Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Interesting indie games on my radar


The end of the year is almost upon us, and consequently I thought I'd devote a little time fulminating on some of the interesting indie RPG titles that have come up on my radar in recent months/years which I'm keen to have a go at when the opportunity presents, in 2011.

Luckily, many of these can probably be covered off in a single session, leaving time for lengthier campaigns using other systems, like Pathfinder or Rogue Trader.

Burning Wheel

I've long wanted to have a go at Luke Crane's excellent Burning Wheel system, which has since gone on to form the basis of other games like Burning Empires. I've been dipping in and out of BW in recent months, and have to say, I like what I see. It is not a simple system, by any means; its level of sophistication is comparable to Pathfinder.

I hasten to add that I've not read BW in its entirety, but I have 'burned up' (generated) a character. Initially, I found the XP system slightly off-putting. It requires players to keep tabs on which skills and attributes they test during the game, and how difficult that test was, in order to progress. In some ways this is reminiscent of BRP (Basic Role Playing), but more advanced.

However, in other areas, BW is quite simple, for example in the way it manages characters' financial resources as just another attribute that needs to be tested. Thus, the relative expense and scarcity of an item can be distilled into a single obstacle (target number in BW speak).

I will probably be posting more on BW in the near future as I continue to read up on it, but in terms of the fantasy/swords and sorcery genre, this game looks like it could end up being my favourite to GM.

Monsters & Other Childish Things

M&OCT could be a very interesting one-shot or mini campaign game. I like games which can be completed in between one and four three hour sessions. I don't like being responsible for story arcs that require more than that, to be honest. M&OCT fits the bill very nicely indeed.

M&OCT characters are school kids who happen to have monsters as friends. As a player, you generate your kid as your primary PC, but you also gen a monster. The great thing about the monsters is that you can really build one from the ground up: you have a dice (point) budget that sets a limit on the monster's overall power, but other than that, you're allowed to let your imagination run wild.

I've not figured out yet whether the monsters are invisible to adults, how they are allowed to intervene in day-to-day situations, or what the consequences of this are. The game feels a little bit like a dark version of Pokemon in some respects, as much of the conflict in the game stems from unleashing the beasts at one another, but there is also an underlying sub-game about the kids' relationships with each other, as well as with NPCs and objects/locations they value.

It is a little reminiscent of the Circles trait in BW: characters are not 'outsiders' who tramp into town and cause a ruckus like your typical D&D adventuring band: they have close connections with their community that have to be maintained if they are going to continue to benefit from them.

Chronica Feudalis

CF is a medieval RPG that uses a fairly 'straight' setting of historical Europe in the 12th or 13th century. There are no fantasy or magical elements to this game as far as I can see. It is slightly irritatingly written, as the author has tried to create it using the persona of a monk of the era - all the way through. It probably sounded like a great idea at the time.

The interesting thing about CF is that it is quite good at simulating a political-level game. It is something my group has dabbled with this year, first in our Rogue Trader campaign, and later with Pathfinder Kingmaker. The characters have had political ambitions - in both campaigns they have been granted a large area to explore and develop, and this has led them to take responsibility for their 'domain' at a fairly early stage, plus having to deal with all the threats and problems controlling such a demesne can face them with.

CF can allow players to take on a wide range of roles within medieval society, allowing for a game where they play peasants in a village, or outlaws in a forest, or even members of a noble house. It is highly scalable, and quite interesting to me as a consequence.

Esoterrorists

Finally, at some point I'd like to have a crack at the Gumshoe system. Esoterrorists was one of the first games published by Pelgrane using Robin Laws' Gumshoe system for investigative games. I played a demo of it at Dragonmeet in 2008 and I liked what I saw. I can understand the author's irritation with some aspects of Call of Cthulhu and other investigation-based games, and many of the mechanics of Esoterrorists have been cooked up to keep research-based plots pacey.

I particularly like the combination of the horror and espionage themes which Esoterrorists represents. It smacks of Delta Green, and I could quite see a Delta Green scenario being easily concocted using Esoterrorists and Ken Hite's Trail of Cthulhu together.

I really enjoyed running Cold City at BenCon this year: it is another horror/espionage game which, like Esoterrorists, uses a stripped down rules framework coupled with an exotic background, to come up with an excellent game. As a GM, I liked running a game which allowed me to focus on plot and characters, and take the game in new directions, without worrying about the crunch, of which there is little in either CC or Esoterrorists.

Having said that, playing as we do on Friday nights, at the end of the week, when everyone is tired, the question remains whether the investigative game has a viable future in our group. It may still work over a limited time arc, but I suspect that players prefer games that are more in your face these days, rather than having characters skulking around dusty libraries or poring over ancient texts.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Victory At Sea


Victory At Sea is a WW2 naval miniatures battle system from Mongoose Publishing, loosely based on their Call To Arms space combat system (set in the Babylon Five universe). I originally bought VaS in an effort to get into naval wargaming. I once owned a copy of Harpoon back in the early 1990s, and even got as far as setting up one of the starter scenarios in Harpoon, but never actually played a game of it. Looking back, and given the seeming complexity of Harpoon (and modern naval warfare) I was probably lucky: I fear the experience may have put me off naval wargaming.

Victory At Sea was really meant to be a return to the milieu, partly prompted by the availability of ready-painted plastic Axis& Allies warships, in 1/1800 scale (not really the scale of choice for WW2 naval wargamers, who tend to favour 1/2400 or 1/3000). But, the A&A miniatures include some great aircraft stands in their boosters, come ready painted (did I mention that?), AND can survive the attentions of young children, which is always a major selling point in my household.

The great thing about naval wargames rules is that they are not particularly scale specific, although playing out the Battle of Midway in 1/600 might require you to take to the garden (or one of those nice flat bowling greens that pepper the Brighton landscape).

Victory At Sea is not a comprehensive set of rules by any means. From experience we found it is NOT good for fighting convoy actions, and the rules for sub-hunting are sparse and inadequate. In the space of 20 minutes my group cooked up an alternative set of rules for ASW actions that is much more fun, using dummy counters. Oh, the frustration on the faces of the destroyer commanders as they find their latest sonar contact is but another shoal of herring!

VaS is really a game about fighting small to medium sized WW2 surface actions. Airpower in the game is understrength, to say the least. Ships get to make their AA attacks first, and any planes that survive that barrage can then drop bombs/launch torpedoes. In the two games I’ve played to date, the first saw Royal Navy Swordfish biplanes successfully attack an Italian light cruiser, crippling it with torpedoes in return for 33% losses amongst the pilots. In the second, German planes attacking a British Mediterranean convoy sustained 80% plus losses, which sounds too high to me. This was partly because they were attacking freighters in AA range of a British battleship, but still. You could potentially reason that some of the ‘losses’ were really pilots chickening out, perhaps dropping their torps into the sea prematurely, and reflect this in your campaign rules, yet…

Fellow gamers of mine have also tried VaS with a big 1945 Pacific War battle, a major clash of fleets between the Allies and a large Japanese force, but found this game dragged on too long. Their opinion was that there is an upper limit to the size of game one can manage with VaS, and it isn’t Leyte Gulf!

VaS has the feel of Warhammer about it. You roll attack dice based on the number of weapons in range, trying to score hits on a target number largely dictated by the target ship’s speed and size. Thus, a nippy destroyer is much harder for your gunners to hit than a battleship. But, once you score your hits, you then roll a number of damage dice for each hit in an effort to break through the target’s defensive armour (think Warhammer armour saves here). Damage is then tracked by ticking boxes, with scope for critical hits from sixes rolled at the damage stage (these tend to be what really puts most ships out of a battle).

What baffled me here was Crew hits. Each ship has a Crew rating, which tracks the number of active personnel, and lets losses to the crew affect the performance of the ship. The only problem is, according to the damage tables, Crew losses always seem relatively small, regardless of the weapon being used. Sure, critical damage like fire breaking out can cause additional Crew losses, but apart from merchant ships, which have relatively small crews in this game (and I suppose in real life), ships in VaS never seem to be taken out because of Crew losses. Something else always gives first, which begs the question – why bother tracking Crew hits?

There is also a lot of paperwork in VaS. Each ship has its own record sheet, even destroyers. This is great in a multi-player game, where each player has his own squadron of four or five ships, but if there are two of you playing a larger battle, you will be swamped with record keeping as you struggle to track how many torpedoes HMCS Haida has left to shoot. It does seem to set a ceiling on what can be gamed.

My group is still keen to game WW2 naval, but I suspect VaS will be shelved. Even my son has not expressed much enthusiasm about revisiting it, and this is telling. Perhaps it is lacking in the ‘fun factor’ stakes. I know A Call To Arms was a very successful project for Mongoose, and they are apparently in the process of hatching a new set of sci fi rules that draws heavily on CTA as its game engine, but this has simply not worked well for WW2.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Pathfinder Kingmaker: the mother of all owl bears


So, having killed the mother of all trolls in an earlier session, this time around we were faced with the mother of all owl bears. Regular readers will remember that a gigantic owl bear (heretofore to be known as Owlzilla by the players) had trampled all over our beloved capital of Staghelm while the party was off troll slaying. Interviewing survivors discovered said behemoth was also wearing armour (we were told metal, at which point druid Cassie and wizard Grameer dutifully swotted up on their Heat Metal spells).

Owlzilla was easy to track and we were quickly able to isolate its lair in the SE region of our domain in an as yet unexplored and unclaimed area of the domain. It was decided that we would have to enter the hill under which it laired, rather than lay an ambush outside and wait for it to come out foraging. Although an 80 foot cave mouth beckoned, we cautiously scouted for alternative entrances, and found a back route. However, this was only accessible via a narrow path, so again we left Bullwinkle, Cassie's moose companion, behind.

Wu Ya, the tengu monk, volunteered to scout the entrance, whereupon he was set upon by two ettercaps. Luckily Grameer was right behind him and fried their webs with a Fire Ball spell. The ettercaps did not last long enough for my character, Artemisia, to enter the cave but anyway, she was saving herself for the Boss.

A hole in the floor led down to a much bigger cave, where we found the body of one dead owl bear and two of its young, plus a third baby owl bear which was wounded and still alive. More worryingly the bodies of several half orcs and barbarians bore witness to a battle. We are currently working on the theory that Owlzilla was deliberately provoked into attacking Staghelm by a third party, and the finger of suspicion hovers over our erstwhile neighbours to the west, although Artemisia has not ruled out our eastern neighbours either, as this lair is much closer to their borders, and they could easily have slipped this party over the frontier.

Needless to say, as we were searching the cave for further clues, Owlzilla put in an appearance. Technically, we could have fled, but given we were here to kill him anyway, we decided to stay the course.

Most of the session was devoured by this epic battle. I can only speculate how many hit points this critter had. It managed to seize our rogue, Olban, as he was trying to flank it for a sneak attack, and proceed to use him as a club. It also managed to seize and rend our summoned griffon, eventually banishing/slaying it too. Wu Ya was enlarged by Grameer and launched a frontal attack on Owlzilla, while Artemisia moved round behind it to launch a flanking attack. Owlzilla now had both hands full, so the best he could do was fight us off using the luckless creatures he was holding (including Olban, who took damage every time he was used to strike something else).

Cassie and Grameer both summoned rhinos using Summon Nature's Ally, which proved particularly effective against Owlzilla. It managed to dispatch three of these all the same, but when it finally tottered and fell, was still facing a rhino and a pack of five dogs, all summoned, plus I think Cujo, our pet guard dog.

The surviving baby owl bear has been adopted, to join Susie, our trained owl bear, in our menagerie in Staghelm, and perhaps be trained up to be a future adventuring companion. Owlzilla is to be skinned and stuffed and mounted in the great hall of our castle in Staghelm, where it will be decorated at Xmas with ivy and presents for the children.

One other interesting outcome: Olban was almost beaten to a pulp, and had to be restored by Cassie's new cleric cohort. We decided to bribe one of his lieutenants to retire and leave the realm, letting the changeling Olban take on his identity. Then we can promote him to take over Olban's position on the council, and hopefully throw Mad Eddie, the changeling assassin on Olban's trail, off the scent. We can but hope. Whether there is a negative impact of national morale as a consequence of Olban's 'death' is an open question: I suspect the more conservative citizens are probably quietly pleased.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Enter the ninja: simples!


With Winter BenCon looming (although no date has been specified as yet), thoughts turn to the game I will be running. As established in BenCon 1, in August, there are three RPG slots to fill, namely morning, afternoon, and evening. In the words of the (in)famous meerkat, "Simples!"

I've volunteered to run a Runequest game, alongside the second part of Kelvin's Savage Eberron saga, and a Trail of Cthulhu offering from Irish Dave. I'd like to test drive the Mongoose version of Runequest to get a feel for it, and am hoping it won't be too much of a shock to the system, as I spent a large slice of the 1990s running Call of Cthulhu games. Having said that, there is new crunch involved in RQ, like strike ranks and hit point allocations to body parts, but overall, it seems somehow - simpler (there's that blasted meerkat again) than some of the more sophisticated rules I've been playing or reading recently (Pathfinder and Burning Wheel foremost amongst them).

I've chosen to run a Japanese fantasy one-shot because I'm vastly more familiar with ancient Japan than I am with Glorantha, plus Glorantha and its ducks bring Ben out in hives. Japan I've been to, and spent a good slice of my degree studying, so hey, I'm on familiar ground here, and Mongoose has kindly obliged my by publishing an RQ supplement entitled Land of Samurai.

Land of Samurai is interesting in that it really focuses on the period in advance of the Gempei War, the conflict between the Minamoto and Taira families which ushered in the Kamakura period and real feudalism in the country. Prior to that you have an imperial bureaucracy and associated nobility at the pinnacle of the social pyramid, with the samurai class doing the dirty business of fighting, killing, and conquering new lands from the Ainu in the north. Ultimately, the empire is semi-feudal in nature, with a strong clergy that, as with Europe, sits outside the social structure (although a priest from the nobility is going to get ahead quicker than a priest who was born in a grass hut).

I'm looking at five to six PCs for this game, depending on who shows and who doesn't. A lot depends on dates, as it will either occur just before Xnmas, or in the New Year. I'm guessing we're going to angle for a weekend, ideally a Saturday. Two players have already generated their own characters, or are in the process of doing so, while I'm looking at generating characters for Manoj and Irish Dave, leaving Sebastian to probably work on his own.

Hence, I have managed to run off my first PC for the game, at Manoj's request a ninja. Now, ninja were not around historically in the 11th century, but Mongoose have added them because, hey, it's a samurai game, someone is bound to want to play a ninja. What really impressed me with RQ was how quick it was to knock out a character. I sat down on Saturday afternoon with Sebastian (who has decided to put aside his Rokugan campaign in favour of a 4e Eberron game) and generated first a 4th edition D&D goliath fighter for Eberron, then my RQ ninja for Manoj, and then got started on my halfling alchemist for Kelvin's upcoming mini campaign using the Pathfinder rules.

I'll tell you what: in terms of time consumed, the RQ character was easily the quickest and simplest, followed by the 4e character. The Pathfinder character I didn't finish in the allotted time. You could argue that this was because the Pathfinder PC, Harry Beau, was 5th level, but so was the D&D character. Once you've played 4e for a bit, it becomes easier to knock out a PC. Heck, you can even randomise one, although the idea probably fills some people with horror. I happen to love random chargen systems, but then maybe that's just me!

Anyway, please find my first stab at an RQ character below:

Arasaka Shubichi, 25, Heimin Ninja

On: 23

STR 11, CON 9, SIZ 10, INT 14, POW 10, DEX 9, CHA 13

Combat Actions: 2; Damage Mod 0; Hero Pts 2, Move 4, Strike Rank 11

Finances: 180 mon carried; 3 koku income per annum

Languages: Japanese 64%; Kuji-kiri 64%

Basic skills over 20%: Athletics 25%, Dodge 39%, Driving 20%, First Aid 24%, Influence 23%, Lore - Plant 24%, Perception 34%, Persistence 30%, Resilience 24%, Sleight 24%, Stealth 29%, Throwing 29%, Unarmed 41%, Close Combat 20%

Advanced skills: Regional Lore 24%, Survival 24%, Farming Lore 14%, Disguise 23%

Weapon skills: Bojutsu 30%, Tantojutsu 30%, Kenjutsu 34%

Equipment: Do maru, wrist guards, entry equipment, firepot, smokescreen compound, 1d3 sleeping draft

I won't go into the hit points distribution, but that's it in a nutshell. As the meerkat says, "simples!"

Pathfinder: the mother of all trolls


We last left our party engaged in a battle with trolls in an abandoned dwarf hold. At this stage things were looking a little dicey, with the tengu monk Wu Ya and the barbarian Artemisia facing off against one troll, while the rest of the party had been tackled by a two-headed troll/ettin crossbreed, with our rogue, the changeling Olban, suddenly finding himself toe-to-toe with the 'trettin'.

I was already concerned, with Artemisia, my character, down to 50% hps, that we were going to dig ourselves into a hole. The fact that our wizard, the elf Grameer, had seen fit to actually create a 30 foot hole in the floor of the tunnel intersection for us to dig ourselves into, a hole since bridged by one of the trolls using a door it had torn off its hinges, was pressing on my mind. Our druid, the elf queen Cassie (and head of state of our little realm)had seen fit to set fire to this door using Flaming Sphere, with the two primary fighters in the party on the other side it.

It was all going according to plan, then...

The tide of this battle was really turned when Cassie produced her wondrous item, a statuette of a griffin which could actually turn into a life-size version. This was used to devastating effect against the trettin, which was finally flanked by Olban and then downed by Grameer using Magic Missile (if my memory serves me correctly).

On the sharp end, Wu Ya and Artemisia were locked in mortal combat with two trolls. Wu Ya was off his game, leaving Artemisia to carve great steaming chunks out of the rock troll. With Haste and her new barbarian power, Less Spirit Totem, she was making four attacks per round, and inflicted over 70hps of damage on the rock troll in one round. With the trettin dead, the rest of the team were able to join in the battle, including the griffin. The rock troll died a death, leaving one troll standing, which was grappled by the griffin, although by this stage Artemisia was down to one hit point (!), as the troll was concentrating its attacks on her (bird boy was virtually impossible to hit, as his ki powers make him AC31).

At this stage the barbarian was hit again and, despite her Guarded Life power, would have died, because by falling unconscious, she loses her additional rage hit point bonus, and at 2hps per level, at 6th level, this equates to 12hps. Guarded Life (an Advanced Players Guide power) stabilised her at -7 and effectively diverted 50% of the sub zero hit point damage total to non lethal, but add the loss of 12 rage hit points and she was at -19 and effectively dead.

It was then that someone pointed out the troll had been grappled by the griffon, and could only have delivered a single attack that round, NOT three. Being grappled by a 500lb griffin is not conducive to attacking someone else, particularly at a reach range of 10 feet. At this stage we hit the rewind button on the round, leaving the barbarian still upright, and the GM off to the kitchen to fix himself a large vodka.

The troll failed to last another round, and the party was given a single round to heal up and take positions before another troll, a giant mother of all trolls, emerged. With healing potion and spell support from the druid, Artemisia was able to restore herself to +20 hps before the encounter, but I prudently chose to stay out of range of the troll and let Wu Ya and Olban tackle it, with the aid of the griffin. I think I hit it twice with arrows, but the real damage was done elsewhere, with the griffin getting at least one crit on the monster.

This troll's death ended a protracted and bloody battle which almost saw Artemsia killed. That would have been early showers for me as I don't have a back up pc right now (I'm generating a 5th level hobbit alchemist for Kelvin's game, but that's at an early stage). We were able to level up to 7th. The highest level game of D&D I've ever played in was 7th, and that was back in the mid-1980s when I was running the Isle of Dread campaign for Expert level D&D. Lost in the mists of time!

Cassie's player Ric, who won't be with us next week, questioned the absence of her animal companion, a moose called Bullwinkle. He would have been useful in this battle, and next time round I think he ought to be brought into the dungeon. Kelvin rightly pointed out that we accessed this dungeon by climbing a tower, which a moose might have been challenged by. But the griffin was a real lifesaver for us (literally), and is powerful enough at this level to make a difference against some of the critters we are coming up against.

We returned to our base at Staghelm, to find that a gigantic owl bear had rampaged into the city and destroyed several buildings, before heading off again. We suspect that the foreign powers plotting against us might be behind this, and that it is no random rampage. Time will tell.

Next: Runequest, Ninjas, and the joys of less complex rules systems

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Half term Pathfinder


Half term came and went, and with it the chance to play some more Pathfinder. This seems to be all that we really play at the moment, with the main Kingmaker campaign rolling on Friday evenings, and Kelvin's Carrion Hill scenario looming once we complete the current Kingmaker story arc (of which more in a later post).

At half term we try to get some gaming in with Sebastian, and sometimes Jed. This October we had Sebastian and Ric round the table, with Ben in the GM's chair running a 1st level Pathfinder adventure. Sebastian and I rolled up some characters in advance: Seb had a human fighter, and I was armed with a gnome druid. Ric turned up with a drow wizard (specialising in necromantic magic), and we had an elven rogue nominally being played by Maya to round it all off (although in the end Seb took over the rogue too).

Our basic mission was to head off in the direction of a lost tower/keep, owned by a wizard who had left Ptolus (our home base and GM Ben's default urban setting at the moment) to go into self-imposed exile. The wizard was an acquaintance of Ric's pc, but it looked as if contact had been lost with him, there was a good chance he was dead, and thus the opportunity existed to go plunder the tower. Game on!

To complicate things, we were being spied on by a raven familiar belonging to one of Ric's academic rivals. I apologise to readers for not including the names of PCs as I can't remember them, other than Rom, Seb's fighter.

Our first encounter happened in the middle of the night: we were lured, in the rain away from our camp by the sound of a child in distress. Yes, veteran players of D&D will have guessed that we ran into an ambush by a mother and baby team of leucrottas, both of which we managed to slay.

Another nocturnal encounter found us being attacked by a pack of stirges. On this occasion my druid used Summon Nature's Ally to call in his own stirge to act as a sort of anti-missile missile. It woke me up to the opportunities of summoned stirges, of which more later.

We also passed what was obviously meant to be the location of the Tomb of Horrors, before we were distracted by what looked like a bonfire in the distance. We decided to investigate - against my own advice (my gnome was all for pushing on) - and found a burned out homestead with some bodies scattered around. Entering the ruins, we were ambushed by the bodies themselves, which became animated as zombies and fell on us. Two half orc mercenaries, a raven, and Ric erstwhile academic rival completed the sorry situation.

This was a close-fought battle. My druid had a wolf animal companion, and we also had purchased two trained guard dogs, giving us some much-need extra fangs in this fight. An Entangle spell (cast by yours truly) created havoc for the half orcs and the zombies, although one of our guard dogs got hacked to bits. The Entangle caused the enemy wizard to fluff one of his spells, and then a summoned stirge embedded itself in his chest, making his life yet more difficult. He tried turning himself invisible, but the drow cast faerie fire on him, leaving Rom the fighter to finish him off (beheaded with a great sword in a coup de grace). It was a bloody battle, with my gnome at one stage fleeing due to a Fear spell cast on him. But we succeeded, and walked away with some Dust of Invisibility.

We now reached the village which was to be our likely base of operations before our assault on the dungeon. We didn't stay there long, pausing only to level up to 2nd before pressing on. Ric had been largely dissatisfied with the performance of his drow, and so multi-classed into paladin. He is now a 'necrodin', a paladin of a drow death cult.We were aware that we were running out of time in the real world, and dallying in the village was deferred to next time.

Pressing on, we found that the 'tower' was in fact a ruined keep, and well guarded by orcs. This time round, the elf came into her own, scaling a tower to backstab an orc sentry, then using her bow to try to pick off some others. Eventually, this raised the alarm, as an arrow doing 1d8+2 damage is unlikely to kill orcs outright. We rushed through the gatehouse, with the druid casting Obscuring Mist in an effort to stop orcs shooting at us from the walls.

This encounter turned into a confused battle, with orcs rushing out of a guardhouse to engage us, and the drow going off on his own to tackle some orcs in one of the towers, and the wolf tracking down random orcs in the courtyard. One orc tried to jump off the gatehouse to escape sniper fire from the elf rogue, only to break both his legs. Another orc had his throat ripped out by a guard dog as he approached the mist, only to have a ferocious canine come bounding out to pounce on him. Blood, and guts, and screaming all over the place.

Suffice to say, all the orcs seem to have been killed, for the loss of one guard dog. We have now sadly lost both guard dogs, but we're now at 2nd level and twice as powerful as we were.

This was pretty much where we left it, as Ben was ailing from a stomach virus and needed to retreat anyway. The last two encounters were played using 3D terrain, including ruined buildings and trees/bushes/foliage, which I felt added considerably to the aesthetics of the game. I also got to trot out some of my Games Workshop Lord of the Rings orcs for the final battle, so good to have them getting an outing.

Overall, everyone seemed quite pleased.

Next: Plans for Winter BenCon and my first effort to GM a RuneQuest game!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

A quick catch up on Pathfinder


October ended up being a total desert for me gaming wise, as any observer will be able to tell from this blog. What, with my birthday, my wife's birthday, and various other commitments, I was not able to make the Friday Pathfinder session for about a month. On the upside, work has picked up big time. I was able to get some PS2 gaming in here and there, focusing on Champions of Norrath and Baldur's Gate - Dark Alliance 2, both great games which capture some of the old school feel of D&D. However, now my son has been banned for using the Playstation for three weeks due to a sub-standard homework performance, so it looks like I'll be forced into a few solo outings on The Thing, a single player horror adventure game I picked up for a song, which is inspired by the film(s) of the same name.

I'm seriously thinking about moving my sport and trading musings into different blogs, and restricting The Great Game to my purely gaming-related musings, which is perhaps what it should be.

Looking at the traffic on this site, it seems to be the Pathfinder posts which are attracting the most attention. Unfortunately, several chapters of our Kingmaker campaign have charged past in October, and much has gone on in my absence, which unfortunately I cannot report in any great detail. Suffice to say there seems to have been an altercation with some lizardmen, and a hydra was duly tracked down and slain (a monster, rumours of which the DM had been tormenting us with for what seems like months now!) Still, the aquatic threat seems to have been safely purged, and we're back on solid ground.

I finally made it back to the group last Friday, to pick up where I left off with Artemisia, my human barbarian character, now at 6th level. Our kingdom seems to be shaping up nicely, although I'm not really doing much of the day-to-day kingdom administration, a task nobly undertaken by Manoj, our resident elven wizard, for whom the number crunching and spreadsheets required for the Pathfinder kingdom system hold much appeal.

The kingdom continues to coalesce into spheres of influence, with a sort of university town in the north run by our wizard, Grameer, and a druidic religious centre under Queen Cassie, our druid and head of state. The capital, and most easily defensible settlement, remains Staghelm, run by Artemisia and ably assisted by the tengu monk Wu Ya. Olban, our changeling rogue, has his own somewhat disreputable settlement, little more than a collection of gambling dens and brothels, to the west.

Last week's session kicked off with Olban waking up in bed next to the severed head of one of his madams. It turns out she, and one of his bodyguards, have been murdered by an old accomplice of his, another changeling, who we believe could be out to disrupt our benevolent reign as well as assassinate Olban into the bargain. This rogue, called Mad Eddie or One Eyed Eddie, could become a problem due to his ability to change his identity with ease, and strike against us when we least expect it. We were not able to make much progress in tracking him down, so in the interests of distracting ourselves, went troll hunting instead.

We continue to explore the southern regions of our realm, where I believe there could be a dragon lurking, and where there are still some tough monsters. In this case we have infiltrated a troll lair, once a dwarf stronghold, and have managed to finally get ourselves into a bit of a pickle. We started off fairly stealthily, and managed to kill three trolls before they woke up to our presence, but now we are in some tunnels beneath the dwarf watchtower and starting to lose hit points. Plus, I'm aware some of our spellcasters have already cast their best stuff.

We're also facing off against up to three more trolls, maybe more (I think we've killed five or six now), including a 'trettin', a troll/ettin hybrid, which is particularly nasty.

We had to leave the game mid-battle last week, as we were already down two players by 11.30pm, and some of us have small children who are no respecters of lie-ins on Saturday mornings!

Next time: more on the 1st level Pathfinder game we managed to get away at half term, plus thoughts on the upcoming BenCon.