Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spiffing Up The Place

If you've been around for a while you may have noticed that I've spiffed the place up a bit. I kept putting off theming Platonic Solid because I had to learn how Blogger did things and I already had tons of stuff like it on my plate. One day last week I woke up and the old look finally got to me. It had to go. So, I jumped in with my trackpad and keyboard in hand and voila! There's still some tinkering to be done but so far, so good.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Picked Up Honor + Intrigue

I recently picked up Honor + Intrigue which is based on the game engine found in Barbarians of Lemuria. Instead of playing a barbarian who crushes those in his way to hear the lamentation of the women you play a character who hums a baroque tune that dances around the glissade of flashing steel.

I'm a fan of Barbarians of Lemuria and even though it does sword and sorcery just about perfectly I don't run it often because I like combat systems that provide a bit more tactical oomph. Honor + Intrigue deftly provides that and more. It's got fencing schools and maneuvers that build on top of a tactical advantage system that really makes combat hum.

We've only run a couple of test encounters but the game has gotten two thumbs up. It doesn't hurt that I met my wife on a fencing strip. Our real life experience helped us get up to speed rather quickly. Terminology never got in the way. In fact, it helped.

The plan is to run a mini-campaign of 3-5 sessions. Where it goes from there is unknown. Maybe I'll port the concepts over to Barbarians of Lemuria. I'm also contemplating building a mecha game based on Honor + Intrigue. But for now...

En garde!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Experienced at 1st Level?

When playing Dungeon Crawl Classics it sure feels like it. Last night we sat down and did a test encounter with Gareth the woodsman turned 1st level warrior and a new character, Henrik a 1st level cleric. Both were played by my wife.

I randomly determined the opposition force and it came up 5 dark creatures of chaos. The exact same composition as what killed three 0-level characters in a single round in the previous session. Uh oh. How would it go this time with just two 1st level characters?

Turns out that Gareth's new warrior abilities are difference makers. The boost to initiative and the attack die, even though it is only 1d3, allowed him to take the fight to the enemy versus trying to manage the situation and hope for the best. You really appreciate that 1d3 because you didn't have anything like it before.

We even had our first mighty deed of arms. One of the dark creatures was disarmed by Gareth with a stroke of his blade and left to totter till it was the last one standing.

Henrik the cleric didn't do too badly either though he didn't get to cast any spells. The encounter was over in a blink! He was the only one hit on the PC side; 1 measly HP of damage.

I guess the notion that 1st level characters are exemplary in the game world and are not to be trifled with has been around for a long time. Maybe even from the beginning of the hobby but in action at the table it never really felt that way. Not for me at least. 1st level always felt quite amateur. Yeah, it's a meta-thing since that's where we first encounter the game with our player characters and it's all up from there. Dungeon Crawl Classics tweaks that perspective. You start out with a group of characters that are indeed quite amateur and by the time they've hit 1st level they're already showing a bit of grizzle.

Very cool.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Dungeon Crawl Classics Followup: The Funnel

In a previous post I introduced the 0-level PCs who were part of the game; Thorek the dwarf, Gareth the woodsman, Saul the cobbler, and Mithra the alchemist.

The second session was non-stop survival by the skin of their teeth. The 1 HP cobbler was the game changer who once again stepped up saving his party's bacon. It was amazing. At the end the entire party was low double digit XP away from hitting 1st level. It looked like all of them were going to make it. But then we played the third session.

The mission of the third session was to make their way to a clerical order named The Haligesith. They're a growing power in the area and must be warned about the strange going-ons along the old forest road. After a night resting up in a roadside temple they set out fresh. The day starts out a little cool but sunny. Daylight passes virtually uneventful except for when they got twisted around on a side road. It all started to look the same.

As the sun went down so did the temperature so they made camp and started a small fire. Gareth took first watch and almost dozed off since it was nothing but boring. At midnight he touched Thorek on the shoulder to wake him for second watch. As he did so he thought he heard something. Numbed by recent sleep Thorek didn't hear a thing. The dwarf got up to throw more wood on the fire and Gareth went out into the dark to double check. There was no way he could simply lie down to sleep. The hair on the back of his neck wouldn't let him.

In the darkness Gareth barely saw anything. Especially just coming from the light of the campfire. He and something out there passed one another but barely. He sensed it. A woodsman's axe lashed out into the darkness in frightened desperation but hewed only thin air. With a new perspective honed by adrenaline he saw more than one but less than five small dark figures sneaking toward the camp. One of them turned to him and drew steel. Awkward and unresolved melee followed. Gareth gave out a warning cry to his companions.

Four darkened and hunched figures set their designs upon the camp with their own steel drawn. Saul the cobbler drew his awl and rolled into the shadow of a large tree. One of the figures walked right past him completely unaware. Mithra threw off her cloak and sprung to her feet ready. Thorek moved to the fore ready to bear the brunt in defense of his friends.

While Gareth remained locked in deadly combat in the darkness it began in the camp. Saul leapt from his shadow to attack. He missed! One of the enemy spun in surprise but missed even though Saul was standing there flat footed. Was it another one of Saul's amazing moments where he would take control of the moment through ingenuity and luck?

Mithra and one of the dark things sprung on one another at the exact same moment. Its weapon found flesh and her staff cracked its skull killing it instantly. She stood stunned with the fear that her wound was mortal.

Gareth's last blow of the duel in the dark dropped his opponent and he turned to help his friends. Then before his eyes he saw hideous blackened steel take them all in a flash. 

Saul's opponent didn't miss on the follow-up stroke. The cobbler fell so quickly that it was stunning to watch. 

One of the creatures of chaos climbed over one of its dead and cut down the stunned Mithra.

The usually stout Thorek seemed tangled in surprise. His wild swings cost him as an enemy deftly dropped beneath the arc of his attack and rose behind it to lay him low.

Horrified, Gareth turned and ran into the darkness. His woodcraft skills made the difference. All that night with no sleep he eluded the enemy's search. At some point, the exact hour the woodsman could not recall, a thunderstorm aided his efforts.

It began to grow daylight and he realized that the things that were trying to find him were no where to be seen. So he decided to go back to the camp site to at least give his friends a decent burial. He knew that it would take everything he had to bear the sight so he pricked up his courage and strode on.

Still cautious Gareth peeked at the camp from a wall of trees. The fire was out but where his friends? No bodies. No kit. Just the crushed undergrowth and torn turf of conflict. Then his world went black.

Here's a bit of closing fiction written by my wife after the game:

The group was to deliver a missive to the Haligesith clerical order and tell them of their encounter with the strange, aggressive men two days before. After a day long trek, they settled into their campsite for the night, excited to finally be off on what felt like the beginning of a real adventure. But during the night, more of the creatures attacked, killing Saul, Mithra, and Thorek. Only Gareth managed to narrowly escape and returned to the campsite by the light of day to find it stripped bare. Lost in grief, he did not hear the footsteps behind him until a crack to the back of his head made the world go dark...

Gareth's eyes opened slowly and he felt dazed and confused, the memories of the previous horrific night slowly coming back to him, making him shut his eyes again. Had it been a dream? The throbbing in his head suggested not. Visions of the grotesque little man plunging his sword into Mithra's belly seemed to play over and over. Her mouth opened in a silent scream as she fell to the dirt. And in his mind, Gareth lunged toward her to catch her and tell her that everything was going to be alright, as if he had not really turned from the gruesome site and run away in terror.

He was pulled back to the present by someone shaking his shoulder, gently at first, then slightly harder, refusing to let him suffer in peace. The woodsman cracked his eyes open again, listening numbly as the men before him claimed to be those that he had sought. The Haligesith. They had brought the bodies of his companions here and they had found the letter that he carried. Gareth forced himself to sit up, then nodded, swallowing hard to push down the lump in his throat.

"Can I see her?" he asked after a few moments of silence.
A cleric had brought Gareth to a small chamber lit by candles, then left him there alone to say his goodbyes to his companions. The bodies of Thorek, Saul, and Mithra had been cleaned and laid together on a stone table, their arms folded across their chests and their eyes closed as if they were sleeping peacefully.

Gareth approached quietly, almost hesitantly. He picked up Mithra's hand and squeezed it even tighter than the lump in his throat. Shaking slightly, he reached into his pocket and withdrew a small copper ring; a crudely fashioned, almost worthless trinket. He had intended to replace it once they had discovered their fortune, but now he slipped it onto her cold finger. "I am sorry..." he voice caught in his throat and laid her hand back across her still chest and wiped away the tears that had begun to well up in his eyes.

Those filthy creatures would pay. He did not yet know how, but he would hunt them down and their deaths would be painful and long. In the corner of the room lay what belongings had been recovered and Gareth picked up the meager amount of copper coins and the map that had prompted their adventure. 
When he stepped out of the chamber, the cleric was waiting there patiently. "What are you planning to do about these creatures cursed by the gods? If you would kill them, where can I sign up to help?" he asked, his voice dripping with hate.

I gotta say, The Funnel is amazing.