Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The party continues pt.3

So they got away and made it back to town and everyone was glad.

Oh, you'd like more detail?  At the start of the session, the gang was trapped in a dead end temple area  in the dwarven ruins by some nasty brown mold that would freeze them if they tried to return down the corridor from whence they arrived.  Thedric decided that  the answer was to use the giant bugbear (for in truth this is what the poor creature was) they had dispatched at the end of the last session.  Hoping to use it's thick pelt (and organs) to protect them from the cold, he and Tom gutted the now cold beast and crawled inside.  Then they proceeded to hunch their way down the hallway and past the mold taking only minor frost damage.  An unsavory river crossing puzzle followed as they used procedure to retrieve the rest of the party.  Henril decided that there was no way he would crawl into a bugbear and made a run for it, luckily only taking minor damage from the cold.

Back in the dungeon proper the party decided that they still desired to loot the ancient ruin, indeed they were more curious than before and now desired to find who or what had chained the hideous beast to the temple dais.   Then they heard a shout from down the hallway and they ran towards the noise.  They reached the room where they had almost been wiped out by goblins and found two goblins fighting over what appeared to be a child in a sack.  Once they had dispatched the goblins, they opened the sack and found it contained a beaten and unconscious halfling*.  They decided to take the halfling and return to the surface and rest, but upon their return they discovered that their cart and driver were gone.  They searched and found signs of a returning goblin party which began chasing their driver as well as the tracks of the two goblins who had returned with the halfling.  They followed the wagon tracks towards the forest but did not find it** and with darkness coming and a wounded halfling to carry, they decided to make a hidden camp and rest in the woods.
The next day they decided to return to the ruins. The halfling had woken and after recalling what little she could about being waylaid on the south road by goblins, decided to join the band with the loan of a sling and a goblin short sword.  I am certain that over time her memory will recover.

They re-entered the old dwarven halls and made their way to an old iron door which was locked.  Remembering the key they had found (along with the note about the secret store room), they tried it in the lock and indeed, with some careful turning of the rusted mechanism , it worked.  The door opened onto a long hallway full of dust that sloped downwards.  Down they went, careful and quiet until they came to a small guard room and a prison cell with it's inhabitant long dead and now only dry bones.  A careful search turned up an old cracked parchment with a strange diagram on it.  On the way back up the sloped hall Henril found that they had somehow activated a trap.  After pulling the iron darts out of his leg he found that the trap appeared to extend along the entire hallway at frequent intervals.  After pulling the second iron dart from his leg, he decided that someone else should go first and so the party decided to use a staff to carefully prod the floor ahead of them and they eventually made it back to the top of the hallway.  After a careful examination of their map, the gang saw that they had only one hallway left to explore and this one led to a old wooden door that looked to be swollen and rotted with damp.  After chopping their way through the wood, the party discovered what appeared to be a large kitchen full of dripping mold and rusty fixtures.  Old roots and cracks in the fireplace appeared to have let water from the surface seep in.   They made a cursory inspection but decided against messing with the greenish slime dripping from the walls and turned to leave.  As they came back out the ruined wooden door they were ambushed by a pair of furry creatures with bows.  A brief fight ensued with the two creatures, but the party prevailed and dispatched them with minor damages sustained.  The party decided that they had explored the ruins and would find no more treasure here, and they decided to leave in order to get a decent distance from the ruins before dark.  Eventually they came to the road through the forest and met a troop of the baron's solders who after a brief show of force allowed them to travel with them back to Milham.

It was a little shorter session this time and once they made it back to town, they realized that the player who had written down most of the loot from the previous sessions had taken his notebook with him and was not here.  They wanted to spread some of their loot around so I allowed them to divvy up 1500 sp which I knew they had found and had them write up an IOU so we could sort it out later.  Christina (the Druid) used the XP purchasing rules (one sp per xp) to buy 200 xp which were enough to push her up to level 2.  All in all it was a pretty good 'adventure' and I'm glad things worked out as they did.  Slight SPOILERS for my players, I used a great module as the basis (modified naturally) for this first dwarven ruin: An Abandoned Fortress by Crooked Staff Productions.  It is a good solid module which isn't too linear and which can fit well into most campaigns I think.  Between my map of the area and the supplementary 'modules' available for free and in print I really like how the adventure is shaping up.  Using the sandbox philosophy means that once I have determined where things are and accounted for some 'drift' and random encounters, things are pretty much fixed in space.  There will be areas where there is more or less combat or empty places or places with no treasure, but it also makes things seem more realistic as player decisions as well as random chance have impact on what happens.

As for game mechanics - well I am still wondering if the Hunter is working out, that additional attack seems a bit strong at first level and since their attack bonus for missile weapons is the same as the fighter it appears they will always be a little more dangerous.  I think this could be cured by either not allowing missile weapons to be used close range (having a concept of point-blank or engaged) or by removing the special missile attack bonus (but not the damage?).  Both these ideas have merit and are problematic in their own ways.  It was mentioned that the Hunter might even be superfluous, really a fighter who put a lot into survival could accomplish essentially the same thing.

BUT I'm still having fun, and it seems the players are as well - so all in all this is a great success.

*a little person who was not overly rotund or folksy, and who wore shoes.
**The party did eventually find what was left of the cart, however the horse and the driver were gone.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Tech Interlude

Yes yes, I owe you another session report and I'll get it done before I forget what happened (I have a memory like a steel trap!)  However I have been preoccupied with some work things and with my new iPad.  A large part of the reason I picked up the iPad as opposed to an Android pad was because of the large app library and the elusive promise of support applications for role playing (and gaming in general).  I think in a year or so the Android pads will be pretty sweet, with some nice swap-able storage features and there should be some great apps available by that time too.  Living in Canada I can't get excited by the all this 'your data in the cloud' news simply because our ISPs are charging so much for data plans.  I haven't found anything very useful as 'apps for the GM' yet but I do have some high hopes for map making/using with the large number of sketch tools available.  I did find a little sound board that has lightning, rain, some roaring and a couple generic screams which could be fun to whip out during a game but it's pretty limited really.  Even if the apps are duds however, it is still a great help to be able to carry around all the modules and rules that I have on file (like Laser Ponies!) in such a small package.

And I do have to say that the Beacon PDF is awesome on the iPad.  I'm using Good Reader mostly but I did drop Beacon into the iBooks library as well where it appears as a nice little spiral bound tome on the virtual bookshelf. In both apps the Beacon PDF looks nice, is easy to read, the index is functional so you can simply tap and it takes you to that section, and best of all you can search it.  I did find it a bit futzy downloading from google docs (the download link is at the bottom of the viewer page - not intuitive) so I'm going to put up an alternate download only link to it as soon as I get some storage sorted out.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The party continues pt.2

One thing you might take note of if you've been following the Our Adventure so Far... posts about this Beacon play test is the fact that the party has been pretty successful in combat.  Aside from Tom getting a bit beat up and having to spend a few days convalescing, no one has been killed, maimed or turned into a newt as yet.  I'm not the type to try to build a body count, I didn't want Beacon to be the kind of game where players just don't die as the default.  There is no appropriate encounter level mechanic in Beacon, and how I want to run it, if you just run up and fight everything you find I expect you will loose a bunch of characters.  These were first level characters and they were running pell-mell into a lot of encounters with 4 or 5 opponents at a time- and they were generally cleaning up.  I was worried that I had a balance problem here.

I was also trying to figure out if the rest and recovery system was working properly.  The Beacon ability score healing rules can hand out some pretty steep time outs for characters who get hurt (remember it's one point per day per point below their normal score).  I wanted there to be a happy medium between the consequence free damage of a D&D or a Microlite and the long healing times of something like Savage Worlds.  I didn't want to have characters having to take a week off to heal after every decent fight, but I wanted the fights to matter.

Anyway, when we last left our heroes they were sitting on a hill outside a cave...

The party fired up their lanterns and torches and went back into the ruins.  They went back to the rooms they had fought the goblins in and noticed that the bodies had been taken away.  They delved deeper into the complex and came to a large high room with large stone pillars.  Suddenly crossbow bolts came flying from above and they spied a number of goblins up on a crude rope gantry between the pillars.  Battle was joined.  While Tom and Luc returned fire, Thedric cast a charm on one of the goblins.  Henril tied a rope to his torch and tossed it up into the gantry where it burned the ropes and brought it down as they dispatched all the goblins. The party was slightly wounded but they continued exploring, coming to another large room which had overturned tables and benches as barricades from which they saw more goblins peeping out.  Again a full on charge and they rushed the barricades, killing one goblin and sending the others fleeing down a dark hallway.  They characters gave chase and followed them into a small room where there were more goblins - 6 in total.  Now I had been rolling pretty well this session and although the players were doing great, they were taking damage.  As they piled into the fray and started taking more damage it soon became apparent that this might not have been a good idea.  They managed to kill two of the goblins but one by one they were taken down and soon everyone except Thedric (who had been hanging back out of the fight with a goblin he had charmed) was unconscious or on their last legs.  It looked like a TPK.  Rather than fleeing, he opted to cast Disguise Self - not a true illusion but as it was busy and dark and he was with a goblin companion, I allowed that that goblins wouldn't detect the ruse.  As the last (but one) PC went down Thedric began to 'loot' the bodies and quickly pulled out the scorpion venom from Henril's pack.  He pretended this was a delicious treat and quickly the remaining goblins gulped it down*  - and fell to the floor poisoned!  His goblin companion was most impressed with this and though it a good strategy as now they had a greater share of the loot between them.  Thedric and his companion started to drag the unconscious bodies out of the ruins, unfortunately as they were bringing them out, they were attacked by a giant bat and barely made it out with the other three PCs - and were forced to leaving their hired man Luc.  Thedric said goodbye to his goblin companion and quickly started driving the wagon back to town - hoping to get some distance from the ruined hall before dark.

I bet you're happy to see this dude again. 
Now I'm a fan of the random encounter table and I had been using a some simple 1d10 tables, one for the forest road, one for the hills, and one for the swamps.  I'd roll three times a day for an encounter with a 25% chance of one occurring and then roll a d10 on the appropriate table.  When the party was returning wounded from the 'haunted' hobgoblin building in the second session, I rolled a wandering woodcutter.  If I had rolled bandits or goblins or a bear things probably would have ended differently.  Well this time as they fled into the twilight, I rolled an encounter and again it was a wandering woodcutter.  
The party, badly beaten - all at 1-2 hp and Henril at -5 STR, paid the woodcutter a gold coin per night to let them recover in his house.   They stayed there 3 days resting and healing before they decided to leave.  As they had invested a lot into the venture and so far with no return, they were determined to go back and find some treasure.  

The party was back up to snuff with the exception of Henril who was at full HP but still weakened.  He had not been able to heal up a STR point as yet (that would take 5 days).  They journeyed back to the ruins and quickly traced their steps back to the room where they had been beaten.  They found the goblin bodies where they left them and also the body of their retainer Luc.  They also noted that there were strange footprints which led them to believe that someone or something had followed their path from their last visit.
In the very next room they found what they were after, a locked store room which had three small chests filled with silver.  They continued exploring, in another room finding a key and an ancient note mentioning 'a [secret] storeroom north of the well'.   They did not meet any more goblins but they did find an old forge and a river fed pool that contained a crocodile (which the druid calmed and then much to her chagrin the others dispatched).  Determined to find the secret store room they pressed on and came across a suspiciously cold room.  After trying to figure out the cause of the cold (brown mold) and having it double in size and intensity on them, Henril decided to charge through the room to the hallway beyond.  He made it through but passed out in the hallway just beyond and the party (after a short discussion) had to also charge through to rescue him.  Having made good use of the Goodberry spell, the druid handed out enough berries to revive the party and, having no way to get back to the entrance, they decided to rest in an alcove further down the hallway.     

I am not a monster and I like the game to move along so I am in favour of allowing players to get back partial hp for short rests.  I don't want to have a situation where this gets abused however and I think that managing hp, food and light is one of the more interesting aspects of the game.  I allowed back half hp for their rest, which was probably a bit too much.  I think in the future I would do something like say you can gain back 2-3 hp per hour rested if it's under a certain amount - like 4 hours.  Once you hit 4 hours then you can hand out 1/4 or 1/2 their hp back depending on the quality of the rest.  These little 'breathers' would be good to lubricate the game I think, certainly letting them get out of some sticky situations.

Anyway the party was partly recovered and decided to check out the end of the hallway since there were carvings and it looked like they were near some interesting feature (and they couldn't go back past the mold, now being without any berries).  They came on an old temple dedicated to the Lords of Order and since ransacked.  In the middle of the temple was a large hairy beast chained to a dias.  They moved to attack it and battle was joined.  Once it smelled them it rushed to the end of it's chain, throwing heavy benches and trying to punch Henril who had brazenly run up to face it.  They dispatched the poor thing and proceeded to search the chamber, finding some silver and gold ornaments hidden in the dais.

All in all a good session, probably the best one yet in my mind.  Once I calculated the experience we found that most of the party had passed the magic 1000xp mark (they'd been averaging 250-300 per session) and I decided to level them on the spot rather than making them return to town first since it was the first level up and they were trapped in the dungeon.  I am glad I didn't follow through with my plan of giving them a level per session which would have allowed a decent test of the leveling mechanic but probably wouldn't have been useful since it has taken some time to get things going.  They would have been level 4 before learning how the fighting works and I wouldn't have any idea as to how the lower level monsters and situations were working out.  I had been worried that the combat was too easy but this session showed how quickly things could turn around on them.

*when things get interesting, go with it I say.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The party continues pt.1

I think this last weekend was the fourth Beacon session we've played and the players finally made it to level 2.  The interesting thing is that they almost didn't make it, and without the quick thinking of Thedric they probably would have ended up as goblin chow.  I guess I haven't been keeping up with the narrative so here's a brief breakdown of the previous two sessions.

Since the first adventure, the party had made their way to the town of Milham and decided to try to collect a 500 gp reward for the bandit leader.  Realizing that this large reward must entail a great risk, they decided to earn some money (and experience) by exploring some old dwarvin ruins a few days south of the town.  They spend their little money on a map of the country and on a treasure map.  On their first outing they ran into some merchants who were fleeing from a haunted building in the woods.  They investigated and found that it was actually a band of hobgoblins who were using the building to trap and rob passing travelers.  They managed to kill and drive away the hobgoblin tribe and recovered a couple boxes of fine silverware and some 50gp.  They also retrieved three horses and a couple carts.  However in the combat Tom, the hunter, was wounded (down 3 STR) and so they returned to town so he could recover (by staying in the church under the care of healers, he sped the normal rate of healing from 3+2+1 or 6 days to 3).  

While in town they sold two horses and one of the carts and then tried (and failed) to make a secret rendezvous with a shady fellow in order to gather more information about the bandits.  Disheartened by their failure, and now were back at strength, they all bought some fancy hats and then they decided to travel back to the hills and find the dwarven ruin and hopefully a bunch of loot.  They hired a fighter named Luc on as extra muscle, Luc having worked with Henril as a caravan guard back in the first session. 
This time they made it to the hills.  On leaving the road to journey to the ruins the random encounter table came up with a stag and so they hunted it down.  While cleaning the stag, the blood smell attracted a group of huge scorpions which they managed to dispatch.  Henril decided to collect the scorpion venom in the jars he had brought with him (for just such an eventuality perhaps).  Emboldened by their victory, they traveled east, following the instructions on the map until they found the dwarven marker stones indicating an ancient hold.  They searched and found the entrance, a cleft in the rocks hidden by undergrowth.  Inside it was pitch black but they fired up their torches and alerted the nearby goblins of their presence.   Shrugging off the hail of crossbow bolts they charged down the dark hallway and managed to kill the goblins on watch.  Then they made their way further down the hallway, finding and dispatching another group of goblins.  All in all they did quite well in the combat but they were somewhat wounded, and since it had been afternoon when they entered the ruin, they decided to head back to the wagon before it got dark.  They made their way back and out of the complex by late afternoon and rested in the wagon, leaving Luc to keep watch.  Sure enough once it was dark a small band of goblins snuck out of the entrance, but Luc had heard them approaching. The party was onto them in a flash, and with a modest amount of luck, dispatched them right quickly.

So that's a quick rundown of session 2 and 3. I'll write up session 4 and then get into my thoughts in the next post.

On a related note, my 10 year old daughter ran her first game last weekend.  Her and my youngest, and their friend had a sleepover and they wanted to play some Laser Ponies.  I was agreeable, but my daughter turned to me and said "but can I do the part where you tell what happens?".  Naturally I was pleased.  She did a great job of it too. I sat with them and helped them make their characters, and listened in for the first 10 minutes or so.  At first she was telling the younger ones what they were doing but I said that she should just tell them what they saw, but let them decide what to do.  She got it right off and they happily had a grand adventure with raccoons, bears, a three eyed monster and probably the fastest take down of the Chasm Queen anyone ever heard of.  There was a little bleed-through from their games of Beacon, as the bears were carrying silver pieces and the ponies all had little jack-knives and weren't shy about using them.  I believe a few liberties were taken with the rules but I think that it was a great victory none the less.