Sunday, December 30, 2012

Expanding the Horizons (A Day To Play New Games)

Today was "I Bought This Game and I'm Going to Play It" day at the FLGS, Armored Gopher Games.  This is the day that the FLGS sponsors once in a while in order to allow the patrons to get a chance to play all of those neat little games that we just don't get time to play, but they looked so darn cool.

I was pretty happy with the whole gamut of games I got to play today.  As it happened, they all ended up being card games, but that doesn't really bother me.  I was just glad to broaden the horizon a bit.

The first game that we played this morning was Let's Kill by Atlas Games.  The cheery concept behind this game is for each of players to portray a thrill killer trying to get the most points for their kills.  Each player draws and plays victims, locations, weapons, surprises, and events.  You can kill without a victim, a weapon, and a location.

If you have a warped sense of humor and appreciate black humor, it's a fun game.  One of us won by killing his a victim that turned out to be his own mother in his basement.  Again, it takes an appreciation of the macabre, but hey, my family loves Kittens in a Blender as well, so what do I know?

The next game we played was Cthulhu Gloom.  Cthulhu Gloom is a variant of the card game Gloom, which I have never played, but I think I get the general point, even if my first exposure was Cthulhu flavored.  The point of the game is to have as many of your family members die in absolute despair, and whomever gets the lowest score wins.

You play events onto the cards to make your own family worse, or to make your opponent's family members happier.  The Cthulhu version also ads a few artifacts that modify your story when you have a few special symbols showing.  In general, you also use the cards to "narrate" what just happened, which was kind of fun.  It was a fun game, still a bit macabre, but not quite as dark as Let's Kill, if only because it was a bit "removed" from the real world.  It wasn't too hard to get the hang of the game, and I'd play it again to see if it gelled a bit more next time.

The next game on the docket was Penny Arcade's Gamers Versus Evil.  This is a deck building game, and I've never done one of those before.  Essentially, you have a limited amount of resources, you use those resources to buy better cards from various piles, and slowly become a bit more versatile in what you are doing.

There are "boss cards" that you can spend resources to "beat," and "boss loot" that is better than some of the other cards that you can buy, that go up in cost as the bosses advance in level.  Once you beat all of the bosses, or purchase a certain number of stacks down to nothing, the game ends, and you add up the number of victory points on the cards you have  (the initial resources you have not having any victory points, thus giving you incentive to upgrade as much as you can in your hand).

I did have fun, but I couldn't shake two impressions of the game.  One, it was a little confusing.  I caught on, but he "in jokes" on the cards did nothing to help explain how the game should work, and all of those in jokes, while they may have come from some amusing strips, are a little disjointed.  I didn't dislike the experience, but given a choice, I'd pick some other games to play if I had the option of playing it again.

Finally, we broke out the new Star Wars Living Card Game.  I've actually been fairly excited about trying this one out.  We watched the tutorial on Fantasy Flight's website, which was actually fairly well done, although there were a few fine points that it missed  (or that just didn't click until we played the game and reread the rulebook).

The artwork and components in this game are gorgeous.  The cards all have painted artwork, and though much of it is based on scenes from the classic trilogy, there are some cards that depict characters from the Expanded Universe as well  (I was happy to pick out a few pictures of Mara Jade gracing the cards, for example).

The rules are a bit complex.  I don't know if I would have picked up exactly what the rules were explaining if I had just watched the video or just read the rulebook.  The combination made it much simpler to understand.  The rules aren't counter-intuitive, but there are a lot of phases in each turn, with their own rules for each phase.

While the rules are a bit complicated, once you get the hang of them, they seem pretty solid.  That having been said, I still will have to play the game a few more times before I'm sure if the individual cards are as solid as the base rules.

I had a lot of fun with the game, but when I played the game, and when I watched the next game, it seemed like there were several cards that were very "swingy" in how they effected the overall gameplay experience.  In the first game, my Coruscant Blockade would likely have really dominated the game if it had come out sooner, or if I had Coruscant as one of my objectives.  My opponent played a Wookiee that let him attack the same objective twice that, if he hadn't gotten to play it, he would have been in a world of hurt.

The first game was Sith versus Rebel Alliance.  The next game was Jedi versus Imperial Navy.  It seemed like both of the military groups  (Rebel and Imperial) were able to field lots of lesser units more quickly, while the Jedi and Sith could field fewer units that could get pumped up to monstrous proportions, but those characters had a limited amount that they could do, since the sheer amount of power they could bring to bear would tear through the smaller military units.

Then there is the matter of the Death Star timer.  The Dark Side just pretty much wins by hanging in long enough for the Death Star timer to reach the end of its track.  This advances one every round, barring cards that change that fact.  The track also jumps forward one of the balance of the Force is tipped to the Dark Side, and it jumps forward if the Dark Side takes out an objective.  But here is the crux.  If the Dark Side takes out an objective, the timer jumps forward one for every objective taken out.  So the second objective that the Dark Side takes out jumps the timer up by two.

While I understand the "Rebels have to make gains, the Empire just has to endure" nature of the gameplay, and it makes sense for the setting, I think there might be a bit too many conditions ticking the Death Star clock forward.

Overall, I had a lot of fun.  The game was fun, there was a lot to do, and the components are just fun to play with, and the cards are gorgeous to look at.  However, I'm not sure how finely tuned the game is.  I want to play it a few more times to figure some things out.  Just learning the game today, not really fine tuning the decks and just playing the pre-made decks, and only seeing two games, maybe the game ebbs and flows a lot differently once the strategic options become second nature.  I did have enough fun that I  at least want to play again to find out.

All in all, it was a long, full, fun day of getting some wider gaming exposure, and I'm glad I got the chance.  Thanks to Armored Gopher and all of the gamers that came out to play today.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Getting There is Half the Fun (DCC Thursday Night Game Recap)

Last night was our Thursday night fantasy RPG romp, currently our Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG night.  Last time we ran 0 level characters through the funnel that was Sailors on the Starless Sea.  I wanted to have a bit of a break between sessions, so we assumed that the characters, on the run from the Inquisition, lost themselves in the Great City to the south, and learned their trade in the intervening time.  They agreed to meet one another at the ruins of their old village in a year.

I still wanted to give the players some hand in what adventure they stumbled into next, so I asked them if they were still set on meeting at the burned out village, and most of them expressed the desire to do so.

Had they not done so, I had a couple of other options ready to go.  They could have headed into the Perils of the Sunken City adventure, since I set them in the Great City and seeded them with the knowledge of the Sending Stone and the adventurer culture around it.  I was also ready to have the mercenary captain that the party impressed last time around hire the group to head up north to check on some relatives in Hirot.

But, the group wanted to stick to meeting in the old village.  Unfortunately, half the group had horses, and the other half didn't, and they all left the Great City separately.  For each group, I had the player assign a navigator and a scout.  Each one made a check to see if they got lost, and if they avoided trouble.

If nothing else, this exercise seemed to reinforce the wisdom of traveling in larger groups, and running away from big nasty things that you don't really need to fight.

The nobleman cleric from the first group to set out hired a retainer to guard him.  They managed to run into a giant skunk halfway through their travels, which sprayed their equipment and more or less ruined all of it.  However, the skunk also made it more likely that the group would have yet another encounter before hitting the village, and that encounter came at night, in he form of a pair of goblins.  The retainer ended up falling asleep, and one of the goblins murdered the thief in his sleep, but the goblins were quickly dispatched by the hireling and the nobleman, and they made it to the village.

The next group ended up running into a troll.  Unfortunately, not only are trolls nasty and vicious, but the troll got the drop on he group and went first, and one of the party members, as well has his horse, were ripped to shreds by the troll.  The second character declined to aid his fallen friend, and rode hard and fast away.  The surviving character had the horrid luck of running into an ogre, but thankfully, ogres aren't nearly as fast or as cunning as trolls, and at least one character rode into the burned out village alive.

Three groups managed to make it to the village without any particular issues, although one of those groups of travelers, on foot, wandered around for about a week longer than the rest, and miss the initial fun at the village  (more on that later).

All of the groups that arrived at the same time managed to notice an ambush set up by a rival adventuring company.  Said adventurers had been tracking the elf and his magical ring for months, overheard his plans, and managed to arrive in the village faster than most of the individual groups.  The earliest to arrive were fairly oblivious to the adventurers, but the elf noticed them fairly quickly upon his arrival.

The rival adventuring company, the Company of Fortuitous Placement, were being led by a mad wizard that wanted the ring carried by the party's elf.  Of special note is the poor, much beleaguered Sred the Vicious, the point man for the ambushing adventurers, who looked like Boromir in the Fellowship of the Ring with all of the arrows and bolts sticking out of him before he finally reached the party.

The party does not appear to be especially good at hiding.  The thief, attempting to find cover multiple times, rolled multiple ones.  The brave noble cleric also attempted to hide, but after rolling rather pathetically, his retainer pointed out, "boss, I think they can still see you."

The cleric, battling Father Ordus of the Nameless Faith, managed to case paralysis on his sword, and then did enough damage to kill Ordus in one shot, meaning that he cast paralysis by cutting Father Ordus' spine in half.

The elf engaged he mad wizard intent on his ring in a spell duel, and managed to get the fabled Phlogiston Distortion result as he countered his opponents spell.  This went . . . interestingly . . . for both characters.  The elf began to gain weight, started to grow a beak, got cloven hooves, had his hair turn jet black, and started coursing with blue magical energy.  The wizard set his own face on fire and now had a black skull for a face, and passed out.

The rest of the party cut down the rival adventurers, except for the ambushing thief, who ran like hell to get away from the group.  Then the wizard managed to case one hell of a magic missile at the elf, who should have been blown to bits, but after the wizard was killed, it turned out the elf just had a flesh wound.  Still, that was one hell of a magic missile.

After this resolved, the party waited to see if any of their other companions made the trip to the burned out village, and once the last of their friends arrived, they were surprised to see a column of holy knights and the inquisitor approach them under a flag of truce.

The group's charismatic warrior headed out to talk to them, and the elf covered up head to toe, just in case.  The party thief darted into the shadows, and the inquisitor explained that he had received a portent from his god.  He was instructed to give the group one more chance to purge Chaos from the world, by investigating a rift to the south, for which he would pay the party well and provide them with a writ declaring them free of any heretical charges.

The party accepted, after making sure that the elf would get a special writ explaining that he certainly wasn't the victim of evil Chaos taint, and the group set out for the rift, and thus, next session, we start playing The People of the Pit.

I'm pretty happy to hear that most of my players were talking about how much fun they had in the session.  That's all you can really hope for as a GM.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Web of Unpopular Opinions (The Calibration of my Comics Fandom--Potential Spoilers for ASM 700)

I like to know when people don't like things.  No, really, I do.  I like it when people post their opinions about various things online.  I like to discuss those things.  Discussion is fun.  I'm a geek, and I don't run into a lot of people on a day to day basis that "get" some of the things that nag at the back of my brain.  Online, when I run into people that are geeks of the same persuasion, I like to be able to discuss where we align and where we don't.

On the other hand, I'm not a fan of hyperbole.  I try to avoid it myself.  I know I fail at times, and I apologize.  I hope people call me on it when I fall into that trap.  Hyperbole robs a discussion of any texture.  When someone makes a blanket statement on the ultimate nature of the merits of a given thing, in broad strokes, there is no discussion.  Either you agree, or you disagree, and without knowing what was "wrong" with the work to begin with, it's hard to know where you have common ground.

I liked Amazing Spider-Man #700.  It's was a fun read for me that did what an anniversary issue should do, in that it examined exactly what makes Spidey tick and did a bit of a tour of his overall history.  It also went off in a new direction that I think will be interesting, if not as permanent as some of the Marvel marketing indicates.

I can understand that people that just want to read Peter Parker as Spider-Man would not be happy with the development, especially since they can't even get an alternate Spidey fix by reading Ultimate Comics Spider-Man these days.  I also understand that anyone that just picks up this issue, and hasn't read any of Slott's run on the character, might not realize that this is the culmination of a lot of work and foreshadowing, and not just a one shot shocker to sell comics.

I don't even blame people that didn't enjoy it as much because the depth of the set up might involve a lot more reading than just this issue.  I'm cool with all of that.

But I think it's hard to say that Spider-Man #700 is the "worst thing ever."  I'm reading a lot of that.  Lots of discussions about how it's a cheap publicity stunt, and that it came out of nowhere.  I just don't think you can support those statements.

But the buzz about ASM 700 got me to thinking about other controversial moves, what I think about them, why, and how that matches up with what looks like the comics "zeitgeist" I'm seeing online.  The obvious comparison, where I might agree with that zeitgeist is Avengers Arena.  Why do I agree with public opinion on that book, but not this one, and why?

Avengers Arena has been accused of coming out of nowhere and being a "shock" concept to drum up interest in the book.  I agree with that assessment.  I have also read that Dennis Hopeless is actually writing an interesting character driven narrative for the book, and I don't doubt that.  I am not, however, interested in the book because I think the characters in that book deserved better than this book.

But isn't that what is being said of Superior Spider-Man?  Yes, it is.  But wait, I'll explain.  Throughout Avengers Academy, there has never been a hint that all of these characters might be whisked off to some hidden island.  There has never been foreshadowing of Arcade playing a part in the future of the team.  The creative team is completely different.  The ending of Avengers Academy didn't really set this up in any way.

It's clear that this is someone at Marvel deciding that the Hunger Games is a great money maker, and Dennis Hopeless is apparently doing his best to make it an interesting and engaging story.

Slott's narrative in Amazing Spider-Man has foreshadowed Peter being forced to take a life, Doctor Octopus wishing he could make a difference, potentially even being a hero and being well remembered for the good he did, and has actually, for years, had Madam Web seeing a big thing on the horizon regarding Pete's future and something potentially going very wrong.  On top of all of that, the crux of what finally happened in the last few issues ties back to ASM 600, which set up Doc Ock's status quo for years and also hinted at Otto's desire to be better than what he ended up being.

In other words, something was going to happen, all the pieces were there.  If you don't like the configuration, I get it, but the components were all in place for quite a while.

So what other opinion do I hold that doesn't seem to be aligned with the comics zeitgeist?  I'm not a fan of Jonathan Hickman's Avengers title.  But I'm not in hyperbole mode in viewing it.  Hickman is a good writer.  His strengths seem to be deep, complex, far ranging, out there narratives.  Conspiracies that have to do with the meaning of life, connect to aliens that pre-date the universe, and date back 10,000 years, with ties to a whole bunch of other mysteries across time . . . that's right up his alley.

It meshed well with the Fantastic Four.  Deep, long term, cosmic weirdness and unraveling secrets is their "thing."  It didn't work for me with SHIELD  (IMO, a spy organization that should have stayed a spy organization, and not some ancient brotherhood of deep thinkers eternally fighting an equally eternal Hydra organization), and it doesn't work for me on the Avengers.  The Avengers are Earth's Mightiest Heroes, and sometimes that means fighting the cosmic, but not all of the time.

Hickman's concept seems to both step on the toes of the soon to be relaunched Guardians of the Galaxy, and try to recast things that have happened in the Avengers in the past as brand new developments.  The Avengers have faced cosmic threats before.  They have had cosmic powered members before.  They have had large memberships before.  None of that is new, and trying to spin all of that as a bold new direction doesn't work for me.  The added emphasis of trying to deal with a deep, ancient, cosmic threat just takes away from what tends to be a much more Avengers . . . and Marvel . . . strength, and that is:  how does this team of Avengers work together?  How do they interact, and what are the ups and downs of those relationships?

Hickman had a built in fallback for the FF, given that they are family.  Distancing the Avengers from interpersonal relationships  (other than making Steve and Tony the "masterminds" behind the engineering of the group) doesn't play well with my concept of the team.

I've got no beef with Hickman, and think he is a great writer whose style works for me sometimes, and doesn't at other times.  No hyperbole needed.  I just wish others could give writers like Dan Slott that same benefit of the doubt.

I Know I Haven't Done Milestones in a While . . . (Potential Spoilers for Spider-Man 700)

Okay, it's been a while since I posted Milestones.  To be honest, while I love comics, there are a lot of similar themes, so it's hard to keep coming up with unique Milestones every week.  Then a comic comes along that has at least a somewhat unique angle one the progression of a hero's journey, and, BAM!  Inspiration for more Milestones!

After reading Amazing Spider-Man #700, the Bam! happened.

I Will Carry On In Your Name

1 XP  When you mention how you have handled a situation better than your predecessor, or when you express frustration at a situation that your predecessor seemed to handle better than you can.

3 XP  When you lose track of who you are and mistakenly reference your predecessor's history when you should be drawing on your own experiences, or when you accidentally mention your own past when you should be discussing knowledge your predecessor should have.

10 XP  When you realize the wisdom and moral strength of your predecessor, and give up any semblance to your former life to fully adopt the life of your predecessor, or when you give up on the notion of being a hero at all, and return to a life of villainy.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Living on the Edge . . . Gand on Holiday! (Star Wars: Edge of the Empire RPG)

Our intrepid band of galactic explorers on the edge of legal trade continued their scavenger hunt to help keep our Rodian pilot and slicer Prawn alive and out of debt to the mighty Cheezblintz the Hutt  (don't judge us . . . remember Admiral Akbar is a Mon Calamari).

We took off for Coruscant with two objectives in mind.  First, we needed to find an Alderaanian noble with a crest we could steal.  Second, we were trying to find a remote computer that wasn't hooked up to the HoloNet that our Prawn could slice and we could use to figure out the location of Korriban.  Max Damage, our human xenobiologist who has almost no combat skills to speak of, figure out how to license my pet hive monkey Skizmer so I wouldn't have to leave him on the ship.

Gand got a chance to use his Respected Scholar talent again, as we looked up history teachers on Coruscant to see if I could find some evidence in the computers of where any Alderaanian nobles might live, and if any of the students had done research that revealed any.

As it happened, things were a bit simpler than that, and we found a crest on display in one of the classrooms in the college.  IG-FX, our medical droid and assassin, and Prawn posed as janitors and support staff to the college in order to get access to the classroom.

IG-FX was detained, and convinced the staff that, since he was a medical droid, he was actually part of a new initiative on behalf of the school to dispense prophylactic devices to the students.  This got the duo further into the school, they picked up the crest from the classroom, covered it with a garbage bag, and started to walk out.

Prawn, with vibro-mop

Prawn was berated for being in part of the school that he shouldn't be in, but IG-FX was carrying the bag, and just walked off.  Since, you know, he's just a droid.

Phase Two of Operation:  Get Stuff on Coruscant was to find a planetarium that might have an old record of Korriban that might be sliced by Prawn.  We went to an out of the way Planetarium that was featuring Laser Rebo! and Prawn sliced the computer while Gand picked up a shirt from the gift shop.

Prawn got 20 year old coordinates to Korriban, but set off an alarm, so we took off from the planetarium as fast as we could before the Coruscant Stormtroopers could show up and ask us why we wanted the coordinates to Korriban.  Thankfully, the Trandoshan gunman was still on the ship and got it warmed up so we could make a quick getaway.

Twenty year old coordinates are a tricky thing.  They require your navigator to extrapolate the position of the planet you are looking for, accounting for two decades of galactic spin.  About the third or fourth time we missed Korriban, we headed back to Nar Shaddaa for fuel and provisions.  We were well and truly broke at this point.

However, we did eventually find Korriban, only a few weeks later than we initially thought we would. The planet was a bit intimidating, and we almost crashed the ship, and had to survive collapsing buildings.  Oh, and the wookiee started to feel like he was going to fly into a murderous rage all of the time and we all started to feel the life sapped out of us.  Thankfully, we found the meditation stone fairly quickly, and it was off to Nal Hutta.

Cheezblintz was as happy to see us as a Hutt ever is to see anyone, and we unloaded the rancor eggs, hive monkeys, crest, meditation stone, and a few other things that the crew picked up before Gand stowed away on the ship.  We saved Prawn's life, paid down his debt, and made about a thousand credits for our trouble.

And Now For Something Completely Different

After we finished the actual roleplaying section of the evening, our GM regretfully informed us that he was going to be too busy at work to continue running the game.  After some deliberation, I inherited the mantle of running the game.

Because we will have a new player, and because of he changes in the rules with the Week 10 playtest document and the Basic Game release, I decided to allow players to keep their character if they wanted, or to remake a new character.  We'll see how the party shakes out now that the group has the option to start over or continue.

Our Trip to the Dungeon: Dungeon Crawl Classics Session One--Sailors on the Starless Sea

Almost two weeks ago  (wow, things have been busy around here lately) we had our first session of Dungeon Crawl Classics at the FLGS.  We had just ended our Pathfinder game, and in keeping with the "theme" of the night, I wanted to keep the night "fantasy," thus began our Dungeon Crawl Classics game.

In preparation, I printed out 16 0-level sheets from the Purple Sorcerer Games site.  Now, my table limit was 6 players, because I generally don't like to break that limit.  While DCC with one character each would likely be really easy to manage compared to some games, when everyone still has multiple 0 level characters, the sheer number of actions means that I'm happy that I stuck to my six player limit.

We played through Sailors on the Starless Sea as our introductory adventure.  I was torn on whether to run this adventure or Perils of the Sunken City.  I really liked the overall story of Sailors, but I loved the "home base" and roleplaying possibilities of Perils.  For a while I was even making up my own funnel, but finally, I settled on Sailors.

The nice thing is, I've noticed that there isn't a huge difference between 0 and 1st level adventures in many cases in DCC.  The objectives that a 1st level character can manage because they can take more than one hit and have a few things they can do well can almost be simulated by an army of 0 level types really pressing their luck.

Anyway, with 6 players, why 16 0 level sheets?  Because I wanted to make sure if anyone happened to lose their whole array of characters, that they could replace them later in the adventure.  It did come up a few times, but not as often as I had feared.

The adventure itself was a lot of fun.  The story is great.  I will say we had fewer fatalities than I initially had thought we would have, with almost every player having multiple survivors in their groups.  I chalk this up to a few things.

1.  The adventure assumes less than six players with four 0 level characters.

2.  One player managed at least one round of three out of four of his characters scoring critical hits!

3.  I was dumb and forgot to apply the "second half" of the "death and dying" rules to characters that had dropped during a fight, so I was failing to apply the -4 penalty to rolls and the loss of a point of strength/stamina/agility when a character was "turned over."

Live and learn.

Spoiler Time!

Read no further if you plan on playing in this adventure.  You have been warned!

I had each player roll to see what rumor their group of characters knew about the ruined keep near their village.  What was amusing was that most of them forgot about the rumors until something became evident as true or untrue, and they remembered the slip of paper I gave them.

The standard set up for the adventure is that there is a ruined keep near the village that housed an army of Chaos decades ago, and was put to the torch by the forces of Law, and villagers are disappearing left and right more and more frequently, thus causing your not-quite-heroes to venture in and make things right.

As a framing device, I created a slightly different set up.  The village had been set upon by an inquisitor and his hired mercenaries, and the inquisitor is sure that the upswing in disappearances is an indication that Chaos is on the rise.  He wants to put the village to the torch in case they are corrupted, but is giving the 0 level types the chance to purge the keep and find answers before applying the final solution.

This was a fun scene, since some of the players were used to the more "civilized" fantasy RPG set up of at least relatively "fair" governments and religious officials.  Those that picked up on the more traditional "appendix N" feel of the game reined in those complaining about their "rights" as "citizens" before the inquisitor set them all on fire and called it a day.

Now, a few times members of the group asked why they couldn't just run into the wilderness beyond the keep and leave the inquisitor behind.  I wouldn't actually have stopped them, and the overall outcome ended up the same for the village, but enough of the group was intimidated by the inquisitor and the fact that he had holy knights arriving to supplement the mercenaries that they didn't opt for the quick exit for the scenario.

Highlights of exploring the keep:

  • One group of 0 level characters, that was extremely lucky up until they all died, took out the Beastman Champion that was leading a large group of bad guys in the upper level without him even taking an action.
  • The magically cold crypt of one of the Chaos Lords killed more adventurers than the beastmen in the upper levels of the keep just because the lure of treasure was so strong.
  • One character, who committed himself to Chaos tried to drink the Tar Ooze in the burnt out chapel, and was saved in spite of himself.
  • One of the characters read the runes on the monolith on the underground sea, and tried to sacrifice the nearest PC to Chaos Leviathan, and most of the PCs decided it was kind of like a domestic dispute, and stayed out of it until the poor elven sage got his brains caved in.
  • Halfway across the water, with the the incense running low, one of the players decided his Chaotic character was okay with offing another character of his own group, and committed shock and awe on the rest of the party by yanking out his heart and tossing it in for the Leviathan.
  • Instead of sneaking up on the beastmen or climbing up to the shaman on the pyramid, the elven barrister decided to use the tabbard he was wearing to convince that beastmen that he was a Chaos champion and that the Chaos Lord would be summoned much faster if they were willing to toss themselves into the magma as well as the villagers and the treasure.  The shaman were in a bit of a disarray as the beastmen-lemmings stormed the stairs.
  • After dispatching the risen Chaos Lord from a distance and running for the boat, the group decided that they wanted the Chaos Lord's weapon and armor, and ordered the other bound villagers to bring it to them, and they would save them a seat on the boat.  This, despite the fact that the villagers were still tied up, and several of them died trying to free themselves and/or secure the treasure.  No villagers that were NPCs survived the destruction of the temple.
  • The adventurers sold the ship in a fishing village and headed for the city, as the mercs slowed the inquisitor down enough to make good their escape, as the mercs had been impressed with the PCs "moxy."  So the inquisitor is still out there, ready to burn the heretics that got away.
All in all, this was a lot of fun, although I'm left with two thoughts, one about the adventure itself, and one about how I wanted to run it and how it fit into my campaign plans.

1.  The skulls that were available to the PCs to harm the Chaos Lord were a little too effective and a little too easy to obtain.  PCs don't just happen upon them in the room, but are attracted to the pool, making it more likely they look in, and with a good number of survivors towards the end, that's a lot of skulls to lob at the Chaos Lord, meaning that he doesn't get to be quite as devastating as he might seem at first.

2.  I rushed a few bits of the adventure that I probably should have played out a bit more, such as some of the rooms in the lower section of the keep, and even the ending, mainly because I wanted the funnel done in one night, so that I could "fast foward" the campaign a year for the PCs being 1st level.  Spending even another hour would have made me feel that I had done some of those neat little areas a bit more justice, but it's still amazing that an adventure with as much in it as this adventure had could be run in a four hour slot.

Looking forward to the next session of the campaign.  I've got tons of thoughts, but I have to admit, in all of the holiday hubub, I've not done nearly as much work as I had planned at this point in time.  Thankfully, DCC is much more forgiving when it comes to last minute prep than a lot of RPGs.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

On the Edge . . . of the Empire

Thursday night was the first night that my Gand colonist  (scholar) got to play with the group.  The ongoing storyline involves a scavenger's hunt across the galaxy to pick up various and sundry strange articles in order to satisfy a Hutt that is calling in a marker on our Rodian pilot's debts.

The last session that occurred, which I sat in for, involved he group gathering some Rancor eggs.  This session started where the last one ended, with our group of adventurers landing on Dantooine looking for a dozen or so hive monkeys.

My character is a Gand named . . . Gand.  He's got a legal designation based on his clan, generation, and birth order, but he's not earned his own name yet.  In fact, this generation of his family has done so poorly in it's testing that they have been designated "sub-Gand," and thus have been reclassed as available for slave status.

My own Gand was to have been tested as a Findsman, but with no talent for "mystical matters," he has been reluctant to attempt his qualification exams.  Further, he feels obligated to his clan to purchase their freedom so that they may attempt to test back into Gand status and eventually earn their own names as well.

Gand studied accounting and finance, and in order to turn some quick credits started working for underworld types to launder their credits.  When his bosses were eliminated by rival factions, Gand stowed away on the group's ship, and that's where we begin.  We land on Dantooine and the following happens:

  • Locating hive monkeys isn't easy.
  • We eventually found a comm frequency with a crazy old researcher on planet that gave us a clue where to start looking.
  • Trandoshans like to haze Wookiees when they use climbing gear.
  • Bigger, nastier hive monkey like creatures chased the other hive monkeys out of the pit.
  • Gand panicked and vaporized the first hive monkey over the lip of he pit.
  • Gand caught a hive monkey in his robes.
  • After the Wookiee climbed down the pit to gather the hive monkeys, they swarmed over him.
  • Between the Trandoshan, the Medical Droid/Assassin, and the humans, he rampaging hive monkeys ran up the ramp, and the human closed he ramp.  
  • Gand barely made it back on the ship, with a monkey in his robes.  The Wookiee was still down the hole.
  • The Wookiee unhooked his climbing gear when the swarm reached him, and as such, wasn't attached when the ship took off.
  • The Wookiee took some bites from the more bitey hive-monkey-like creatures.
  • The rest of the group goes back for the Wookiee, get the rope back to him, and the group heads off.

Besides the hive monkeys  (which we tried to store in a barrel), and the Rancor eggs, we now have an Alderaanian noble's crest and a Sith Meditation Stone to recover.  We vote where to go next, and we start looking for the Sith Meditation Stone.  Where?  We don't know!

Now, my character is a Respected Scholar, since he used to student teach his economics classes back in his school days, before he joined the seedier side of the galaxy to pay off his family's debts.  We brainstormed a bit, and we figured out that my Gand would try to find an old teaching contact on Ord Mantell to get a clue for the Sith Mediation Stone.

  • Holy crap, I got to use Respected Scholar.  When I made the character, I never thought I would actually use it.
  • Our human, Max Damage, helped me set up a deal with my old contact to get him off planet if he needed it.  
  • Our medical droid/assassin tried to pick up some neurotoxins in the medical school portion of the university, but failed.  Thankfully, he remained undetected, since, you know, he's a droid.
  • Figured out a Sith Mediation Stone is a really uncomfortable stone slab that Sith kneel on to help them focus their anger.
  • Figured out that we could either go to a specific Hutt for a line on finding Korriban, or we could attempt to slice a computer in secure location to find it.
  • Definitely decided not to throw the word "Korriban" around the university much since all classes that referenced the Sith in any manner were shut down by the Empire.
First off, I have a bit of a quandry.  When I speak in character, apparently my using Gand instead of my name or pronouns is annoying to at least one other player.  Lots of times, I know that I can summarize what I'm doing in 3rd person, but I do like to speak in character once in a while.  I'll have to curtail this impulse, because I don't want to bug anyone just trying to have fun.  Probably should have picked a less quirky character concept.  It seemed fun in my head, but I guess I should have run it by the group more, with all of the nuances of how I was going to play it.

It seems like the group is getting a bit more used to the dice mechanic.  Every roll came from the die rolling app, which still isn't quite as intuitive as just picking up the right number of dice in your pool and rolling them.  I do wish that the app would total your successes and failures, as that might make it a bit more useful once the real, physical dice arrive in stores.

As to what the dice do, we seemed to have fun with that.  Our GM challenged us to come up with reasons for how luck was on our side with the Destiny Points, and we all seemed to have some fun coming up with our negative and positive spin on how things worked out, based on the "extras" on the dice.  Still isn't easy to remember the terminology for all of he symbols.

We didn't have much in the way of combat, but I was happy that my character still found some ways to contribute to the group right off the bat.

Looking forward to the next session, and hoping more of our crew can make it  (we were short our Rodian and our Twi'liek this time around).  Heading off to Coruscant to hopefully find a discreet terminal to slice for star charts to Korriban  (don't want to deal with yet another Hutt quite yet), and to see if we can find a few displaced Alderaanian nobles that we can "de-crest."

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Dhampir Diaries, Volume Two: The End

Last Thursday was our Pathfinder session, wherein we play godlings trying to fix Golarion after it's seen 100 years of zombie apocalypse mixed with demonic invasion.  I lost my original character, dropped out, dropped back in, and in the meantime, one of our players, the one running the child of Asmodeus, left the group.

This will become important from an in character perspective.

We just did research that figured out what caused everything to happen.  A long time ago, mysterious crazy lady talked to "the Patron," and he wanted her to get ahold of "the Entity."  Looking through a big old telescope, you could undead bad guys on another planet milling about, with a gate.  For some reason, "the Patron" wanted some of that action here on Golarion.

"The Entity" caused the Abyssal dams to break and set loose the plague of undead.  So we knew, more or less, how all of this happened, and that it wasn't just a gate that opened accidentally.  There was a transaction, and "the Patron" wanted the calamity to befall the planet.

However, my character is new to the group.  And my character has some of the highest mental stats of the group.  Thus I felt a little responsible for trying to come up with a plan and a direction.  Also, in character, it looked really strange that our child of Asmodeus left right after his father's forces secured this place for us.

So my character called up on his mother.  Now, my dhampir death knight has claimed to the party that I'm Pharasma's child  (for anyone not up to speed, the goddess of Death and Fate, not a fan of undead).  My actual mother was Urgathoa  (goddess of the undead).  I asked mom for a tip on what direction to go, and made her a deal that I would gladly turn full vampire and lead her armies if I died to get that information.

She clued me in that "the Patron" might be mister infernal himself, Asmodeus, and that he was orchestrating the people of Golarion to call on him to save them all and establish his own forces as primary to the world, wiping out the demons and claiming a lot of souls to boot.  She also mentioned that opening the gate on the other planet would likely cause the weird things on that planet to cause a ruckus in the Abyss that might thin out the demonic hordes, but if we did that first, Asmodeus was likely to get his way and take over right off the bat.

Now, knowing that the A man was the driving force behind all of this, we suddenly all assumed that his son must have been part of the plan, and decided to track him down and get some answers, or kill him, or both.  

And to get out of my deal with my mother, I asked our child of Sarenrae if her mother could provide me with something that would destroy me if I turned full vampire.  She got a necklace that, to me, was uncomfortably warm, and I put it on.

We went back to our lich ally  (that I hadn't met yet, and didn't want any part of, due to my vows of death knightdom).  He was going to open up the gates to Hell for us so that we could track down our wayward former ally, and our parents contributed a host of various celestial beings to keep the armies busy.

So we go to Hell.  We find a Pit Fiend.  I know we skipped some stuff in between.  The whole group was so ready to see if we could unravel the BBEG plot in one fell swoop, that we all gambled that we could pull off some miracle and unravel the plan from the backdoor.

Well, that didn't happen.  This encounter was "set," i.e. it would happen the same way if we did it now or waited a bit to try and gather some more information and maybe some more experience and magical firepower.  We were down two party members.  We were already hopelessly outmatched at 8th level by a pit fiend.

What's even worse?  Well, I got too close to the pit fiend.  Poison is bad.  What's worse is when you have a magic item that is set to keep you from turning into a vampire, given to you by the goddess of fire and the sun.  Once I dropped to 0 Constitution, my "fail safe" went off, and incinerated all of the party except for our arcane scion godling, who teleported out.

We told him to go forth, tell the gods to have more kids, and try this again in a couple of decades.  However, not only did my plans manage to royally mess up the party, but the GM didn't even get to add his name to the roll of GM TPKs for this group, because one of us got away.

At this point, almost all of us that were present decided to put some distance between ourselves and Pathfinder.  I was voted GM, and since it is a fantasy RPG night, I gave them their pick of Dungeon Crawl Classics or 13th Age.  For at least one of the players, 13th Age sounded too much like 4th edition, and we had a good time with the one shot funnel two weeks ago, so DCC it is.

Now to make up a new funnel, and maybe a campaign and campaign world.  I've got two weeks.

Pull List! November 2012


I'm a sucker for team ups, and so far I've had fun with most of the stories so far.  I will say that, despite enjoying the book, if I can't trim my pull list a bit more in light of Marvel Now, I might be axing this one, because it's fun, but it's also kind of "empty calorie" fun.  

Prognosis:  Its fun, and I'm staying with it, if Marvel doesn't make me yell uncle with their scheduling.

All New X-Men

Crap.  I thought this was going to be the book that I was going to read a bit, realize it wasn't for me, and move on.  Instead, it's kind of compelling and interesting.  I'm still not happy about Beast's new status quo, but we'll see how it plays out.  With Beast showing up in a few Avengers books, I don't know that his problems will hinder him for too long.

Prognosis:  Guess I'm riding this one out for a while, since, you know, it's actually good.

Amazing Spider-Man

Dan Slott is a rotten bastard.  As long as he keeps feeding my my guts and my heart, I'll keep taking the abuse.  I mean this is the nicest possible way.  Seriously, though, the man is great with Spider-Man, and I really want to see where this story goes.

Prognosis:  In for the rest of Amazing, ready to see what Superior has in store.

Avengers Assemble

I was right to hang on for DeConnick's run.  Loved her first issue.  Looking forward to seeing her with a rotating cast of Avengers to play with month to month.

Prognosis:  Looking good in DeConnick's hands.

Avenging Spider-Man

This month is feeling a little better, meaning that Moon Boy and Devil Dinosaur are actually being treated a little more seriously than Deadpool and Thing.  Huh.  This arc isn't really going to convince me one way or the other.  I'm interested now to see how Superior Spider-Man turns out, because Slott as said whomever Superior's star is, he's the star of this book as well.

Prognosis:  Wary, but I'm a sucker for Spider-Man


I know I said she was gone last month, but from what I was hearing, Batgirl and Batman were the only other Bat family books I wanted to read regarding the Death of the Family storyline.  I liked this issue much more that my last time that I checked in with Babs, so I'll ride out the book during the crossover and go from there.

Prognosis:  Back on the list for now.


I'm not really interested in gambling on other Batman books.  I'm still pretty happy with Snyder's flagship book, and while I still hate Joker's lack of a face, I'm starting to think the crossover storyline is getting interesting.

Prognosis:  Still on board

Captain America

I had a bit of a visceral reaction to the flashback of Cap's dad.  Apparently his father having been an alcoholic is a "known thing," but seeing the whole picture of an unemployed Irish immigrant drunk that beats his wife as a wee bit too stereotypical for my tastes.  Still, that wasn't the only thing that didn't work for me.  Cap under Brubaker would have been right at home fighting Cobra alongside G.I. Joe.  I expected a turn more towards super hero over super soldier, but not quite the full on rocket ride to crazy town that we got, along with all of the odd, too quick to develop naturally plot elements.  I'll see Remender's Cap in the Avengers side of things.

Prognosis:  Cap's gone, at least in solo mode.

Captain America and

I like how Bunn is tying up he threads he wove through the last several team up in this book, and I'm looking forward to the conclusion.

Prognosis:  Till the end of the book, which is next issue, I think.

Captain Marvel

On one hand, now that we aren't time traveling, things are much less muddy.  The interplay between Carol and Monica is great.  However, the story still seems like it's going to be a bit of a slow burn, but at least this time around, it's a slow burn that isn't jumping through time and introducing a bunch of side characters that end up not really contributing as much as they could have.

Prognosis:  DeConnick's banter alone keeps me here.  The rest is gravy.


By virtue of actually moving the plot forward, Waid buys his Daredevil run another issue from me, but I can't help but feel that the book isn't quite as fun as it was at the beginning.

Prognosis:  At least waiting out the story arc next month.


Why, no, Deadpool wasn't going to be on the list for this month.  I didn't need to read a Deadpool solo book.  Unfortunately for my wallet, I read the reviews of the book.  Fortunately as a comics fan, the book is hilarious and fun and I'm doomed.

Prognosis:  I'm hooked.  Maybe the book will start to suck eventually and I can escape.

Earth 2

Earth 2 continues to outpace it's hiccup  (at least in my book) in quality, and wraps up it's first story arc in a slightly surprising way.  It's entertaining and it remains to be it's own thing, and I'm fine with that.

Prognosis:  Still on board.  But I miss my old Grundy.

Fantastic Four + FF

Interesting new premise and Fraction seems to have a good handle on the basics of the team.  Love Bagley's art.  Looking forward to some back to basics cosmic adventurer Fantastic Four goodness, even in the confines of the opening framing arc.  Loving the introductory issue of FF and the introduction of the Future Foundation kids to Scott Lang and company.

Prognosis:  Smooth sailing so far.

G.I. Joe, Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow

I'm trying to figure out if Krake's scorched earth tactics are heading for a Hama-esque swerve where the bad guys have to keep working together despite horrendous bad blood between them, or if we are getting a kind of wrap up to Dixon's era on the book, and whatever the new status quo or continuity might be.  Either way, I'm enjoying the book, and maybe, just maybe, for Chuck's sake, I'll keep reading Special Missions when it comes out, even if I jettison the rest of the confusing rebooted Joe line.

Prognosis:  Here until the books are relaunched.


I really liked the opening arc, and while it's still interesting, I'm missing the chemistry between Gambit and his dangerous lady friend.  Gambit is definitely more interesting when he can inject some charisma into the story.

Prognosis:  I'm wavering a little.  Hopefully Gambit can turn up the charm again as we finish up the arc.


I jinxed myself, didn't I?  Even though Ghostbusters is getting a rebooted #1, and even though IDW is going to put out Ghostbusters books in an alternate continuity, I'll enjoying this story arc and Burnham's version of the characters.

Prognosis:  Riding this series out, and likely checking out the reboot but not new continuity book when it hits.


Hawkeye has hit it's first real multi-part storyline since it launched, and that in and of itself is enough of a change in feel that I'm not sure if I like it.  Still, the opening story was interesting, and Kate was awesome, so we'll see how longer arcs work in the already solid formula.

Prognosis:  Riding out the rest of the story arc, at least, and the book has a lot of good will reserve built up with me.

Indestructible Hulk

Solid and promising start to Waid's Hulk  (and Banner!) story, so I'm interested enough to follow it for a while and see where it goes.  Despite my misgivings about recent Daredevil arcs, Waid knows his way around a super hero, so I'll keep an eye on this one.

Prognosis:  In for a few more issues at least.

Iron Man

I liked the first issue, but between the fact that the book is shipping twice a month, and the strange "techno knights" turn that the book takes in the second issue, I can hold off on reading any more about Tony's solo exploits.  I'll still see him in the Avengers books.

Prognosis:  Gone, but not with any bad memories.

Justice League

Cheetah's story wasn't bad.  I still feel like the Justice League in this book exist kind of outside of how the individual books portray them  (Batman isn't too different).  The backup feature with Shazam! is much more interesting when it's actually about Black Adam.

Prognosis:  I'm getting enough enjoyment to stick around. 


Nightwing hasn't been brilliant or great, but it's been fun.  I'm fine with a "just fun" Bat related book.  I don't need Nightwing navel gazing or wondering about his place in the world.  

Prognosis:  I'm having fun, so Nightwing is staying put for now.

Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt

Looks like issue #3 is where I get off.  When we go from a guy that is trying to make the world a better place, and isn't sure of himself, to a guy that is opposed by a two dimensional character that gets to stand in for the Military Industrial Complex and a 2D character that stands in for organized western religion, the book starts to feel a bit too preachy and slap dash to me.

Prognosis:  Done and done.

Scarlet Spider

I was underwhelmed by Minimum Carnage, and it didn't help that Scarlet Spider's issues didn't seem to focus much on Kaine.  I'm still in, but I'm hoping we can get back to what was fun about the character when he goes back to solo mode.

Prognosis:  Yost has built up enough good will that I'm sticking around for a while.

Secret Avengers

This version of the book is going away soon, but I'm enjoying he chaos.  Not sure how everything is going to actually resolve, but I thought that last arc as well.

Prognosis:  In till the end of this version of the series.

Thor--God of Thunder

Loving this book so far.  Mythology plus cosmic weirdness with the added twist of telling the opening story arc on three fronts:  past, present, and future.

Prognosis:  Certainly riding out the first story arc, and wondering where it will go from there. 

Uncanny Avengers

I like it so far, but it does feel like it's just on the verge of trying too hard  (for example, Rogue's commentary about Gambit, and Red Skull's comments about Scarlet Witch).  There is a solid story here, but it's just on the verge of pushing a bit too much for shock value.  

Prognosis:  Still interested to read the flagship title, and actually a little relieved it's shipping late.

Uncanny X-Force

Wow.  Too bad this version of the team is going away.  That's how you wrap up a story arc right there.

Prognosis:  In until next issue, which is the end of the road.


Apparently there are limits to my love of all things Spider-Man.  I still like the character, in general, but the book is doing nothing for me, and I'm not really interested enough to stick around post Minimum Carnage.  He overshadowed Scarlet Spider, and wasn't interesting when he did it, and that's not cool.

Prognosis:  Somethings got to give, and mister Thomson is off the list.

Wolverine and the X-Men

Yikes, twice a month shipping, again!  I still like this series, although the reveal about Angel doesn't do much for me.  I fear that this book is going to get thrown into a lot of turmoil in the coming months, with Bendis being the big gun and shaking things up.

Prognosis:  As long as the book resembles what it does now, I'm still on board.

World's Finest

I gave it another shot because of the Damian/Helena team up, and I'm actually not disappointed.  Why do I like Damian better  (or at least enjoy stories with him) when he's a guest star?  Before Flashpoint my favorite Damian appearances were in Batgirl.  

Prognosis:  In at least through the Damian/Helena crossover story.