Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I'm Feeling Less Charitable Than Usual (Marvel Heroic)

I loved Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.

Despite initially announcing that there would be "at least" three events and supplemental books for each, we never really even got two.

I didn't like it when WOTC claimed licence fee woes with Star Wars, and I don't like it now that MWP is doing it with Marvel.  I'm not saying the costs aren't a challenge, but it's also a cheap way of throwing the heat onto another company when you don't want to keep producing a given line.

When you haven't put out a physical book since September of last year, it seems a little strange to claim that a line isn't performing as well as you had hoped.  I'm betting the original business plan called for actually selling physical copies of books at intervals that aren't measured in years.

DC Adventures Universe

Maybe I'm just a bit sensitive because this seems to be the opposite of what happened to Green Ronin, who seemed to be doing all of the heavy lifting when DC couldn't be bothered to actually okay the products that they had to approve.  I hate to see Marvel get painted with the "uncaring evil money grubbing corporation" brush when they seemed to have stellar approval times compared to DC.

MWP hasn't said anything directly accusatory or derogatory towards Marvel, but sometimes less is more.  If you don't want to say that a line underperformed because you couldn't make it happen the way you thought you could, fine, but don't talk about how a line is underperforming when you can't get the product into stores to perform one way or another.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Swords, Wizardry, Confessions, and Theft (Swords and Wizardry Appreciation Day)

I have a confession to make right up front.  I don't play in or run a Swords and Wizardry game.  In fact, I've been running a Dungeon Crawl Classics game for months now that I'm really happy with.

No, wait, don't go.  I come to praise Swords and Wizardry, not to bury it.

I own several Swords and Wizardry products, and continue to pick them up.  One of the things that I love about OSR games in general is that no matter what the quirks of the specific game might be, it usually isn't too hard to convert material from one system to another.  This is even more evident in Swords and Wizardry, which not only has a very simple framework for OSR games  (actually, the oldest framework, so to speak), but the products have a great modular structure to the rules as well.

Swords and Wizardry Complete

There are a couple of reasons I started to specifically take a look at Swords and Wizardry, which go back to my pre-OSR level based kitchen sink fantasy RPG days.  Way back when I was running Pathfinder, Frog God Games put out two products that caught my attention.

The first product was the Tome of Horrors Complete, a massive book with all of the monsters from the 3.0/3.5 Tome of Horrors in one book and updated for Pathfinder.  I snagged the digital version of that book quick, as I love the vibe of a lot of those monsters.

While poking around looking at that, I happened across the Northlands Saga from Frog God Games.  I've always been a sucker for vikings and frozen land adventures, so it was a given that I was going to start picking these up.

The problem became that I was rapidly burning out on Pathfinder.  I just didn't get any joy from drawing battlemaps that the PCs might avoid, spending a half hour of game time figuring out which five foot step was most advantageous, and worrying if my party mix demanded that I slightly tweak an encounter so that it would be "balanced."

I was away from level based fantasy for a while.  I played in a friend's Pathfinder game, but that was for the company, not the game system.  Dungeon Crawl Classics came out, I started looking through it, and I fell in love.  I was so in love that I couldn't get enough.  If I have everything I can pick up for this game, how can I have MORE?

Tome of Horrors Complete--Swords and Wizardry Edition

Then I remembered back when I got my Tome of Horrors Complete.  There was a "Swords and Wizardry" version too.  Wonder if I can use that somehow?  So I picked up the Tome of Horrors Complete for a second time, started looking at the stats, and realized it was all mine, I hadn't lost a thing!

The Northlands Saga

That reminded me that if I still wanted to run my precious Northlands Saga someday, I could do it in a system where I wasn't distracted from my need to overact any viking I portray by juggling numbers and grids.

Not only was all of that true, but anything mundane that might not be immediately needed to run DCC, but that I might remember from my youth and want in the game, I could tack on by looking through the Swords and Wizardry rules.

"I don't see X on the equipment list, how much is it?"

"Um, looks like you can get it for Y."

And that's when the overall power and scope of the OSR really hit me.  You can find so much material in usable form in so many places, and some of the best of that material  (in my case, with monsters and adventures) can be found in Swords and Wizardry.

And There's More . . .

Frog God Games

Frog God Games is running a sale today (and just today) to commemorate Swords and Wizardry Appreciation Day, so if you happen to swing by the site, and use this code:


. . . you can pick up Swords and Wizardry products for 25% off.  Just remember you have to use the code to get the discount.

From the Journal of Angar "Priest" Ween, Imperial Guard Medic (4-11-13); Part Three

Into the Fire

Some of us survived.  Some of us became official Imperial Guardsmen.  It was a long trip to that point, and I'll be honest, lots of it is a blur.  A painful blur, where I'm certain my mouth was open too often.

We were all rounded up for our first mission with very little in the way of a break between the completion of our training and our deployment.  The transport was huge, with many other units from other regiments on it as well.

Those of us that were gathered together were faces that I recognized, one way or another.

Sarge:  I don't know the sergeant's real name.  I've never asked.  I talk a lot, to almost everyone, but I tend to avoid Sarge.  I've seen lots of horrible stuff and it doesn't make me flinch, so why do I avoid Sarge?  Sarge talks to his knives, and I'm pretty sure they answer him.  Someone in a position of authority that is dangerously insane?  Better to stay out of  line of sight.

Chef:  Sarge's personal assistant is suppose to be a great cook.  Sarge talks about him all of the time, and we hear him shouting orders to him.  I still haven't seen him, and after the incident with the knives, I'm not sure if Chef actually exists or not.

Reaper:  I've known Reaper for a while.  He shares my affliction, as he talks constantly, even when it gets him into trouble.  Despite that, he's a bit more of a fighter than I am, and he was tracked into Weapon Specialist training.  Under his seat on the transport was a flamer.

Creaky:  The oldest person in our group, the man's a scrapper and a survivor, and carries around Reaper's ammo for him.  Usually complaining about it.

Brother "Doc":  Because they can't quite trust a penal regiment to be morally upright, we have Brother Doc with us.  Doc has horrible luck.  After several accidents while he was tending to our moral development in training, somehow we started calling him Doc, and despite being the text book Ministorum priest, he didn't have us disciplined or killed for it, so he's okay with me.

Lucky:  Lucky is, as his name would indicate, the luckiest individual any of us know.  He happens onto good fortune like a Commissar upon bad behavior.  That's why most of us agreed that he should be Doc's personal assistant.  I'm sure Doc would explain to us the failings in this metaphysical logic, be we all thought that maybe their luck would cancel one another's out and overall Doc wouldn't die and cause us to have a Ministorum priest with a worse disposition sent to us.

Cort:  Cort is soft spoken, and as unshaken about horrible events as I am.  We talked about all of the things we've seen, and tried to one up one another.  Neither one of us flinched.  Cort has bright eyes and an enjoyable disposition.  She might be the girl of my dreams, except I'm not entirely sure that she is female.  I've only ever seen her  (him?) in full gear.  Every once in a while I think her (his) hands might be a little big . . . there isn't really a good way to resolve this is there?

Bam Bam:  I don't know Bam Bam as well as Reaper, but he's our heavy weapon guy.  He likes to shoot big things, which is good, because that's what he does.  He's got his heavy stubber disassembled to sit under his seat, and every once in a while I notice that he looks a little worried about all of those pieces that are down there.

Alt:  Alt is Bam Bam's second.  Everytime someone says anything, Alt is against it.  He's a natural born dissenter, and I'm pretty sure that he'll get shot by someone official before the day is out.  Hopefully he won't get shot on full auto when Bam Bam is nearby.  Bam Bam seems like the kind of guy I don't want to see get shot.  I think.

Going In

We hit turbulence, and Sarge managed to hear our orders that we were going in hot and to have our gear ready, even though the rest of us just heard static mumbling.  I'm hoping that he was actually hearing the Vox and not his other voices.

As soon as the ship hits the ground, the landing door is open.  We're already out of our element, as we got used to be thrown out of these things, not walking down the boarding ramp.  Apparently the turbulence was enemy fire, and the ship is burning.  Sarge orders Chef to help put the ship out.  I still don't see Chef at this point.

Bam Bam struggles to put his gun back together.  The rest of us head out and see a mass of greenskins in our landing zone.  Orks and gretchins, all over the place.  But they haven't closed yet.  We've got combat shotguns, and they've got, well, Ork stuff, so we have to close before we can fire on them.

I take off after the leading edge of the guardsmen, along with Cort, and we move from cover to cover, trying to keep close to the potential wounded.  At this point, while every one else is carefully finding their range and taking cover, ready to shoot at the Orks as they get closer, Doc and Lucky go running head on towards the Orks, chainsword in the air, bellowing out Ministorum litanies.

It occurs to me that I'm either going to have a lot of chances to patch up Doc, or I'm not going to have to patch him up for very long.  In any event, Cort and I moved up to keep our voice of the Emperor alive, if we could get to him in time.

Bam Bam and Alt started laying down fire with the stubbers, Sarge headed into the fray once he got the efforts to put out the fires on the ship underway, and Reaper and Creaky started to advance close enough to use the flamers.

Doc tore into the gretchins around him, and then got nearly clobbered by the Ork nearby.  I finally moved near him, and waved my mono knife around in a manner that impressed no one.  In between swings I hit Doc with some pain killers and some clotting compound, and when we didn't have any Orks within arm's reach, I pulled out my shotgun.

Cort and I fire off a few rounds in the same general area.  Most of my shots didn't even get through the Ork's thick hides, let alone their armor, but I drew some . . . fluid from them.  Within a few minutes, we had most of the Orks contained, except for one that Reaper set on fire.

That particular Ork was running around in circles saying, "I'z on fire!  I'z on fire! I'z dooin the burney dance!"

Amazingly this went on for a while.  He just wouldn't drop, even though he was obviously distressed by his situation.  We ended up forming a wider circle around where he was running around, made sure we didn't catch one another in the crossfire, and opened up until he was finally put out of his misery.

We have met the enemy, and he is dense.

Making Camp

We had to lug all of the gear off the transport, and started to set up base camp.  I know the Orks were scary, and I know I shouldn't think this, but I almost wish there were more wounded so I could have gotten out of the manual labor.  I'd much rather look at a hacked off arm than carry crates and make camp.

I tried to talk to some of the Long Knives Regiment, but they didn't seem to care for me much.  I want to tell myself that it's because they were looking down on a Penal Colony Regiment, and not because I can't shut up and may have been a little critical about how little they were pulling their weight when it came to hauling crates off the transport.

I wanted to get Doc into bed rest so I could make sure he got healed up, but we weren't going to have time for that, so I reminded myself to check in on him before we got going in the morning, and I settled in to sleep for a scant few hours before we saw more action.

Just before I fell asleep, I remembered that I forgot to look for Chef to see if he really existed.

Monday, April 15, 2013

From the Journal of Angar "Priest" Ween, Imperial Guard Medic (4-11-13); Part Two

Rise of the Shadowcocks

Most of us that were pressed into training for our new Regiment were culled from one of two groups. We were either those of the prison population with sterling records  (relatively speaking), or those that were the worst, most vile, most dangerous members of our "community."

The Imperial Guard is no place for half measures, it seems.

When they assembled us to be herded into the transports to begin our training, they told us exactly how many spaces the transport would have, which was exactly one half of the number of us that were assembled to get on the transport.  In a rare fit of composure, I didn't comment on how this reflected on the ability of our superiors to determine logistical arrangements, and it's a good thing I didn't.  The first training exercise was to see which ones of us would actually make it on the transport.

Before that could completely sink in, our benevolent trainers pointed out that there was only room for half of us in the transport, and none of us were going back to the Cell Block habitation center, allowing us to do that particular bit of math ourselves.

I got on the transport with minimal incident.  Well, I lost a tooth.  What I mean is this:  I didn't kill anyone, and I did my best to do just what I needed to do to get on the transport.  Nothing excessive, and mainly sneaky if I could help it.

Once we were on the transport, I immediately set about trying to tend some of the other "winner's" wounds.  I'm not that nice, but I am my mother's son.  These guys would be fighting along side me.  Better to get them used to seeing me as a boon than a bane to their existence.  Make an impression.  That's what I always say.  Actually, I say a lot more than that, but hopefully my new friends would weigh having their wounds tended against my incessant chatter and life and limb would win out.

Specialized Training

I know what my mother taught me.  I know I can learn more about Medicae and general healing.  However, this book that they gave me, that I'm suppose to consult . . . it's worthless.

There are several procedures that might make sense if you had a full medical facility, which we'll never have in combat.  There are prayers that take so long to recite that the patient will be on his way to the Emperor before I can open my kit.

On the other hand, I know I need to know what page the book should be open to, and what prayers I should be saying, or else I'll be on my way to the Emperor while a more suitable medic cites chapter and verse without doing a damn thing for his patient.

Being me, I said what I thought out loud, once.  I ended up having to spend the day stitching all of the prayers from my handbook onto the flesh of the corpses we got to practice on until I could recite them from memory.  Could have been worse.

Live Fire Exercise

After we had been training for some time, they decided to give us a live fire exercise to prepare us for battle.  They took us and dropped us out of ships  (hooray, we learned we're going to be Drop Troops!) into a remote area that we had to cross and hold for a number of days before they came to extract us.

Now, in our particular block, we had gotten used to a particular form of entertainment.  One of the higher ups had a relation that was a Rogue Trader, and he brought in these flightless hunting birds from a Death World, and we'd bet on the fights between them.

Turns out, the Emperor and his servants love irony.  The area that they dropped us had been seeded with these flightless hunting birds:   shadowcocks.  Damn hard to see in the shadows, nearly as tall as a man, sharp pecker and tearing claws.  Rotten things to deal with when you aren't betting on them from a safe distance.

Lots of wounds, a few deaths, but the most notable thing about the exercise was that Colonel Trask, the man that was going to be our CO, and the functionary on Kommitzar that first brought the birds in for our entertainment from his relations roaming the starts, decided to meet his troops in the field.  He caused quite a stir in the command structure, but it turns out he's actually competent at surviving and shooting straight, and even if he gets better gear than the rest of us, the fact that he put his neck out to prove that he was willing to do this sort of thing made an impression.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

RPG Demo Day at Armored Gopher, Part Two (Finally), (3-23-13)

After I ran my DCC funnel in the early afternoon slot at the store, a few of us went out to lunch, and reconvened for one of the two events scheduled for the evening.  The two evening games were Shadowrun and Deathwatch, and even though, in the spirit of a "demo day" I should have tried Shadowrun.  I've been gaming longer than the game has existed, and never tried it once.  I've seen a million ads for it and had tons of friends play it.  But I missed Deathwatch.

Our players for the evening consisted of two of us that had played in the old Deathwatch campaign, two gamers that had neither played Deathwatch, nor were they active Warhammer players, but were in general acquainted with the setting, and two avid Warhammer 40K players that hadn't played the RPGs before.

Our pregens were as follows:

Space Wolf Wolf Priest/Tactical Marine armed with a Crozius Arcanum and a Storm Bolter

Marines Warrant Tactical Marine/1st Company Veteran/Honor Guard armed with a relic power fist and a Storm Bolter

Blood Angels Librarian/Epistolary/Death Watch Champion with a storm shield and a force sword

Iron Hands Tech Marine/Forge Master armed with a storm shield and an artificer Omnissian axe

Knights of the Raven Tactical Marine/1st Company Veteran/Dead Station Vigil armed with dual Storm Bolters

Dark Angel Assault Marine/Ravenwing Veteran/Deathwing/1st Company Veteran armed with dual lightning claws

All of these guys were Rank 7 and had Terminator Armor.  Huge kudos to my friend +Ryan Porter for putting them together, on his vacation in Florida, for this very event.

Since I was playing a Space Wolf, and another player  (one of the 40K players that hadn't played Deathwatch before, but was familiar with the setting) was playing a Dark Angel, I immediately started to push his buttons and we started to bet on who was going to score more kills that day.

We teleported aboard a Space Hulk to investigate it's mysterious ways, and ran smack into a huge mass of Orks holding the room against something from the outside.  We had massive horde in the room, so we could get used to magnitude for larger bodies of foes, and the Knight of the Raven and his dual Storm Bolters did most of the work, and a massive amount of rolling.

The bet wasn't looking promising for either the Space Wolf or the Dark Angel.

After that, we had a challenge that required us to come up with a logical solution, based on our skills, to get a certain number of degrees of success, the challenge being the massive barricade the Orks made and dismantling it so we could further explore.  I like stuff like this, even if skill challenges have gotten a bad rap over the years, especially if you can get people into explaining what they are actually doing.

We head out, and eventually we make our way through a few more challenges, hit a room that is on fire, which is another challenge like the door challenge above, but one that causes us damage each turn we take in the room without the challenge being resolved.  Eventually we figure our way out of the burning room by blowing down some walkways and having our Iron Hands marine shift some things around for us to walk on through to the other side.

Eventually, we run into a huge area on the ship filled with something that most of us on the mission had no idea about.  At this point in time, when Deathwatch takes place, there is limited knowledge of Necrons, so only our Knight of the Raven had any information on them.  I kept mispronouncing their name every time we ran across something that had to do with them.

The room was huge, and several of the Necrons could get back up when they were killed, so that our Marines Warrent and the Knight of the Raven were busy re-killing the Necrons that went down so they didn't get to act, while the rest of us tried to engage the remaining Necrons.  The area was so huge that it took a while for my Wolf Priest or the Dark Angel to get into melee range.

(I was avoiding the Storm Bolter just because we had so many of them going at once, that I didn't want to slow the game down any more with all of the rolling, and my multiple attacks with the Crozius were a bit simpler to resolve)

The Dark Angel and the Space Wolf were really lagging behind the other guys in kills.  Sad really.  Both of us decided that we really needed to exclude the rest of the marines from keeping track, since it was suppose to be our contest.

The Necrons were obviously looking for something, and we thought it would be a good idea to find it before they did, so we pressed on, and eventually found another room of Orks.  Sort of.

I thought it was a big four armed Ork I was fighting, and I decided to challenge it to a one on one fight, but it turned out that the Ork responded to me in High Gothic, and all of his minions were working together in a disconcertingly non-Orkish manner.

After a long fight with a few "Holy Crap" moments, we killed off the four armed Ork leader and found out that he was actually being controlled by an ancient Shard, which is what the Necrons were interested in tracking down.

We had a lot of fun.  Dual storm bolters are a bit much, especially with a bunch of Rank 7 talents to make them even more impressive.  Still, for a Rank 7 adventure, most of the people not familiar with the system didn't seem to get too lost as we were playing.

Thankfully Ryan got to reuse these pregens for another one shot, so his hard work and diligence wasn't just for our one foray into the Space Hulk.

From the Journal of Angar "Priest" Ween, Imperial Guard Medic (4-11-13); Part One

My Misspent Youth

I was born on Kommitzar, a penal colony in the Calixis Sector.  I'm third generation, meaning, the person that did whatever wretched crime damned us all was my grandparent, but my mother never really talked about her progenitors much.

Loosely speaking, there tends to be three groups of people on Kommitzar:  the planetary governor and his staff, the guards and prison administration, and the inmates, many of whom are several generations removed from the actual person that violated Imperial law . . . although living on Kommitzar in the inmate class tends to mean you end up doing something that would have got you thrown in here eventually anyway.

My mother was our block's healer.  We couldn't count on the officials to take care of the sick and wounded, so people from the population that could figure such things out are in high demand.  My mother was a wise woman.  If she stayed neutral and helped everyone, for a price, and never took sides, we had a much better chance of surviving gang fights and assassination attempts.

That doesn't mean the spill over didn't threaten us from time to time, but our family were rarely the actual targets of any form of violence.  We also had a deal worked out, that anybody that could pay enough got to stay in our place until they healed or died on their own.  The flip side was that we publicly posted who all we had staying with us, so nobody got the bright idea to raid us looking for hidden enemies.

That meant that right outside our door we often saw horrible acts being performed.  I got used to it.  Humans are made of red stringy stuff, so in a violent galaxy, you are bound to see that stringy stuff spill out from time to time.

Remember when I said my mum was a wise woman?  She was good at healing, but everybody has an off day, and sometimes you just can't do anything for a body.  To keep her reputation high, mum would send me out to find someone looking to settle a score with a body under our care that was about to pass on, and let them know we were putting them out, so they would meet their end long before anyone figured out that we couldn't heal them.

So childhood was fun.

Being slightly protected from the greater violence of the colony produced a particular personality quirk in me that I've yet to have fully excised.  When others have an internal monologue that serve to narrate their lives, I have a tendency to speak aloud whatever thought pops into my head.

One of the most notable times when this became a detriment is also the point at which I acquired my moniker of "Priest."  Ministorum Priests like to come to Kommitzar to preach to the inmates, to make sure that we understand that just because the Imperium keeps us pinned up and uses us for hard labor with no chance to escape, we are still part of the Emperor's plan, and we should be happy about it.

On this particular day, I remembered some obscure bit of religious lore that the previous Ministorum priest had extolled to us, and noticed that the current priest had said something contradictory.  Not only did I tell him that he was wrong, I proceeded to stand on a crate, above the crowd, and mimicked  the previous priest's voice and mannerism as I recounted the scriptural error.

I was flogged to within an inch of my life.  If my mother hadn't treated him for something that the local officials had not been able to help with, or that he didn't want to go them to have treated, I probably would have been killed outright.  As it stands, I figured out I'm not so keen on getting flogged.  Still didn't keep my mouth shut.  Similar situations taught me that I didn't like being stabbed, having my jaw broken, or being thrown down a ventilator shaft, but aside from learning what kinds of injuries I'd like to avoid, deep down I just can't quite make the connection between running my mouth and getting those injuries.

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

There had been a previous Regiment of Imperial Guard raised from Kommitzar before.  They were sent off with a Rogue Trader fleet and disappeared in the Koronus Expanse.  So when our population levels were reaching critical, both from within and from the new blood they kept sending us from around the Calixis Sector, the decision was made to raise a new Regiment from our planet.

I'd like to say it was the fact that I was carrying on in the family tradition of learning the rudiments of Medicae that led to me being pressed into the recruitment drive, but it was probably me saying, "I wonder what poor bastards are going to wind up disappearing into void this time?"  that actually got me hooked in.

In the Grim Darkness of Thursday Night, there is Only War (4-11-13)

I'm going to post about the Thursday night game in a few pieces, rather than my usual recap, because now that I'm a player, I want to keep a journal for my poor guardsman, for as long as he lasts.

"What's that, now that you are a player?  But I thought you were running Edge of the Empire on Thursday night?"

Why, yes, Mythical Blog Reader, I was running Edge of the Empire on Thursday nights, and that is the tale I've come here to tell this day.

You see, I'm an idiot, and handed out a billion XP to my players way too early in Edge of the Empire.   I've used the excuse that my brain was wired for Fantasy Flight XP for the 40K games, but mainly, I didn't read good.  So while I enjoyed the setting, the system, and the players, everything had to be amped up to challenge them.

I've said a few times that it too a lot of effort to challenge them.  This isn't strictly true.  It doesn't take nearly as much work to come up with a threat in Edge of the Empire as it did in Pathfinder or Mutants or Masterminds, where there are lots of fiddly moving parts to put in place a certain way to make something work.

However, in my OCD brain, the more I came up with insanely difficult challenges and uber NPCs, the more I was having a hard time reconciling the "reality" of the setting.  The PCs are taking on dozens of foes at once, or dealing with characters that have stats and skills that probably rival the biggest movers and shakers in the galaxy, and yet I'm trying to present them with mid level movers and shakers on the fridge of the Empire.

When it looked like the game might be out by the end of April, I started planning the end game for the campaign, and talked to the whole group about it.  Everyone was good with wrapping up the existing Beta campaign and staring fresh with new characters and a new campaign as soon as the Edge of the Empire core book came out.

Then it got pushed to July.  I was either going to have several months of some of the best the Empire has to offer being underemployed because of my stupid math errors, or we were going to reboot for a short campaign before rebooting again with the full rules.

Now, my friend is leaving us in August.  He's been wanting to run Only War.  We talked.  We put it to the players.  We're playing Only War now, and the crossover time between Edge of the Empire coming out and my friend leaving should give me enough time to read through Edge of the Empire and pick apart the changes from the beta.

We made characters and played a short introductory session.  We have a regiment from a penal colony, currently composed of a heavy gunner, a weapon specialist, a sergeant, a Ministorum Priest, and my medic, with two more players making characters up for the next session.

I'm excited.  I want to keep a journal for this poor ill-fated medic.  I always wanted to do a journal for Rangar, my Space Wolf Devastator marine in Deathwatch, but Rangar wasn't really the type to write in a journal.  He'd probably sing and or orate his latest adventures, with an insane emphasis on the threat level, to whatever group was assembled to eat or drink together in the mess hall.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Pre-Game Craziness . . . We Play Relic Before the DCC Game

My friend picked up a copy of the Relic boardgame from Fantasy Flight and he wanted to know if I wanted to give it a whirl before the DCC game on Thursday.  There were three of us, and to summarize, I had a lot of fun with the game.

I had never played Talisman before, so I was not sure how the game was going to play.  One of us picked the Ratling Sniper, the other took a Sanctioned Psyker, and I took the Rogue Trader.  Before it was all over, the Sanctioned Psyker was out of the game due to corruption  (hm), and was replaced with an Inquisitor.

Essentially you are trying to work your way around the outer and middle ring to build yourself up so you can enter the final ring and deal with the "boss" threat in the center.  Your character has various attributes that level up when you turn in trophies, and you add those attributes to your die rolls when you resolve tests.  You also pick up influence markers, that you can use to buy various things based on where you land on the board.

Ultimately, you want to end up snagging a Relic or two, which give you some neat abilities, and then move into the final ring until you meet up with the boss and hopefully beat him.  If you die, you lose your stuff and start over in one of the corners of the outer ring, and if you gain too much corruption, you leave the game and start fresh, with no levels or anything, with a new character.

What is kind of nice about the game is that the rules seem to reinforce the fiction of the game.  When I played my Rogue Trader as going for as much influence as I could, that seemed to play into my strengths.  Unfortunately, our ratling sniper had some really bad luck and was actually further behind then the Inquisitor was, which was that player's second character.

We also had some fun moments where the Inquisitor was continually recruiting my character to help him fight some massive threats, over and over again.  The Inquisitor's player also seemed to keep getting some of the oddball mission, such as getting defeated.

Fairly early on we got some heavy hitter opponents on the board, such as Greater Daemons with an attribute of 12  (the top score that I noticed for anything).  On top of this, we determined that the new store location doesn't like our dice, and forced us to roll horribly for most of the game  (except when one of us was rolling for the bad guys, when we got multiple sixes going).

I'd definitely play it again.  I made it to the "boss" twice, and "sort of" defeated him, because I made my first test against him just as we called the game to start DCC for the night.  I'm looking forward to getting a chance to play the game again, and seeing how the different characters might chance the play experience.

As always with Fantasy Flight, the game is gorgeous, but man does Fantasy Flight get their money's worth from those two part black circular things that they put together their dials with.  Also, after the low die rolls that went on all night, we determined that we're going to need to bring a stack of character sheets or something to sacrifice to the spirit of the new location of the game store before our dice are back to normal.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

From the Bar to the Graveyard and Back Again (Dungeon Crawl Classics Recap, 4-4-13)

The intrepid adventurers had just survived a slightly modified version of Perils of the Sunken City, and had then survived an attack by an all elf rival band of adventurers looking for the magical ring that Granshee is in possession of, which he first picked up way back in the funnel that started the campaign.

The mercenary captain that was in the employ of their old friend, the inquisitor, just happened to be in Mustertown betting on the noobs, and recognized Aelanthea, one of the two survivors from the original adventuring party, and offered to take them out to the best places to carouse in the entire Great City.

Thus began our use of the Carousing Rules.  As a side note, the Carousing Rules were, in their initial form, created by +Jeff Rients, who also once ran his old school murderfests at Armored Gopher Games.  So this was just like the rules coming home again.  Thanks to +Jeremy Deram and +John Carr for modifying the rules for DCC.  They can be found here:

As a result, two of the PCs ended up owing money to a dwarf crime boss that changed his voice mid dialogue from Marlon Brando to Robert De Niro  (DeNiro is easier for me to maintain).  Another PC woke up naked without any equipment to speak of in a temple of appreciative folk.  Aelanthea ended up calling on divine favor and received a quest.

After the epic night of carousing, Brother Largen, of the Office of Adventurer Guidance and Procurement of the Greater Temple of the Lords of Order, approached their henchmen Undrel, who was himself too broke to be irresponsible.

Brother Largen's job, in part, is to make sure that adventurers are gainfully employed in a manner that benefits society, so if they appear to be idle for too long, or to be causing too much mundane trouble locally, his branch of the Temple has the job of finding things for them to do that would be for the greater good.

In this case he offered them to either investigate a fortress near a village to the east which has been the source of mysterious disturbances, or for the party to travel much further to the north, to deal with the troubles facing the town of Hirot as it is stalked by a monster.  Largen offered them more money for the fortress than for Hirot, so they assumed Hirot to be the easier job, but promised to take the other job as well and talked him out of the retainer for both jobs before they left.

Of course, Hirot was also further away, and thus afforded more chances for random encounters.  The whole party was mounted, but it would still take them about two weeks to reach the northern town on horseback.

Keep in mind at this point the party is composed of a 1st level warrior henchmen, a halfling, a thief, and a cleric  (all 1st level), and 2 elves  (both 2nd level, and one of them not currently with the party).  So 5 1st level characters and 1 2nd level character at this point.

The first encounter I roll is at dusk at the end of the first week, rain pouring down  (-1 die to everybody's action dice, even the bad guys), with a party of 10 orcs.  What happens next I briefly felt bad about, until I used old school judge logic to absolve myself.

The 10 orcs take out all but one of the 1st level characters, and the elf manages to save the surviving two PCs with a maxed out sleep spell that Spellburns him to the max.  All of the PCs that dropped, as well as Undrel, fail their "recovering the bodies" check, and die.

Now, I felt bad about this at first.  Then I put myself back in my old school frame of mind.  Most of the PCs acted first, and were mounted, and got off their mounts to attack a force that was larger then they were, assuming that they could "handle" orcs.  It would have been fairly easy to stay on the horses and run from the orcs, but the group was sure about their ability to kill them.

So the session stopped for a surprisingly short period of time for the group to make up three more 1st level characters.  Oddly, one of the players has a notebook filled with already generated new characters.  Huh.

From here on be spoilers for Doom of the Savage Kings, so ye have been warned!

The survivors traveled to Hirot and only ran into some nomads in the meantime.  I decided that the new PCs would be adventurers already heading to Hirot that just happened to arrive at the same time that the survivors got there.  The PCs had barely begun to introduce themselves when a mass of people from within Hirot brought out a bound girl to tie her to a sacrificial altar.

The one of the new adventurers began to ask why they were sacrificing this girl, and when they were told that she might stave off the anger of the Hound of Hirot, the new adventurers were skeptical that a dog was that dangerous.  After some heated words about hounds, dogs, and what constituted each, one of the new adventurers decided to decapitate one of the villagers.

The mob broke and ran for the town, barring the gates.

Initially the new adventures had thought to free the girl, but when she was upset over the death of one of the villagers that brought her out to the altar, it occurred to the new adventurers that perhaps she would be a really good decoy to bring out the Hound so that they could kill it.  One of them was an assassin by trade, and hid behind the altar.

The surviving adventurers were staying a safe distance from the new ones at the moment.

The Hound arrived, didn't look like a dog at all, and managed to kill the girl that they left on the altar. The assassin backstabbed it, and the Hound was killed, but then dissolved into a greasy smoke that the PCs lost track of in the forest.

The decapitating barber decided to demand payment for killing the Hound.  At this point a discussion about the differences between a protection racket and extortion began, but the villager slipped up and mentioned that legend had it that the Hound could only be killed by a legendary spear in the nearby barrow mound.

At this point, the assassin pointed out that once they had the only spear that could kill the Hound permanently, then they might resort to extortion.

Fritz and Aelanthea  (the survivors of the original band) reluctantly followed the new adventurers to the barrow mound, and when they arrived in the clearing, and approached the bodies of water that guarded the entrance, the assassin drove his dagger into the silvery water, having heard that silvery pools might be magical and give his weapon special properties or something like that.

A water spirit in the form of a snake attacked, and the assassin decided to try and use his blowgun to drink the corporeal form of the creature.  I will fully admit that I lost all sense of reason around this point, especially due to the exact words used to explain the sucking attack that was attempted.  The water spirit was eventually defeated, and we called it a night at that point, and my face hurt from the amount of laughing that went on.

Lest anyone get the wrong impression of the group, the horrible mishaps, like cutting off the villagers head, felt a lot more like a Cohen brothers movie than bullying, mean, villainous adventurers.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

RPG Demo Day at Armored Gopher Games, Recap Part the First (3-23-13)

Every so often the FLGS has an opening on a Saturday and they fill it with an interesting event.  Last month, the FLGS held an RPG demo day to give people a chance to run games for people that may not have had a chance to play a given system yet.

There were three tables for the morning event, and two tables for the evening event.  The morning RPGs were to be Feng Shui, Dungeon World, and my own Dungeon Crawl Classics one shot funnel.  Unfortunately, Feng Shui and Dungeon World didn't quite have enough players to field a table, so my DCC game absorbed some other gamers.

I didn't sign up to run the event until about two weeks out, so I threw together my event in about a week's time.  You can see the basic adventure outline here:

Castlevania DCC Funnel PDF

I wanted a way to simulate the timer in Castlevania, because, well, I died because of that stupid thing before.  I also wanted to hit some obviously recognizable areas that have shown up in multiple versions of the game.

Essentially for most encounters, I had some guidelines for how much time the fast and dangerous option would take, and how long the more time consuming, careful, or obvious solution would take.  Every time the clock advanced to show one hour had passed, a random PC would die.

We only had one character die this way, but that still made the clock feel like an actual presence in the game, which I liked.

As for the actual funnel, PCs had to run up stairs guarded by bone throwing skeletons, jump over rifts with flying medusa heads lunging at them, fight a giant bat, try not to get pulled into the water and/or mud by Deep Ones and Mud Men, fight a two headed sea serpent, battle up a flight of stairs past animated suits of armor, dodge fireballs from dragon skull cannons, and figure out how to lift the curse put on the castle and the PCs by a rival of Dracula.

I loved some of the character details that came out over the course of the game, like the personality of Dirty Pete Belmont, the ditch digger, or that the outlaw may have actually killed and stolen the identity of an actual Belmont.

In the continuing tradition of my DCC games, the PCs figured out a way to set the Giant Bat boss monster on fire from a distance.  Fire + distance = effective adventuring.

In the end, one of the religious minded PCs managed to say a prayer posted on one of the walls to reverse the curse on the castle  (in retrospect, I should have made the DC higher, but it still worked out well).  This particular incident led me to ponder if I should let PCs "promise" to become a certain class in order to have partial access to class features if the funnel allows it, i.e. characters that are going to become priests being able to use prayers or holy objects or characters that are going to become wizards being able to attempt scrolls.

I had several "sanctified" objects, including a whip, a dagger, and a throwing axe, that weren't magical on their own, but could be "charged" with abilities by apply holy oil to them to give them a number of uses.  Amusingly several of the characters died in such a manner so as to make these items no longer available to the party.

Am I evil for enjoying the fact that the character death's thus provided a double screw over to the group?

Everyone seemed to have a really good time.  Even people that had come for more roleplaying heavy systems seem to really be enjoying making up backgrounds based on the zero level character's profession, and coming up with skillful applications of their professions in game.

By the end of the funnel, everyone was down to one character, with, I think, three of the players on their first or second character after their initial four were eliminated.  Thus ended the first slot of RPG Demo Day, and lunch was had.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Big Fish--Dungeon Crawl Classics Recap (3-21-13)

Before I start, let me just say, spoilers of Perils of the Sunken City from Purple Sorcerer Games, should you still be a stranger to the pages of said folio.  Ye have been warned.

When last we left the intrepid band of adventurers in my Dungeon Crawl Classics game, they had been paid off to head to the Great City, and wandered into Muster Town, home of low level adventurers in the collapsing Sunken City ward of the city.  There, they got horrible fortunes  (except their henchmen, who is apparently bound for greatness) and used the Sending Stone to arrive at the ruins of an ancient area.

Brother Wilbur, cleric of Cthulhu had ventured under the floor of arena, ran into a mob of skeletons, and after turning two of them, the rest battered him into a sound sleep.  His companions spent a while trying to figure out how to get past the spikes and the electrified plate at the bottom of the arena, until Aelantha, the non-mutant elf, determined that the corpses of fallen opossum men are insulated and useful to walk over.

Safely arriving under the arena, there was an epic, pitched battle against the skeletons that had violently induced Brother Wilbur's impromptu nap.  The chain wielding skeletons dropped Undrel the Henchmen, and did grievous harm to others in the party.  I'll admit to being a bad Judge at this point, because I lost track of exactly which encounters caused "near death," other than to remember that it happened a few times through the night.

Because there were holding cells in the area under the arena, the group decided to lock themselves into one of them and rest so as to give themselves time to heal up.  Brother Wilbur's injuries were such that he could not be awakened  (and his player was gone for the night).  About a day into their rest, I had them roll some luck checks to see if anything found them.

There is an area in the adventure where a multitude of slugs are singing and worshiping a pair of purple slimes, and I ruled that staying in one place for too long, the slimes may have ventured forth out of their fountain, and a pitched battle ensued.  After lots of sloppy wet noises, victory was gained by the PCs, and they went about resting again.

A few nights later, they were awakened by a procession of sad singing slugs that had made a pilgramage to the site of the death of their gods.  The PCs were suitably haunted by the dirge singing slugs, but they managed to forgive themselves for killing the slimes.

Once they started exploring again, Drewman, the halfling, wandered away from the party and found a huge cavern that led to a beach filled with glowing crawfish and with an island on the other side of the water in the cavern.  Drewman was about to go to town on the crawfish, being an excellent chef and all, but realized that he was alone and unlucky, and small enough to be an appetizer.

Granshee, the heavily mutated elf, found a secret door, and the party found various and sundry delights and adventuresome rooms.  The group had a lot of fun figuring out ways to break open several jars that were either filled with coins or deadly poison gas.

Eventually the group found a room in which was planted an evil tree, grown from seeds procured from the Abyss.  It promised to give Granshee secrets if he would make a sacrifice to the thing, but Granshee, being at least somewhat prudent, decided that a tree would have a hard time running from fire, and so used his magic ring to burn it down from the hallway.  Then the group gleefully looted what was left of the dread hellwood.

Perhaps the most beloved treasure found in the arena was the set of magically enhanced towels that cleaned themselves whenever they were shook.  Everclean towels, what every adventurer seeks.  Undrel considered retiring, but then thought that becoming a king might top have a magic towel.

In the cavern wherein lay the island, the group pondered long and hard to figure out how to best the giant mutant catfish that swam the waters around the island.  They went back to the library in one of the chambers and made a boat out of bookshelves, and crossed the water, but the catfish took its toll.


On the other side, the group read the journal of an adventurer that died on the island, apparently after speaking with the fish, and decided the journal was hilarious and would be a nice gift for the old fortune teller in Mustertown.  They then set about devising elaborate plans to best the fish, once again, but this time, Drewman amazingly pulled the fish onto land long enough for the rest of the group to fillet him.

There was much fish jerky made by Drewman for provisions, before the group returned topside.

The group decided to explore the viewing box in the area, which they previously skipped, and after several of the adventurers injured themselves by failing to climb the wall, Aelanthea again proposed that the opossum men bodies not only insulated, but provided a cushion for falling adventurers, and the group found the treasure in the viewing box, which included the robes of a former lord of the Great City and his rod, which would have controlled the skeletons below.

Their desire for adventure satiated, the band of rouges headed back to the stone that would send them back to Muster Town.  After the disorienting teleportation, they dropped off their gift with the old fortune teller, and were then accosted by a band of elves, offering to pay 5,000 gold coins for Granshee's magic ring.

Granshee knew that the proper response to someone offering to take a magical ring is to clutch it close to one's body and make threats, and did so.  The elven adventurers that attacked the party were well versed in the art of monologue fighting, and as such delivered enough exposition during their battle for Granshee to learn that he was wearing the Ring of Sezrekan, the ring of a powerful ancient sorcerer, that the elves held as a patron.  They claimed that ring had more powers than Granshee realized, and that it was far more useful to them, as traffickers with Sezrekan.

The elves all died horribly, as is the lot of those that attack protagonists, and the party relaxed and began to count their loot, until they realized that Brother Wilbur had been unconscious for days at this point.  Worried about him, they speculated as to his health, but then a tentacle came out of his nose, patted him on the head comfortingly, and the party knew that he would be alright the next time they were ready to adventure.

Oh, and the elves have a globe with the trapped souls of three wizards in it who are bound to teach them spells, which the picked up off of the dead elves that assaulted them.