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Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Mists, Madness and Traps - A Monsters & Magic Play Report

Followers of the Cave's gaming related posts will know that we're playing +Sarah Newton's Monsters & Magic at the moment. There's a previous post with the stat blocks in but as a quick recap the party consists of:

  • Patience, Cleric of Ororo the Storm Goddess and likely copyright infringer.
  • Ash, the (formerly) Nameless One, werewolf torching glass ninja magic user.
  • Thiefly Stabbit, unfortunately named, not quite evil but nearly, monomaniacal sociopath.
As an introduction to the system and because I wanted to trial it out before taking the plunge and retooling my massive library of heartbreaker compatible scenarios we're playing through the Silvermoon adventure presented in the core book.

I'll run through the session first and then come to my impressions of how the system works as GM/DM/MM.

In lieu of a strong group hook the adventurers all met on the road to Silvermoon and have slightly different objectives for going there. Patience is there to investigate why the local priest has not sent his tithe back to the mother house for some weeks. Ash is there looking for a magical doodad that is allegedly hidden in the abandoned temple. And we can all guess why Mr. Stabbit is there.

Upon arriving at the bridge into the town the three amigos are met by a lone guardsman, who provides them with some opening banter and a little exposition. He is, however, entirely mad and therefore does so in a roundabout, meandering fashion. Patience is the first to get past the guard, proving that an ounce of politeness is worth a pound of trickery. Ash and Theifly soon realise that there is nothing more directly useful that they can get out of someone who is clearly quite insane and finally manage to negotiate their way into town.

First stop is the blacksmith who takes a stereotypically instant dislike to Patience and her pointy ears. Wisely she goes off to investigate the church while the boys try to get some info out of the smith. 

Finishing their chat with the smith when Thiefly realises that he doesn't have a secret stash of magical weapons he can pilfer they adjourn to the inn where they have a brief conversation with the barkeep. Not liking the look of the other occupants there's a brief discussion before deciding that they would rather doss down in the abandoned church than risk the inn.

Someone, Ash or Thiefly I think then remembers that the guard talked about a witch. There then ensues a brief Blackadder riff before they head off to find the witch's grotto. Finding it is easy enough but the trio systematically fail all their charisma checks and decide to return to the church when the witch fails to put in appearance. Unknown to them, having fluffed it so remarkably big bad then shows up later that same day and recruits the witch to his side (sorry players).

That night the mists roll in over Silvermoon and as the first howls begin our three intrepid adventurers bar the door of the church and head for higher ground. As the door twists and cracks a big hairy arm reaches through and due to a misreading of the rules by me Patience pummels it into a big flat hairy arm in no time with her Spiritual Hammer. Patience and Theifly then decide to retreat to the bell tower. Ostensibly so that the thief can shoot from the tower at the attackers below. However, distance and the thickness of the mist mean that he was as well just throwing a quiver full of arrows over the balcony and hoping for the best.

Meanwhile, Ash is left down stairs to hold the fort. Despite the addition of his 90lb bulk to the benches it's not much of a struggle for the next werewolf to burst through into the nave. Burning Hands appears not to have a damage die so no cap on damage from the Effect Engine so despite being in a blind panic a lucky roll means that his hairy assailant goes up like a roman candle.

Eventually the werewolves beat a retreat, carrying some of the villagers off with them and after a sleepless night the three man posse sets off after them.

After a brief argument about marching order and how Ash wanted to be in the middle and Patience should try to guard the front an back simultaneously they voted by 2 to 1 to send Thiefly on ahead as trap detector in chief. We left the action just as Thiefly flubbed his perception check and skillfully detected a mantrap with his foot. Maybe no one heard his yelp...

So far my GM/DM/MM impressions are overall good, the mix of old school with the EE has worked very well so far. It has certainly made a big difference to the spell casters as we're using the optional spell loss rules. As heartbreakers tend to be mostly combat oriented I think I'd like a few more examples and options presented in the core text to help explain how the EE works for the players. This group is very time constrained so anything that helps speed understanding is good news. I don't think we've really got to grips with MHP but there's time yet. I missed the opportunity to do some MHP damage when the guys fluffed their charisma checks at the witch's grotto but there you go.

Next session will be the big test as the characters breach Silvermoon temple and I lay it on thick with the villains.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Cheers Ears

Massive thanks to my friend Jo at Cherry Pie in Hamilton.
One week on and the zero to 8mm tunnels are looking and feeling great.

Also check out my brand new Zombie 15 from Iello sitting on top of the snake's tank. :)

Drowned Metropolis Gets its Own Home

My main writing project for the end of this year is shaping up to be Drowned Metropolis and so rather than clutter up the cave with multiple posts capturing my thoughts and world design process the project has a new home over at:

Please go over and take a look. It's pretty sparse right now, but will soon begin to fill out.

The cave is going to remain the home of all my other projects, game write-ups, play reports, general rambing etc.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Setting Seeks System

I've played a lot of games. Ask anyone. If I don't own it I either have owned it or played in it or at least read it. There are a few gems that I'm still interested in checking out and there's always some cool new kid on the block to take for a spin. Especially with the advent of Kickstarter and crowdfunding in general, allowing creator owners to reach an audience that would have been impossible before the digital publishing age.

Most of the games I play in have some degree of original IP in them, usually adventure content, often setting content that is totally new and only of relevance to the players at the time. I love to improvise and react to what the players are doing so even if I'm using a scripted module I'm off script within the first few lines.

I've also mashed up homebrews and mods on systems for years, mainly when I don't like a rule or I want to apply an original take on a setting to a ruleset that is a near but not quite perfect fit. In all this tinkering though I've never really found a system that I like for dealing with magic in a fantasy setting that doesn't over or undercook the utility of the magic using classes. I suppose the closest I've come is either the urban macabre "Dirty Street Magic" that I started writing for Fate or Earthdawn. As has been discussed in gaming communities and blogs previously system is setting though so Earthdawn only really works for, well, Earthdawn.

It hardly ever gets written down though. Recently I've been doing a better job of that with posting actual play, some background material and occasionally part mods or conversions for Fate to this blog. The thing I'm always least happy with whenever I write though is the system. So this time I'm not going to bother, at least not to start with. I'm going to just set to and write the best setting that I know how and then put out a lonely hearts classified for
"Beautiful, mysterious young setting seeks sympathetic, innovative system for long term relationship"
The nominal title for the setting is Drowned Metropolis. Here's the dust jacket.
A huge, ancient city crumbles about a defeated people. Majestic structures once filled with light and laughter are overwhelmed by an aggressive, hostile wilderness. Strange, unnatural creatures haunt the fringes of what society remains, preying on the weak and the unwary. Desperate people cling to what little remains, the metropolis acting as a focal point for refugees from the wild lands beyond. The driven and ruthless carve out fiefdoms among the poor and the dispossessed. Itinerant scholars pick the bones of the great city, seeking to preserve the knowledge of the past before, too soon, it is lost. Isangi distill Jaan in their hidden places, selling them for protection or other favors. Black tongued cinders prowl the edges of the city, alert for danger from without, their pale skinned syphons never far away. Beautiful, deadly, mysterious. This is the drowned metropolis.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Old School is the New School - Meet the Heroes

We're taking a break from Fate based games for a few sessions (which is a few months for a fortnightly game), next up is +Sarah Newton's Monsters & Magic.

The first session of play was postponed but the characters are all created and in a few days they'll be off to Silvermoon.

I've abbreviated the character sheet to provide stat blocks for our occasionally intrepid, probably murderous, almost certainly of questionable moral character quote "heroes" below. As well as a short bio of each of them. You may draw your own conclusions as to where each of them sit on the GNS scale.

First up is the thief. Who needs a high Charisma simply to stop townsfolk laughing at his name,

parents can be cruel sometimes. Thiefly is quite sure of his abilities as a first level thief. A master of two weapon fighting and an expert marksman, or at least he will be if his plans pan out. Like many heartbreaker thieves he is a Chaotic Neutral monomaniacal sociopath with a borderline personality disorder. His alignment focus is to "Rob from the Rich B******s" and his drift is "Punish the Unworthy". As by punish he means torture and kill, this is a drift towards Evil.

Next I'd like to introduce the party's religious zealot, Patience, blessed novitiate of Ororo the Storm Goddess.

Patience's goal is to become high priestess of the Cult of Storms. She is Neutral Good as befits the cleric of a nature deity. Her focus is "Force of Nature", so whenever she acts in a capricious or willful way, or smites her enemies with storms' force she is acting according to her focus. That can go a bit far though, her drift is "Ororo's Word is Law", pulling her towards Lawful.

Patience smites her foes with the hammer of thunder an javelin of lightning, her spiritual weapons.

Were this to be a full campaign I would expect Patience to become the most powerful of the group if it plays out anything like the old Basic through Master sets.

This motley group of heroes is rounded out by "The Nameless One", a magic user par excellence. Neutral Good like Patience, his motivations are unknown, and unknowable. His history is a mystery. His magic is magnificent, and his power will be terrible to behold, (if the glass ninja makes it to the end of day one). 

Ok, so nameless doesn't have a name because we've not finished character gen for him as the game was postponed due to illness. It sounds good though.

This post was written with tongue firmly in cheek. Obviously we won't know how it all gels together until after the first session but Silvermoon is tightly written which will give us a chance to really get to grips with the rules before we strike of on an adventure of our own devising. (Or one repurposed from the archives, I have a particular fancy for Isle of Dread). 

The blend of old and new school rules should work well for this group as we started as a Fate gang post-kickstarter. Most of us have been gaming in one form or another for a few years and I think the biggest risk is not that we don't get the rules but that we approach the game in too whimsical a mood. I've read through the rules a few times and picked up Collectanea Creaturae with the idea of using that to lighten the load on re-tooling some classic adventures, (Eyrie of the Slave Lords anyone?).

OSR games are meant to be fun but I think that has to be tempered by an attempt to (re)capture some of that original excitement, trepidation and character investment that came with the genre first time around. Players, if you are reading this I mean you. I'll even draw a map.