With holiday schedules, an incoming bearcub, and all the other insanity that seems to surround the end of the year (I’m looking at you, NaNoWriMo), the automatic assumption is that no one will get any face to face gaming done in November and December. I was aiming to buck this trend this year, so I talked to the ‘absolute regulars’ for the Wednesday group and we agreed to switch our biweekly schedule to a weekly schedule, the idea being “if we try to play every week, we might get in almost as much gaming as we would if we played biweekly during normal parts of the year.”
On the whole? It basically worked. We managed to pull off four sessions of Burning Wheel during November and December (if you count the session we spent doing character generation and figuring out our setting). I’m reasonably proud of us for squeezing in that much between everything else going on, and I’m really quite happy with Burning Wheel as a game system.
In October, we’d tried out a little two-session test run that included Randy and De, and it went quite well (albeit with some narrator-summation at the end). When we decided to set the new game in the Pratchett-esque “Wiki World” that a group of us had collectively created in 2008, I was pretty jazzed.
The resulting mini-campaign is the introductory story of a group of semi-famous/semi-notorious members of society in Bodea-Lotnikk, the capitol of the Grand Duchy of Kroon, all of whom had agreed to join a newly created “Ducal Guard” that was in charge of investigating any crimes that might somehow involve more than one of the eighty-six burroughs of the city. Such cross-jurisdictional cases were a real nightmare, due to the varying, contradictory, and often incomprehensible laws of each burrough.
Our three protagonists were an elven historian who wanted to spread the order and clarity of elven law to the other areas of the city, a dwarven noblewoman (now outcast) looking to make such a name for herself that she could return to Sniffleheim draped in glory, and a human… ahh… entrepreneur who’d used his… financial gains… to buy a noble title (and who really can’t help but expose all the many weaknesses in the city’s current law enforcement system).
Their first case involved the murder of a famous dwarven full-contact nine-pins player, the investigation of which took us through three sessions of play and brought us in contact with the city’s nobility, sports hooligans, various nine-pins teams (including the Little Sniffleheim Molerats, Bodean Mudferthings, and the Lotnikk Sandmites), and many of the Burning Wheel sub-systems that I’ve been itching to try out. The tone of the sessions ran somewhere between Terry Prachett’s Night Watch books and an episode of Castle, which is pretty much what we were aiming for.
Can Burning Wheel Even Do Funny?
In short, yes. A slightly longer answer is that Burning Wheel takes the setting completely seriously, even if the setting itself involves crooning molerats, an earring-sized battle axe known as the Wee Prick, bar brawls with gangs of nine-pin hooligans, and extra-dimensional brain-tearing missle weapons that can blow holes in buildings.
Another way to put it is that life can be really funny, but falling off your roof still hurts. Burning Wheel is kind of like that.
Was I satisfied with how the story of the investigation came out? Yes. Would I like to do a lot more with those characters in that setting? Yes (and there’s lots of room for new guards to be introduced). Did we get a nice overview of the system? Yes: we got a couple Duel of Wits in, ended things with a short Fight!, and generally touched most of the systems in the game.
Did we really wring the system out? Not by a country mile. First and most importantly, although they pursued them, none of the character achieved any of the goals associated with their Beliefs — I chalk this up to rookie GM and player mistakes and too much time just learning the rules. Also, our characters started out fairly skilled (a mix of four and five lifepath characters) — as such, three sessions wasn’t really enough to see a ton of change with their characters in terms of skills — the stuff they’re quite good at takes a lot of challenge to improve (we didn’t quite get there in three sessions), and the skills they were learning for the first time (three guardsmen, none of whom had Observation!) didn’t quite get enough of a work out in that period of time to graduate to ‘full’ skills, either.
We were really CLOSE though; I expect that a couple more sessions would have seen several skill improvements and new skills opened up for everyone. The Belief thing just takes practice — and belief-goals that the players really can really push toward actively.
So what’s Burning Wheel like?
It’s not a Story Game. Or it’s the quintessential, fully-functional, armed-and-opertational Story Game. In short, it is exactly what it is, with no apologies for being five years old and often updated and evolved via its later texts. Crunchy combat (yet with no battlemat), highly-tactical social conflicts, SUPER-granual character advancement that basically guarantees you’ll won’t have the skill you need every single time and that the player will ALWAYS have some ‘improvement project’ they’re working on for their character… yet for all that the stuff that really matters — the stuff that informs almost every decision you make when the GM asks “what do you do next?” — is on the very first page of the character sheet — the page where there aren’t any numbers at all.
I kinda love it.
It’s not a perfect game, and it absolutely requires buy-in from everyone at the table (I mean literal buy-in — everyone should have their own copy of the core rules), but it is a game that – by turns – scratches almost every itch I get as a player and GM. Tactics, crunchy dice stuff, story-driven play, and the kind of game where you can actually envision playing the same characters for a long, long time (definitely not a design goal for most story-games).
To say it it supplants my need for traditional RPGs like DnD should go entirely without saying, but it also takes care of a lot of the stuff I’m looking for when I want to play something like Dogs in the Vineyard or The Shadow of Yesterday. It’s not for everyone, and it’s not for every type of situation (I can’t see pulling it out for one-shots unless it was a sort of con-game scenario like the Library of Worlds), but if I had an idea for a system-agnostic campaign, I think Burning Wheel would be the system I would have to eliminate from the running first, before I considered something else.
I’d like to make up a really rough sketch background against which to play a Lexicon Game. Like: “The Wose War and Scandal of Eddings Barony”, “The Atomic Apotheosis”, or “The Parliamentary Assassinations of 2128″.
Get a group of people together and just… you know. Go to town. Play the game.
Then, when it’s all laid out, set a game in the setting everyone just created.
I think that would be fun.
Nothing came of that post, at least not immediately.
Then, in October of 2008, I had the PHENOMENALLY FOOLISH idea to play exactly that sort of lexicon game from start to finish from October 15th to October 31st, just in time to get everyone’s creative juices primed for NaNoWriMo that year.
Here were the guidelines we used:
Basically Fantasy – more low fantasy and sword and sorcery in tone – with other fun bits bolted on. “A fantasy RPG, as GMd by John Cleese.”
No specific rules of magic at a macro level, with many insular rules of magic at the micro level.
Lots of different races.
Anything that might qualify as science-fiction or the like should be of a clockwork/steampunk/Jules Verne bent; this would include any theories about how the world exists in the solar system, the universe, and everything.
Other dimensions for weird crap to come from or leak out of.
A long and storied history.
At least slightly humorous, in the style of Pratchett/Discworld, keeping in mind that most of the humor of the books comes from wry, pun-loving voice of the NARRATOR and snarky comments by the main characters… not because the entire population is half-knowingly running a Monty Python sketch.
I don’t remember everyone I snagged to participate in the thing, but there were probably at least eight that made it through to the end.
And… unbelievably, it worked. I even set my story for NaNoWriMo in that setting.
I wasn’t sure if we’d meet this week, but last night a couple folks got together and worked out what we’d like to do for a proper Burning Wheel campaign. Close to a dozen possibilities were proposed by yours truly, and as a footnote to one of those ideas, I’d added “we could even set the whole thing in Bodea-Lotnikk”.
Bodea-Lotnikk is the most populous urban area in Grand Duchy Of Kroon, comprised of no less than 86 distinct boroughs, assimilated townships, long-vanished villages, and subsumed hunting grounds. It boasts narrow streets laid out irregularly, clannish neighborhoods, and a vast collection of architecture marking the dying moments of any number of design eras best forgotten.
Oh my, but they liked that idea.
That provided a setting (and WHAT a setting), but it didn’t address the situation. I flipped to page 90 of the Adventure Burner and read this question:
What’s the Big Picture? What’s going on in this setting the makes it ripe for adventure? What’s changing?
What we decided on was this: the Grand Duke, as part of his continual effort to exercise some manner of order over the city, had established a City Guard, meant to investigate any ‘cross-borough’ crimes and enforce the laws of the city.
All of em.
For all 86 boroughs.
Complications will include stuff like contradictory laws between boroughs, hopelessly labyrinthine legal messes, questions of jurisdiction, and local law enforcement in each borough that just plain didn’t like the City Guard sticking their noses where they weren’t wanted.
The first session will (of course) open with a very public murder that will threaten the stability of the whole city.
We didn’t entirely finish characters, but we know that Kate’s playing a exiled dwarven noble by the name of Mika Harildsdottir, Tim’s playing an elven legal expert who’s positively thrilled to be out of the elvish Citadels and doing things with real people, and I think Chris is doing some kind of human criminal-turned-courtier. The Grand Duke’s decided they’re the ‘face’ of the City Guard, since they’re so multicultural and… *distracted hand wave* you know… things like that.
One of the other upsides to this concept is that it’s going to be dead simple to bring in other players on either a short- or long-term basis.
Another upside? It should be awesome.
I believe I’m going to call the campaign Burning Molerats.
[Full disclosure: about 80% of this was designed by Alexander Newman for 10.10.10. He was a great helped while I worked out how to to run the thing.]
Legends tell of a vast library buried in the shifting sands of al’Wadi al’Aqbar — the Great Desert — where any scroll may be found, where all secrets are revealed, and where knowledge flows free and clear like water from a spring.
Some tall tales tell of prices to be paid that cost too much, some speak of bargains made that should never have been sealed, and some of fools who sought riches and found only death.
But all the tales of this Library of Worlds speak of its librarian: a mighty Prince of the Djinn. The Djinn will grant three wishes, the story goes, but is silent on how he may be compelled to do so.
Still, what matter the tales? You have trekked deep into the desert, and now the Library is before you.
Princess Leisha — Heir Potential to the Empress (She Who is Alm, Bless Her Name) — is on a quest to find a cure for the disease that is killing her mother and, in doing so, become Heir Apparent. Aided by her companion (the preistess Fatima, Imamiyyah of the Faith), her bodyguard Suleiman (a slave, as are all men in the Empire), and Nejat their desert guide, the Princess has arrived at the foot of a minaret, deep in the Great Desert. This must be the entrance to the fabled Library of Libraries, where surely a cure… and much else besides… can be found.
Chris couldn’t make the game, but I asked De and she and Rachel came up. Cool. Here’s who played who.
Tim played Princess Leisha:
I will find a cure for my mother, She Who Is Alm, and become Heir Apparent.
There is great knowledge in the Library: I will learn all that I can, for the glory of the Empire.
It breaks all the laws of Man and God, but I love Suleiman; I will consummate our love for all time.
Make a decision, then command.
Trust my advisor, Fatima.
Always study tomes carefully, you never know what lies between the pages.
De played Imamiyyah Fatima
The Djinn in the Library heard the Prophet’s words from her own mouth: I shall obtain a true transcript and thereby rise in the Faith.
The social order of the Empire is ordained by God: I will preserve its ways.
Leisha’s feelings for her slave are obvious, and must be dealt with; I will expose Suleiman as unfaithful.
Let a slave do the labor.
Lead prayer at the appointed hours.
Always help other through my skill with Astrology.
Kate played Najat
This quest is the opportunity I have been waiting for: I will exploit every advantage these pampered palace women offer.
Fool priests should keep their dogma to the palaces: it has no place coming between women and their men.
My fortunes change here: The Djinn must free all the Men of Alm, so that no one will suffer as I suffered.
Check for tracks.
Speak my mind.
Randy played Suleiman the harem-slave/bodyguard
I would live free: if this is truly the Library of Worlds, I shall escape to where I can thrive as a free man.
The Princess will be a better Empress than most: I will protect her interests as well as her life.
Fatima is more lovely in spirit than any palace woman; I will try to take her with me, if I can.
Trust the twitch in my left eye (Sixth Sense)
Never surrender my blade.
Protect the Princess with my life.
So the four (plus the princess’s drover and a bunch of camels) stood outside the minaret, pondering entrance. Suleiman finally fashioned a hook and line from some traveling gear and got it up through the archway at the top of the minaret. (Beginner’s Luck Throwing test.) Najat scrambled up into the minaret and used a second rope to help Suleiman up (she had climbing, and helped him get up with another beginner’s luck test, this time of climbing).
Fatima and the princes weren’t interested in learning how to climb — they order Suleiman to pull them up, so what would have been climbing checks for them became routine Forte tests for Suleiman.
Once everyone was up in the minaret, they descended the stairs within the tower and into a circular room, the walls covered in glowing script. A crystalline orb about the size of a softball stood on a pedestal in the center of the room. The only exit was an archway ‘curtained’ in golden light.
The text on the walls was legible, but hard to decipher, as it was ancient, verbose, and somewhat poetic. (Think translating Chaucer into modern english.) Eventually, she was able to work out that these verses were the Library rules:
Take no tome, and mark none,
If you would your homeworld see,
Bring no flame, and make none,
Lest you too would burnèd be.
Free in body, free in mind,
Freely share the knowledge ’round.
If you would your fellows bind,
What you seek shall ne’er be found.
The way was opened when you sought,
The way remains for gifts you’ve brought.
Find what you seek and then, begone!
The way will not remain for long.
The inscription above the arch read “That Which is Written Remains”. The veil seemed to be woven from the same soft golden light as the verses on the walls and the inscription above the arch.
Sul and Najat went through the arch, immediately noticing that the air was cooler and more humid (the Library has climate control). When they looked back, they saw the veil over the arch was is utterly black, shot with red — when Sul approached it, his left eye twitched (sixth sense for danger).
The Tower (GM notes)
The center of the tower is a pillar with an interior spiral staircase that leads only down. The N/E/S/W bridges from the center shaft to the outer walkway also lead to other parallel towers that ‘belong’ to other worlds. The NW bridge leads to and from the shaft to archway out. The ‘rim’ walkway gives easy access to a larger collection of scrolls than anyone present has seen, as well as rare bound books like those from the keeps of the recently subjugated Western Lands. There are also arches at NE, SE, and SW that lead outwards into concentric circles of yet more scrolls and books that should–but do not–overlap neighboring world-towers. Farther ‘out’ in those sub-towers, the collection expands to objects that are inscribed in some way (like Suleiman’s sword). Pretty much anything written upon can be found here… the trick is getting it out again.
The pattern of walkways is repeated overhead, apparently inaccessible, and leaning over the side shows that the same structure extends downwards further than anyone can see. At the level of the entrance are roughly contemporary works, below are works from the past, above (theoretically) are works from the future. The collection is not complete, though, for contemporary stuff, and definitely not complete for the future (also, the stairs in the column don’t go upward — you’ve have to use a hook and line (Throwing test) — and climbing tests (with the potential of falling into the infinite past), to get up to a higher level).
The shelves are all made of the same smooth stone as the minaret, and ornately inscribed with strange glyphs that, again, give off a golden light, sufficient to read by.
A robed and hooded figure waits silently at the entrance to the central pillar and spiral stair.
The other two held back in the entry room, and couldn’t hear what the others were shouting back, which meant that when the princess and priestess finally did go through, Sul and Nejat were already confronting the Servitor.
So Sul and Nejat approached the figure by the stairs. They see that instead of a face it has a smooth mask of something like paper, covered in symbols and text. Its robes and all its visible ‘flesh’ are the same material and similarly marked. It’s basically humanoid, but apart from the text, featureless.
As they approach, the servitor bows and touches where its heart, lips, and forehead once were with its right hand. Then it holds its hand out as if expecting to be given something. The servitor will wait until given something with meaningful writing (Princess and Priestess both have scrolls, Sul has his sword, Nejat’s bow).
The Princess and Priestess both gave over their written works (Fatima, her copy of the Faith; Leisha, a 364 line love poem about Suleiman). Najat pretended ignorance of what the Servitor wanted, and Suleiman understood what was being asked and flat out refused.
The Servitor didn’t press their refusal and bowed to the both of them again, then reached out to touch their cheek in a mirror of a priest’s blessing.
They both accepted the Servitor’s touch. The servitor then bursts into a swirling dervish of paper bits and bears the visitors gifts off into the recesses of the library.
And I called for Forte tests. They both failed.
Both of them get a black symbol on their cheek where they were touched. The skin under and immediately around the mark tingles, and feels dry and… papery. Fatima made a Symbology roll to figure out that the central character on their cheek meant “Birth” is surrounded by an indication of the date of the character’s birth.
The Forte test determined how fast the ‘blessing’ was spreading. Sul really blew the Forte test, so he had hours — the symbols on his cheek were visibly spreading. Najat barely missed it, so she’s got 22 months.
So Sul’s was growing visibly – Naj’s wasn’t (“obviously: a man is weaker”). Sul immediately whipped out his sword and GOUGED THE TEXT OUT OF HIS CHEEK. Blood everywhere, and the hunk of his face turned entirely to paper and blew away.
However, he DID get the ‘blessing’ out.
While the princess tended to her wounded bodyguard, Fatima went back and snagged the crystal that no one had touched in the entrance (as soon as any character got rid of their printed materials, the veil turned ‘harmless’ for them — Sul still sees the scary black and red veil, and Najat… doesn’t see any veil at all, anymore).
Right when she picked it up, I gave De the chance to either avoid ‘contact’ with the orb or to try to master it. She attempted to master it and REALLY blew the roll, so she mastered it, but it taxed her Will down to 1, almost knocking her unconscious. The orb exposed her to a full, multi-dimensional, fractal map of the infinite library of worlds. Handy for Orienteering, but hell on the sanity. She came back to their Library looking haggard, and with a crone-like grip on the crystal.
Once Sul was kind-sorta patched up (wounds take a long time to heal in BW compared to stuff like DnD), Orienteering rolls were made to find the princess’s desired knowledge
They got to that part of the Library with the complication of meeting the almost-turned-servitor-but-not-quite male scholar from another world. His near-transformation creeped Najat out (Steel test: passed), but she showed no sign of it. Suleiman was EXTREMELY interested in which tower that man had come through in the first place, because in that world, men weren’t slaves.
Fatima: “Some worlds have more difficult trials than our own.”
The not-quite servitor talked a bit with his ‘sister’ Najat (he still had a mouth, kind of), and said Najat could call on him if she needed help.
For the first Research test, I had Leisha make Ob 3 for compiling obscure knowledge from many sources.
Then I had her making a “learning all this stuff roll” by using the Learning/Teaching rules from the BWR. I gave the Library’s Knowledge an effect Will of 5, so the duration of her Studying was [Days of Study = 5 + (10 – Her Will) + OB of Difficult Apothecary Test = 13 days. She had to succeed at an Ob3 Apothecary test to learn the material, and if she missed it, she’d have to start all over for another 13 days. Tim made the roll by one, and squeezed the time on the test down to 11 and a half days.
While the princess studied, Fatima and Najat decided to go look for the Djinn. (Sul wanted to go to, but wouldn’t leave the princess.) They made the roll, even with a penalty +1 Ob from Fatima’s linked Djinn-wise failure.
The Prince was trapped the moment he entered the Library: his people were created from smokeless flame, as Man is made from clay, and he inherently breaks the rules of the Library simply by existing; rules formulated by a higher power even than that which governs his wish-granting. Far from being the Librarian, he is a prisoner, now bound to punish those who kindle flame inside its precincts.
He has been granted a huge chamber in the Library, in which he has created over the ages a beautiful ornamental garden of paths and streams, scents and breezes, glades where the rattle of reeds syncopates with the falling of water to whisper lewd secrets to an uncaring universe.
In the middle of the garden is a lake, and in the lake an island. A single tree has been painstakingly trained to arc over the lake in a slender, graceful, thorny bridge leading to a many-layered pavilion of pillars and veils
Once they got there, Fatima and Najat had a pleasant conversation with the Djinn, who offered them both quite a lot in exchange for a favor: for Najat — a cure for the Blessing; for Fatima, the exact words of the Prophet (after he dropped the Bomb that it was a Prophet, not a Prophetess, once upon a time).
He said he’d do both those things for them happily, if only they’d bear him out of this Library that he’d accidentally gotten caught in ages before. Fatima readily agreed. Najat said that she wanted the Men of Alm freed more than she wanted to be cured of the blessing, and the Djinn (though surprised) agreed to that instead.
He told Najat to take his vessel with her back to their ‘camp’ (the princess’s study location), so she could call him if need be, and they said they looked forward to leaving with him in a week or two.
[When they were talking, he’d said “If you need me, simply call my n– call for me.” And De said “Hey, do I know his name?” So I explained how the Djinn had many names and had her roll Djinn-wise. She got a crazy number of successes, so not only does she know that the Djinn can actually be compelled to grant three wishes by invoking any of his ‘unused’ names, she KNOWS she’s got a name of his no one’s used, and that she can MAKE him grant her three wishes, rather than paying him off by taking him out of the Library.
And De claims she has a “Horrible” way to get a complete, perfect, accurate copy of the Prophet’s words out of the Library, on paper.
We’ll find out if she’s right on Wednesday.]
That was the end. Leisha and Sul’s players are VERY interested in the fact that the Djinn’s vessel is coming back to their camp — they both want to talk to him too.
I got a copy of The Burning Wheel… hmm. My first mention of it on the blog was early 2004, and I know it was the first edition of the rules, so that probably means sometime in 2003.
I read some of it. It intimidated the hell out of me (and turned me off — I was NOT in a good place to read about a super-crunchy rules system back then). I let the pair of books accumulate dust for a long time.
Sometime around 2006 or 2007, I started reading a lot of good things about the revised version of the rules (BW-R), so I ordered the shiny new version.
And tried to read it.
Too much. I let that pair of books accumulate dust alongside their older brothers.
But I kept reading those interesting actual play posts while I ran other games. If it came up in conversation, I mentioned that I really wanted to play the game with some people that understood it before I tried to run it myself. My gaming was taken up with other things — limited gaming time and ever-shrinking schedules meant I was more likely to choose games with a lower level of required brain-investment than BW. The thing with Burning Wheel is that it really requires system familiarity — it is through system knowledge that one achieves nominal – rather than exceptional – performance from one’s character. That’s a little daunting.
I never quite abandoned my interest in the game. Everything I heard about the game sounded – to my tactical-loving side – quite cool, and the raves and praise heaped on the “story” elements of the game (Beliefs and Instincts especially) were just as effusive. But despite all that, it was still a game that took too much time to learn, too much time to prep.
Then came Mouse Guard. A streamlined version of the Burning Wheel engine. The sparest, most elegant iteration of the rules, to date. It was, by all accounts:
Accessible to new players.
Still a true and excellent representation of the Good Things That Are Burning Wheel.
As with BW, strong player-centered focus of play that’s built directly into the rules in numerous ways.
As with BW, lots of situation-generating hooks built right into the characters, making running the game easy.
Several procedural innovations that make the elements of play that are problematic in other games (high crunch = high prep time) very fast and easy.
I’ve since run MG quite a bit. I’ve enjoyed almost every session immensely, but it’s been hard for me to get my ‘regulars’ to dive into an MG game, basically because of the setting.
But I really wanted to get into that system with them.
Burning Wheel. I felt like MG had been a good primer on the system — I felt like maybe I was ready to understand Burning Wheel. Thus emboldened, I dove into the system. Once the main books were read and grokked, I ordered the rest of the Burning Wheel books: Monster Burner, Magic Burner, and finally the new Adventure Burner, which is basically a 350 page collection of engaging epistles on running Burning Wheel, compiling years of experience and discussion.
On the second page, I read this (paraphrased):
Burning Wheel asks only for an open, honest desire to try it out and see how it works. You may be reluctant, or you may be skeptical — that’s natural, but for the game to have a hope of working, everyone at the table has to say “Let’s give this a fair shot.”
Last night, we finally got to give it a fair shot.
Burning Wheel is a weird critter
On one hand, it is far more character focused and player-driven than a traditional fantasy game, but it uses FAR more intense rules than the nontraditional, “lighter” RPGs I’ve played before, like In a Wicked Age or Shadow of Yesterday or Heroquest or… hell, anything. I’ve mentioned that the rules are crunchy, but they’re crunchy in odd places. For example, there’s no battlemat or miniature rules (honestly, I think they’d confuse things), but there is SUPER HIGHLY DETAILED rules for positioning in combat, weapon length, weapon speed, armor penetration, and all that stuff.
And of course all the major conflicts are resolved through double-blind action scripting, which can be… harrowing.
I loved the way Beliefs and instincts worked. We played a one-shot (that we decided to stretch into a second session next week) with pre-gen characters lacking only a few player-selected items to be finished, but given the Beliefs and Instincts right at the front of the (seven page!) character sheet, everyone had an immediate grasp on their character and started moving things toward the stuff their guy wanted.
Implied Details. Burning Wheel characters are like the game itself — detailed through hints. Burning Wheel has no setting, but the lifepaths (NONE of which have actual descriptions or explanations) very strongly imply a culture and perspective through the skills that are available and the Traits that one gets. The characters are like that — you look at three Instincts like “Always lead prayer at the appropriate hours” and “Always speak my mind” and “Let the slave do the work”, and you have a pretty clear picture of a character — a picture you’ve deduced only via the things they do.
Modular Rules. Burning Wheel rules and the Characters are alike in other ways. The system itself is modular; whole chunks of it can be ignored or simply kept on the side until needed. Likewise, I mentioned the seven page character sheets, but in play we only really looked at the first page (Beliefs and Instincts and Traits (and stats)), and the fourth (skills). Randy had to look at the combat and injury page once, and De had to look at the page where her Faith stuff was at, but they’re outliers: yeah, it’s seven pages. The rules are thousands of pages in total… but most of the time you only need the first chapter.
Color through mechanics. There is very little ‘color fiction’ in the books — almost none, actually. The culture and setting is conveyed through the skills and traits. Likewise, there is very little space on the character sheet for the ‘character concept’ (and that little entry is largely ignored once play starts), but the character’s Beliefs and Instincts and Traits and skills speak volumes — they are vitally important to play and constantly referenced. Like all good characters in fiction, Burning Wheel characters are best understood by what they do and why.
The game is deep. Not like water is deep, or a philosopher is deep, but like a cave is deep. There are rules in there that won’t get touched for months if not in fact years of continual play. You can do one-shots in Burning Wheel, and short-arc adventures, but this is a game optimally designed for long term play. In fact, I think it would play *best* as a weekly, weeknight game (two and a half to three focused hours) that went on for at least six months.
I also think it would play as well with six players as with one player and one GM. Differently, but just as well. That’s pretty remarkable in itself.
How did the game go?
I’m going to recount the game itself in a second post, but in short I thought it went well. There was a lot of page flipping, and I wussed out on damaging a character at one point, and I feel like Tim was kind of thumb-twiddling for too long during the session, but on the whole it was good, and there was a lot of interesting stuff.
At the end of the night we could have called it complete: we had the shape of the thing in our minds, though no one’s Beliefs/Goals had been resolved.
But the players unanimously decided to come back next week and find out what happens. Plans are being planned — I can see it in their eyes — stuff is going to happen; beliefs are going to be fought for.
So I’m on my little loremaster last night, just poking at a few quests, and find myself in the Chetwood, seeking out brigands and punishing them for their misdeeds (as one does).
And I notice this elf is following me.
Level… 51? Okay.
A level 51 elvish minstrel, following me around the Chetwood.
Not doing anything, just following me. Closely. ‘Right up in your personal space’ close, but not “I have you on autofollow” close.
Right. Whatever. I have brigands to punish. (As one does.)
So I keep moving, find a brigand, and begin the Parade of Debuffs and Fiery Burning.
And the elf?
The elf whips out his lute and…
… get this …
Plays a fight song.
I don’t mean “plays some kind of minstrel ballad that does anything mechanically significant.”
I mean (s)he  played some kind of ‘background fight music’ using the /music command. Like something from a Capcom game.
“So,” I thought. “That’s… weird.”
I continued forward and engaged another brigand.
My high-level shadow whipped out its lute again and, again, played the fight music.
Throughout the Chetwood, various NPCs and 1-morale critters looked up, glanced at once another, and murmured. “Was that… Street Fighter?”
I tried to ignore it. It was late, and I pretty much just wanted to hit level 12, see what new skills I got, and call it a night.
I took down another brigand, another, and another. With each fight, the skirling notes of a digitally rendered lute mixed with the raucous calls of my raven (Quothe) and the “why does it burn?” queries from my brigand foes.
On my fifth fallen foe, I dinged.
The elf tucked away her lute, shouted “Pikachu leveled up!”, and mapped back home.
Quite possibly the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen happen in LotRO.
 — I can never tell the difference. It’s like dwarves, but in reverse.
So quite a little while ago, we started out a Diaspora game. Our schedules have been a little crazy — we did character generation in mid-January and played the seventh and final session last night — and as per normal, playing into the fourth and fifth sessions prompted a few system hacks, but on the whole it’s an entirely enjoyable system. But I’ve talked about the system before, and I’m not going to do that today.
I just want to talk a little bit about synchronicity and constraints and the kinds of fun that comes out of that.
When we did the character and star system creation lo those many months ago, we decided we needed some kind of theme or something to tie things together. I’d been writing a sci-fi novel at the time (still am, actually) and I’d enjoyed naming planets from one section of space after characters in Shakespeare plays — no particular reason, I just liked how they sounded — so I suggested we do something like that. Everyone agreed, so we went with that, plus “the system should start with the same letter as the name (first or middle) of the person who thought it up, and no systems starting with the same letter.”
– Keepdown (Kate)
– Trinculo (Tim)
– Caliban (Chris)
– Dauphine (Doyce)
– Shylock (Kate again)
– Lear (Tim again)
– Achilles (Chris again)
– Orpheus (Me, and I don’t know how I got “O”, except that A was taken already)
Then we came up with personalities for these systems. Keepdown was struggling as an abandoned terraforming colony on a world wracked by hurricane-force storms. Trinculo was luxurious and opulent and self-satisfied. Caliban was privateers and pirate nobility raiding other systems for the resources they’d long since exhausted in their own. Dauphine was the poor exploited system Caliban mostly raided. Shylock was connivers and meddlers and diplomats. Lear was a blasted, nigh-uninhabitable, often betrayed wasteland of ancient ruins. Achilles was a world of science gone awry and angry, carnivorous plantlife. And Orpheus was a world of idealists and dreamers, trying to get back to the imagined ideals of Earth-Long-Past.
Then we came up with characters, and the Shakespeare thing continued.
Miranda was the daughter of the pirate lords of Caliban whose father (we find out MUCH later) died suspiciously. She fled the family and the family business when her uncle took over the family. She changed her name and started a mostly-legitimate business. When they found her again, she liquidated her assets, bought a ship, and hired a crew of misfits and the suspiciously secretive.
The ship’s name was the Tempest. It’s A.I. (helpful and communicative, but otherwise invisible) was named Ariel.
Tim came up with Titus Belliago, the president for life of Trinculo who became over bored with his continued, nigh-immortal existence (and more than a bit annoyed by the occasional assassination attempts). He arranged for a body double to impersonate him, pauper and the prince style, and snuck off to have adventures with one of his would-be assassins. (Phyll, from Achilles, played by Chris.) He took on the name Iago.
It wasn’t all Shakespeare themes. The AI played Settlers of Catan with Miranda on the long interstellar hauls. The ship’s log-software was named as “Spacebook”, in which the crew could comment on and Like/Dislike various updates from other members of the crew. (There were at least a half-dozen NPCs on the ship as well, from the “a bit jumpy” gunnery mate, to the “twitch gamer” comms officer who gave the crew bonuses to intimidation, but only when it wasn’t face to face.)
Things progressed, as they do.
I don’t know if I can explain the tangled mess of the final session without explaining the entire campaign (which I’m not going to do), but I’ll give it a try.
There’s a space station in Shylock system. Many different factions are meeting here for various reasons, and the crew of the Tempest have delivered a Dauphine diplomat there and are acting as liaison and body guard for him while he tries to acquire allies against Caliban predations.
In the course of events… Iago gets fatally wounded (which means, in his case, that he’ll need about a week of bed rest), Miranda is spotted by her uncle and his thugs try to take the Tempest by force (leaving at least half the crew too injured to do anything this session), the Dauphine diplomat is framed for intersystem biological terrorism and murder, and Iago’s pseudo-twin docks with the station on a slow-boat tour of the cluster.
That was the mess waiting for them as we started the session last night.
The players wrapped things up in about two hours of play. Maybe less.
– Iago discovered that Miranda – his Captain – was actually from the Caliban elite, and thus a pirate — a group he despised.
– Miranda discovered that Iago was actually the President For Life of Trinculo (she met his gone-somewhat-to-fat body double).
Armed with this information, and racing against a (player-invented and self-inforced) 45 minute deadline before Iago (who was getting no bed rest at all) bled out, our heroes:
– Snuck onto the Trinculo cruiser.
– Subdued Iago’s body double.
– “Revealed” to the Trinculo cruiser’s crew that the body-double touring the cluster had actually been a diversion so that the REAL Titus Belliago could have a quiet honeymoon with his new bride, Miranda Lafitte, of the Caliban Lafittes.
– Announced this marriage to the public.
– Demanded the release of the Dauphine diplomat (and extended diplomat alliances to Dauphine in general, in solidarity against Caliban).
– Explained that, clearly, the Shylock people the diplomat had been accused of killing had accidentally killed themselves by misusing the (Trinculo-designed) biochemical compounds they’d probably been trying to use on the diplomat in the first place.
– Established ties-by-marriage to the pirate lord families of Caliban, making it very difficult for Caliban to… you know… DO anything about any of it.
In short, they solved the whole problem by revealing their true identities and getting married.
(Luckily for them, one of the comedies.)
I call it As you Like it… Whether you Like it or Not.
After a series of scheduling problems, we finally got back to the Diaspora game last night for the first time in… oh, six weeks or something. Been awhile.
In retrospect, I’m glad for the delay, because it gave me time to think about a few problems I felt like we were having with the game, mechanically. As I said over in this post, I’ve been pondering how to tweak the Diaspora system — it felt like we had a few too many get of jail free cards in play (in the form of Fate points), and a little too much cruft on the character sheet that wasn’t getting used.
As I’ve also said before, the designers behind Diaspora have built a hell of a game — they have my admiration for, if nothing else, their free-form stunt construction — but while they are fluent in FATE, it is the fluency of someone speaking a second language. The author’s themselves have said that even now they aren’t wholly comfortable with the way FATE does some things.
Enter Dresden Files.
This is a big, beautiful game from Evil Hat, and while I still don’t feel as though I completely grok everything they’re doing in character generation, there ARE a few things that I saw and immediately wanted to implement in the Diaspora game — solutions to my problems far more elegant than anything I’d come up with. Which makes sense: these are guys who (obviously) grok FATE at an atomic level.
Hack One: Reducing the number of Aspects on Characters
In Spirit of the Century and Diaspora, each of the five phases of character generation yield two character Aspects, for a total of ten. That’s fine in the SotC, which is kind of crazy and over the top and creates characters that are sort of swiss army knives of awesome, but in Diaspora it feels like too much.
Dresden files does it differently. Basically, your character has a “High Concept Aspect” that sort of sums up your character’s idea in a few words. Then they have a “Trouble” aspect that is basically “the thing that’s screwing up your High Concept”. Finally, you get only one aspect for each of the five phases of character generation.
Looking at the hard numbers, it doesn’t seem like THAT much of a change: seven aspects instead of ten, right? In practice, the combination of getting fewer aspects and giving two of those seven aspect specific “jobs” really, really helps tighten up the characters and clarify how they’re envisioned in play. Instead of having more money than you know what to do with, you’re on a budget — constraints are good. We pared down the Diaspora characters to follow these guidelines (which was easy – the dead wood, unused aspects were easy to spot), and (for me, at least) the result was like walking into the optometrist, getting in the chair, and having him drop that first lens in place that shows you no, you really haven’t been seeing things that clearly until Right Now. The characters came into proper focus, is what I’m saying.
Hack Two: Reducing the number of Fate Points floating around
I’d toyed around with a few changes to the normal system in that previous post, but a little bit before the game I decided to try out — again — something from Dresden Files.
Normally, everyone gets 5 Fate points at the start of every session. It’s too many. Aside from any other consideration, we play on weeknights for three hours — we simply don’t NEED that many Fate points. Anyway.
Dresden’s method, super-simplified, is: “take the basic refresh (5, in this case) and subtract however many Stunt Abilities your character has (2 or 3, in this case), and the remainder is how many Fate points you get to start each session.” (Unless you ended last session with more points than that refresh, in which case, keep that higher total.)
So rather than everyone starting with 5 Fate points, Tim and Kate started with 2 and Chris started with 3. This did a BUNCH of stuff during the session last night that I liked a lot.
More compels. Compels become a much more attractive and desirable option in play, because you’re more likely to need more Fate points.
A bit more hording of points. Fate Point totals higher than the refresh actually remain for next session — Kate’s had more Fate points at the end of the session than the beginning.
More struggle. With fewer Fate Points around, people weren’t piling on as many Aspects on during conflicts. This gave my poor mooks in a gunfight the chance to actually do some damage, and we started to see people actually take a consequence or two, rather than use up all their Fate points.
More invention. With Fate points in short supply, it actually became much more attractive to take a round “off” during a fight and set up some ‘free taggable’ aspects to use during the next actual attack. Tim did this a couple times, and it worked out well for him. This makes for more interesting, more textured conflicts. (Typing this out, I realize that that’s what I should have had the NPC crew members doing: rather than whiffing attacks at the enemy, they could have been hitting much easier target numbers to give Tim some help. Ahh well — hindsight.)
In short, the Fate points became more valuable, play became more dynamic, and the use of Aspects as fate point generators rose as well. Basically, the FATE core — the economy and mechanics of the system — actually got engaged a lot more. Since it’s a system I like, this was a big win from my point of view.
How about the play itself?
The net result of this was a session that – to my mind – had more clarity. The characters were in better focus. The game system gears were turning and grinding and chugging away and just generally much more present — more able to do what they were meant to do in the game.
Aspects (permanent and temporary alike) are the Killer App of the FATE system.
Somehow, by having fewer Aspects and giving people fewer points with which to invoke them, we actually made them MORE important.
Short version of that post — following a session of In a Wicked Age, I came to the conclusion that there’s a certain approach to play that Amber encourages in its long-time players that isn’t exactly what IaWA is designed for, or necessarily rewards.
What do I do with that information?
Obviously, I decide to run an Amber game, using In a Wicked Age.
On the face of it, there’s a lot of fruitful overlap; Amber’s got some pulp weirdness elements to it — looking over the Oracles that are part of the ‘vanilla’ game, almost all the elements included fit into an Amber setting really well. Finally, one of the things I find most interesting about a well-known setting is (re)interpreting it through the lens of a different game. In this case, the six ‘forms’ that define each character in IaWA are consistently fascinating to me — when you act in a conflict, you don’t say “I use my ranged combat skill” or “I use persuasion” — you make decisions like “I act ‘With Love'” or “I act ‘For Others'” or “For Myself” — to me, that’s such a consistently compelling filter through which to see a story.
So, given the opportunity to run a one-shot yesterday, I cobbled together some notes on a more Amberized Oracle and ran a game.
The Oracle – As I said before, the basic IAWA oracles are remarkably ‘on theme’ for an Amber game. “A minor insult, spoken casually, but striking very, very deep?” Oh yeah. The oracle gave us some fun stuff to work with, and as per usual also took things in a some unexpected directions. The end result of our Oracle draw was an abandoned stone tower – the source of some great power – now home to many unsavory birds filled with blood-craving ‘uncouth spirits’. There was another more friendly spirit in the tower as well, and mixed into that was the young man who’d been sent to reclaim the tower as his property, the conjurer who was working with/summoning the spirits inside the birds… and a full-on princess of Amber, involved in the whole mess somewhat parenthetically.
Best Interests – I did better this time with encouraging everyone to make best interests that were all things the characters didn’t have — things they need to take action in order to get, not react to in order to keep. I failed a bit at that in the last session, and it came out better here.
The Oracle – Yeah, yeah, I know I had that under ‘the good’, but as useful as it was, my cobbled-together version lacked the kind of focus and clarity I’d have liked. To use it seriously, it would need a lot of work on focus.
Between a late start, a couple scheduled interruptions, some wrestling with the oracle results, and my (bad) habit of stopping to explain the rules before/during/after every bloody step, we didn’t get a tremendous amount done. Everyone got at least one scene in, but we didn’t resolve anything significant in that time.
Also, poor Dave ended up needing to throw himself against a bit of a wall with his conflicts — facing off against “The Birds” in an area in which they were particularly strong (direct conflict where their Swarm particlar strength was most valuable, on their home territory). This lead to three series of conflicts against the birds in which – if they managed to get the advantage initially, they really, really kept it. I dunno if that was actually a problem-problem, except that I should have been better about setting up more interesting consequences for failure.
Finally, I jumped into a conflict involving multiple people without having a clear handle on how it should work (sue me: it’s been more than a year since I last ran it), and it got a little wierd. I think it wouldn’t *stay* weird, given familiarity, and it all worked out okay, but it was weird at the time.
In a Wicked Age wants you to throw yourself into the action right away. I don’t mean that every scene should include someone saying “I attack this guy”, but basically the game system doesn’t really care what you’re doing until someone does something that someone else doesn’t want to see happen. (The PG name of this is “the Oh No You Don’t rule”.) To be fair to the game, things are set up during character generation to help ensure you’re being proactive – so long as you’re working toward your best interests.
Amber (the old RPG, not the fiction it’s based on), on the other hand, encourages an intelligence gathering mindset. Let’s see what’s going on. Let’s touch base with our allies. Let’s ascertain the lay of the land. This doesn’t entirely gel with the “get in there and start acting” desires of IaWA. Rather than nag players about that, I just kept going until I got to some kind of concrete action… supply the information they wanted, then asked “now what”, and kept going until someone said something that someone else didn’t want to see happen.
Some of that was people being new to the system, and not having any clue about “this version of Amber”, and so forth. I’d like to go back and play again and see if some time-to-assimilate and the uses of the rules would help this at all.
There’s a rule in In a Wicked Age that gets overlooked too often. Basically, it says that whenever you narrate anything, you also need to introduce some concrete fact into the world — some sort of detail that lends more weight and reality to the setting. This is especially important in vanilla IaWA, because you’re really totally starting from scratch in your setting, but even in this game it would have been tremendously helpful — hell, it’s a good rule of thumb in any game, but it’s NOT a rule of thumb in IaWA, it’s a rule, and I didn’t observe it.
Why’s that matter? Well, say I back Dave’s character up against a big tree outside the tower. In my head, that tree is big, but dead; the bark’s been stripped away, and the wood beneath is the pale gray of driftwood — a mix of bone-dry and swamp-rotted.
But I never said. All Dave hears is “tree”, so that’s all he’s got to work with it. More detail — more concrete realization of the world around the characters — means more stuff to work with in terms of describing the action or investment and understanding of the scene.
Also, Dave should have been on the We Owe list one more time than I counted, and that would have helped him during later conflicts. Grr.
We didn’t finish the story for the Oracles we drew, and I very much hope we get a chance to do so. IaWA is an interesting game, designed to build a series of (potentially) out-of-sequence short stories. (People call the system the Anthology Engine.) From session to session, it’s possible to play the same character but, as/more interestingly, it’s also possible to come into the next story playing someone else entirely — to explore the setting from multiple points of view over the course of a longer game and, in fact, to swap GMs around every three or four sessions, should the desire exist.
I’d like doing that, provided the system is something people got comfortable with.
In any case, I really do like the IaWA system – there’s a lot more (western, anyone?) I’d like to do with it — it’s a neat lens to look at the world through.
It had been my intention to introduce everyone to the Ship, Personal, and Social combat mini-games in Diaspora during the first three sessions — basically in that order.
Didn’t work out that way. As I mentioned at the time, the first session took a bit of an odd turn when Kate flipped the space combat setup on its ear and turned it into a Social Conflict (for which I was wholly unprepared). Fun stuff.
So, with that taken care of, and personal conflict introduced in the last session, I made it clear that session three was to be SPAAAACE COMBAAAT. Period.
Unless, you know, something came up. Chris joked about flipping it into a cutthroat game of checkers, but such was not to be — ships faced off, and lo and behold, actually shot at each other.
At the end of the last session, the crew of the Tempest had agreed to take a ‘follow-up’ job with the pro-science Dauphine collective they’d sort of accidentally saved from an assassination attempt — in short, to escort the collective’s ship from the soon-to-be-abandoned, not-as-secret-as-they-thought base to a destination elsewhere in the system.
This presented a few problems.
The collective’s ship had no pilot. It HAD had a pilot – the lead engineer, by the name of Darrec – but he’d come down with a bad case of silencer-to-the-temple during the attack, and was no longer an option.
The ship was… sub-optimal. That’s not entirely fair: for Dauphine, it’s a GREAT ship. Not slip-capable, but certainly viable for moving around a single system at something like .1 Gs. It, like everything else in the base, was constructed modularly from materials that could be shipped in-system as something else.
Suspicions abound within the collective. Specifically, a young hothead scientist by the name of Anton pulled Miranda aside and had a lot to say about no one could have known about the Tempest shipment OR about the base unless someone on the Inside had told them. His Culprit-Of-Choice was Eugene Felix, the group’s administrator (whom the heroes had found hiding in the comms chamber inside his office, with is executive assistant, Isabelle). On the other side of the coin, there’s Terese, the mousy fuel engineer who thinks sleezy Isabelle had something to do with it. The fact that she has a crush on Anton has nothing to do with it, of course.
The whole thing was giving Miranda a headache.
While the collective loaded up the Intrepid (and Phyll “tweaked it” with a few new Aspects that could be used if needed), Miranda tried to figure out who could help man the other ship. Eventually, they decided to keep their ‘main’ crew on the Tempest and sent over Maric to keep an eye on the engine, Chance to fly the thing, and Anjela to man the one gun battery.
You know, just in case.
Finally, they got flying, and started the slow crawl toward the outer system.
The Diaspora guys love hard science — everything they do in this game, with the sole exception of the FTL travel (which pretty much has to be made out of Handwavium in order to work in ANY remotely realistic setting), is the kind of stuff that folks at Atomic Rockets would find plausible and supportable.
That makes space combat interesting and different from what you’d expect. Here’s a few key bits.
Properly-represented space combat would require some pretty wicked math and a three-dimensional ‘map’ that would take up my whole basement. Cool, but ultimately more work than the pay-off would justify.
There’s no anti-gravity, so there’s no dogfighting.
The ship and its hardware is going to be much more significant than the skills of the crew, whose impact is really going to be to in asking the ship to do things at the right time, rather than perform the actions themselves. In short, the ships are the characters.
There’s other stuff, but that’s the big parts that inform the combat.
Diaspora deals with the first point by boiling all the four-dimensional vector stuff into a one dimensional map. Yeah. ONE dimensional. Somehow — and I have to say it’s elegant how they manage it — they came up with a combat map where all you’re tracking is where your ship is on a LINE, and yet the location imparts not only location relative to other ships, but also relative velocity, acceleration, AND vector. It’s kind of brilliant.
Anyway, the reason I mention this is because the next thing that happened in the game was a space combat. I know, right? Who’d have expected THAT?
The Intrepid and the Tempest were set on pretty quickly by three missile boats looking to blow the Intrepid out of the sky. Now, if it had just been the Tempest, Iago could have gunned it and been gone before they ever got in range, but while the boats weren’t up to par with the Tempest, they were MUCH faster than the Intrepid.
The first phase in space combat is placement of the ships on the map, which is done by the players, following an opposed Navigation roll. I tried to get Kate to “take an automatic failure” here by offering her a Fate point and compelling her “A little bit Rusty” Aspect, but Kate decided that, while that was cool, she wanted to play the first combat ‘straight’, before we started mucking it up with compels.
So rolls were made, and Kate got to place the Intrepid and Tempest about as far away from the bad guys as she could and still leave them on the map.
The next phase of combat had to do with maneuvering, so Iago and Chance tried to get away. In this, the bad guys seemed more than competent enough to keep the two ships from escaping immediately, despite flying in formation.
The next phase were the weapons that worked at the speed of light — to whit, electronic warfare. This was a pretty one-sided battle, since only the Tempest had the hardware necessary to go on the offensive in this arena, and the enemy ships were hampered by a weak Data ‘health bar’ and Aspects like “Too Stupid to Know We’ve Been Hacked”. Kaetlyn got into the systems of one of the gun boats and gave it a Major Consequence of “Friend or Foe Fire Control Recognition is Frelled”.
The next phase was Beam weapons, so energy beams started … beaming. This was interesting, because you don’t really want to use the full power of your beam weapons, because you may need to use them again in the torpedo phase for defense, and if you fired them a lot, it would cause some significant heat problems for the ship. Kate played it safe but still managed to score a hit on one of the ships.
During the Torpedo phase that immediately followed, both Kate and Anjela (on the Intrepid) managed to defend from too much damage (the Tempest took a minor hit), and someone compelled the Hacked enemy ship to shoot one of its allies instead of them. That was cool. Also, explodey.
Then it was Repair phase, and Phyll went to work on patching the minor damage, which he did handily.
Then you start again at the top. Each “round” probably takes about an hour inside the fiction of the game… it’s not Star Wars, but I find that I don’t mind – it feels like naval warfare, kind of.
In short, we played about three full rounds of all the phases before two of the three enemy ships were destroyed and the Intrepid escaped from the combat by working its way off the edge of the map. The Tempest decided to stick it out and make sure there were no enemy survivors, which took something like one or one-and-a-half more rounds, and then turned itself around and radioed the Intrepid for its location and vector so they could catch up.
There is no answer.
Dun dun DUNNNNNN.
Tune in next session to see what the heck happened to the ship the Tempest is supposed to be guarding.
Once again, we had that weirdly ‘traditional gaming’ experience, where the combat scene took up most of the night.
However, the stuff in combat that takes up the time is different.
In a game like DnD, there’s a lot of time agonizing over the pieces on the board, trying to decided between 10 to 100 different bad-to-less-bad moves. It’s like chess without what I’ve realized is the pure genius of using a turn-clock.
Now, to be sure, the stuff in DnD that causes this kind of behavior is there for a reason — with all those tactical options/threats, there’s plenty of good reasons not to remain static in a fight and just plug away: “Roll to hit, roll damage, next guy…”
But there are lots of ways to solve that problem, and Fate keeps things interesting by seeding the play area with a constantly expanding and shifting list of Aspects — free-floating bonuses that you can use to buff up both your attacks and defenses if you can just think of a cool way your guy takes advantage of them. Rather than reviewing your many chess-like options, you’re looking at the things happening in a fight and asking “what is out there that I can take advantage of?” It’s kind of the role-playing combat version of what Jackie Chan does when you try to attack him with a stepladder.
((There are other ways to solve the problem of static, boring combats, by the way, and I’m going to talk about how Dragon Age RPG does it in some other post, but not today.))
The problem is, while it’s a more aggressive, active, and generally more inventive way of getting the players to interact with the ‘story’ of a conflict, it’s kind of… different, and it does increase processing time when, during every person’s turn, you have to stop to remind yourself to DO it.
My impression of the game – any game – has to be informed somewhat by what I see at the table and how I feel afterwards.
What I see at the table is that we’re having fun, and that some of that fun – perhaps a higher percentage than usual – is coming from the system. Kudos to the system.
More than any other ‘indie’ game I’ve played recently, Diaspora strikes me as a game that would work well in a longer-form game. This isn’t surprising; it’s a game designed by a group of guys inspired by Traveller, who come to Aspects and a lot of the Fate kung-fu a little uncomfortably, even after all this time — there’s is a mindset that assumes the 20-session campaign, and they built a game that supports that kind of play.
Moreover, they built a game that makes me support that kind of play, which is quite the accomplishment. Again, kudos.
I don’t know how long this game will run — I continue to muse about what game we’ll play next — but I’m in no hurry to wrap up and move on to the next thing. For now, I’m more than happy to stick around and – now that we’ve got system and all the sub-systems introduced – see what happens.
Because, best of all, there’s some stuff going on, and it’s pretty cool.
When we last left our space-faring heroes, they were delivering a cargo bay full of “mining equipment” to a (one assumes) secret base on Sebastus, a moon orbiting the main planet of the Dauphine system.
I say “one assumes” because, culturally, Dauphine is pretty anti-space — they tried it once, their attempt failed miserably (from their point of view — the scientists and settlers they stranded on Keepdown feel otherwise), and since then the highly insular conservatives have pretty much controlled the planet.
The conservatives don’t control their system, though — quite the contrary — since they’ve largely rejected any exploration of space-faring technology, the resource-rich system of Dauphine is pretty much defenseless and ripe for plucking, which the “indentured privateers” funded by resource-starved Caliban are more than willing to do.
So, when the crew is told that they’re delivering “mining equipment” (yes, it could be configured as mining equipment — it could also be configured to be a LOT of other stuff) to a base relatively close to Dauphine, on the spaceward-side of a tidally locked moon, they assume it’s for some kind of secret pro-tech Dauphine organization.
They’d be right.
Anyway, after their run in with some privateers/wildcat mining poachers when they arrived in system — three ships who’d apparently been informed they were coming, which begs the question of how anyone knew — they proceed in-system and radio the base to let them know their delivery is almost home.
They continue inbound, discussing the radio silence, allow that that might be perfectly normal for a secret base, and simply try to raise the base every six hours or so as they fly (it’s a six-days-plus trip, so they have a lot of time).
They get one ‘normal’ reply once they get about two days out, very brief and a little too enthusiastically ‘covert’, and then nothing.
Until they pull into orbit and prepare to take the Squall (the Tempest’s shuttle) down to the base to finalize delivery plans; that’s when they get one very brief call for help.
So the group suits up and prepares to land. Miranda, Phyll, Iago, and Kaetlyn are all going, and Miranda decides to bring Anjela (no-nonsense gunnery mate) along for a little extra firepower (Anjela’s an Orpheus native, and lovingly totes along a pack-powered personal laser).
The Short Version of What Happens
The group sneaks into the base, discovers via the security cameras that most of the personnel in the base are barricaded in one of the crew quarters, which are being cut through with plasma welders by a group of… well, they look like ninjas. Sort of burqa-wearing ninjas, but ninjas.
The ninjas and our heroes come to blows — guns are fired, swords are swung, a mining laser (and a smaller kind) are fired, and while the base is a little worse for wear afterwards, everyone is safe.
Once things settle down, the scientists in the base say they were attacked by a particularly militant fringe faction within the Dauphine conservative movement — a group that would rather see them dead than move into space any further. Since they sent assassins to end them, it’s clear this base location is compromised, so they need to move out to another base that’s much further away from Dauphine.
The question: can you carry our delivery just a little bit further… and… if it’s not too much trouble… could you escort our pathetic excuse for an intra-system cargo-hauler as we f l y v e r y s l o w l y to the other base?
How about if we pay you?
“Pay us? Why didn’t you say so?”
And that was the session.
The Long(er) Version
Well, it’s actually not that much longer in terms of relating what happened, but I didn’t want to talk a bit about the mechanics of the personal combat, and how it played out during the session, as well as note some of the cool and not-so-cool products of play.
As you can see from the picture of the map, I laid out the base as a sort of series of pre-fab modules. As I was sketching the thing out, I read through the personal combat section to get an idea of the various kinds of things one normally does with these personal combat settings in this system.
See, while there’s definitely a story going on here (factions, politics, sides to pick, et cetera), the first three or four sessions of the game are very specifically “there” to introduce the various mini-games within Diaspora (with the exception – for now – of platoon combat). In this session, my goal was personal combat, so I wanted to explore and introduce as many of the relevant bells and whistles as possible.
To that end, I set up the bad guys to use various maneuvers, to be good at the sorts of things that one is good at in combat, and then messed around with the map a lot.
S’possible I messed around with the map a little TOO much.
What I WANTED was an over-crowded, super-cluttered base — stuff stacked along the walls, no truly straight path to anywhere, and kind of hard to get around. The nice thing about the way this expresses itself in this iteration of FATE is that you can create such things really easily, WITHOUT mapping some kind of crazy, maze-like environment — it’s enough to just draw in a really big room, break it into a couple zones, and give each zone “Stunts” like “Complicated” or “Cluttered” to limit the range of fire and things like that.
Truly difficult rooms, like those those circular ones with a central ‘core’ that you have to walk around anyway, which are then additionally filled with clutter, boxes, crates, desks, partitions, et cetera, I’d break into multiple zones, which means it would simply take more “movement” actions to get through them. And oh yeah: put in those hissing automatic doors that don’t really stop you but which do keep you from really tearing along at full speed.
Looked good in theory.
In practice, I started the bad guys on the opposite end of the base from Our Heroes, and it took us like… I dunno, six or seven rounds of just… moving to get anywhere close enough to DO anything.
And in that time, the players had managed to move like… I dunno. Two rooms. (One, for Tim, who didn’t have any levels in the requisite ‘moving quickly’ skill.)
So, that was that bad, most of which I could have totally fixed by breaking those smaller rooms up into two diagonal zones instead of one.
The good was… well, everything else.
The computer-hacker person actually had lots to do every round — she entrenched herself in the security station and proceeded to put Aspects on various zones that people would then tag for bonuses left and right: sprinkler systems flipped on and off, lights cut out, doors locked in front of a guy about to run through them (wham!), or right behind him, so he couldn’t retreat from a bad situation.
The gun-loving character got to shoot a lot of stuff, which worked out well. I feel like he was plenty effective.
The swashbuckling pirate’s daughter got into a nice little sword fight with one of the assassins, which included a lot of leaping around and also some sliding around on the sprinkler-system-slicked floor.
And we got to try out Iago’s stunt “Applied Biology”, which (a la the most recent Sherlock Holmes flick) lets him use a large chunk of his Scientist skill in lieu of Brawling — this led an exchange where one of the bad guys was left standing right in front of the mining laser that Iago had been pushing around on a cargo cart, just as Phyl flipped it on, remotely.
The bad guy grabbed the front of the laser, shoved it to the side just as it fired, and LIVED… although he sustained a Severe Consequence of “Amputated AND Cauterized” — the mostly wince- and chuckle-inducing consequence of the evening.
All in all, it was a pretty dynamic fight with a lot of good stuff going on, some nice tactical stuff happening, where one player was setting up another one or taking advantage of something someone else had just done — it felt like synergies were happening all over.
The weird part?
The weird part was that I set up a really big fight on a really big map and it took pretty much the whole game session just to do that one fight.
I haven’t had that happen since… well, DnD, honestly. I don’t think it’s every happened in any kind of “indie” game in, well, ever. Some of those games are plenty deadly (Dogs, for example), but even then, fights are nasty, brutish, and short.
FATE does a lot of wonderful, character-driven, evocative stuff — using Aspects in all their various permutations are THE Killer App of the game, without a doubt, even in spin-offs like Diaspora — but to a certain degree SotC and Diaspora and all the “Version 3.0” FATE games are still very traditional in a lot of ways. The detailed play of session two’s combat reminded me of that.
That’s not a BAD thing, at all. Or good, really. It just is. A feature (in the landscape, not software, sense).
Anyway, the fight wrapped up, deals were made, and session three (which I’ll write up next) involved the crew of the Tempest splitting up a bit to pilot/escort the Dauphine collective’s “Intrepid” to a new base elsewhere in the system.
And, finally, some space combat. Heat up the iridium, Phyl, it’s Shootin’ Time…
Okay, after I posted about ME1, Dave linked to this super-spoilleriffic post that really ripped into some of the story choice made in ME2. I’m going to talk about his points below (after the cut, because they are extensive), but first I want to address my own first impressions of the game, which I posted last week. They are:
I need to keep the ME2 disk in the drive to play? Really?
Yeah, this didn’t end up being a huge problem, because really who uses their drive for anything but installations anymore? Still, it strikes me as really … well, retro. Not in a good way.
I have to keep track of ammo? You considered that a critical need for improving the gameplay experience over ME1?
I realize it really isn’t a huge deal in the game, because they work pretty hard to hit that sweet spot where you’re not out of ammo but not leaving any ammo behind. Still, playing as an infiltrator, my two main weapons are a sniper rifle and a heavy pistol, so I was dealing with small clips constantly. (Especially until about halfway through the game when I realized that my tech “incinerate” didn’t suck anymore.)
Did it ruin the fun? Not at all? Did it increase fun? Ehhhhhh…
I’m working for the evilest group of humans I ever encountered in the first game? Really?
In a game balanced between playing a “Paragon” and a “Renegade”, I actually found it easy to play a hardcore Paragon while working ‘with’ Cerberus. Ever chance I had to tell my ‘partners’ to fuck off, I did so. I gave anyone who asked for it access to their private data, made the least advantageous-to-them choices, and eventually made off with not only their biggest financial investment (me), but also an advanced starship and… oh yeah, I’d say about 25 to 30% of their employees.
I feel as though my time with them was well spent.
From what I saw of the skills table, there is very little customization/choice available during the leveling process, and I didn’t see anything like the Charm/Intimidation pair from ME1 that expanded my dialog options. This makes me sad simply because those options and what I did with them made my ME1 experience really memorable.
There are fewer skills, but they ‘branch’ at the top, once you max them out, and that actually made for a lot of different kinds of customization.
Yeah yeah, I know: the game’s been out for two or three years — it’s old news.
Well, not to me. A few weeks ago (after reinstalling my home system), I was redownloading games I’d bought through Steam, and I got a ‘suggestion’ (read: ad) to pick up Mass Effect 2, which is the current hotness in the gaming world.
And honestly, I had reservations. Yeah, I know it’s a great game, and it’s getting a lot of geek love, but it’s something like 50+ bucks, so… eh. I’ll wait.
But then I noticed Mass Effect was up on Steam, also. It *also* got a lot of gamer love when it came out.
And it was a damn sight cheaper.
… and that’s where I’ve been for the last week or so. Flying around the galaxy, fighting AI robots, pirates, smugglers, things that want to destroy all life…
And trying to hook up with other members of the crew. As one does. Of course.
It has been, not to overstate it, a blast. A few thoughts.
I’d read some thoughts from people about the combat system and the inventory system and the hacking system — nitpicky complaints, largely, but complaints — and I’m just not seeing the problem.
I believe this is because I’m playing on a PC, not a console — I’ve never been much of a console RPG gamer (Fight games? Sure. Lego Star Wars? Heck yeah. RPGs? No.)
The hacking “maze” remains fun without cock-blocking what I’m trying to accomplish. The combat controls (once I figured out the magic behind the spacebar-driven menue) is pretty slick, and the inventory… well, yeah, okay: the inventory system is pretty stupid, but now that I understand it, it’s not that bad.
I like that I can make up my own “look” for the protagonist, and specialize his skill set. Said skill set choices basically consist of:
Finesse Combat (sniper rifles and pistols) with some tech abilities.
Finesse Combat with some psychic abilities.
Tech + psychic.
I think that’s about it. I opted for the sniper-rifle/pistols option (which should surprise precisely no-one) and the tech option, because I don’t like not being able to open ‘special’ doors in games of this nature. I am very happy with the result, as he feels like a very space-age commado, and in order to cover my gaps, I need to bring my two favorite NPC crew members along on missions. (Wrex (combat and psychic) and Liara (pure psychic)).
I love having the point-buy freedom in customizing my guy; focusing the elements of play I found interesting and pretty much ignoring the stuff that bored em. I ALSO loved that I could choose to level up the NPC crew members as well, if I wanted — it let me vicariously play all the various character options.
In hindsight, I feel the Tech options are a little weak, and I might have likes to do some of the cool-ass “biotic” powers, but if I’d gone that route I’d have been been completely hamstrung with regard to tech problems like locked doors and encrypted macguffins, so it’s just as well.
Story Customization: Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda
I went a particular route with my character; I pictured a considerate, do-the-right-thing-even-if-it-sucks, Humanity has to Earn Respect character — Malcolm Reynolds, if his stand in Serenity Valley had led to a costly victory for the Independents and eventual concession from the Alliance — and selected my responses during play based on that. The result was someone with very little “renegade” rating and a nearly maxed out “Paragon”. Moreover, the further I get into the game, the easier and more obvious those choices become for me — I’m entirely in the right mindset for this guy, even when that mindset leads me to some REALLY CRAPPY, PAINFUL decisions.
(Seriously: this game had me agonizing over some of the choices I had to make before I could move forward. A. GON. IZ. ING.)
But I have to tell you: I’d love to play this whole thing again as a real rogue. It would be a pretty different game.
Hopefully I’ll get a chance to, but who knows? Kaylee bought Daddy Mass Effect 2 for his birthday, and it’s waiting for me to conclude it predecessor and show me how far the game’s creators have come in three years. Smirking, is what it’s doing.
(It’ll have to wait: I’m using it as my carrot-reward for doing some revisions before I let myself install it. Maybe someday I’ll even get Dragon Age and play it too.)
And honestly? That’s just a little bit sad — I know ME2 is a good game, and will probably make me love it more than the original, which means I might not feel the need to go back and really do the game up right, now that I understand how it all WORKS right from the start. (I don’t read manuals and I only use a single save-point during these games, so there’s no “go back to before I fucked everything up on Tuesday” option for me.)
I hope, at some point, I get the chance, cuz it’s a good game.
Exactly one year after our first gathering, the Wednesday night group got together for our first session of the new year, and we decided to get started in 2010 with Diaspora, the world’s softest hard sci-fi game.
Counting myself, there were four players, and we opted to each create two worlds in “the cluster” (a series of different star systems, connected by ‘slip points’ located above and below the barycenter of each system), for a total of eight.
The “theme” that we used for the system cluster was this:
Your first system starts with the same letter as your first name.
Your second system starts with the same letter as your middle name.
All system names are derived from characters in Shakespeare.
This worked pretty well, and gave us some pretty evocative setting elements, especially when the players took things a bit further and wrote out some of the Aspects on the systems, their characters, and even their ship as quotes from various works of Shakespeare.
Due to scheduling problems, we won’t be able to play for a couple more weeks months, but we’re all looking forward to it.
Anyway, we did the whole Cluster and character generation the first night, then posted the results to a Google Wave where we’ve since fleshed things out a bit. Here are the results.
Last year, during the holidays, Tim (I’m pretty sure it was Tim) suggested that we set up a regular gaming schedule for:
A small group.
This coincided well with my long-time desire to get a regularly scheduled game night going again. The small group also meant that we wouldn’t have (as many) problems with not being able to play because some significant percentage of the group couldn’t make it.
By and large, it worked. Since January 14th of last year, this is (to the best of my recollection) what I’ve played:
Don’t Rest Your Head – We did this as a one-shot with Tim and Chris and Kate, and while I think it would have been better with two sessions, it worked as a single session thanks to the players really pushing the story hard, and it was quite fun. I daresay it was perhaps the first really successful game I’ve run with Kate as a player. I remember this one fondly. That it was the first game of the ‘new’ schedule augured well for the future.
Dogs in the Vineyard – a kind-of wrap up for an on-again, off-again story we’d played in 2008.
Inspectres, thanks to a request from Bianca.
In a Wicked Age – we revisited this system a couple times during the year, and Tim and Chris as a sort of desert-rat Laurel and Hardy rarely fails to entertain. I’d like to take this game out for another spin in the future, if only to see how The Wedding comes out. (Where did I put that Oracle?…)
The Mountain Witch – this actually wasn’t a Wednesday Night game, but a weekend one-shot I ran for Kate, De, Lee, and their visiting brother Dale. The ending was something like: De killed Lee, Kate killed De, the Witch killed Kate, and Dale (saved the child and) killed himself. Glorious, bloody fun, hampered only by my misunderstanding of one ability Lee wrote down.
Shadows Over Camelot – Not an RPG as such, but it gave us a number of good games, and not just with my gamer friends: our first win came while playing with Kate’s mom, and I personally had a fantastic time playing with my own mom and dad. Dad really got into the game.
Primetime Adventure: Ironwall – A real milestone for me: we pitched a series and, from March to November, managed to run all six sessions in the first Season. That may not seem like much of an accomplishment, but when you consider we were coordinating the schedules of five adults, and had to postpone several times when the ‘spotlight’ player couldn’t show, I will happily dislocate my shoulder while patting my own back. It’s worth noting that we all want to revisit this setting and the storyline in the future… but with a different system — very likely the Dresden Files, which will have just the mix we’re looking for. PTA is great for high-concept, but a little light on ground-level mechanics.
While we were ostensibly playing PTA, we squeezed in a couple other games as well.
3:16 – A one-shot story of genocidal space marines. Good times. Would not mind going back to this game again at all.
Danger Patrol – I enjoyed this session so much. I’d LOVE to play a short series of serials in this madcap, space opera, radio drama universe.
Give or take, that’s about 19 games over the course of the year. Call it 23 if you count Shadows over Camelot. Not quite two games every month, but damn close; I’ll take it and say thankee sai.
What I’d love to play in the coming year:
Burning Wheel or Burning Empires (probably Burning Wheel: I suspect that Diaspora might give me my spacey-sci-fi fix for 2010.)
Diaspora – an excellent game built on the Fate 3.0 engine. I’ve had time to go over the rules now, and the social combat sub-system makes me shivery, to say nothing about ship to ship combat. Fun stuff. God I love Aspects.
Time & Temp – A game of time travel and underemployment. You travel through the ages actualizing solutions for the anomalies and paradoxes that threaten all of existence. You are reality’s only line of defense in the war between the rigidity of causality and freewill. Your reward: the hard earned satisfaction of a job well done. (Plus $11.50 an hour and a modest health package including comprehensive immunizations for history’s most prolific diseases.)
Annalise is a game about making Vampire stories. Each player characters are the victims, hunters and tools of the Vampire. The best example is that you are playing the story of Dracula with one person (for example) in the role of Mina Harker, one as Van Helsing, one as Renfield. The Vampire in your game, like Dracula, is what drives the plot, but it is not a protagonist.
Some more In a Wicked Age.
Some more Mouse Guard.
A little Ghost Echo, if I’m feeling cyberpunky.
What about playing? Hmm.
I think I should hook Chris up with a copy of Trail of Cthulu and see if he wants to run it. I’ve heard good things.
Two of the players couldn’t make it to our PTA game last night, and since they were our spotlight character and NEXT session’s spotlight character, it seemed a good idea to run something else. I settled on…
Danger Patrol is an action/adventure retro scifi game. The aim of the game is to (re)create the feel of episodes of a 50s-style TV show in the vein of the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials (with a dash of the Venture Bros., Star Wars, and Indiana Jones). You play members of the elite Danger Patrol — special super-powered crime fighters who protect Rocket City from the evil Stygian Adepts of Pluto, the nefarious agents of Jupiter’s Crimson Republic, rampaging monsters set loose by mad scientists, and other crazy threats.
A while back, DP became a blazingly cool-kids thing to playtest (yes, playtest: the game only exists as an alpha playtest document at this time, albeit one that’s very well-done), but I was a bit leery of the excitement, simply because I’d gotten excited by such things in the past, and it had come to naught in the long run. The DP love seemed to be holding into the long-term, however, so I gave it a look a few months ago and enjoyed what I was seeing.
It wasn’t until Tim and I got to talking a month or so ago that I really gave DP a hard look. He was looking for a gaming experience where players who weren’t directly involved in a specific action in the game were still encouraged to participate, specifically by adding challenges to the current player’s actions — doing so in such a way as to both make the scene more interesting and also help out the player in some way. I heard that and thought “damn, I’ve SEEN that… where have I seen that?”
Well, you can guess where.
To make your Danger Patrol hero, you’re pick a Style and a Role. Your style tells us what kind of being you are: A Robot, a Mystic, an Atomic cyborg, or something else. Your role tells us what your job is on the team: an super-spy Agent, an elite Commando, a wiley Detective, etc.
In play, this is done via the entertaining simplicity of having each style and each role take up half of one sheet of paper. You pick your style, then your role, select which of the powers you’re going to start out with, tape the two halves together, and you have a finished character sheet, complete with a damage track that flows across the bottom of both halves.
This is what we ended up with:
Once character creation is complete, I drop the team into the action in media res — I wasn’t sure what I should do — there was an opening scene suggested in the text of the game, and a number of decent-sounding ideas on Story-Games, but when I wondered aloud about it on Twitter, I got this message:
Right. Giant undead ape. Good plan. We’ll go with that.
So the team was doing a milk-run patrol in the skies over Rocket City when the dashboard video screen of their Hawkwing 5000 lit up with the following wireless telegram:
Rocket City Rocketport under attack. *STOP* Building unstable, collapse imminent. *STOP* We need you, Danger Patrol.*STOP*
They flew straight to the Rocketport, and saw a horde of what appeared to be recently reanimated corpses swarming the sides of the slim rocketport tower, led by the massive form of a giant zombie gorilla. Zombie Kong.
Then the Danger Patrol logo flashed on the screen of our little serial drama and a deep voice said “Previously, on Danger Patrol…”
… at which point, each player is supposed to come up with a brief moment from the episode of Danger Patrol immediately preceding this one, including elements that foreshadowed things that the players want to see in THIS episode. We see:
Dr. Ramjet, in his lab, examining a vial of liquid. “My god… this virus would animate dead tissue!”
Cassie Colt, at the Rocket City zoo with her niece, in the section of the zoo labeled “animals of Earth”, and looking up, up, and up at an enormous gorilla in a too-small enclosure, and the neice asking why it isn’t white. (The primary sentient species on Mars is a race of white apes.)
… and I can’t remember what Randy did with his flashback, except to indicate that the Stygian Adepts were involved in whatever was going on.
Then we jumped back to the action, and I laid out the “battle board” (I think we were calling it something like the DANGER ROOM last night) with the various threats. I’d already written out markers for Zombie Kong and some packs of Zombies (one of whom was closing in on a little girl), but after everyone’s flashbacks, I created a “Stygian Adepts!” Danger to incorporate later in the fight, and changed “Zombies closing in on little girl” to “Zombies closing in on Cassie’s Niece” and attacked Dr. Ramjet with a very specific Danger all his own…
You’ll notice that there’s also a Danger that the Rocketport tower will collapse, and it has a “timer” on it: (4) — in four rounds, that’ll happen. Finally, WAY up in the corner, there’s a “Plan 8” Danger with a really long timer on it, ticking down from (8). This wasn’t really a danger that the Danger Patrol could ‘get to’ in this fight, but I wanted it up there, ticking down, all the same, because it meant that when I got results like “a danger becomes MORE DANGEROUS”, I could start accumulating additional Danger Dice on Plan 8.
Anyway, the heroes leapt into action. Cassie jumped out of the flying car, fired up her rocket pack, and blasted through the pack of zombies around her niece, guns blazing, swooped the girl up, and flew her to safety before blasting back into the fight. Sebastian leapt onto one of the observation decks below Zombie Kong, and was set on by some zombie minions. He dealt with them via a hail of bullets, but I was able to bring two dangers into play as a result – Stygian adepts appeared to stop him, and the spray of zombie fluids put a group of Innocent Bystanders at risk of infection with the zombie plaque (Dr. Ramjets Z1B1 Virus.)
Speaking of Dr. Ramjet, he spent the first round goading himself into action (dealing with the Danger of his own self-doubt) and was just about to leap into action when Zombie Kong grabbed the front end of the Hawkwing and started swing it around like a club.
Cassie started buzzing around Zombie Kong, unloading a veritable blaze of blaster fire at the big undead ape. Kong managed to clip her with the Hawkwing-club, but she regained control of her jetpack a few blocks away and came zooming back… and Ramjet was able to pull the car free from the thing’s grasp.
Sebastian coated the Bystanders with the cold foam from a fire extinguisher to combat the zombie goo, ignoring the Stygians for the moment. Meanwhile, Dr. Ramjet told his body to charge the Hawkwing straight at Zombie Kong’s face, then he DETACHED HIS OWN HEAD, which flew off to help Sebastian, flying over the bystanders and urging them to retreat inside and douse themselves with sparkling soda water from the bar.
The car rammed itself right into Zombie Kong’s mouth, finally finishing off the creature, and Sebastian summoned up the Black Mists of something-or-other which, when combined with his training and various esoteric fighting arts, made short work of the hapless Stygians.
The body of the ape tumbled down the side of the tower, doing yet more damage, and Ramjet flew down to the corpse, where Cassie was already pulling his body from the wreckage of the car. He reattached himself and they both turned at the ominous cracking all along the tower’s height.
Ramjet: I’ve got just the thing. (Player checks off Experimental Device #1 from his sheet.) I just need to get up there…
Cassie: Then hold on. *grabs him around the chest and fires off the jetpack*
Ramjet fires off his Stabilizing Ray (or maybe it was actually a “Rocketport Stabilizing Ray”) and the building is saved!
… and their jetpacks give out and they plummet to the ground below. Oof.
Okay, we then did interludes scenes in which Cassie’s sister came and picked up Cassie’s niece (blaming both Cassie and Ramjet for the whole thing), and Sebastian interrogated one of the Stygian Cultists. (Not even a REAL Stygian!) During this, he learned that the whole attack on the Rocket City Rocketport was just a diversion for a theft at the Rocket City Museum, and that the Cultists were getting their orders via strange crystals they had at their secret base in some martian ruins outside the city.
Once the interludes were done, the Patrol had three question to answer:
Sebastian went out to the Ruins to check out the Stygian Cultist base and see about these odd crystals. Dr. Ramjet investigated the control mechanism for the ape, and Cassie checked out the Museum burglary. Everyone got the answers they were looking for, and Sebastian actually made off with the Stygian Crystals, but he was followed back to the City by more Cultists.
Back at the professor’s university lab, the heroes exchanged notes, realized they needed to get to a Danger Jet to get to Pluto as fast as possible, and were then attacked by Cultists. During the fight, one of the Dangers was “The Pulsing Crystals will suck you into the 5th Dimension!”
Sebastian was able to pull them out of the 5th Dimension, using the crystals’ psychic link to the Stygian Adepts to pull them out AT PLUTO. From there, they were able to start the final Show Down with a bunch of Stygian Adepts, a Stygian Master, the Planet X Liaison and Planet X Assassin, and the ticking-down Plan 8 (which, by this point, had accumulated 5 danger dice to drop on the first person who tried to stop it, and which was down to (2) on the counter).
Sebastian distracted the Stygians, giving Cassie time to get a shot at the Stygian Master, but it wasn’t enough to stop him from creating a new Disaster: “All of Rocket City Zombified!”, via a massive gate from planet to planet, via the fifth dimension. Sebastian leapt in to stop that from happening, and intercepted the energy of the gate with his own Mists of something-or-other, putting him in a head-to-head contest of wills with the unstable gate itself, which was now going to “Suck Pluto Into The Fifth Dimension!”
Ramjet again detached his head, and sent his body to charge the last clump of Stygian mooks while his head jetted toward the ancient ruins that housed the device that would bring Plan 8 to fruition — a vast, intricate, crystal and glass matrix that would bring all the planets under the control of Planet X, ultimately blotting out the Sun.
Ramjet nodded (easy to do when you’re all head), and flew straight into the matrix, smashing it (and knocking himself out).
Sebastian did all he could to the close the gate (5 successes out of the 6 he needed), before collapsing (KO’d).
Which left Cassie, a dark portal to the 5th dimension, and two Planet X agents, fleeing to their ship and stranding them all on Pluto.
She pulled out a frag grenade, and saved the planet. (Did some kind of Commando thing that let her split her attack between multiple targets, got EIGHT SUCCESSES on NINE dice. The explosion took out both agents AND destabilized the gate just enough to take it down.)
Victory! The Danger Patrol saved the Solar System!
All in all, a pretty awesome game. More thoughts as I have em.
Entirely unrelated to this post here -> over on storygames, they’re kind of talking about the same sort of thing I brought up in the last post: here. I’m not sure if it’s something you’d want to read all the way through, but there’s interesting stuff there — I particularly like Paul and Ralph (Valamir)’s thoughts on things.
It also kind of parallels this other thought I’ve been poking at since Monday night, which is what this post is about.
Monday night, Tim and Kate and I were talking about gaming stuff (as we sometimes do between frames of bowling). We’d started out talking about that last post and the authorship/acting issue. That drifted into other areas, such as the problems with splitting the party (it doesn’t bother me a bit, but it bothers pretty much everyone else, and I wonder if I can’t solve it universally across all our games with a little social contract related to playing NPCs), and eventually got over to this other topic, which Tim broached with the following (paraphrased):
There are games, like DnD, for example, that have a minimum and a maximum amount of fun. Unless you get some kind of truly transcendent session, there’s a maximum amount of fun you will have with that system, but there’s also a guaranteed minimum amount of fun you will have [Doyce says: “that would be my ’20 minutes of fun packed into 4 hours’ experience]. The upside there is that, even in a worse-case scenario, unless the group totally implodes, you’re guaranteed x amount of DnD-like fun.
PTA (and other story-games) have no minimum and maximum, which is both bad and good — the maximum can go off the charts, but it can also potentially be absolutely zero fun at all — even negative-fun.
And yeah, you can nitpick that and say things like “well, that all depends on familiarity with the system and blah blah blah”, but the basic idea stands, and I agree with it.
There are games you can kind of phone in. DnD’s a reasonable example: if you’re brain dead from a long day, you just kinda want to crack some jokes, eat some pretzels, stab orcs in their stinky orc-faces, and take their stuff. You can be somewhat assured of having at least x amount of that kind of fun if you just show up, assuming the group is functional.
But that is not the case with some story-games. PTA, for example. You can’t just phone it in – everyone has to kind of be on their game or the game itself becomes less fun or unfun for everyone when it’s the tired/disengaged-person’s turn. There are lots of games like that: PTA is one, but Don’t Rest Your Head is on there also, and I don’t think you have to put a lot of work into thinking of others — The Roach, DitV, Mortal Coil… hell, I just think of any game where, if I suspect the players are going to show up brain-dead, I want to switch to another game for the night due to the impending sense of personal exhaustion from carrying the added load.
I’m not assigning a value of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ here. There’s times when you WANT to shoot for the stars in a way that DnD just can’t handle. Other times, that kind of no-brainer play appeals, because the idea of an all-in game is just exhausting.
There are even a few story-games (or indie games) that allow this kind of … let’s call it cruise-control play. From my direct experience, off the top of my head, these include:
In a Wicked Age (provided the GM is throwing something in the face of the tired player for them to face)
Spirit of the Century (acknowledging that this is not really a story game, by design)
Mouse Guard (presumably, then, BW/BE)
Sorcerer (don’t laugh – I can throw Bangs at anyone and almost always get SOME kind of interesting reaction)
Are they BETTER when everyone’s engaged and actively contributing? Sure. So is DnD. That’s not the point.
Heck, one of Vincent’s own criticisms of IaWA is that it lets people just roll dice without exerting some effort, which results in less interesting conflicts. He’s working on a new game right now whose main design goal is to make that sort of play impossible; as I understand it, in that new game, if everyone isn’t putting forth effort to deeply describe the environment and actions in that environment, then the game will just… stop.
Which is… well, that MIGHT be over-engineering a solution too far in the other direction. I don’t want the game to BREAK if everyone isn’t totally on their a-game, right? Bad enough when that happens and the game just gets sluggish.
Obviously, we want to play in a game with active and energetic player input… with lots of in-character play and emotion and stuff. And it’s really cool when a game encourages that kind of caring in the players and activity at the table and gives us tips and tricks and built-in stuff to help make that happen… but it’s asking a bit much when a game flat out requires it. Some of this should be our job at the table, you know? Socially?
I think that a ‘play your balls off or the game breaks’ design is going to take us to a place where the maximum fun is … sure … really amazingly high — and the minimum takes us somewhere so crappy we didn’t even know it existed until now.
Sometimes, there’s something to be said for coasting; for knowing, going in, that we’re guaranteed at least x amount of a certain kind of fun.
There’s other times when you want to break the needle.
Twitter. The final frontier new hotness. These are the transcripts of gaming nerds, trying to discuss involved game sessions using nerd jargon, in 140 characters or less.
After Wednesday night’s PTA game (where we are now 4/6 on our season of Ironwall), Tim (cyface) tweeted:
cyface A good game of #sg-pta last night. Had to tie @doycet to the stone table to make him RP instead of Metagame, but we got there. 🙂
Now, I know Tim meant no harm in his comment, and I know specifically (I think) which scene he was (mostly) referring to, but I couldn’t resist a reply.
doycet @cyface I attribute my flighty non-rpness to being really unsure if we’d get the bloody episode done on time without fast-forwarding.
Which unsurety stemmed from the fact that one guy’s spotlight episode (Tim’s, actually) coincided with a ‘screen presence: 2’ for every other character: two of them ramping up to their spotlight eps, and one coming down off his spotlight and ‘wrapping up’. There was a lot going on!
Then, of course, I started second guessing myself:
doycet@cyface Unless I’m that bad all the time — in which case… yeah, I don’t know.
cyface @doycet Some of both, but generally, live for the moment, as long as the moment is good!
Meera also commented (in a reflection of the fact that she still feels she’s learning to grok some of the indie voodoo):
mtfierce @cyface Funny, I thought @doycet only metagamed in pity for the kids at the back of the indie class.
Which is a kind thing to say, and perhaps more consideration than I warrant — I know one of the things I’ve failed at with PTA in the past has been meta-level discussion of the events in the game in lieu of… you know… PLAYING. It’s something I’ve been trying to avoid (pretty successfully, I believe) in the current season of play.
So went back and really thought about the game session (and previous sessions) in an analytical (and somewhat unkind) fashion. That analysis prompted my next couple statements:
doycet@cyface Trying to analyze my play — is it meta-game, or doing author-stance narration? If it’s the later, then… yeah, I am. For me, authoring > acting.
doycet@cyface By “>”, I mean “more personal enjoyment/comfortable for me”. I do enjoy both kinds of play in others, and even acting for myself… in smaller doses.
This led us off into a (more profitable, IMO) discussion.
cyface @doycet It’s an interesting question. Assuming author is being well cared for, I’d prolly choose actor. But if author bad, actor = painful
cyface @doycet …and thus I’d choose author since I think it’s affects more people at once. If I can stabilize author, back to actor.
Hmm. Okay, I understand, here, what Tim’s saying, I think: “Assuming the story isn’t careening off the rails, I’d rather ‘play my guy’ and not step back into an author-level role unless necessary.” Which is fine, but not exactly what I was talking about. To whit:
doycet@cyface Not 100% we mean the same wrt ‘author stance’. I just mean ‘playing my guy’ in 3rd person (author), rather than 1st person (actor).
doycet@cyface So, put another way, I-the-player am more comfortable playing in 3rd person than 1st, and wonder if my 3rd-person play reads, to you, as meta-play.
doycet@cyface @mtfierce I think there may be >2 modes: 1st prsn RP, 3rd prsn authorial description, omniscient scene narration, & meta-level “pre-summary”.
Here, I’m basically co-opting Forge-speak terms for stuff.
Actor-stance. The way I’m using it, I mean interacting with the game from your character’s 1st person point-of-view. Obviously, you’re only using info the character knows, and your play is mostly roleplay, in the traditional, non-game sense.
Author-stance. You’re still just playing your guy, but the POV is more of a personalized 3rd-person, rather than 1st-person. Your character is still only acting ‘as they would act’, but rather than sort of improv’d roleplay acting, you may be describing their actions and what they say, rather than playing them out.
Director Stance. The player actually determines aspects of the story relative to the character in some fashion, entirely separately from the character’s knowledge or ability to influence events. So, the player not only determines their character’s actions, but the context, timing, and spatial circumstances of those actions, or even features of the world separate from the characters. (I do this all the time – it still isn’t meta-play.)
Meta-level “play” is, for me, something to be avoided, where you’d doing stuff like “Okay, if I succeed here, this is exactly what happens, and if you succeed, this is exactly what happens…” and then we roll dice (or whatever) and… there’s nothing left to PLAY, cuz we already described every possible outcome, so we just tic a box on the form we already filled out and go on to the next scene. Some folks (me included) think of this as ‘playing before you actually play’.
So… yeah, if I read Tim’s first tweet as being backed with all this terminology (I rather doubt it was, and good for him), then I’d have thought he was saying I was doing that last thing. Hopefully, what he was saying was that I was doing more Director Stance wankery (which, to be fair, I enjoy) rather than Actor (which, to be fair, Tim seems to (inexplicably) enjoy seeing me do).
doycet@cyface @mtfierce I’d say only meta-“pre-summary” is sucky “playing-without-play”, but either rules/results analysis -or- bad scene narration can BECOME that thing, by accident.
Now, personally, I don’t necessarily think Author or Director stances are bad – I’m a writer, so of course I enjoy looking at the scene from the CAMERA’S point of view, rather than the actors. I’d go so far as to say I actually prefer them over Actor stance (full on, first person roleplay) for myself, but I’m at ease enough in my own neuroses to admit that at least one (lesser) reason I find them more comfortable (read: safe) is because when I get into first-person roleplaying in a scene, I get more emotionally wrapped up in the scene.
Well, duh. Of course I do. Let me rephrase.
“I’ll actually (sometimes) get more emotionally wrapped up in the scene than I’m comfortable with, and I’m concerned I might make my fellow players uncomfortable with the level of my emotional involvement (when I play angry, I’ll get angry, et cetera), so I instinctively avoid it… That’s actually happened in the past, and I make me feel a little oogey.”
Said oogeyness is entirely a trust issue, and I really should cowboy-up and let go of my trust issues when I’m playing with the Wednesday group. Feh.
But still… that issue aside, I just plain like author/director modes.
What about you guys?
In a weird bit of synchronicity, Paul Czege made this comment on a thread over on Story Games just last week:
I think lots of indie games have skewed many of us to where our play behavior is more like authoring at each other than it is character play. We play many indie games to use the engine of the mechanics to author something that affects the other players. But the result is, paradoxically, less affecting.
Because for a story to be affecting, it must be made from some of the author’s bare personality and honest identity. When a player’s character is a tool for affecting others, more than a membrane for two-way communication, play is “awesome” but boring. We appreciate the creativity and talents of our fellow players, but have no contact with their identities.
((The title of this session is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the finest, most awesome line in the new Mouse Guard collection, Winter 1152.))
A player couldn’t make our ongoing PTA season this week, so the remaining players and I opted to do a one-shot with Mouse Guard.
Since chargen takes quite a bit of time for new folks, I ran the whole thing as a series of questions in a (55 reply!) email thread. Here’s what they came up with:
Chris: Jerrick is a 33 year old patrol leader originally from Dawnrock. He had a natural talent as a survivalist and leader that led him to the Guard. As a tenderpaw and later a patrol mouse, he specialized in pathfinding, and has a reputation for never losing a mouse in any of his patrols. He is wise in the ways of mice, wilderness, motivation, and tracks. He believes “there’s always another way”, and his Instinct is to protect the mice of his Patrol at any cost.
Randy: Faolan is a 20 year old patrol mouse originally from Shaleburrow. He had a natural talent as a fighter; and he is extremely Bold — the guard seemed a natural fit for him… once he could be convinced not to attack everything at first blush. In Lockhaven, he was assigned to Rand (who was on his final wilderness patrol). Rand focused on his training as a scout, but his specialty (and first love) has always been fighting. He is wise in the ways of scrounging and predators. He believes “success comes through victory”, and his Instinct is to always keep a sharp blade.
Meera: Yarrow is a 25 year old tenderpaw — unusually old to join the guard, she applied to the guard several years after her home, Walnutpeck, was lost in the Weasel War — an event that left her and all the other survivors of the wonderful, wood-carved town Bitter. She grew up with her parents (Brand and Ivy) and learned the ways of the apiary from them – a common trade in Walnutpeck, whose apiaries were second to none, prior to the War. Her generous nature made her many friends — most of whom are now gone. She deceived the guard about her age and was eventually found out, but was allowed to stay anyway. In Lockhaven, she was assigned to Jerrick, who focused on her training as a healer and survivalist; her training thus far has been… eclectic. She is tough (all those bee-stings) and wise in the ways of weasels. She believes you must “think with your head and act with your heart”, and her Instinct is to always have a second exit available.
Prep was pretty simple: I used the Mission Burner method that someone posted on Story Games, and came up with the following:
PICK A SETTLEMENT
– Pick a settlement one or more of the patrol members are from or have history with: DAWNROCK
(Jerrick is from there, and Yarrow had a friend there – a loremouse named Siaran.)
IN THE PAST
– Weather messed something up there.
(Specifically, Spring snowmelt and rain caused a mudslide that snapped the wheel off the town’s only Mill.)
IN THE PRESENT (YOUR MISSION)
– Important mice or supplies must be accompanied to the settlement.
(Carpentry tools and a Carpenter (Faolan’s old Carpentry artisan to whom he was apprenticed: Sable.))
– Wild animals are creating difficulties for the settlement.
(The possibility exists that creatures emerging from winter hibernation might pose a problem to repairing the Mill — I’m thinking, since we’re on a “mud” theme: Bullfrog.)
IN THE FUTURE
– The difficulties will experience an unexpected twist
The Mission: “This ends in Mud”
Escort Sable (carpenter who once apprenticed Faolan) to Dawnrock with supplies, then help that settlement repair their mudslide-damaged Mill.
1. Get to Dawnrock. Pathfinder Test: Ob6 (Spring).
— ((Conditions Failure: Main person is Tired, helpers are Hungry and Thirsty.)) *OR*
— ((Twist Failure: Mice are on the wrong side of a broad, swampy area that’s become nigh impassable in the Spring Thaw. Ob5 Boatcrafter or Ob8 Survivalist — Failure conditions on this are Tired (lead mouse) or Hungry & Thirsty))
2. Repair the Mill (Complex test – must perform 3)
Scientist Ob5 (Design new wheel); Laborer and/or Health Ob3 (clearing mud and damaged bits – hauling supplies); Carpenter Ob 6; Healer (to help Sable recover from the wet and muddy trip – he’s Sick).
— ((Twist Failure: A bullfrog emerges from his muddy winter hibernation where the Laborer mice are clearing, and decides to have one of them as a snack. Bullfrog Nature 5: Leaping, Croaking, Camouflage, Predator))
PLAYER TURN: Go!
How it Played Out
((None of the players have played MG before. Jerrick has read Burning Wheel. The other two players have read Fall 1152. That’s it. Avante!))
After a brief overview of how the system basically worked, we jumped in.
The scene opened with mud. Snow melt, last night’s rain… whatever the reason, the courtyard in Lockhaven was muddy.
Standing in that mud, staring at a cart (like the one the grain merchant was hauling in Fall 1152) loaded to the brim with carpentry supplies and tools, are Faolan and Yarrow.
Cut to: Jerrick, in Gwendolyn’s study. The matriarch is explaining that, while this isn’t a particularly glamorous assignment, it’s very important; the water wheel on Dawnrock’s only mill was snapped off in a mudslide — although they have many skilled stone masons, the town has no carpenter to speak of; Lockhaven has arranged to provide both carpentry supplies and a skilled carpenter — in exchange, Dawnrock will send down several wagonloads of milled grain in the fall.
Gwen’s captains suggested Jerrick be sent, as he’s from Dawnrock and knows the area.
Jerrick nods, then asks the more pertinent question. “Who’s the carpenter?”
Cut back to the courtyard, where a stooped oldfur toddles up to the guardmouse and tenderpaw.
“Oy! Give an old mouse a hand up onta that cart!”
Faolan peers. “S-Sable?”
“Aye! I be a deputy guard mouse, now, boy! Time to test alla that training I wasted on you!”
“You’re… going with us?”
“Aye! Now… get me up on that wagon! I’ll be able to see for miles!”
“Get. Down.” Jerrick was not in the mood to humor the oldfur when he reached the courtyard. There were younger carpenters in Lockehaven, and he was at a loss as to way this old fool was being sent into the wilderness.
Much cussing ensued, and moaning about having to walk, but eventually Sable got down.
((Thing I forgot: both Jerrick and Faolan have Patrol Captain Harrow as an Enemy — Harrow is the guy behind assigning them to glorified carpentry duty, and the one who arranged for a crotchety oldfur to be sent along. I was GOING to have him show up just before they left to make sure they knew that, but I got so wrapped up messing around playing Sable, I forgot. 😛 ))
Jerrick, well-known as an expert pathfinder, turned to his newest patrol member. “All right, Yarrow — how about you find us a way to Dawnrock?”
Yarrow seriously considered scurrying away.
((Pathfinder test. Ob6. Yarrow doesn’t HAVE Pathfinder. Beginner’s luck rules, with help from Faolan (scouting) and Jerrick (wilderness-wise), left her rolling 3 dice… needing six successes. Sure. Failure. GM opts for a twist.))
The patrol heads… well, mostly north. Jerrick is stoically silent as Yarrow leads them, refraining from any comment more helpful than “are you sure?”
A long day ends with the group staring at the murky morass of a spring-swollen swamp. Dawnrock lies somewhere on the other side. Doubling back will add another day to the trip; possibly two. Continuing forward will require some kind of boat. Or… raft. or… something.
They decide to sleep on it.
The next morning, Faolan starts scrounging up bits of wood and vine to contruct a viable raft. Yarrow helps out by hauling the stuff (laborer), Jerrick ‘supervised’ with motivation-wise, and even Sable “helped”… by criticizing Faolan’s clearly atrophied carpentry skills.
((Boatcrafting. Ob5. Faolan has a 2. 3 helping dice from others, plus Scrounge-wise gave him six dice to roll. 3 success. GM uses a Conditions Twist.))
While the raft that Faolan finally got strapped together was enough to keep the cart (mostly) out of the water, the whole thing was terribly top-heavy and nowhere near big enough for the mice to ride (except for Sable, some of the time). Yarrow and Jerrick waded along on either side of the raft, chest-deep in the water, while Faolan pushed on the thing from the back.
The raft got hung up on tufts of grass repeatedly, and was generally a nightmare to move, but by late afternoon, they had cleared the swamp. Soaked to the bone, they’d had no time to eat — Yarrow and Jerrick were Hungry, but Faolan was too Angry to be hungry.
Oh, and old Sable is sneezing and sniffling and clearly Sick.
Back on “dry” land, they set out for Dawnrock and got there well after dark. It took some talking, but the town guard finally let them in, and let them stay in the guard house — no wandering around town for the strange guardmice, not without the See’s say-so, so Jerrick couldn’t even go stay at his family’s home — nor could Yarrow visit her friend.
The next morning, the guard were greeted by the leaders of the town and enthusiastically led out to the mill site to start on repairs. There was much to do.
First, they decided that Sable needed to be seen to. Jerrick went back into town to find a shop selling medicinal herbs and such.
((Resource test: Ob 4. Player was rolling about 7 or 8 dice, thanks to some help and being in his home town. Easy success, giving +1D to Yarrow’s next roll.))
With the supplies in hand, Yarrow set about making an eye-watering, head-clearing poultice for Sable.
((Healer test: Ob 3. Yarrow’s Healer is 2, plus the +1d for supplies, plus help from Faolan. She got two successes, spent a Fate point to blow up a 6, and got another success. Victory! Healthy old carpenter coot!))
With a revitalized (and aromatic) master carpenter dealing with building a new wheel, Yarrow started leading the laborers as they cleared mud and detritus from the wheel’s final location, and Faolan started cutting down a new axle for the wheel (something Sable figured Faolan could handle).
((Laborer, Ob3. Yarrow has 2. Helping from everyone, including ‘supervision’ from Jerricks motivation-wise (best trait EVER). Success.))
((Carpenter, Ob… 4? Something like that. Helping dice abound. Player gets 3 successes, two of which are sixes, but opts not to go for the win, wanting to see what will happen.))
Yarrow is covered pretty much head to toe in mud, ears drooping, when she hears “Y-Yarrow? is that… you?”
Her ears droop further.
It’s her friend, the loremouse Siaran, native of Dawnrock, whom she was hoping to impress with her guard mouseliness (her Goal for this session).
He’s unfailingly impressed and enthusiastic about seeing her, however, and even volunteers to jump in and help with the clearing of mud. He rolls up his pant legs and sleeves, hops in, and starts shoveling with a passion only seen in over-enthusiastic scholars trying to show off.
His shovel bites into the mud and pokes a just-waking Bullfrog right on the nose.
The bullfrog is not amused. It croaks. Siaran croaks desperately back. It doesn’t seem to have much affect.
((CONFLICT! Bullfrog, Nature 5, vs. the patrol. Bullfrog Goal is “Eat Siaran.” Patrol goal is “drive off bullfrog, and keep it from ever coming back.”))
Disposition is rolled. I get 7. Players get 13! (Faolan spent a Fate point to blow up a bunch of sixes.)
Action 1: I script Attack. Players (Yarrow) script Defend (they’re new to scripting, but it worked out in their favor this time). Yarrow rolls her Nature to defend, and throws herself and Siaran down and out of the way of the whipping tongue (taxing her Nature).
I get four successes on five dice. Yarrow gets two, but they’re both sixes. She spends a Fate point, rolls the two new dice, and gets two more successes. Tie!
Action 2: I script Maneuver. Players (Jerrick, with a bow) scripts Maneuver. I get two success, and so do the players (which is a shame, cuz they were rolling a LOT of dice). We both get +2D to our next action…
Action 3: … which doesn’t matter for me, because I scripted Feint, and the Players (Faolan) scripted an all-out attack. I don’t get to roll at all, and Faolan got six success, then spent his last Fate point to blow up some sixes and finish off my last point of Disposition.
The bullfrog, shovel-smacked, bruised, and cut along its flank, flees the area. Awestruck locals cheer.
Jerrick and Yarrow are Hungry and Thirsty, but this is Jerrick’s home town, so mom and pop fix them a nice meal, and that’s all taken care off with no Checks.
Jerrick, introduced to Yarrow’s friend, is very interested in the young mouse’s ability (unhelpful as it was) to speak Bullfrog, and spends a few days speaking of all things Loremouse. (Skill check on Loremouse. Two Success.)
Yarrow, chastised at her terrible pathfinding, gets up on the very highest parts of Dawnrock (which is atop a tall hill along the coast to boot) and takes many notes on the lay off the land she can see for miles and miles.
(Pathfinder beginner’s luck check: Success.)
Faolan’s time is spent more simply — at a pub, regaling the locals with retellings of the fight with the bullfrog, tossing back free (“medicinal”) beer, with cute young (“medicinal”) she-mice perched on his knee.
(Will check to recover from Angry: Success!)
A pretty fun time, even though we kind of forgot to set GOALS for the mission until very near the end. Bah. GM-failure.
Still, a good night, fun had by all (I think). Call it a win.
So the player of this episode’s spotlight character didn’t show up for PTA last night (Khaaaaan!), I suddenly needed to run something off the cuff, and we didn’t get started until 7, due to the waiting to see if the Spotlight guy would show.
Right. Zero Prep time, short play-time. Go!
Lady Blackbird felt like a little too much prep. Maybe. or something. It felt like too much.
A Penny for My Thoughts would have been perfect, but I haven’t finished reading the rules yet.
I also haven’t read Geiger Counter or Danger Patrol yet.
I couldn’t FIND Ghost Echo.
Mouse Guard would have been perfect… if we already had characters done.
And I’m flipping through my PDFs, and say “Okay, how about 3:16?”
3:16 is (on the surface) about Space Marines blowing the hell out of aliens. It’s Warhammer 40k, Spacehulk, Aliens, Starship Troopers (the movie), and not a small amount of Full Metal Jacket and Platoon all rolled up into a thick, fleshy ball, shot full of stims, and dropped out an airlock.
We went with it.
Character generation is fast. Characters have two stats: Fighting Ability (FA) and Non-Fighting Ability (NFA). They have a reputation. They have a name.
Merra played Sgt. Trib, who had a rep as a super-positive optimist. Tim’s character immediately dubbed him “Sergeant Happypants”. FA6/NFA4
Tim played Cpt. Boll, a cigar-chomping vet who’d been promoted and demoted from Sergeant more times than he could count. FA7/NFA3
Chris played Trooper Weevil, who is snarly. FA7/NFA3
Their briefing by the prissy Lt. informed them that an asteroid-belt mining facility had gone signal dark. Command was sending in 3rd Army, 16th Battalion to reestablish comms and make sure nothing had gone amiss.
The troops were warned that Aliens were active in the area: reptilian humanoids with a POWERFUL MIMICRY ABILITY. They were to be DESTROYED WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE.
“How do we tell if someone is a miner or a reptiloid?”
“If he’s shooting at you, he’s a reptiloid pretending to be a miner.”
“What if he’s just a scared miner?”
“He’s a reptiloid, pretending to be a scared miner.”
Note: the actual “alien threat” that I rolled up was Corrupt Troopers with the Armor ability.
So the troopers get in the drop ship and head on down to the mining base. In flight, while the Lt. droned on, the ship is hit with… something and starts to heel over and tumble.
Cpl. Boll immediately pops the back deployment hatch and orders everyone to EVAC NOW!
Weevil and Boll succeed, Trib does not.
What followed was a firefight in the hangar bay with well-armed opponents who had taken out the transport with guided missiles.
Afterwards, the troopers noticed the dead ‘reptiloids’ looked just like dead troopers. In power armor identical to their own. With the same weapons.
Really good camouflage, that.
The proceed into the mining facility tunnels, getting harassed by one of the “enemy” (voiced by Clancy Brown), who taunted them with their ignorance of what Command was really up to out here, and how they didn’t know what they were really being used for, and how the troopers should be joining forces, not fighting.
The Lt. ordered radios shut down.
They came to the mining base/town in the heart of the asteroid. At the center of the company-built town, they found a mass grave and a crudely built monument. The “Enemy Voice” came over the town’s loudspeakers.
“You see what happened here? We were told the miners had been taken over by mind-controlling alien leeches — that we had to destroy them for their own good, and the good of Terra.”
“That wasn’t what happen. What happened was these families wanted better pay. That’s it. We got sent in to gun them down.”
“They aren’t the enemy. Command is the enemy. Terra is the Enemy. You are the enemy.”
A big fight ensued. Tim took a look at all the Threat Tokens on the board, and decided to have a Flashback and name one of his Strengths — a move which automatically wins the conflict and wipes out all the Threat Tokens in Play. Many enemy armor suits were weak-spot-exploited.
Having used a Strength, Boll is now eligible for promotion at the end of the mission… and he’s 1/10th of the way to acquiring his final Strength/Weakness: “Hatred of Terra”.
From that, I think you can guess at one possible arc in this game.
They marines chase down the enemy as they retreat to their own ship, and there’s a final showdown versus the Enemy Voice marine right at the gangplank of the ship, before it flies off.
Once again, he tries to get the troopers to come with him – to see the truth – and to DO something about it.
Then Sergeant Happypants shot him in the face (and considered fragging Cpl. Boll into the bargain).
Back on the TCST Dortmunder, Cpl. Boll is promoted to Sergeant (again), and the unit requests (and gets) a number of weapon-grade improvements (though Weevil’s request for a tactical shotgun was denied). Weevil’s NFA went up to 4, Boll’s FA went to 8.
We were done playing in a little over 2 hours.
Good stuff. I didn’t have the rules down too well – hadn’t read them in maybe six months – but we muddled through and I only forgot one important thing (NFA rolls out of combat give you a bonus in later rolls).
And honestly? I’d kinda like to play this again and see what happens with these guys. All told, what more do you want out of a quick and dirty night of gaming?
Finally, as promised to the group, a series of links to hacks, tweaks, discussions, and actual play. I marked the particularly good stuff.
Wow, it’s been awhile since this episode aired, but as Episode 2 is playing tonight, I thought I’d better get a summary down.
I covered the pilot episode of this post-apocalyptic, fairies-are-back-and-they’re-pissed, survival drama here, in case you’re looking to get caught up.
Previously on Ironwall:
Shot of Sienna going all black magic scary in The Fairy Hill; children looking at her, horrified.
Shot of Cam meeting his shoulder-fairy for the first time out in the suburban ruins. “I want to come with you!”
Cam turning on Lennox in the cabin of the train. “Would you just back off?”
The Duke of the Fairy Hill, talking to Joseph. “My goodness; you’ve gone entirely native, haven’t you?”
The camera zooms around the post-apocafunky island of not-Manhattan, showing us various settlements.
Where Upper East Side is today, we see patrols along the banks, a guardpost at Hellgate Bridge and on Roosevelt island (the bridge that crosses the East River at the island is torn out over the island, so that people have to cross by dropping down to the island, going through the guards, and then back up). There’s also a ship dock here that we take a little time looking at, so maybe that’s important.
Where the Upper West Side use to be, there are crumbling but well-maintained brownstones with anachronistically-dressed people (kind of feudal post-apoc chic) walking around the neighborhood, nodding and smiling to each other and looking secure.
All around Grand Central (where the sign over the doors just says CENTRAL), a bustling town-within-a-city, with lots of activity – working machinery, construction, conversation… some electric lights flickering to life as a generator sputters to life and a small group of people cheer while JOSEPH (J. Rhys-Meyers OMG) looks pensive.
We see the skyscrapers to the south end of the island, kestrels and other birds circling and nesting in the rusting framework. Most of the floors are open to the weather, and high up, a pair of watchers scan the horizon. One gets the others attention and points out to the sea. The second person pulls out binoculars, looks out to sea, and nods to the other, who goes over to the far side of the tower and starts ringing a bell.
We zoom back to “Central”, see Lennox (Viggo) turn toward the sound, looking first up at the iron towers, then in the direction of the sea. There are many buildings in the way, but by his frown and the look in his eyes, it seems he can see, or at least guess, what’s out there.
The camera zooms through those buildings (a big church, the NYC library, etc.) out to the sea, where we see a large sailboat, modern, but sort of gone primitive, with a kind of US gov’t emblem on the sail; again, a bit primitive. On the ship, in the prow, there is a woman in quasi-military, weirdly formal white attire, looking out at up at the city. The camera slows, starts moving more smoothly, pans around to look over her shoulder from her POV, and we see the City in silhouette as the sun sets behind it.
The silhouette goes black and we see it turn into the logo for the show as “IRONWALL” and the faun’s head fades in over it, the theme music fades in, and the OPENING CREDITS ROLL.
COMMERCIAL BREAK: Ironwall is brought to you – at least in my broadcast area – by Xcel Energy Wind Power, and the new Solarum hybrid from Kia. Someone got the word out that the show has a “you bastards blew it all to hell” eco-theme. Huh.
AND WE’RE BACK.
We start on the docks on Roosevelt Island, beneath the shattered span of bridge. All the key people are waiting for the woman in white to get off her fancy boat. Joseph (Rhys-Meyers) is there, but in the background: standing to the foreground of the crowd is the Old Priest and Lennox (Viggo). Our other principal actors are scattered around the crowd. There’s also a big fat man in a fancy coat and a lean, rangy looking guy, both standing next to the priest.
The woman in white looks too-clean white, and the first shot of her is almost upskirt, standing under a flag made by an aspiring Betsy Ross Jr. with old naval insignia and a couple of stars, maybe some stripes. Her first line is a little classic: “Don’t worry. We’re from the government, and we’re here to help you.”
She smiles to show it’s a joke, but no one’s really laughing.
Oh, it’s Bridget Regan. She introduces herself as Elizabeth Montclair, and makes a speech(standing on a stack of old computer monitors): she’s an ambassador from Washington-that-was, and she wants to establish an alliance with the settlements of “your city”. (She doesn’t call it Ironwall, but she doesn’t say New York, either. It feels like she wants to, but doesn’t.)
The speech is followed by scattered applause – a lot of people turn around and go about their business without clapping, but some people (the fat man in front) are SUPER PUMPED.
The Ambassador suggests a more private place to talk with the Leadery-types, and leaves her soldiers (did I mention she has a bunch of soldiers on the boat?) on the boat and goes with the Priest, the fat man, the lean guy, and Our Heroes to talk at The Church.
The Church is a little weird. There’s aren’t a ton of religious trappings, and I feel like their pretending it’s one of the cathedrals in NYC, but it’s not one I recognize. Most of the iconography is missing, and the front doors just have these BIG iron spikes mounted on them, like it means something. Hopefully we’ll find out more later.
Right now, it’s not important: the Church is just the Scoobies’ Library for now.
Lennox and Cam (rawr) sit in the pews listening, JOSEPH (again, Rhys-Meyers) is up front next to Father Ezekial. Sienna the Spooky Witch stands in the back, looking through the modest library.
The Ambassador comes clean (right) saying that actually, she needs the resources of the city to track down a threat that has escaped from her own city and was headed here – is probably here already. She is chasing a traitor from her settlement who is some kind of ‘skin-changer’. A human, but one who can shapeshift – ‘co-opting the worst of fey magic.’ She wants to bring her people (did I mention the soldiers) off the boat and conduct the search.
“We have an excellent success rate in tracking down fey hidden within humanity.”
Which sounds about as creepy-inquisition as it should, I think.
The fugitive woman (name: Veronica Jacobson) has an ‘everyskin-cloak’. The Ambassador indicates that the ‘needs’ of the cloak mean that the woman is probably going to start feeding on the locals in some way. Maybe she has already.
“So she is human?” – Cam “I don’t know if that’s a fair assessment anymore.” – Montclair
OUR HEROES look for additional information, some to avoid a witchhunt (CAM), some curiosity (SIENNA), some guilty consciences (JOSEPH), and to make sure who is really in danger (LENNOX).
The Ambassador mentions, during the questioning, that part of the reason the coat is important is because it includes not just the black magic of torturing animals, but also the skins (and thus, associated abilities) of the fey.
So, there’s… like… fairy parts in this cloak? Like… torn-off flutterby wings and such? Eww.
“‘Pensive’ is very big this year.” – Doyce, overusing the word.
“She’s an Ambassador. She’s here to Ambass.” – Doyce
“Snuffleupaghi?” – Tim, musing on the kinds of skins the cloak might incorporate.
Next, a MONTAGE scene showing posters going up, people being talked to, observations being made in whatever way is most appropriate to each character.
All this leads to someone getting a lead.
“Good news, we found her, bad news is, she’s taken Clemens.”
Right… who’s that again?
“We think we found her, but Clemens is missing…”
“…and there’s a lot of meat on Clemens.”
Ohh… Clemens (Gailard Sartain) is the fat man — who is also probably the guy in charge of the fancy Upper West Side people.
There is some planning about how to take this woman-monster thing down, which gave up a good line:
“You can’t go in loaded for bear if she’s going to be a bat.”
Anyway, Lennox (who apparently has Fey-dar) leads the way to a warehouse somewhere along the Hudson shoreline. The whole place is kind of boggy, because the Hudson has reclaimed a lot of the lower-lying areas along the southwest side of the island, but it’s not totally underwater.
So there’s a chase/fight in a warehouse. It’s dark and tense and everyone has crappy old flashlights that barely work (except for CAM, whose flashlight is awesome and can SEAR THE RETINA.
Now, here’s the thing; according to the Buffy Bible of Show Order, everyone should get their asses kicked by this monster, and only beat her in the second attempt at the end of the episode, but … no. The woman goes down without a huge fight. Sienna reminds Lennox he needs to +DESTROY+ her coat.
“I wouldn’t trust me with it.”
They pull the coat off the woman (which apparently REALLY REALLY HURTS), and then Lenn pours oil over it and makes sure it burns. It does, but it also writhes and screams while it does so… which is creepy.
Lennox is frowning – showhow, he thought this would be harder.
COMMERCIAL BREAK: Ironwall is brought to you by Kiva, who bought the whole 90 second spot so they could really explain the charity. Huh. Good idea; Ironwall is nerd-tasty, and Kiva is the kind of Charity nerds would probably like.
Sienna is with Father Ezekial and captured girl as they bind wounds caused by pulling the coat off of her skin. (Also: OW.)
“So, who do you think gave her the coat?” Sienna insinuates.
The priest demurs, noting they don’t have enough information to imply anything.
Sienna points out that if the girl was so good at the black magicks, there would have been a lot more in the way of, say, injury, let alone hot, crunchy death. Projecting much, Si?
The father points out the politics of it – that too sensitive a situation to accuse anyone outright, but that they should maybe… umm… hold the girl while they do a little more investigation.
Sienna agrees and offers to ward the room in addition to having the guard.
So… that’s interesting – she admits to a little bit of magic to regular people, at least, and the priest doesn’t bat an eye.
Lennox and Cam chat a bit about how easily the woman (they start calling her Veronica, so we know we’re supposed to see her as a person) was captured, and if it was that easy, how did she haul off Clemens-the-fat?
Cam goes to talk to Clemens, because he thinks there’s more information to be found in how he was caught by this wisp of a woman. After an argument with his SHOULDER FAIRY, he discovers The Ambassador has troops in the city – within the village of Upper West, specifically. After seeing the relative luxury that Clemens enjoys, he gets to the bottom of the situation.
Seems as thought Upper West has already been in talks with Washington, and drawn up some agreements.
Also, these aren’t the troops from the boat, these are OTHER troops – MORE troops – who marched up to the city overland (suffering some losses) and were let on the island over the Great Bridge (which Upper West is supposed to guard).
Lennox finds about about the new kids in town, and meets with Logan-the-Lean of Upper East to gain some kind of Solidarity.
Logan agrees, and comments says, “Wouldn’t it be a shame if the soldiers they brought accidentally ran across our `friends’ in the Ramble. Oh no, that wouldn’t be right.”
Lennox agrees. Is he agreeing that it wouldn’t be right, or that the soldiers should have an accident?
Yep, that was deliberately ambiguous.
Joseph has a high-larious moment in the church confessional with his Sekrit Ironwall Fey Contact, who uses the name “Joseph” like a weapon.
Sekrit Contact wants to know what Joseph wants to be, what he wants being “the Kerrigan” to mean. Where he wants to fit in. If he’s going to take on a role in the fey politics, how much self-delusion is he willing to give up?
Just as things start to get interesting, The Ambassador shows up to cop a feel on the local politics and starts insinuating things about our city, trying to draw Joseph out into talking about Our Heroes.
She doesn’t seem terribly impressed with Our Heroes. But she has noticed some “odd things”.
One of the most senior borderer in your settlement (Lennox) failed to notice his own nephews had been replaced with Changelings?
Cam doesn’t farm, yet he goes to the Park every night?
Serena does magic? How? From books? We have many books, but none of our people can do what you say she’s done.
Did you know that even the best-glamoured of the Fey still leave a tell-tale, no matter how close they come to appearing human? Something to give them away — a strange birthmark, perhaps, or unnaturally colored eyes, like yours, Joseph…
Yeah, she is not of the comfort-making.
Commerical Break: Ironwall is brought to you by the new Kodacell.
Sienna is in with the animal-skin woman, who wakes up while Sienna does magical stuff — draws wards or something.
The girl seems darkly amused – also, apparently, The Ambassador is her sister. The girl’s story is that she stole the skin-coat (part of a Washington R&D about working against the fey) in retribution for Elizabeth Montclair (the ambassador) having lost her moral compass, as well as the Program having devoured the rest of the girl’s family.
Not sure if “devoured” is literal or not.
Sienna feels the girl out to see if she notices anything about the magical wards or any magics around either of them.
Veronica gives no indications that she can feel anything of the sort.
The last visual of this scene is a pan back to see that indeed, the girl is in the middle of some nasty-looking wards, completely oblivious to that fact.
Thanks to Father E, there’s going to be a trial… a not-trial, to see if there SHOULD be a trial: if Ironwall needs to keep Veronica around to stand trial for crimes against the city itself before she is released to The Ambassador.
BEFORE THE TRIAL, CAM’s earring… erm, shoulderfey notices Joseph. The two have lots of side-whispers and facial gesticulation while Cam, Sienna, and Lennox compare notes. Cam and Joseph are sent to make sure that The Ramble (read: the Queen of Flowers, Cam’s Fey-with-Benefits) is alerted to the troops that may cross from Upper West and down to Central if the not-trial doesn’t go The Ambassador’s way. There’s some talk about getting those soldiers to disappear. Permanently.
Cam and Joseph head into the Ramble to make deal with the Queen of Flowers. The deal is voiced such that the QUEEN makes it clear that “If 30 men are taken care of, I will be owed 30 men worth of work.” Somehow, she makes it sound like a group sex scenario will be partial payment.
“She is surrounded by the scent of musk and elderberries and wine…” – Doyce
“You cut-and-pasted that straight from my forebrain…” – Tim
In the meantime, Cam’s “pet fairy” (who is NOT present) is mentioned and the Queen acts unconcerned the influence of pets against her and Cam’s… ugh… connection. Also, she makes lots of allusions to Josephe’s status as “Kerrigan” but nothing outright is said.
Sienna tells Lennox she’ll stand at the trial to say Veronica would only know black magic if it bit her (and at that, only if it wasn’t subtle) – to indicated that there’s no way Veronica created the every-skin coat on her own. But as Father E points out, they don’t have any reason to hold her in protective custody since there’s no crime committed here.
Thus commences THE NOT-TRIAL.
[The conflict at “NOT A TRIAL” is just to find out if they can convince the Board to keep Veronica in Ironwall, against MONTCLAIR’S wishes. MONTCLAIR stands up and defends self. The players get lots of black card failure. FAILURE brings out Veronica to her sister MONTCLAIR’s custody.]
And, again, the show goes against what you’d expect, and Sienna and Lennox lose the argument to the council, who votes to hand Veronica over to The Ambassador.
Lennox, who disagrees with the whole thing and thinks Ironwall should just tell The Ambassador to sod off, and is CLEARLY thinking about just jumping in and “fixing things”, still escorts the Ambassador and Veronica across city to the Q bridge and, from there, to MONTCLAIR’s boat. They get within sight of the boat, looking down on it from the bridge and BOOM BOAT EXPLOSION!
There’s a shot of Lennox’s face, and Sienna’s… and we’re pretty damned sure THEY didn’t do it.
So who did?
Next week, on Ironwall:
A voice, to Joseph: “You did have something that would help you remember… but do you remember where it is?”
Veronica, to Sienna: “You said you lost your child?”
CAM: looks at Joseph “Your eyes seem different somehow.”
Someone tells Lennox. “Some of the Board think you’re trying to pull off a coup.” Lennox doesn’t look like he’s denying it.
“Did any of the Ambassador’s soldiers enter the Ramble last night? Four are missing.”
I don’t have anything against DnD 4e. In my opinion, it’s a big step up – a real evolution – from the 3rd edition rules.
I don’t have anything against the folks in the monthly game of DnD 4e that I play in. They’re all decent enough folks.
I like my character. I like the way my character works in play. I even like the storyline.
But I’m done. I was at the game for eight hours on Saturday, not counting travel time, and we managed two fights and one scene that might nominally be deemed ‘role-play’ that ended becoming a player-discussion of the inherent morality (or lack thereof) of groups of adventures who categorize entire sentient peoples by racial stereotypes, then kill ’em and take their stuff.
Fascinating, in a petri dish kind of way, but not what I signed on for, general.
So I’m done.
What shall I do instead? There’s a weekend writer group that invited me to join in, and I think I’ll do that.
As for gaming in general, I think I’ll stick with things that produce a better fun to time ratio.
Kate and I started playing Lord of the Rings Online about two years ago. I’m only aware of this because, last night, Kate dinged her second character to level 60 (the current maximum level), I was there to take the screenshots, and then I went in and started browsing the screenshot directory from the very beginning, and we had a lovely pictoral walk down memory lane.
I was poking through the blog archives this morning, looking for something else entirely when I stumbled across the post “Making a hobbit of it” from September of 2007, in which I talked about our decision to play LotRO together, and my initial ‘briefing’ on the game. I’m pleased to see that most of the tips and observations on gameplay are still true (and pretty good), with the awesome stuff just getting better. Not all the characters I mention in that post survived to 2009, but “the most potent pair we have” are still inarguably our main characters — despite his being level 60, I spent most of my play time yesterday on Geiri, and I still have a laundry list of stuff I want to do on him. That’s good, fun game design, as far as I’m concerned.
So what’s the current tally of toons? Let’s see:
Geiri Kinshield, dwarf of the Lonely Mountain, level 60 Guardian, miner, jewelcrafter, and a damn fine cook.
Finnras Delain, man of Gondor, level 60 Captain, combat-librarian.
Emyl the Undying, dwarf of the White Mountains, level 35 rune keeper, wandering drunk.
Tyelaf, man of Dale, level 28 hunter, explorer.
Finir, dwarf of the Lonely Mountain, level 24 minstrel, scholar.
Kaetlyn Delain, woman of Gondor, level 24 Warden.
Tiranor, elf of Mirkwood, level 60 Hunter, woodcrafter.
Tirathien Aerlinn, elf of Lothlorien, level 60 Minstrel, tailor.
Tirawyn, woman of Rohan, level 29 Captain, weapon smith.
Tiradis, elf of Mirkwood(?), level 24 Champion, explorer.
Tirra, hobbitses, level 22 burglar.
It’s easy to figure out which characters are Kate’s, regardless of who she’s got logged in.
As I said, we’re still having a pretty darn good time with this game. In hindsight, we probably should have just bought the lifetime subscription and saved some money. 🙂
As I mentioned on my other blog, Kate and I decided a week or so ago to try out some new characters in Lord of the Rings Online (our MMO of choice) so that we could explore the changes/improvements to the ’starter’ areas in the game. Kate likes playing elves (*shudder*) and I like me some Dwarf action (yay!), and they had revamped the whole Dwarf/Elf starting region of Ered Luin fairly recently, so that was kind of a no-brainer.
(Also, I made up a kind-of solo character to check out the starting Man region of Archet/Combe/Staddle, because I’ve always liked that area most of all, and they updated it, so I was basically checking out two areas. No revamp changes had occurred in the Shire at all, because (a) the designers were really happy with that area and (b) so were the players — therefore, we made up no new hobbitses. )
We were VERY favorably impressed with the new regions, both with the changes and the characters we made up, and played them during most of that weekend. Good stuff.
I think it’s safe to say that each starting region still has its own definable flavor (the dwarf/elf area feels older, more ‘epic’ in the sense that these are old enemies you are fighting, while the Men are facing new threats of their own devising, and the Shire bounders move slowly from the bucolic and quaint to growing awareness of the threats from without), while all the starting regions have been brought up to the level of quality seen in the Shire (up until this point, considered the best place to level new characters up, once you knew all the various areas well-enough).
And then came Bree: the great melting pot of all character activity from level 15 to 25, where everyone’s time line finally merged for the first time. It’s always been a decent area, but there were still a few notoriously annoying, deadly, or just plain aggravating elements of the region.
But that’s normal, right? There’s always going to be some annoying stuff, right? That’s a given.
I don’t think that anymore.
Kate and I had already played through the starting regions a week or so ago; the conclusion of which sent us off to Bree to speak with a ranger by the name of Strider. Having just explored the improved Ered Luin, we decided to let the characters sit for a week in Bree without taking any quests until Book 8 dropped, because we heard they were doing a full-bore revamp of the Bree area.
It was SO WORTH IT.
Without a hint of irony or sarcasm, I can say that the revamp of the Bree area represents the finest revision and improvement I’ve ever seen in any MMO. Period. Full stop. The way they have streamlined the storylines and quests in the area should quite simply become the new gold standard for zone design in MMOs.
If you haven’t played LotRO, you should try it out, just to play through as far as the end of the Bree story arcs, which take you into the Barrow Downs and some truly epic quests.
If you played LotRO in the past, but don’t at the moment, do yourself a favor and try it out again for a month. Start over with a new character. Play whatever you want, it is all good.
If you’re just starting LotRO, like our friend Rob, I envy you – you never had to deal with with that crappy quest down at the South Greenway Barricade… you never got ripped to pieces by the deathtrap meat grinder of the original Old Forest (or bored by the more-recent, dumbed-down version).
If you’re currently playing LotRO, make a new character and experience the new content in the old areas you think you know so well. You. Will. Love it.
So… back to what I was saying… Book 8 came out yesterday, and (after logging in all our other character to reap the benefits of the great quality-of-life tweaks to gameplay), we logged in our “littles” to resume play in Bree. By the end of the night, we’d made it through the new “Grimbriar” quest hub, Adso’s camp, dipped our toes in the (new) Old Forest and wrapped up with the middle Chapters 6, 7, and 8 of Book 1, which took us into Buckland at the edge of the Shire – and what a change Buckland has seen. Wow.
They revised the Old Forest (which I didn’t think they’d bother messing with, as it’s already seen one revision) and somehow – magically – found the perfect sweet spot between the original Old Forest (horrible death trap, but cool) and the more recent version (sadly, laughably harmless).
The Southern Barricade along the Green Way with that one miserable mission that no one wants to do? They fixed it. It’s so much fun now.
It’s all just… so much fun.
Right at the end of the night, we noticed we both had a message in the mail. I won’t say what the message was, except that it was from an NPC we (as players) were very familiar with, and who our characters had not yet met. The letter made the both of us stop and just stare at each other and say “That… is so. Fucking. Cool.”
And it was. It really was.
I cannot WAIT to really delve into the Old Forest now. I am practically VIBRATING in anticipation of the Barrow Downs. These are two areas of the game that, while cool, I have always tried to minimize contact with as much as possible.
No more. Bring it on. I may not be ready, but I am excited.
Kudos, LotRO Dev Team: you knocked it out. of. the. park.
Played another session of Primetime Adventures last night – our Ironwall series. There will be a summary of events from this interesting and interestingly low-key episode, but just a few notes on making the game work.
(This is not a super challenging thing for everyone, but I’ve struggled with it as a GM and Player in the past, so I still think about it.)
1. I felt like I was checking the book a lot in our first session – doubting and double-checking everything I said. Last night, I purposely put the books far to the side and just ran with what my gut told me was the right rule for this or that bit in the conflicts. Better.
2. All that stuff about setting stakes in the game? Yeah. Ignore that. When there’s a conflict, ask “What do you want?” Get that answer. If someone tries to answer with “If I win, then X happens.”, kick them in the junk, and repeat your question.
Corrolary: If two (or more) people are saying what they want in the same conflict, make sure that it’s logically possible for them both to get what they want at the same time BEFORE you draw cards.
GM: NPCs don’t want stuff – at least, it’s not stated by you – they take what they are given as a result of the player’s success or failure.
3. Saying what actually happens as a result of the card draw is the job of the narrator, NOT the person saying “What I want is…”
4. It’s the narrator’s job to say what happens after the card draw, but is still the GMs job to reveal… you know… previously unknown stuff, not related to a player’s character. Narrator doesn’t say “And then Joe reveals the murderer is… JANET!” Saying who the murderer is falls to the GM. (Unless a player wants it to be them. 🙂
That’s it. That is making the game work. Mostly? Point #2.
Wow, I kind of screwed some things up in the first session, but we had a lot of fun anyway. What follows is the tale of one play session that, by the suggested structure of play in the rules, was really two ‘missions’ worth of stuff (two cycles of “GM’s Turn, Player’s Turn”). I didn’t realize that until I’d gotten into the session quite a ways, however, so I somewhat incorrectly overcompensated during the final Player Turn with an extra skill check for everyone, but ahh well -we had a good time.
So, for those of you who played, forgive me for retroactively breaking it down into GM Turn One and so forth, because we didn’t know that during the game, but it helps me remember the structure of play, and we’ve already discussed in email how I screwed it up, so you know I know. 🙂
Right! Now, the events as they took place.
Lockhaven, Spring, 1152
We started off in Lockhaven with the rain coming down and mice scuttling from building to building (mostly) trying to stay out of the mud and puddles. Lucia bumps into the cartographer that she apprenticed with when she first came to Lockhaven in 1148. The two chat quickly (it is raining, after all), and Marielle – hearing that Lucia would soon be sent out on Patrol – encourages her stay dry, warm, and draw lots of maps.
Lucia promises to do so and heads off the main Keep for the briefing with Gwendolyn.
When she arrives, Rosamund (Roz) is already there. Aelwyn stomps in a few moments later, a smile on his face and mud on his feet — not everymouse tries to avoid puddles, it seems.
Captain Rand greets them as he exits the keep, letting them know that Gwendolyn will see them now… and to wipe their feet.
Gwendolyn has them sit down and lets them know that they will be sent farther afield than she’d like, considering they have no official patrol leader, but the Guard is stretched thin this year, and needs must…
Their whole assignment in brief, is to travel to Dorigift in the south, delivering mail to Shaleburrow, Ivydale, Elmoss, and Sprucetuck as they go (this alone is a trip of more than a week. In addition…
The guard will be escorting a young mouse, Orina, and her new son Hale to their home (and husband) in Ivydale. Orina had to put up in Lockhaven in the late fall to give birth, but her husband traveled on to Ivydale out of necessity, and Gwendolyn promised the young mother that the Guard would see her home.
Gwendolyn also wants the patrol to scout a direct route from Shaleburrow to Ivydale (there used to be one, but it was somehow lost during the war in 1149).
The patrol should acquire barrels of False Scent from the scientists of Sprucetuck and take them to Dorigift.
Once the mail is delivered in Dorigift, the patrol will set out west, locate the Scent Border of the Territories, and repair the border with the barrels of False Scent. (A standard springtime necessity for the guard.)
Note: Obviously, this is WAY more than one mission’s worth of stuff to do… Gwendolyn is laying out a whole season’s assignment, knowing that the group won’t be back for some time. The Guard is spread thin, after all, and needs must…
Once the guard finished up with the Scent Border, they are to return to Lockhaven by way of Copperwood. Gwendolyn dictates this route specifically so that she can intercept the patrol with new orders, if necessary, without wasting their time on a needless trip back all the way back — the Guard lives on the paths of the Territories, not Lockhaven, after all.
Mission One: Deliver the Mail to Shaleburrow and Ivydale, with Orina and baby Hale in tow. Blaze a viable trail from Shaleburrow to Ivydale as you go.
With the mission handed out, each character each picks a personal goal for this mission:
Lucia – I will map a new path from Shaleburrow to Ivydale.
Aelwyn – I will protect the mother and child and get them safe to Ivydale.
Roz – I will make sure the mail is delivered safely to Shaleburrow and Ivydale.
After the briefing, I mentioned that it’s possible it would be raining for the whole trip to Shaleburrow and Ivydale – hard weather for a newborn cub to travel in – and asked if anyone wanted to do anything about that, so we had a Weather Watcher test.
Obstacle 1: Weather-watching vs. Spring to see if the weather would clear before when the mice set off. (Failure would probably have resulted in a weather-based twist for the patrol, or the weather getting worse, but it didn’t come up, because the mice won. Even though Roz’s independent nature (trait) made the whole thing more difficult (+2 dice for her opponent – the weather) by eschewing consultation of the local Lockhaven weather watchers, she managed (with Lucia’s scientific knowledge – and her new, improved, fir cone barometer device), to determine that the weather would be… clear and warm!
On the way to Shaleburrow, Roz and Aelwyn spotted a few early shoots coming out of the snow alongside the path, and got to talking about whether or not any of them would be of any medicinal value. Lucia heard this and offered her scientific opinion, and before long, the three of them had slowed their patrol to crawl as they each took turns wandering off the path to look for various herbs and plants. The upshot of this was that the foraging mice, while successful, were already Tired and Hungry when they got to Shaleburrow, which was supposed to be easy part of the trip.
Although she didn’t say much about it, the delay in the trip left Orina antsy and annoyed. Lucia is tired; Aelwyn and Roz are both hungry and thirsty.
Obstacle 2: Harvesting along the route to Spucetuck, looking for healer supplies. This was a failure success-with-consequences, resulting in mice that were either Tired (Aelwyn, as the ‘lead mouse’ for the conflict) or Hungry/Thirsty (the two ‘helping’ mice). Only later did it occur to me that I could/should instead have made succes-with-a-Twist in which one of the foragers ran into a spring-waking Bullfrog, but I didn’t. C’est la game.
Late into the evening, the patrol arrived in Shaleburrow: (Effectively, the first Player Turn.)
Roz’s Check: Circles Test (Ob3) to find the local postman and work with him on mail delivery. This check failed with the “Enmity Clause” twist: the postmouse of Shaleburrow (Edgar) pretty much thought that Roz’s work was the worst he’d ever seen in 20 years – that she not much use as a postmouse — some kind of punishment from Lockhaven. Roz left his office just short of tears, but trying to remember everything he’d berated her about doing wrong, so she could improve in the future.
Aelwyn finds the group a place to stay – lodging that would alleviate Hungry and Tired conditions from people. This was a Resource test, augmented with Aelwyn’s Bard-wise: a good inn (with good entertainment) was found.
Lucia: A Circle’s Test (Ob3) to find someone in the inn familiar with the old, now-lost route from Shaleburrow to Ivydale. This was a Success: a veteran of the war (William) was found who described the old route and gave Margie a +1D “gear” bonus on the Pathfinder roll for the next day. He also shared that the old route had benefited from a bridge over a fairly daunting stream. During a retreat in the Weasel War, that bridge had been destroyed — in William’s opinion, it would be finding a reliable way across that stream that would make or break the success of forging a new path.
Next day… off to Ivydale (2nd GM turn)
Lucia is trying to find a path (and it’s still good weather, yay). (This is a Pathfinder Test, Ob 6.) Roz tries helps her with Weather Watcher, Aelwyn tries to help with Scout – but neither of them help, nor did any of William’s advice. This test failed succeeded-with-a-Twist (which we’ll get to in a bit).
Without use, the old path has faded to virtually nothing. Lucia is sussing out a path (with the chatty Aelwyn assign trailblazing duty far in the rear and away from Lucia), but it’s slow, slow going. Orina is in better spirits, and baby Hale is great. Aelwyn apologizes for the hard travel, but Orina expresses her gratitude: the fact is, that this is what the Guard does, and it’s work like this that keeps the Territories connected — she knows that, just as she knows that if she didn’t have the Guard mice to travel with, she’d still be in Lockhaven, and no closer to her husband. Aelwyn notes that this is just the sort of bold thing that the Guard does.
Evening falls, Lucia feels they’re getting close to where her maps indicate the stream will be, and she doesn’t want reach it at dark, so she calls for a camp.
Camp is made, and Hale is getting fussy – it’s been a long day for him. Aelwyn is regaling Orina and baby Hale with some tale of heroism… and then suddenly stops talking (unusual in itself).
“Did you hear something?”
It’s quiet … it’s … a squirrel! Flying squirrel! A flying devil! No! They eat baby mice!
TWIST: THE ANIMAL -Lured in by the whimpering of Baby Hale, the flying squirrel wants to abduct his next meal.
The squirrel’s goal in this conflict is to grab the baby mouse and get away. The patrol’s goal is to protect Hale and drive the squirrel away. Disposition of 7 (mice) vs 8 (squirrel). Aelwyn is leading the fight, since his goal is to protect them.
We scripted up our actions, and in the end it worked out with the mice scripting Defend/Feint/Attack, and the squirrel scripting Feint/Maneuver/Attack.
This combination meant that the Defend by Lucia was completely foxed by the squirrel’s Feint, then Aelwyn’s bow-based feint against the squirrel’s Maneuver was quite effective (though the flight-based maneuvering was also), and the Attack vs. Attack was a dangerous final move for both.
Lucia tries to defend by grabbing Orina and Hale and moving for cover, but she misreads where the squirrel was going to be and the three of them move to, basically,the worst place possible (squirrel hits the group’s disposition for 6, leaving them 1).
Aelwyn tries to Feint and the squirrel, who was swooping around (maneuver) for a dive at the baby mouse suddenly maenuvers right into into a hail of arrows that was meant merely to drive it off and instead peppers it with painful, stinging shots. Pow! Six successes taken from the squirrel’s 8 disposition (lots of help from Roz and Lucia). Aelwyn uses his lone Fate point to reroll his sixes and gets one more success… the squirrel Disposition is now 1… Aelwyn taps Nature with his lone Persona point… rolls 3 dice… but doesn’t get ONE success on 3 dice. In the meantime, the Squirrel gets 4 successes with his maneuver, and “disarms” bows from the mice for the rest of the Conflict — he’s about to get in WAY to close to use bows.
Attack v Attack (or “this is gonna hurt”): With both sides down to 1 disposition, it was looking like a pretty ugly “both sides win” conclusion to this fight, and that’s pretty much what happened.
With both sides reduced to zero in the same action, everyone gets their stated goals; the squirrel is driven off, but he’s got Hale (who is uninjured).
In the final exchange, Roz got a heavy cut in on the squirrel as he flew past, so he’s leaving a blood trail and is Injured. Aelwyn basically threw himself in the Squirrel’s path as it came flying in in a last-ditch effort to keep him away from from Hale — he gets knocked flat, and his shoulder is dislocated (Injured). Both Lucia and Roz are Angry (condition).
FOLLOWUP CONFLICT: THE CHASE – The squirrel had Hale, and the mice set off in hot pursuit!It is POSSIBLE that this second conflict should have counted as – sort of – my second Obstacle for the GM’s turn, and that once it was done, I “should” have just handwaved away the planned Obstacle of the swollen river, since I’m only supposed to have two main Obstacles per GM turn. I can see arguments for it either way. In any case, that isn’t what we did — so we ended up with an extra-long Obstacle + Twist + chase scene series, and everyone got especially beat up this GM Turn.
Aelwyn is too weak from his injury, so Lucia takes the lead on this conflict, rolling beginner’s luck Scout for the group’s disposition. She also uses her Clever trait, and taps (and taxes) her Nature and ends up with a Disposition of 8 vs the injured Squirrel’s 7.
Also, I tell them that Orina will be using her Scout skill (she’s a harvester mouse) to give a helping die with each roll, and she is also a special piece of ‘gear’ for this conflict – she can be ‘tapped’ once during the conflict to provide an additional bonus die. (Like a sword works in fights.)
In this conflict, I got…
I’ve heard people talk about this on the BW boards, but I’d never really seen it in action, and man… ouch.
For the squirrel, I scripted an Attack (which, in a chase, translates to “no finesse running”, followed by a Defend (hide from pursuit), and finally doubling back and away from the patrol (feint).
In the first exchange, Roz did a Maneuver, climbing a tree directly in the wounded squirrel’s path. The result was a tie, but Roz tapped her Nature and got a few more successes, which she turned into bonus dice for the next action.
In the second exchange, I’d planned to ‘defend’ by hiding, but the mice were Feinting — the squirrel hid from the noisy, shouting mice, but that was JUST what they wanted – Lucia was moving in quietly from the side. Unfortunately, although she had the advantage, she couldn’t quite capitalize on it: Lucia rolled 9 dice … but got only 2 successes.
In the final exchange, the squirrel tried to fake the patrol out with a feinted double back, but Aelwyn – running full out this whole time, scrambling up a tree, and LEAPING ONTO THE SQUIRREL – was having none of it. It was mouse-attack vs. squirrel feint, and Aelwyn took the squirrel’s disposition down below zero… with the mice taking not one point of Disposition ‘damage’.
Hale is safe! The squirrel is driven from the area, never to return (leaving the nascent new path free from at least one predator). Yay!
The patrol, beaten and bruised, comes to the stream, swollen with spring run-off.
OBSTACLE: Swollen River – Either a Boatcrafting Ob4 test, or a Survivalist Ob6 test to rig something up… followed by a Health check to power the boat across the river.
Aelwyn’s shoulder makes it almost impossible for him to work an adze and put together any kind of boat big enough to hold two mice at once, so Roz takes a shot at it (beginner’s luck rules) . (Health-based). Aelwyn gives suggestions, Lucia gives scientific advice. RESULT: “Success with Consequences” It takes… all… day… and Roz is very Tired.
Once the boat is done, Lucia takes it across, with tips from Roz. Lucia pushes forward, doing well… but the current is stronger than expected and takes her further down stream, past the low spot on the far bank she was aiming for.
TWIST: Scattered downstream – The mice were scattered along the stream for quite some distance. Finding everyone is a Scout vs. Nature (6) test – lowered to 5 dice because weather watcher stopped the rain earlier.
Aelwyn leads the hunt to find where Lucia made it ashore. Everyone finds each other, and luckily Lucia is on the far shore… with rope! There is roping, tying, swearing, heavy labor to ferry the boat back and forth and get everyone across (Roz and Lucia gets hungry, and Aelwyn is tired), but everyone gets across!
And, fortunately, it’s relatively easy on the other side. Also, the spot where Lucia came to ground wasn’t a bad place to ferry mice across, or even maybe to build a bridge…
The patrol arrives in Ivydale through the tall grass, snow melt, and mud… there is a tearful reunion between Orina and Freel, her hubby, and the mice stagger off to bed and a hot meal at Aelwyn’s parent’s home.
We wrapped the session up with a properly-done Player’s Turn.
The Player’s turn was as follows, though maybe not in this PRECISE order:
Ros takes a long walk and successfully tests her Will to get rid of Angry.
Lucia uses Cartography to make a simple map of the new Shaleburrow/Ivydale route. Success.
Aelwyn calls on his Family for food and board (no roll required) — this will help all of them get rid of their Hungry and/or Tired conditions. He also makes a Resources roll (boosted by being in his home town) to buy the supplies needed to give Roz a bonus to her Healer roll to make an Injury-healing poultice). Success.
Ros makes said poultice. (Success)
Lucia uses Ros’s poultice to Heal on Aelwyn’s Injury. Success. (The fact that Aelwyn used his Brewer (drinking beer!) to help Lucia… did not actually help.)
Aelwyn does a Circles test to locate the local postmouse, since Roz had been busy making stuff to heal him. (Success).
Roz, working with Aelwyn (who has Scouting), does a Beginner’s Luck test of Scouting — she is a very citified mouse, and while her skills are useful some of the time, she’s feeling her lack out in the Territories.
Ros then advised Lucia to take a long walk – it had helped her Anger, so maybe it would help Lucia. (Player of Roz gave Lucia her last check so that Lucia can try to get rid of Angry.)
Lucia makes a Will test to get rid of Angry. Failure. Lucia stomps back in from her walk, covered in mud and straw, and growls “it didn’t work.”
That was it!
Aelwyn was voted MVP for the session for the out-of-the-tree-jumping, Roz got Workhorse, and Lucia got Embodiment. Everyone earned 3 Fate and 2 Persona.
My Observation: the first session of Mouse Guard is hard on players — they don’t quite know all the rules yet, or how (and why) to generate Checks from their Traits, AND they only have 1 Fate and 1 Persona to throw at conflicts. If I had it to do over, I might start new players with 2 Fate and 2 Persona for the very first session. I predict the second session (with more Fate and Persona to go around, and a better rules understanding), will be much smoother.
Still, we all had a good time, and are still talking about and pondering the session days later, so I’m going to call it a win.
Also, I TOTALLY don’t feel bad about the session going about 5 hours. Given that a GM Turn + Player turn is “supposed” to run about 2 to 3 hours… and the fact that we played TWO (though we didn’t realize it at the time), the whole thing took pretty much exactly as long as should have been expected. Woot. Go us.
[[Recovery Note: Whoever narrates the Prologue at the beginning of the next session gets to remove one Condition before play begins. (Each MG comic starts with a Prologue, so it’s hardcoded into the Game System.) This means that, if Margie does the prologue next session, Lucia can lose her Angry condition. Woot!]]
Then I got an email from Dave, mentioning in more-than-passing that… hey… he and Margie were at loose ends and Katherine-free for the coming couple weekends… and how are things? How’s the wife? How’s that gaming table?
Whattaya know, that gave me an idea.
So on Saturday, Dave and Margie came around and, with Kate, we set about making up characters for a Mouse Guard game.
Now, the book has a perfectly fine character creation process, but since neither Margie or Kate had read much or any of the comics that the game is based on, I wanted to get everyone into the same basic headspace, which lead to a few introduction exercises borrowed from an article I read a few weeks ago on the pedagogy of playing Mouse Guard, but with a bit of the high-energy fluff discarded, because we had a sick player involved. Here’s how that went.
1. Mouse Ball. The idea of this little game is to start seeing the world from a mouse’s perspective. I started by saying something that would threaten a mouse, and maybe a little color around it, like “Racoons will destroy a town just to get to the winter stores.” Then I’ll throw the ball. The person who catches it has to repeat what I said, and add something else that would threaten a mouse, like, “… and the towns must be built high to avoid floods.” Then that person throws the ball to someone else, who has to repeat the last threat that person said, and add a new one. 2. So how does the Mouse Guard manage it? I pick one of the dangers we named in Mouse Ball, and talk briefly about how the Mouse Guard deals with that problem. Then someone else picks another problem and talks about how it might be handled. 3. Forming the Patrol. I started this off by simply saying “We need to form a patrol, what should that patrol include?” The others took over while I messed with getting dinner ready to cook. I had envisioned this as everyone coming up with many ideas, then cherry-picking the most appealing for their actual characters, but in practice everyone just proposed a single character and tweaked the concepts a bit until everyone basically meshed. 4. See Me. We finally got started on the character Worksheet: Name, Age, Home and Fur Color. Once those things were done, I asked the “Mouse Nature” questions from the book (p. 299), to determine what each individual character’s Nature score was. Then we went around, with each player telling us about their character (Name, Age, et cetera) and how they answered the Nature questions. We got:
Kate: Rosamund is a 26 year old from the city of Copperwood. Her fur is a sleek gray, and her Nature was a fairly un-mouselike 3, because she doesn’t suffer privations to save up for later, doesn’t fear weasels or other predators, and doesn’t run from a fight. (In fact, she rather enjoys fights, though as an urban mouse, she grew up far more used to dueling without consequences than battles for her life.)
Margie: Lucia Singleton is a 25 year old mouse from Sprucetuck. Her fur is a buff color, and her Nature is a slightly more mouse-like 4 – she has a (quite reasonable) fear of weasels and such. She’s an almost archetypical resident of Sprucetuck: shy, bookish, with a thirst for knowledge that leads her into adventures she might otherwise avoid.
Dave: Aelwyn is a 28 year old mouse from Ivydale. His fur is a lustrous blonde and, although he comes from a long line of Harvester mice, he is meant for different things: His Nature, like Rosamund’s, is 3. In fact at first glance he and Rosamund have quite a bit in common, but their motivations are subtlely but significantly different — Aelwyn believes wholeheartedly in the power of Heroes.
Now, somewhere around here, I almost burned down the house and/or killed us all, thanks to a Grill Malfunction, but we got that settled down and decided to finish up supper prep inside. Once we got that cooked and eaten, we returned to the characters and proceeded pretty much in the order presented in the book.
5. Skills and Life experience. This was fairly straightforward – everyone made up Patrol Guards, so they all had the same number of skill. They can be summarized like so.
Rosamund (whose longer character concept was later summarized by Kate simply as “D’Artagnan”) grew up with her parents (Benedict and Portia) and learned the smithing trade – very common in that city. She had a natural talent as a fighter, however, and although she is quite short, she was also very independent, and persuaded her parents to let her apply to the Guard. In Lockhaven, she was apprenticed to Richard the armorer for two seasons, and was then assigned to Warwick, a senior patrol leader who chose to focus on Rosa’s abilities as a fighter, and how they applied to the real world, as opposed to duels. As a tenderpaw and later a guard mouse, she trained as a fighter, healer, weather watcher and, given her natural gifts with a blade, as an instructor — though her specialty (and first love) was always fighting. She is wise in the ways of armor, Copperwood, and dueling.
Lucia grew up with her parents (Gwen and Cadfil) and, always inquisitive and clever, learned about Science as a young mouse, for which she has a natural talent as well. Her Instinct to “Discover and Document” led her to the Guard – one of the best ways to see and learn new things. In Lockhaven, she was apprenticed to Mariell the Archivist for two seasons, and was then assigned to Mary the Older, a senior patrol leader who chose to focus on her natural inquisitiveness toward work as a pathfinder. As a tenderpaw and later a guard mouse, she specialized as a pathfinder, but assembled a truly eclectic set skills as a healer, fighter, hunter, cook, and weather watcher. She is wise in the ways of medicine, paths, and widgets.
Aelwyn grew up in Ivydale with his harvester parents (Liam and Elana) and although he was a hard worker, his brave nature and natural talent as a hunter called him to greater things. Though it left him quits with his brother, he set out for Lockhaven, where he was apprenticed to Gailyn the Brewer (disappointingly unheroic, but still very popular with his peers). Following his apprenticeship, he was assigned to the patrol of Captain Dunlevy, who chose to ‘sell’ his heroic young hunter on the value of good scouting. As a tenderpaw and later a guard mouse, he specialized as a scout, and eagerly focused his training on precisely the sorts of things he thought any good adventurer should know: fighting, hunting, and surviving. He is wise in the ways of predators, tall grass, and bards. (He is, in fact, a skilled orator.)
… that’s the first part — tomorrow, I’ll talk about running some independent and versus tests with each player as part of character generation, and wrapping up with a quick Conflict.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Why yes, yes it can. Tabletop
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?
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 – 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. Characters
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.)
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. Time-shifting
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. 🙂 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.
Not a lot of gaming going on, but what there was is worth a comment or two. MMOs
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 Bûkoskè, 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. 😛
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. Tabletop
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.
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.
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. WoW
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. Grezzk
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. LotRO
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. Tabletop
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.
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. MMO: WoW Grezzk
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. Syncerus
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. LotRO
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. Tabletop
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.
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?)
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.
… 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.
“Skilled Orc Hunter WTB: Hordeside raiding guild that won’t melt down. Will transfer servers for new content and good group of players.”
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.
* 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.
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. MMO: WoW
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. MMO: LotRO
Hey: those folks who play LotRO and read this: we should set up a time to log in and do some stuff.
Just a quickie. MMO: WoW Grezzk
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. Kayti
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: Ongoing:
* Galactic: We still have a lot of game left to do there.
* Spirit of the Century: Need to get those sessions started up again. Upcoming
* 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?
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:
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. 🙂
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. LotRO
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.
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. MMO: WoW 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.
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.
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. MMOG: WoW 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. 🙂
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.)
– 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. 🙂
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. MMOG: WoW 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. MMOG: LotRO
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.
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. MMOG: WoW
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.
KARA, DAY ONE
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.
KARA, DAY TWO
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. 🙂 MMOG: LotRO
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. 🙂
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.
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.
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. WoW Thienedera
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. 🙂 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. 🙂
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.
IMMEDIATELY after that, an OMG CAVE TROLL STORMS UP THE HILL AND ATTACKS!!!
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.
And we FRIKKIN’ KILLED A CAVE TROLL! WOOOOOOOT!
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.
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. 🙁 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…
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. MMO WoW 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 🙂 and I just ran through a couple (or three 🙂 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.” LotRO 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. 🙂
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.)
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.
* 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
* 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.
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.
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:
2. Horror movies of the 80s
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.
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?)) Tabletop
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. M
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 RPG.net-related 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.
Not a lot of gaming in the last week. Here’s what’s been going on. MMO – WoW
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 :).
Here’s what’s been going on in the last week or so: MMO – WoW 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. 🙂
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. 🙂 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. MMO – CoH
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. MMO – LotRO
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.
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…
Mysterious Vanishing Zeppelins
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. 🙂
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.
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.
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.
“Camel Cigarettes and the fresh taste of Colgate’s tooth-whitening Paste are proud to present our heroes in… The Moon Bridge of Tir na-Nog’th!” NPIP Session One — the Wiki version.
Or, the whole thing is below the cut.
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!”
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.
Until we figure out what we’re going to call this floating pick-up pulp game, I’m not going to make a page for it on the wiki, and since Randy wanted me to write up the half-game we played last week, that means I’m doing it here. This is the ‘back cover blurb’ version…
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.
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:
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.
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.
(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.
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. 🙂
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. 🙂
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. FtF
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. 🙂 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. 🙂 MMO
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.
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. 🙂 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.
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. 🙁 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.
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.
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.
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.
* 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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂 Little Chatty Kathy, that’s me.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m currently running an HQ game for my die-hard DnD group on the alternate Fridays from the regular game. Here’s what happened in the most recent play session (already about a month ago, due to scheduling problems and holiday crap).
In short, success. Go to here for the list of characters, the player briefing, et cetera. Here’s an outline of what happened:
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.
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. 🙂
Anyway, here’s summary of what went down.
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!
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.
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).
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…
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.
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”).
So, Friday the 30th was the last session of the Bibliophage Sorcerer campaign. There was gunplay. There were demons. Candelabras were swung in anger. Some people even used naughty words. Details below.
We had our seventh session of the Bibliophage Sorcerer story Friday night. The whole thing is detailed here, along with previous session logs.
This was an interesting, but kind of “in-between” session, mostly because so much had happened in the previous session and folks were still processing it.
Right, on with the show.
As mentioned in this post (where I talk about the characters), the DnD game didn’t occur a couple of weeks ago, so we played a session of the “Grade School” sorcerers set up, as seen in the Grimm Therapy section of RandomWiki.
Here’s what happened.
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…)
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.
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.
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:
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)…
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.
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:
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.
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.
Our second session of Sorcerer.
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.
Previous session here.
“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. 🙂
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?
(See also my previous post detailing the PCs.)
With the Sorcerer characters completed no later than 8pm (!), I wanted to do something that would introduce us to all aspects of the system with a minimum of fuss and complication. To that end, we used the Training Run from the main Sorcerer book.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
I will very shortly be creating a separate blog for the Nobilis campaign, but until then, such posts get put here.
We played on Sunday. This is the first of the player diaries. (And we have more players now, so more diaries. Yay, diaries.)
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…
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. 🙂
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.
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” CorTimes
“Senate Rep. flees Murder Scene”
“Bontraar Security Tapes Blank, Missing” Progress
“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
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.)
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.”
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.
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.
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.
So we started playing the Justice Squad campaign this weekend. Lots of fun. Here’s my personal good/bad/ugly list. Good
– 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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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 swrpg.net 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.
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.
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.