Thursday, March 31, 2011

Session Roundup #9

No formal games this week, but Shieldhaven, Stands-in-Fire, and a couple of other friends and I went to MACE West: Cudgelcon last weekend, instead of going to the Eclipse campover. It was a lot of fun, as Haven describes here, and in addition to renewing my fondness for Magic: The Gathering, I picked up a few rulebooks.

Fiasco: looking forward to this one! The game is a rules light, GMless game played with D6es. It is intended to recreate the experience of a Cohen Brothers film. Check it out here, and I'll provide a more thorough update once we've had a chance to play it.

Savage Worlds, and Savage Worlds: Suzerain: Haven't had a chance to read these yet, but it does give me a chance to pimp the awesome Aaron Acevedo, whose art decorates the Suzerain book, and many other Savage Mojo games. Savage Worlds, incidentally, is apparently hot shit in Western NC! I was impressed.

We also played some Core 11/Besieged of Magic: The Gathering. I'm iffy on the Besieged set, mostly because I was very spoiled by the Alara block. I mean really-- thorough multi-color support, super fast deployment of creatures... omg, merfolk. It's just happy. That said, I made a pretty decent Infect deck, having played a bunch of Wither in Alara. In case you were curious Infect does the following:

Creatures with Infect deal damage to creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters, and to players in the form of poison counters.

So Poison Counters are also a new mechanic. If a player gets 10 of them, they lose the game. Awful, right? Yeah, play a white deck with Prot. from Black and Green creatures in it, and tell me that again.

We managed to not play any Battlestar Galactica or Mansions of Madness, though they're both games I hope to pick up soon.

In the meantime, been playing all the Shadow Hearts. I love that game-- so very hilarious, and far less railroady than I remember. But doing what sidequests you can before the second disc helps with that. Speaking of which, I am very nearly to the second disc-- at 40 hours of play. Fairly straightforward play too. Huh!

The very first World Event of Dust to Dust is this weekend! After work for me!

Yes, my work is in North Carolina, and the game is in Georgia. The game starts at noon, and my work, on Sat, ends at 10 am.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dungeon Project: Expanded Room 4, and Room 5.

For the previously mentioned Dungeon Project, sector 1, and after this:

Room 4

The red lines in the hallway leading up to here are heavy, barred iron doors with locked gates, much like the ones to the cells in room 1. A DC 15 Thievery check will pick the locks.

The chamber itself contains six 10'X10' cells with heavy metal doors of solid steel. Each of them have a narrow slit at about eye-height, with a sliding panel over it. Each door has a numeral 1-6 scratched into it. If the doors are locked, it is a DC 20 Thievery check to pick them. The door to cell 5, in the south-east corner, should be locked; it contains a rough-hewn tunnel to room 5, hidden under a trap door under dirt (DC 15 Perception, DC 17 Thievery, +2 to thievery, or potentially Arcana (DC 20, you're following the malevolent feel from the cells) checks to disarm with previous successful perception rolls).

When in this chamber, an Arcana 20+ check detects a faint malevolent energy from each of the locked cells. If actually in one of the cells, the DC on that check drops to 12 for the cell one occupies. A better check under those circumstances (17+) implies that the energy is necrotic, and growing in strength.

Each cell has 1-3 silent skeletons collapsed upon the floor, or on small, wooden stools, or the like, and one Skeleton slumped against the wall on the outside of the cell. If the trap-door is triggered without being disarmed, they'll wake up and attack. I'm going with nine Tortured Skeletons, plus a Stonespawn Skeleton in its own cell, and two Skeletal Legionaries. Between them, they should drop around 2o sp total in corroded coins. One of the legionaries should be the one that was outside of the cell; this one has a large, iron key hanging from its rotted belt.

Room 5

A room that looks like it was used mostly for hiding out than a potential escape route. There is a dusty cot piled up with rat-nibbled blankets and pillows, oily rags, a lantern, a deck of old playing cards, and numerous other oddiments and living detritus. A stack of books are piled up in one corner with many pages torn out; largely, they look like lists of names with various numbers beside them. A streetwise check (DC 15) or history check (DC 17) reveals that it is a book of prisoner names. Potentially, one of these is Palambro Alieri.

One of the corners contains what seems to be a crude set-up of alchemical components from what looks like prison cookware and cutlery. There's perhaps 50 gp worth of Residuum there, and a vial of crimson aether. There is also a page that is another list of names and numbers on one side, and on the other, says the following:

"These are the ways of travel, for the lost:
--by Knife
--By Water
--By Fiery Air
--By Night
--By Stone
--By Direct Command
--By Forgetting what is True."


So I'll be doing room 3 in a separate post, sometime when I have the brains to do it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Session Roundup #8

I wanted to get the first installment of the Dungeon Project done before now, but stuff is a bit crazy IRL, and hopefully I'll be able to finish it tonight or tomorrow. In the interim, here's a (hopefully) speedy roundup:

Arcana Evolved: Played this in GA last weekend, which was pretty good. I'm pretty much a session away from level 13, which is gratifying. We did not fight Winter Wolves, which was awesome, but had an actually fairly interesting fight against bandits around a ruined city where we'd finally arrived after what seemed like forever. Also, Angels. or an angel.

So, more and more I'm being faced with the problem that D&D clerics had-- do I blast shit myself, or do I buff my friends? This time, I did both, and came to the realization that if I could cast more than one spell a round, my Magister would probably be stupidly broken. With that thought in mind, I am still taking the Quicken Spell feat at the earliest possible opportunity.

Mage: The Awakening: The first session of this game just finished, as in not more than half an hour ago. I am playing a Mastigos (mind/space) mage with an emphasis on mind, because if I can play an Evil Telepath-- particularly if I can play the Evil Telepath, which I can and am (though really, Evil is more an aesthetic in this usage)-- then of course I'm going to. Shieldhaven is the Storyteller, and wished to run our Awakenings in play, as the first thing that happens. My character's involved coming out of one of his classes to walk down a hallway of mirrors, all with his own image in them, and the figures attempting to attack him. This was... interesting, but hardly difficult to deal with. Stephen's (my character's) sense of self-mastery is pretty well developed.

Stands-in-Fire is playing a South Boston Irish doctor, Samhaine is playing an ex-russian mob guy who believes he's the incarnation of an angel, Four Color Critic is playing a grad student researcher at Tufts, and Ikara, who does not have a gaming blog, is playing a Financier. As for myself, I'm a Business student at Emerson, of all places. It's a long story, but works, I promise.

Anyway, it's very much having just started, but I adore all of the other characters, and am looking forward eagerly to the next session.

And now, on to the DtD website edits, and maybe a little more progress on my part of the Dungeon Project.

No, I can't be bothered to link anything tonight, why?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Three Gates Prison: section 1

For the previously mentioned Dungeon Project, sector 1:

I'll copy here the rules that Shieldhaven is using in his version of the dungeon, which is connected to mine:

Ground Rules

For the creation of this dungeon, I will be doing the following.
1. Using 4e rules.
2. Assuming that the scale of this map is 1 square = 10 feet. 4e, and 3.x to a lesser degree, requires space to move. The game is less fun when all of those lovely movement powers are unusable because there's nowhere to stand. Also, the tactical decisions of positioning go out the window. (If you hate minis combat, you won't understand this reasoning, but you're probably also not playing 4e.)
3. Connecting my dungeon to the dungeon Shieldhaven is writing. This particular entry is based on his above-linked version and our various conversations, and things may get changed around a bit as writing goes on.
4. Writing in story goals. While I'd like any DM to be able to plug this into a campaign without hassle, I think that defining spaces for those plug-ins and showing some cool ideas of my own are the way to make that work.
5. Rejecting any obligation whatsoever to use symbols on the map for their original purpose.
6. Statting fights for five characters of about 6th level.

The Big Idea

The core conceit of connection between Kainenchen's crypts (The Prison at Three Gates) and Harbinger's halls (The Dungeon of the Three Deceits) is that this dungeon, the one I'm writing, is connected by certain psychic strands. Barriers in one dungeon may be removed by solving a puzzle or winning a fight in the other. The specific do A to achieve B connections are the main things that I expect to see change as we go, because we haven't written everything before writing everything. See the tag at the bottom of the page that says, "you get what you pay for?"

Story Hooks

1. Six magical daggers are spread through the two dungeons. Each is imbued with one energy type. These daggers are also shaped to be keys to a certain very unusual lock.
2. There is a very powerful, very dangerous creature called the Living Shadow of Ugrazhe that has been fragmented into six beings, and can only be destroyed while in this fragmented state.
3. By activating the six waystones, portals to a heretofore-undefined Elsewhere open, and the dungeon becomes a travel node for portals.

Rules of Travel Between the Dungeons

The locations with what is traditionally a "staircase" symbol - rooms 1, 30, and 39 - are stable lines of travel. When traveling across a stable strand in either direction:
  • luminous water becomes crimson aether (dissipates if not contained);
  • crimson aether becomes nightskein;
  • nightskein becomes luminous water, which begins to lose its light again (10 round duration, as before);
  • one randomly-determined character loses a healing surge; a second randomly-determined character gains a healing surge; and
  • travel takes one standard action.

Background of the Prison

Part of the plan here is to make something that is easy to plug into whatever campaign, though for my part, I generally design dungeons to be the whole, or at least the centerpiece, of a given game. I do believe strongly that players need reasons to care about places, and they should have interesting histories that players could potentially know something about. This is largely turning out to be a statement of intent, I'll get into details later. But either way, the place is an old, dark and sinister prison. I'm sort of seeing it as set near the ocean, possibly near a delta inlet or somesuch.

Room 1

(In this instance, the 'staircase' symbol is both a stable strand and a staircase.)

This is one of the two 'official' entry points to the prison. One comes down from the stone admittance tower aboveground by way of the long staircase in the north, which leads to the room marked 1 on the map. There are 4 10'X10' holding cells in each corner with bars of wrought iron and heavy padlocks (DC 15 Thievery). Three of these cells are empty but for a hard, wooden bench, a battered tin plate, and a larger metal bowl. There are metal plates in the back walls of each, above the bench, where manacles were at one point attached; the northwest and southeast panels still have pieces of shattered manacle dangling from the plates. The fourth, where 'B' is marked on the map, contains a skeleton lying on the floor, ragged pieces of cloth still clinging to its frame. Searching the skeleton yields a sunrod and a couple of silver pieces (DC 12). Down one ratted pantleg (DC 17), there is a throwing knife-blade with a blue stone at the base of it, lashed to a stick with a bit of sinew. It is identifiable as a throwing-knife +1 (10 Arcana), and also something else (15+ Arcana) which can't be quite placed, but (20+ Arcana) perhaps something like a key.

On either side of the staircase, there are stone stands, the tops are carved into gargoyle faces with wide, gaping mouths and obsidian eyes. A DC 12 Arcana check shows a magical aura emanating from the stands, 15+ indicates that there is something like a gate or teleportation magic involved, and it's kind of icky, a roll of 20+ identifies the energy as necrotic and lightning, and gives one the indication that it is some kind of magical switch. A DC 12 perception check shows that there in a thin, horizontal slot in the back of the throat of the left hand gargoyle mouth. On a 17 or better, the PCs find small pressure blocks in the bottoms of the mouths. If both are depressed at the same time, the stable strand activates, and a sheet of wavering, opalescent-black energy conceals the hallway. If PCs search here, they can find small stones or use fragments of bone from the skeleton in the corner to use to hold down the buttons; about 10 copper pieces will work as well. Passing through this field takes the PCs to room 1 of the Dungeon of the Three Deceits. Also, it destroys whatever was in the mouths (assuming it's non-magical material like small stones; if they use something magical, then it scores it black, but doesn't destroy it) holding down the pressure blocks, reducing them to ash. If the PCs are holding the blocks down when someone passes through, the gargoyles deal 10 Necrotic and Lightning damage to those PCs. If they do it again, it will do the same amount of damage, and grant vulnerability 5 necrotic. Subsequent attempts do not stack this vulnerability.

If the throwing knife found above is inserted in the slot in the mouth of the left-hand gargoyle, it fits, but nothing obvious happens.

In the east wall, there's an alcove in which a tunnel has been hollowed by crude hand-tools.

Room 2

On the other side of a rough, rocky tunnel, this natural stone cavern allows a stream of brackish water in through the north wall, where it widens into a pool and seeps out through the southern wall. The water is very shallow, not more than 3 feet deep at the deepest, and tastes acrid and salty if drunk. In the center of the north wall, it looks like the tunneling continues, but stops about 5 feet in. The aforementioned crude implements lie on the floor, any wooden handles rotted away and the blades rusted.

Digging in the cavern wall will trigger a stealth check on the part of whoever does it (DC 17); upon failure, this will wake up an angry Geonid, and 3 level 4 lesser Earth Elementals. A perception check at a DC of 25 reveals the presence of something living in the rocks.

Near the pool (A), a black, somewhat glittering and thready material clings to the stones in fragile pieces. Perception or Arcana (DC 12) reveals it as nightskien.

Room 3 will belong to a later update.

Room 4

The red lines in the hallway leading up to here are heavy, barred iron doors with locked gates, much like the ones to the cells in room 1. A DC 15 Thievery check will pick the locks.

The chamber itself contains six 10'X10' cells with heavy metal doors of solid steel. Each of them have a narrow slit at about eye-height, with a sliding panel over it. Each door has a numeral 1-6 scratched into it. If the doors are locked, it is a DC 20 Thievery check to pick them. The door to cell 5, in the south-east corner, should be locked; it contains a rough-hewn tunnel to room 5.

And I will get to room 5 later, as I've got to dash the hellz out of here. Peace!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Not-Roundup #2

So, you'll note that this is rather late, and for that I'm quite sorry. Anyway, last week was pretty much all videogames all the time, mostly Shadow Hearts: Covenant and Rock Band 3. I have to say, the third iteration of the game is so far my favorite, mostly for band customization. Also, Paradise By The Dashboard Light, by Meatloaf, is fucking epic for singing.

Tomorrow will be the AE game, which means that there will be actual Roundup content next week. In the interim, I've got Dungeon Rooms to design, and DtD writing to do.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Psychic Power and the Telepath Question.

One of the nice things (there are many) about dating a fellow gamer/GM is that you get to have long, late-night design conversations about various and sundry things. Last night, we wound up discussing what I was looking for in terms of The Truth in Yellow, the psychic horror game I am wanting to run. For this game, I am leaning very heavily towards using the Over The Edge system, although I am planning on using the Dawning Star setting. Yes, I know that DS was written for D20 Future, but the sort of game I'm planning to run isn't particularly a shoot 'em-up, while Red Truth is exactly what I'm looking for in terms of psionics for this game in specific*.

Which leads to to psionics in general, which is a special love of mine. I am a sucker for a good psionic system, though I've never yet found anything that works the way I think psionics should, exactly. Which wants to ask, well, what do I want from my brain-suckers, anyway?

*It is important to note that, although I have been maundering about Red Truth et al above, the list below is not something I intend to use in that game; Red Truth doesn't do the things listed below, as written. That said, Red Truth is effing awesome. But one can like more than one thing.

1) Psionics are different from Magic.

In my ideal system, Psi and Magic are fundamentally different, and while certain of the effects can mimic each other, the sources are not t'all the same. The primary example is Sleep. Traditionally, Sleep is considered an effect that works on the mind, whatever the source. So doesn't that make it psionic?

The answer in my proposed system is no. A mental effect is psionic only if the source of the effect is mental, not the target. Hence the difference between a pyrokinetic blast and a mage's fireball, metabolic healing and magical healing, or a telepath knocking out a target and the sleep spell.

I would not include telepathy or read minds as magic effects at all, except perhaps in a very limited, 'send message' kind of way. In these cases, what is happening is not one mind speaking to another, but an effect which simulates sound that only the intended recipient can hear.

The principal difference is that psionic energy comes from the person innately, while magic is pulled from somewhere else. To answer the question Shieldhaven just put to me, how would mages be limited at all? My thought is that the mage is limited in how much energy they can pull, and how they can pull it. Also, magic is something that has to be learned, and anyone cal generally learn it, while psions are born.

2) A Psion's lot is not a happy one.

Being a psi, using your powers, and learning to control your powers isn't easy, and is likely to take a huge chunk out of your ability to do other things. The penalty will vary based on the kind of psionics you're using. Sound risky? Should be risky. Success as a psi is freaking awesome. How to model this for different stories one wants to tell is something of a question. Not every story should or ought to be, "this is how I learned to control my powers, and these are my scars." For games that take place later in the characters' lives, perhaps a list of disadvantages linked to powers would be good, that could either be selected purposefully or randomly, though the latter runs the risk of becoming a gamble to see whether your character even survives creation.

3) Different sorts of Psi are also different.

This will require a lot more thought to cease being nebulous for me, but I think that different kinds of psi should be different skills. Pretty much as follows:

a) Telepathy -- I go into your mind with mine and affect your thoughts. I can change your mind, implant thoughts, or forbid you from thinking of a thing, though I can't make you like it. At the extreme, I can overwhelm your synapses and fry your brain. It's not particularly subtle though. I can sense thinking beings without necessarily seeing them, by 'hearing' their mental energy, if they are not trying to shield it from me, or else I am not trying to block them out. If I'm not careful, you'll wind up destroying my brain, or I'll go nuts and destroy all of yours.

b) Empathy-- I go into your mind with mine and affect your emotions. I can change the actual function of your brain much as drugs or alcohol do, by making you feel one way or another just at the moment, though I can't make you think anything in particular. I'm much more subtle than the telepath, at base. I can sense any creature which is alive and experiences emotions without necessarily seeing them, if they are not trying to shield from me, or else I am not trying to block them out. If I'm not careful, I'll go insane from everyone else's emotions, or I'll wind up driving other people to unpleasant things.

c) Telekinesis-- I move objects with my mind. With effort, I can actually sense objects that I cannot see; the more subtle, the more effort this requires. This is not easy for me. Aw shit, now I'm bleeding.

c.1) Pyrokinesis-- I generate heat energy with my mind. So... um, I set shit on fire. Go me. As for my problems, see the telekinetics.

c.2) Electrokinesis-- I generate electricity with my mind. I blow out streetlamps and can't ever wear watches. I might wipe hard drives too. But... force lightning!

d) Impression Sensitivity (Psychometry) -- I read the psychic impressions of objects. I can tell you who last touched an object, or at least what they are or were like while they were actually in contact with said object. The more information I can get from something, the more overwhelming objects are in general. (some sort of rules about how particular objects hold energy might be useful here).

Another version of Impression Sensitivity works on people at touch-- I 'read' you when you are touching me, and I can tell what you're thinking & feeling, as well as seeing a little bit of your past when I touch you.

e) Metabolics -- I heal people with my mind. I can make you-- and possibly myself-- better, stronger, and faster, with effort. I probably am also an empath though, otherwise I might fuck this up pretty badly, and wind up hurting you or myself, or healing you at a profound cost to myself.

f) Precognition-- I can see the future! I don't like being around other people who can see the future... we mess each other up. Also, this is extremely stressful, and did you know human brains aren't really built for this kind of thing? They're not.

f.1) Clairvoyance-- I can see the here-and-now at a distance! Problem is, I need something to focus on, or else it kind of hits me at random, and blacks out, you know, what I should be paying attention to. Like walking down stairs, or driving.

These are my starting place, I shall go further from there. But the brain, it storms. Storm brain, storm!

Friday, March 11, 2011

New wine in old skins.

This afternoon, Shieldhaven linked me to This Nifty Group Plan Thing, which seems like a whole lot of fun and festivity, and a thing I'll like to do. For me, this is a lovely slice of nostalgia, as my dad used to run this map as part of his half-Qasqueton & other 1e material, half homebrew dungeon. As Shieldhaven mentions, we are discussing having the dungeons be connected in some way, which should be fun. In the interim, here's the write up from the original page:

Most people that have been playing the game longer than, oh say... 15 years should recognize the rather iconic map above. Even those of you that may have cut your teeth on 3rd edition have seen it presented there. It is, of course, the dungeon originally provided in the AD&D 1e Dungeon Master's Guide. It and the accompanying sample of play have together long been a sort of touchstone for me in the way that things like Village of Hommlet, In Search of the Unknown, Bargle & Castle Mistamere or Keep on the Borderlands are for others.

I realized something about this map and I recently. Despite it's importance to my early understanding of the game I've only ever used it for off-the-cuff, ill-prepared ventures. I've never actually sat down to stock and prep it like I now normally do. That's rather a pity, I think, because it's a well-constructed level. That secret door in room 3 (hiding somewhat in plain view and challenging the party to put the clues together to find it) is a prize in and of itself. Overlook it and you've got only a handful of standard 1st-level-dungeon-looking rooms on the top half of the map to explore. Discover, it though, and the whole level opens up.

Beyond room three one can reveal the nooks and crannies of those odd passageways and the weird little side rooms whose overall layout and construction beg the questions "what?" and "why?". Why this little bit here and that narrow passageway to nowhere there? What earthly (or unearthly) purpose is served by the three 10' square rooms that terminate the narrow halls in the south-east quarter? That series of rooms beyond the secret door is just dying to be stocked and described, is it not?

So here is what I am proposing to do and this is where those reading along can come into the picture if they so desire. I'm going to stock that thing room-by-room here on the blog at a rate of three rooms per week starting next week. I'm encouraging those reading this to do the same. At the end of this process the world will have (hopefully) several stocked dungeons based on a single, iconic map. The differences and similarities between them can be an interesting statement on the game and its participants.

I offer only some simple guidelines for this venture:

  1. Use any version of D&D, the clones or even another game (even genre) entirely to complete the dungeon.
    Provide as much or as little detail as you desire as you go.

  2. To get started add a comment to this blog saying that you're getting started and provide a link to your blog so we can all go see
  3. .
  4. You can join the fun at any time and take as long as you like doing it.

  5. Use as much or as little of the background and the few existing room descriptions associated with the map from the DMG as you like. The only requirement is that you use the above map.

  6. I'll be posting three rooms per week starting Monday, February 7th. (My first post on this will probably be whenever I get around to it.)

  7. I encourage you to not only stock the thing, but talk about your choices and dungeon-building philosophy as well. For instance, if you're using randomly generated results, talk about why. If not, also talk about why. Will it be a themed dungeon? The value in this project to me is in hearing about what a particular DM likes as well as seeing it directly applied.

  8. Will there be winners? Will there be prizes? Everybody is a winner but there won't be prizes.

  9. If you want to play but don't yet have a blog, start here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Session Roundup #7

This week was dominated by video games and by me running my D&D game last Sunday. Yay punting!

Sunday: Tradya's Workshop-- After last session with the theatre and the rats and everything, it was about time for a low/no combat session. Which was great, because I hadn't the brain to prepare any stat-blocks for a special encounter or anything, and odd, coz I had no idea where the players would go next, but being that this is a fairly old-school dungeon crawl, the options were limited by the long pre-existing map. So they were pretty much going to go explore the northern part of the first level, which they'd looked at a bit before, or were going to go south and explore the few things that remained down there. This latter is what they wound up doing, which permitted them to get their hands on another one of their quest objects, and had them find the entrance to the hidden library maze. I won't go too deeply into the mechanics of the maze, as they haven't explored all of it yet, but it might sound a little familiar to people who really like, say, Sean Connery in monk robes.

Basically, they found themselves in a large, octagonal room with four doors, one in each wall, and stacks of books of various kinds in concentric circles. They rolled skills to see what sort of books were in the room, and if they found anything particularly useful, and also marked that above each door, there was a letter-- in order, T, R, A, & J. They knew, from the previous adventure, that the dude what owned the dungeon was called Jaylamer Tradya, so they decided to take the J path, and see if the subsequent rooms would have the rest of the letters of his name. And lo, they did! Each room was a trapezoid-shaped chamber filled with books on a common theme, with varying numbers of doors and a letter over each. This was consistent until the room with the final 'R' in Jaylamer, anyway, which contained 2 doors which had no letter. They found some palimpsests (not to be confused with the city of the same name... or were they?); the Avenger was able to create a rubbing to see the note that used to exist on the page. This gave them a couple of hints as to what they could find in each direction, and they decided to go through the one at the top of the trapezoid, which said it led to 'the center'. This took them back to the first, octagonal room, and of course, going back the same way did not work. Alas!

In the course of their searching, I remembered that this was the sort of party where I could give them magic treasure what didn't have any combat application, and so they found the following trinket:

Box of Delicious Creation
An ornate silver box with a lid of black wood, just large enough to hold a mug of something tasty.

Daily (standard): Creates a single item of food or drink, which is wonderfully delicious and comforting. Use of this daily item does not count against other daily magic item uses.

Random, I know, but the players seemed to really like it, and that made me happy.

Also, a couple of other plot advancement items were accomplished that I prefer not to discuss here, but which pleased me greatly.

Shadow Hearts: Covenant-- So, I forget which day it was-- possibly Monday?-- but the day sucked holy ass, and required that I go out to dinner with Shieldhaven immediately, and also buy a video game. Instead of doing so, however, I bought a PS2, and set about playing another run through of my favorite JRPG, Shadow Hearts: Covenant. It's frigging hilarious, and also a festive testament to the Japanese obsession with Jewish Mysticism. Fun!

I also have the first one, but the second added depth and scope in a way that I've only seen in games like Overlord and Overlord 2. Here you have the perfect setup what people ask for-- give me a sequel that's a game changer, keeps what we loved about the original, but does something new and better. The full customization of the judgement ring combat mechanic, having the turn based combat care where you stand for AOEs, and the addition of a combo system were all that is awesome, and I'm enjoying my second playthrough quite a bit.

Pretty much the rest of my whole world is eaten by culture packet writing for Dust to Dust, so yeah. That.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Session Roundup #6

This week was less intense-- character creation for Shieldhaven's upcoming Mage:The Awakening game, and a second round of Samhaine's Dresden Files game, which turned out to be a contextless combat run. So, onto the stuff:

Mage: I found World of Darkness style character creation kind of frustrating. They try very hard to make stuff available-- most of what you need to know is printed right on the character sheet-- but at the same time, WoD's got some entry barriers, which I've not fully sorted through. I think it's largely that they have this huge and shifting lexicon of terms you need to know, and it can sort-of short out your brain. Also, Virtues and Vices, unlike Aspects, seem to be created to simply screw you over, instead of ever being useful. That said, I really like the Orders of mages and am curious to see how it plays. I am re-upping an older character to be a Mastigos (Mind/Space) Mage. This will also be my first time actively playing a male character with this bunch, though for a very long time, I'd played nothing but. Now, to come up with a Shadow Name.

Dresden Files: Covered also here. Shieldhaven's Wizard and my Serial Killah at a GA state park, fighting Hounds and Goblins. I'm equipped with a broken soda bottle and my re-goddamn-diculous weapon score, plus 2 for using an improvised weapon. Samhaine pointed out that by taking this stunt and using the hell out of it, I was potentially scrapping the chance of getting better weapons that would do more consistent damage, but I pointed out that with my 8 Refresh remaining, I could probably buy a new stunt that gave me +2 to weapons when I got a specific Favored Weapon.

I picked up two new stunts, incidentally-- "On the Scent," which gives me +2 to investigation when stalking 'prey'; and "Grady Hospital Visitor's Room" which gives me +2 to Athletics when attempting to dodge gunfire. Niether of these were of any use in this fight, where I spent some ugly rounds trying to dodge arrow fire. Not awesome. I am going to have to cycle my Athletics up, probably dropping my Rapport to 2. But to the task at hand.

As Haven mentioned in the above-linked post, it's hard out there for a Wizard who wants to blow shit up in a sudden scrap. From what I understand, Wizards have the following big things they want to be awesome in combat: a) magic items, b) time to charge up with rituals before any fighting happens, or c) both. Otherwise, they're looking at about 4 rounds of functionality before they really start hurting. So I learned that it's important for the bruiser to keep bad guys off the Wizard, but not for the reasons I thought. The Wizard is bloody tough, and can take some damage-- if only he weren't damaging himself by casting his spells. He can't afford to also take hits from the bad guys.

Fortunately, I was very happy to spend fate points on my Aspect: The Marked Condition. The idea here is that I draw the bad guys into pummeling me, rather than trying to hit anyone else. This is a bad time for anyone whose attack is opposed by my Weapons roll (ie, anyone making a melee attack), and just fine for anyone whose attack is opposed by Athletics (ie, ranged fuckers. With arrows). As it stood, I was pretty much clocking a Hound a round with my busted up bottle, as they didn't have much in the way of armor.

The Goblins, however, were tough to tear up, as their armor prevented a lot of my damage. However, since they are fey, Cold Iron (in this universe, anything made of iron or steel) would ignore their armor entirely. Once this occurred to us, Sam (Shieldhaven's Wizard) used Alertness to declare that there was a fireplace poker hanging out by the, well, fireplace in the back of the building, what I could grab. Don't get me wrong, the -1 circumstance hit for having taken a supplemental action is a big deal, but being able to burn these dudes alive with Iron made up for it.

Now, about that circumstance stuff. You can only do one thing in a round of combat, whether it is move, attack, Declare something, or whatever. That is, unless you want to move into a zone right next to you, or say, pick up an iron poker in your zone and then swing it. If you want to do one of these, then you can take a -1 penalty to your next action, usually an attack roll.

Due to the nature of FATE dice, this is not insignificant. +/- 1 is a pretty big deal, +/- 2 is an even bigger deal. Fortunately, Consequences don't exactly hand out permanent penalties to rolls-- what they do is give the bad guys "tags" they can use against you on their next turn. Luckily, when I took consequences, Samhaine forgot to use the tags towards the end of the fight; otherwise we would have just been murdered, and it would have been very sad. And I took all 4 Consequences I had available (Reg Mild, Moderate, and Severe, plus an extra mild physical) without taking the Extreme conseqence. What this looked like in-game was a little hispanic girl with an arrow sticking out of her thigh, an arrow sticking through her left hand, glass abrasions all over her (from diving through a window to get next to the final goblin-- I spent a fate point on Buffy The Serial Killer to accomplish that trick), and numerous other small wounds. Festive!

We did win, but just barely, and Sam was a curled up little ball of gibbering wizard in the corner, having conceded the fight after taking both Fugue State and Hallucinations for moderate and severe consequences, not to mention a couple of mild consequences (one mental and one physical). Good times.

I'm very curious to see how social combat works, and also how combat with a) more than just 2 players and b) against enemies that are also taking consequences instead of dying once they run out of stress boxes.

On another note, I was surprised by the number of people interested in the Middle Earth game I mentioned yesterday (from the lj poll). I'll probably be exploring both that idea and the Changeling game in future posts here.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Run, Rabbit Run.

So, I am considering running something semi-regular in addition to my 4e game, in part because I've never run anything non-d&d, and because I want to run something that shieldhaven can play in. I haven't ever run a tabletop game that wasn't some edition of D&D though, and the sorts of things I might run... well, let's have a look, shall we?

In no particular order:

1) Nobilis-- B's had this book for some time, and lent it me back in the day because of the Pritty. And man, is it Pritty. Also, Samhaine's Opinions Matter.

2) Changeling: The Lost-- set in the universe of the novel I am writing about a lass named Timothina and many Thousands of Kingdoms. There are fey in the story, and it might map pretty nicely, and be deeply interesting to me.

3) A 4th Age Middle Earth Game-- I am not sure what system I'd use for this, but the idea is that the PCs are Orcs, Southron, or Halflings just after the end of the War of the Ring. Based on the premise that Orcs are twisted mutations of Elves, Ulmo or Illuvitar or someone has wakened the Elvish soul in some of them, those where that part lay sleeping only lightly. This turns them from brutish beasts incapable of order without the control of a tyrant into real, thinking creatures with consciences, interested in getting redemption from themselves, and gaining some form of acceptance in the lands of Middle Earth. There's a bunch of challenges in even setting this up that I'm likely to address more in depth here later.

4) Something else that I just haven't thought of, if there's anything that my peeps might wish to play.

Also, I still mean to run my Dawning Star short-run horror game, but Shieldhaven will be helping me write and run that, rather than playing in it, which defeats some little of the purpose.

If one has an opinion, they might comment about it here, or fill out yon LJ poll.