Burning death frost doom

4 October, 2009 at 11:40 am (Burning Wheel, dungeon crawling) (, , )

We did indeed play Burning Wheel old school style. I had a number of pregenerated characters, seven I think, and there were five players. I had built the characters so that a number of them had specific drives; locations or non-player characters. There was a duel of wits to determine where to go and the result was, as the fate had it, death frost doom.

First, I’ll describe our play a bit; then, some of what happened in and under the cabin.

Play

The player characters were a knowledge-seeking sorcerer, a haughty knight, a ranger whose family had been killed by orcs (traditional D&D character if there ever was one), an overconfident and mad monster hunter from the wastes and a doctor who could talk to birds and insects. They started in a tavern (the name of which I recall no more; maybe Broken boot?) and, after talking about where to head next (we used duel of wits; there were preciously few dueling skills around the table, so untrained duel of wits)  consulted the skies to see if this was the proper time for such traveling and tried recruiting some people; indeed, they managed to find one guardsman willing to travel with them. The circles roll was a failure, so I decided this NPC is a traitor. This NPC was, to some amusement, named Regdar. Onwards, then.

Since the DoW was a major compromise, they decided to travel to the Whitecap mountain, but first check out where the goblin hideout was. The orienteering was an abject failure: seven or eight dice, obstacle three, two successes. So there was getting lost and a bandit ambush. Here I chickened out, having only two bandits in the woods and Regdar make the attempt to rob the characters. It did not end well.

Lesson learned: Use credible threats. They can take it; else, they will perish. Now I have pretty much forced myself to create an incompetent bandit leader as a NPC. Too bad. Regdar lived and will have his revenge. Or make a fair attempt at it, at least.

With one bandit as a prisoner and another dead, and one mage now armoured in leather and plated leather breastplate, the party continued onwards. This my complication of choice for that failed orienteering roll, so I let it ride and had them reach the mountain. There they encountered the strange guy living in the woods. Some talk and dinner later they continued onwards, after punching the old geezer. (I did not get to deliver the tasty line, since death was not at line. A pity.)

The cabin and the underground complex of doom (and death and frost)

Inside the cabin they, in no particular order, made a fire, burned a tapestry/painting, destroyed a clock, the sorcerer stole the book of names (but did not read it, just snatched the damn thing, as per his instinct) and finally moved down to the temple. Again, in no particular order, there was walking on faces of stone, messing with doors, grabbing a skeletal hand or two, playing with the organ and stealing something from the altar. Three characters died, two lived. I refer any who own the adventure to read the back cover.

The atmosphere was quite good, though one player did not help the matter. One player actually commented that he was expecting more monsters, so, Jim, your design works as intended.

To do

I will try to organise more of these sessions, as this I count as success, even though few, if any, of the players had played together before this.

I will need to start naming things and drawing my map on paper; as is, it is firmly located in my head, but not drawn anywhere. Further, I will need to name places and things. The city, in particular, needs a name.

To transfer the characters to BW wiki or forums would also be useful.

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D&D, old and new (Ropecon 09)

5 September, 2009 at 2:18 pm (actual play, Ropecon) (, , , )

In Ropecon I played Fane of the poisoned prophecies as GM’d by mister Raggi. After the con I’ve played four sessions of 4e.

Minor spoilers regarding the Fane shall follow.

Both of the games were mediocre, but for different reasons. The Fane felt somewhat directionless; we entered the place, killed some stuff, discovered some healing herbs, moved on, encountered a Cthulhuan camel, and so on. There was a big secret that we did not uncover, though the clues were there. I’m not certain that figuring out the secret would actually have been useful. On the treasure side we did find the herbs and one shelf of books, but the value of either was dwarfed by the appetite of the disenchanter-camel. Overall, I think the game might have been better if we had had a concrete goal or reason for being there. A good resource hoard to search for, say, or something more personal. Also, second journey in would likely have been more meaningful.

On the system side, we had one combat that felt too long (the moon chamber). All of them did nicely evoke a sense of danger and the need to move on, which was, I think, the point.

Overall: The play itself was fun; interacting with the environment and guessing at the level of risks. The combat system is pretty incidental I’d go as far as to further simplify it or abstract it away, since what happens inside combat is not, at least for me, that interesting. Props to James for not naming the monsters. It does make them feel more sword and sorcerish, probably due to facing the unknown and otherwordly, and less like D&D fantasy (Dragonlance, Forgotten realms, …).

Yeah: Every character made it out alive, though two, including my fighter henchman, were unconscious.

As for the game of 4e, we had some fights, found some traces of drow conspiracy, had some fights, attacked some underground temple and were all killed. Verdict: 4e is far more deadly than old school D&D. Maybe our only healer being one-shotted during surprise round also was a contributing factor.

4e does not prohibit people from roleplaying; I don’t see any relevant differences when compared to 3rd edition. What is relevant, and what is striking in contrast to old D&D (which does not have much encouragement for roleplaying, either) is that modern D&D has combats that take awfully long time. I take it that people enjoy such combats, but I would rather be roleplaying. In addition, such awfully long combats create the illusory dichotomy between using rules and roleplaying, so harming much discourse on rpgs.

Our game would have been better if we had more players familiar with the rules. Right now there was insignificant amounts of fumbling and me and the GM keeping track of rules for other players. Roleplay was, as always, as meaningful as we made it.

Overall, I probably will be playing 4e (or 3rd edition) only when there are no other interesting games available. They are still preferable to almost all board and card games, though. Chess might be counterexample, if I bothered learning it properly.

So, mediocre games but for different reasons. Clearly different games, also, with similarities being in the name and some cosmetic stuff.

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