Thursday, August 23, 2012

A stranger comes to town

As mentioned before, things are not good in Milham, so when Kane the mage came to town he quickly decided that the rumours of prosperity and enterprise in the Westmarches were just that - rumours. It was plainly obvious that this was the backwater of civilization and he wanted nothing more than to return to Kingstown and be done with it. However he had come to find his brother Hollaway and so he started asking around. He quickly fell in with jaded mercenaries Henril and Anastanja (Ann), and found out from Ann that she and Hollaway had gone treasure hunting in the hills to the south and that in one of the old dwarven ruins Hollaway and their other companion Pik had been overwhelmed by goblins. She had barely escaped and was not eager to return, however when pressed she agreed to show them where the ruin was. Eventually their discussion caused the strange old man in the corner to interrupt them. This unkempt fellow introduced himself as the Abbot of a monastery near the town of Whitewater and said that he was interested in a certain book which might be found in a monastery of his order to the south. Naturally this monastery had been overrun some time ago and no one had heard from the monks for many decades.   He gave them rough directions to the southern monastery and said  he was willing to offer 20 gold crowns if the adventurers found and supplied him with this tome in their travels.

He looked a little like this, but much dirtier
This is where things went a bit sideways. Although Kane was willing to take this transaction at face value, he did recall that the order the monk mentioned was one noted for being a fringe sect with a spotted reputation. Henril and Ann were not satisfied they were getting the full story and so followed the old man back to the Seven Stones inn and bribed the innkeeper to tell them which room he was staying in and to look the other way. Then they marched up the stairs, knocked and then kicked in the door. The old man was attempting to climb out the window so they captured him and much to Kane's growing horror, roughly interrogated him. They found that he wasn't actually the abbot, more likely a monk who had lifted some materials from the abbot and who was looking top acquire more relics and items in an effort to buy off his pursuers. He insisted that he had the means to pay for the book, however he was not going to tell them where that money was.  They warned him that if he tried to leave town they would hunt him down and kill him which might be the equivalent to a handshake for this gang.  Then they bought a donkey and cart, some overpriced food and hit the south road.

Naturally they met a woodcutter right out the gate.  He was the nice man who had let them stay in his cabin to heal some while ago.  The woodcutter informed them that he had taken the money they paid him and had bought him a fine wife to chop the wood while he brought it to the market.  He thanked them for allowing him to double his business.  They continued south for a day and a half, passing said wife, before their next encounter - a young ogre!  The ogre surprised the party and caused their donkey to dump the cart and flee, but they managed to dispatch it pretty easily.  They retrieved their ass, and continued on into the hills where they encountered a stag and managed to take it down.  The dim witted hired man managed a terrible field dress of the stag and they got a meagre amount of meat from it.  The next day had them travelling the hills uneventfully and they passed the ruins where Hollaway met his demise.  They decided to give it a pass for the moment and continue on to find the monastery.  They were waylaid by goblins that night and managed to dispatch them - but not without a decent fight.  They travelled through some forested hills and there was a bit where Henril fought a pair of wolves.  They eventually managed to find the high hill that the monastery was on, and after searching the area they found a promising cave entrance.  However it was getting late and since they were near Red Towers castle they decided to press on to rest there before entering the caves.


I like that the random encounters shape the story.  I would have never planned for the woodcutter to be such a campaign fixture but he has become one because I keep rolling woodcutters.  I would have never thrown an ogre along the road by design, but it came up on the encounter table and provided some needed colour.  I am also pleased at how the revised hit points are working out.  I think that the battles are a little more reasonable now, especially the fight with the goblins. It was much more balanced where four goblins managed to incapacitate two party members before they were dispatched.  This didn't cause any permanent damage to the party and there was little doubt that the party would win, especially with Henril being a 3rd level fighter, but it made the fight a lot less one sided than it would have been in the past.  Also Kane was still a very effective force in the combats - firing magic missiles often and dealing enough damage even with the reduction in HP.

I also found that there was a still lot of D&D hangover happening even with players a bit familiar with Beacon.  It was obvious that the players were basing their play on other similar game rules and not the Beacon rules.  There was still a tendency for the players to try to 'use their skills' rather than describe their actions.  I had to actually stop players from saying things like 'I use my Subterfuge to...'.  I found that playing with the novices during my camping trip was a lot different in this respect, as they had no problem with the narrative aspect of the game and therefore were much less skill orientated and much more creative in their actions.  Skill based games have poisoned the whole hobby in this respect I think.  I also noticed that the players didn't really leverage the combat phases and so would do stuff like ready a bow in the missile phase - and then have to sit out the melee phase and wait till next combat round to attack - a basic misunderstanding but one causing a lot of dissatisfaction.   I was told that they thought that missile phase was the 'ready weapon' phase - but it clearly isn't.  Some of this stuff requires the player to have knowledge that they can ready a weapon or move in either (or both) phases and then leveraging their actions accordingly.  But some of that is stuff I can fix - mostly by renaming the phases to 'Ranged' and 'Close' as was suggested by the players.  I also think I need to make some types of weapons available instantly (like throwing daggers) because of the way the phases work they will otherwise get nerfed.  I think I better take this phased combat discussion off to another post however.  I like how it works - I feel it's almost there - but there are still a few tiny tweaks needed I think.

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