes)
The group goes to Faloon’s apartment, which is a shambles, but that way normally. They decide to head for the spaceport, gather up the contents of Nayda’s locker, peek on this Bounty Shuttle, and try to locate this ‘secret resort planet’ that Nayda snuck off too a few days before she gave Fal the locker key and disappeared.
Fal’s groundspeeder is much nicer than his appartment, and that’s too bad, because about halfway to the spaceport, the street is blocked by a rapidly descending Shuttle T______. A half-dozen troops are hitting the ground before it hits the ground. In response, Phin increases speed — everyone leaps clear and the landspeeder rams the landing shuttle, ending the fight (and Fal’s nice speeder) very quickly.
The group moves to a parallel street and comcalls a local taxi service to pick them up. The car that shows up isn’t a taxi, however, and the group ends up in ANOTHER fire fight. Grenades fly, Phin gets control the speeder, and the group makes its way to the spaceport (finally!)
At the locker, the group finds the body of an L9-unit, missing its head. It seems to be a match for the Droid head they recovered several months ago (the one whose encrypted data contents have yet to be deciphered). Curiouser and curiouser.
Leaving the planet in search of Nayda’s secret vacation spot, the group spies the ship that Shuttle T_____ belonged to and avoids another firefight with a quick jump to hyperspace. (Their sensors may be screwed up, but their wookie-built Astrogation NavComp is fantastic.)

[Star Wars] Death Sticks found in Subadult School

JRADE DISTRICT, CORUSCANT – The Jrade School Board expressed shock and dismay at the finding of death sticks in a public subadult school. PSAS-5128, in northern Jrade, has instituted mandatory locker and body searches after two Level Six students were found in possession of death stick and death stick paraphernalia. “We’re determined to find out where this filth is coming from,” said Principal Havidald Guffin. “For Core’s sake, it’s our privileged children affected here.”

(originally reported in Holonet News)

Session Nine, part one

After a miserable night of dealing with the sudden Senatorial name-chance, I’ve come to this conclusion:
For the sake of my sanity, Bail Antilles and Bail Organa are now officially the same person in my campaign — Bail is the scion of BOTH the Organa and Antilles royal houses (Antilles is his paternal descent, Organa is his maternal) — therefore depending on which official function he’s attending, he might be announced as:
– Senator Antilles
– Senator Organa
– Prince Antilles
– Viceroy Organa
– First Chairman (of Alderaan)
I’M just going to call the bastard “Bail”.
A full discussion of this can be found here.

Session Eight: Head Trip

We couldn’t play on Friday, due to the weather, but we did manage to get everyone together Saturday night for session eight of The Prince of Alderaan, a d20 Star Wars Campaign.
Quick Summary: Dag and Corvo are sent on a ‘routine rendezvous’ in the Inner Rim to pick up a parcel the Senator has made a deal for. Their contact is very hard to find, and apparently very popular with local bounty hunters.
Things are going wrong, so the Senator sends the rest of the group to help out. (Including planting a new recruit to the Antilles household in the camp of the enemy).
The group manages, against great odds to recover (intact!) the head of an old protocol droid that had been recovered by the Bimm tech-scavenger they were to meat. Details are sketchy, but it appears that the droid, when whole, belonged to Someone Important, was discarded accidentally, and is sought by many people.
Other interested parties seemed to include:

  • Two (possibly) unconnected paramilitary groups, at least one of which seemed to have some Republic Military Training (maybe even Senate Guard).
  • One criminal organization who seemed to think their current boss is the heir to all things belonging to the Boss’ predecessor — the droid apparently numbers among these items.
  • One unnamed droid representing his ‘master’.

Session Seven

Star Wars Campaign
Session seven was on Friday the 22nd, and I’m going to talk about that as well as a few notes on the prior sessions.
First, let’s summarize.
Session One was a rescue-in-space scenario where the characters (all members/servants of the Antilles household and currently stationed on Coruscant) are tasked by the Senator to recover/rescue an agent who has important information from the fringe. A ship is hastily bought (via a loan from the Senator) and the mission accomplished with no small amount of pain and blaster fire. The ship is beat up quite badly, and everyone learns the inherent usefulness of Starship Operations: Transport.
Session Two ostensibly involved a favor for one of the Twi’lek Senate officials, in which the group would recover the official’s missing son. It was actually a clever means to an end for Senator Prince Antilles: in investigating the disappearance of said Twi’lek (during trips to both Tatooine and Ando Prime), the party managed to reveal that the twi’lek official not only wasn’t related to the kid, but had strong ties to the Hutt criminal syndicate. The offical leaves Coruscant and the Twi’lek Senator (whose name currently escapes me) the official was working for is disgraced and discredited. The heros were a bit miffed that the Senator sent them into this blind.
Session Three had the party sent to recover a missing shipment of supplies that the Senator had sent to a poor low-tech settlement. What the party realizes upon being assigned an Air Car in order to search is that the low-tech settlement and missing shipment are both somewhere in the lower levels of Coruscant itself. Delving into the guts and abandoned roots of the City Planet ensues, and the party runs into several nasty force users employing Gamorreans, and some kind of “Darkside Ghoul” that had been locked in the undercity for years. They eventually retreat, having recovered most of the supplies, and leave further investigation and heroics to another day… or perferably another group.
Session Four and Five were “Welcome to the Jungle”, an inherently under-explained and incomplete module that nevertheless had a good premise that was useful to me. The Senator assigned the group bodyguard duty for a member of the diplomatic corp (old friend of the senator’s) about to have a meeting on an Ithorian Herd Ship. Blackmail at the end gets the Ithorian home-world very upset with the captain of the herd ship, and the group makes off with quite a bit of hush-money and a cordial hatred of hoojibs.
Session Six and Seven used, at least in part, “Kashyyk in Flames”, also from Star Wars gamer. A more interesting module, which I started by putting the players into a Senatorially-hosted ball at the Antilles Estate. The players are to act as escorts for various guests. In the process they impressed the Wookie Senator enough that he requested Senator Antilles aid in shipping some documentation and supplies back to Kashyyk. Wackiness ensues, and the party ends up revealing a plot that would have allowed the Trandoshan Senator on Coruscant to pass legislation to allow logging and mining operations on Kashyyk in unpeopled areas.
I’m pleased with how things are going, and I’m just about ready to start pulling in threads from previous sessions and get the main story arc really flowing. I was happy with the Alderaanian Embassy Ball — it let me introduce some good NPC’s I can use later, and bring in some of the more interesting members of the Senate for a cameo appearance.
Last session, Robert had to bow out of the game, so we’re down to five. I’m considering two possibilities: adding a sixth (probably Lori), or keeping it at five to let us focus a bit more. Then again, with this group, focus is always a problem, and would be if there were only two people. Still, can’t say we don’t have fun.
The end of session seven also led to a good cop/bad cop confrontation between the group’s jedi padawan and the grizzled spacer scout. On one hand it was a great scene, but on the other, player vs. player interaction (espeicially when one has a clear situational advantage) are always fraught with alot of high emotions (and personal stress for the GM.)
C’est la vie. It has been interesting. Hopefully it will remain so.

Up up and away

So we started playing the Justice Squad campaign this weekend. Lots of fun. Here’s my personal good/bad/ugly list.
– I’ve never been in a game GM’d by Dave, whom I’ve heard only good things of. No surprise, his style is different than mine, but great fun for everyone, and I always enjoy watching other people work and taking mental notes.
– Supers. It’s just fun. Maybe it’s not Star Wars, but I’m not PLAYING Star Wars, am I? One of the really long-running and fun games I played in in college was a Champions supers game, and I just love the feel of calculating knockback on a hex map. Whee.
– Rules. I’m pissy about BESM most of the time, but I worked my ass off on figuring out a workable version until SAS (supers from goo) comes out, and it seems to be working.

– I can’t min/max a character they way I could in Champions (nor to I want to anymore), but I know the rules better than probably anyone else playing (for now). While the characters themselves are all very cool concepts and built on the same points, there was a certain feeling disparity between them, simply because of design efficiency. This isn’t to say we don’t all have a few points ‘wasted’ on things like Painting or Horseback riding, but after the play-test and redesign, I felt like the character’s I designed were a little overwhelming.
(Offside of this: I’m also helping Dave by statting out some bad guy NPC’s — so I guess I’ll reap what I’ve sown in the long run.)
All in all, really fun though, and I’m looking forward to the next installment a great deal.

Game tonight

Session … not sure what number… sixth? The group just levelled up to 3rd. Rey can’t make it, so I think the scenario I was working on might have to wait a bit.
Which means… NO idea what’s going on tonight. There is one possibility, I suppose.
I’ll end up running Kashyyk (sp?) in Flames, which I’d pretty much decided not to run, but I didn’t want to get into a new major arc with player’s missing. This is going to be a problem for the next couple weeks, I think, since Dave G’s going to miss a ton of the next couple games, and Ghenghis Con is coming up in 3 weekends. Mess.
KiF ended up taking longer than I figured (I started the session with a big party, so we didn’t have the whole night for the module, but I had fun with the party, and I think most other people did as well.
The fact that KiF will take another session to play through is fine, though. The same people will probably miss it next time, which works, and we’ll be able to wrap it up and be ready for the bigger story to start up after GC.

Proper Care and Feeding of your young Geek

This Saturday, I ran a little one-shot for Jackie, Justin and the Hill-Kleerups. Justin was playing his ubiquitous halfling thief, and was scouting ahead.
This has become a wonderful tool for working on communication skills with the Boy (which he doesn’t realize). I describe to him what is in the room, using the ‘normal’ boxed text. Everyone else is sitting at the table, but they aren’t ‘there’, so he must then turn around and tell everyone else what he just saw, reinterpreting and retelling as best he can. It’s an excellent little trick, and one of the reasons that I use prepackaged modules for these one-offs, since I’m more likely to hit some new words for him to learn.
Aside from his use of the word “passage” instead of “hallway” or “tunnel” at one point (which illustrates how the gaming’s helped his vocabulary), there was this exchange:
Him: Okay, the next room is really big, with big piles of garbage in it, and there’s rats crawling all over the garbage. Someone put out box-trap things to catch them, and I saw some guys come in and collect the trapped rats and then leave.
Jackie: Where?
Him: No, they were just regular rats.
We’re warping him.

Game Tonight

Game tonight. I got Nothing.
Addendum: Dave sent me something funny to cheer me up.
Comments on the game and thoughts on the storyline: tonight I’m using a module out of Star Wars Gamer: “Welcome to the Jungle.” I don’t mind using packaged modules, and this one was interesting enough, once I got through the lack of background info… there was a LOT of that missing.
I’ve been twisting these pregens around to make them fit, and it’s worked out so far — WTTJ is basically babysitting a diplomat, whom I’ve made an old friend of the Senator, and I’ll be doing something similar with Kashyyk in Flames after this one.
Still, the first session we played of WttJ was a mess, simply because I hadn’t prepped it well enough, and it required more work than most. Second session (two weeks after this post), explained more and concluded the story to my satisfaction.

Price of Honor

Robert has logs up for the DND campaign over here. They are pretty good, and fun because they really sound like a player retelling the story, switching back and forth between IC and OOC.
I guess I’ll have to post my personal thoughts on the sessions thus far.

Game Log 3 — Down Below

Third game session last night, another one of the sessions I’ll refer to as “Establishing Shots”, to use a movie term.
First Session was meant to get the group working together and get them their ship, also introduce a few little nuances of the system that become sort of important later (ship proficiencies, for example).
Second Session establishes that Antilles doesn’t always tell them everything, or tell them the truth, although they are, generally, on the side of the angels, nonetheless (if the assumption is that the Prince is on the side to begin with.)
This one, Down Below, sent the group into the bowels of Coruscant the city-planet (their home), and I got to give them a slice of the things that go on beneath the upper crust of the planet. Gammoreans and force users rooting around in abandoned structures that shouldn’t have any working mechanics and yet somehow do. They visited the squatter-city of Down Below and met a few of the inhabitants, learning that there are some decent people there (might be interesting if something comes of that), and I think the expectation is that they might have to go back later. It wouldn’t be a bad idea if they did; some more familiarity down there might give them a place to run if needs be.
Next time, I’ve said we’re going to be dealing with the Senate.
Summary, by session:
– Session One favored the Scout/Pilot immensely, since everyone else was at a disadvantage while shipboard.
– Session Two … well, I’m not sure that favored anyone.
– Session Three definately favored the more military and sneaky types, although Juli’s nobel is doing pretty darn well in combats and whatnot (he’s taken out… two Gammoreans in hand-to-hand thus far into the campaign.)
Next session will favor the guys with diplomacy, gather info, sense motive, useful language skills, and so forth. There /shouldn’t/ be a lot of combat, maybe any, but that’s the way it is in the Senate.
Having finished that episode up, I think I’ll have all the establishing shots done, and can continue a bit more into the main story arc. The nice thing is that so far I’ve managed to drop some foreshadowing into every session, although it’s not likely that anyone has recognized it as such.

Star Wars, Session 2

The second session was sort of spread out over an abortive attempt to get something going on 15th, and a ‘real’ session on the 21st of September
All in all it went well. Robert joined us, and Dave G has a revised Jedi character using the new rules I’ve adapted. (I’ll post a link to the original rules at sometime soon, but I feel that many of the prestige class design choices and requirements are deeply flawed, and as such I think it’s worth something as a starting point, and not much as a final product).
The module was… decent. Horribly arranged and badly documented, but there was a couple of interesting things in it. I rewrote the beginning and end of it to show the players that even Antilles will play them in order to get what he wants, and leave them in the dark if it suits them. His intentions may be good, but the end result is the same: the characters are pawns.
This is just the sort of message I was hoping to get across.
This was also the first session I had the scroll code set up to run. I like it a lot, and I hope to eventually meld in an MP3 of the theme music to the html… the timing on it right now is good enough to time it with the stereo.

Star Wars, Session 1

Okay, I don’t remember when we ran the first session… would have had to have been about… let’s say 9/7.
Things went all right. I’ve been digging through all of my old and news Star Wars stuff to see what sort of things I could find that would convert into the era that I wanted. There’s some stuff written for the Rise of Empire, sure, but the problem is that most of it takes place out on the Fringe, which is of no use to me, since I’m doing stuff in the Core Worlds. I need intrigue, etc.
So, first session was a rescue mission to pick up some people who are bringing intelligence back from the Free Trade zone to Antilles. This “intelligence” works really well, since I can work any sort of major revelation into the storyline later in the game and say “you remember that datachip that guy had WAY back in Session One? Well, this is what was on it.” — Then my players can ooh and ahh at the complexity and depth of my plotting, and be amazed that I knew what was going to be happening to them that far in advance.
Love it. That was the good part. Also, worked out a fun way to get a ship to the group, and give it enough quirks that the players really got into it. The thing was used, and used by Ishi Tiib, so there are many fish-jokes going around, and comments about the thing smelling like a wharf, etc. Really got everyone into it. Shot the shit out of the ship, too, which is pretty classic.
Downside — only Rey was geared up for Space Adventure — everyone else pretty much sucks on ice when it comes to running the ship, so that made things not nearly as fun for a few people. Can’t be helped — at least people will be motivated to improve now that they’ve seen that they can suck.
In my experience, one of the the real fun parts of Star Wars games is wanting stuff — there’s a cool toy, or a cool modification to do to your ship, or something you need to fix, or a rare crystal you need for your lightsaber… or something — even if nothing is happening in the plot, you’ve still got things to work on.
So, now people want to fix up the ship. At least one guy wants to get the Startship Transports Feat, and other people want better (and no so fishy smelling) gear. Very cool.

Star Wars, Prince of Alderaan, Beginning

Actually, this is cool. I tried to do something like this about 3 years back with TiHE, and I couldn’t keep it updated properly after about the 19th session, because it was just too much of a pain in the ass. This should be a cakewalk.
Kay. SO. Standard disclaimer: PLAYERS — if you don’t want to know what I’m really think about how the campaign, the session, or your particular character’s storyline is working out, then DON’T READ STUFF WITH “STAR WARS CAMPAIGN” in the title.