Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Actual Play: Somewhere North, session 7

Previously: our heroes Kulk and Joonas (Patrick and David W) took their merry band of retainers and hangers-on to a Dwarven tower (a silo effectively) and battled through a minor Pug warband and avoided undead threats, before escaping with the head of a Shiner (mechanical? man made by Dwarves) and treasure.

They head off with the artifacts that they have found, and despite finding themselves adrift in a blizzard they make it back to the Hentunen nomads. They make a trade of hotstones for a large covered sled, and the following day head off on a new quest. They have heard of the Palace of the Perfect Moon, a minor Dwarven base that has fallen into disrepair; it lies to the north-west and may contain more artifacts, maybe even the materials necessary to repair PeMem, the Shiner head that is acting as their guide to all things Dwarven.

Finding the Ahtisaari nomads, who speak a bizarre language, they are eventually able to communicate their need. Given directions, they set off the next day with a new friend, the massive Magnusson Monsterslayer, the favourite son of the Ahtisaari (however, he does not easily pick up words, and communication problems ensue...). On their journey they avoid a Hate Bear, which by reputation they have not gone near.

Arriving at the Palace of the Perfect Moon, which legend says was magically built in a single night. Entering carefully they scout around and find rooms that are smashed up, odds and ends of silver but nothing much really. Until they find strange gold Z marks that emanate a faint heat. After Kulk sets off an explosive runes trap with the same marking, and has his hands branded for the effort (with a gold Z across them) they start to come around to the idea that Zinternik, the toymaker, must have been here once before. Indeed, when encountering skeletons or giant mechanical spiders they notice clues that point to him having been in the palace, possibly delving and researching years before.

The group are strong, and in each encounter they don't seem to be in danger. After all there are a lot of them. In reserve by their sleds are two academics who have travelled with them, a cleric and two halflings; their dungeon-crawling force comprises the two PCs (a fighter and a specialist), three regular cannon-fodder fighter-types, Magnusson and the head of PeMem (strapped to Joonas' back "like C-3PO on Chewbacca").

Kulk is temporarily blinded by a magicked corridor, but that only knocks him off front line duty for a couple of hours. The party are kicking in doors in the seemingly abandoned palace, fighting off the occasional skeletons and metal spiders, but being cautious all the same. They know that part of the palace contains a Muurahainen nest, and while they have not seen a Muurahainen swarm they have heard enough to be worried. With half of the main level mapped and a clear route through the magicked corridors, they now intend to head down into the lower levels...

Too much XP: Seven sessions in, and I'm trying to get the balance between possibilities for earning XP and the likelihood that PCs will find stuff that is XP-worthy. In the last two sessions they've picked up way too much stuff that has given them a boost. In this session they earned over 5000XP each; although, if the XP were split between more people, this wouldn't be as big an issue. Something to think on.
More danger needed: Maybe. I was chuffed that Kulk got blinded by the corridor. There was a table of possible effects (some of which were far more permanent than temporary blindness). The physical threats have appeared and been less than severe - perhaps there are just too many in the party for anything other than a seriously big creature or a massive horde to be much of a threat? I don't know. The deeper levels of the palace are more dangerous, and from what they've heard a nest of Muurahainen could be pretty lethal if not approached carefully.
XP Watch: Joonas jumps to level 3 (hello Fighter combat bonus) and Kulk continues his journey to level 6.
Magnusson: I have a table for generating nomadic families who live out on the snow and ice. These are large groups of around 100 people, and mostly subsist off what they hunt and fish. I have some subcharts for flavouring them, so for example, a particular quirk or detail of the clan, and a detail particular to their favourite son. I rolled up half a dozen before play, and last night rolled the Ahtisaari as the group that the PCs would meet. The bizarre language presented a nice bit of role-playing as the players tried to communicate. And the favourite son being a monster-slayer added an intriguing possibility - especially with the language factor. A 6'8" muscle-bound killer with a giant club and an eight word vocabulary. A joy to play.
Sharing Stats: I'm hoping that the PCs do meet some of the residents of the palace (Muurahainen, the contents of the menagerie) in the next session, as then I'll be able to share them here without fear of spoilers!


  1. Something does seem off about the experience points; as written, LotFP characters shouldn't advance that fast. On the other hand, if they're earning that 5000xp (!) then that's fine; it's only a problem if it's given away for soft reasons.

    All that said, the experience rules in LotFP are one of the most frustrating and woolly parts of the game.

    1. I think I left too many little pieces of treasure lying around - Patrick said afterwards that in the rules it suggests there being enough treasure so that people maybe get a third of the way up a level (and that's if they get everything). That seems a little harsh to me, but I think I went too far the other way. Ah well, live and learn.

      What is it about the experience rules that you find frustrating?

    2. The experience rules in LotFP are more or less identical to those of early D&D, so encourage and support a treasure reclamation-based style of play. That's all well and good in early D&D, but almost everything else about LotFP seems to suggest it's not about delving into dungeons and pulling out piles of coins. It can be played that way, but it seems to want to be more Solomon Kane in tone.

      The addition of the investments and property rules is a sign, I think, that this is a known issue; it's a fix that seems to be designed to get rid of all that money that the characters earn in order to gain experience.

      James Raggi has said in a couple of places that if he did a second edition of the game, he'd revise the experience rules, or drop them altogether.

  2. For difficulty you can go with bigger OR smarter. Baddies that stalk the party, waiting to catch them with their pants down, ambush them from a superior position, use good tactics, hit and run repeatedly, use unconventional weapons(poison/explosives)...

    1. I've got something I can't spoil (hopefully after next session) which I think fits some of those categories. I think in trying to trail something about the environment and the creatures/people that can be found in the setting, I may have done too much to push them in a direction away from some of them.

      I'm thinking about the Muurahainen swarm-creatures that I've mentioned a few times. The slightest mention sends the party going a different route. Depending on numbers, they could be really challenging. The party's offensive capability is 90% melee-based and there are no magic-users. Even given their track record they might take a real battering if mobbed by a few dozen wolf-sized insect/reptile/mammal-things...

    2. Ooh, that's fun--when a recurring rumor takes on a life of it's own.

      That said, I the players always seem to surprise me in what their able to take-on, either by luck or by skill. Not sure why that is--makes me wonder if the whole idea of CR is BS, since it doesn't take in the human factor...