Friday, 31 August 2012

Games Night: Nine Hours in Asp

noisms seems to have the actual play reports of Yoon-Suin fairly well in hand, and I don't think that there is much that I could add to his description this week. I had some free time last night, and Patrick invited me along to play Lamentations of the Flame Princess/Vornheim/Isle of the Unknown with the group of teens he DMs for. When we got there it turned out that none of them could make it, but since we were there anyway, Patrick offered to DM an escapade in the city of Asp with me playing as three PCs. I had a Specialist and a Cleric rolled up anyway, so just had to roll up a Fighter really quick and describe her. I'm reading Specials by Scott Westerfeld at the moment, so the image of a wiry-muscled 19 year old with arms covered with sleeves of alternating tattoos and scars came to mind quite vividly.

It was GREAT fun. After getting over the initial "how do I handle this?" moments, I was soon into playing the three different characters. In some ways I found it easier to handle Charley, Chastity and Priam and keep their personalities straight than to just manage one PC. Perhaps it is because I could use different characters to do different kinds of things? Maybe. In my mind it was also clearer that it was "right" for example to send Charley to do one thing (go about looking for rumours) while leaving the others to scout out an area; the narrative seemed to flow that way really well. The only real difficulty was brainstorming plans, but that was only a minor hindrance.

After some time of investigating, the only real snag that I hit was when it came to planning how to break into a house. We had learned that the sculptress whose house we were breaking into was a little more than human (I won't say too much as I don't want to spoil Vornheim for any one), so we needed a good cover. Since she lived in a rich area, and the area we had gone to plan was dirt poor, I hit on the idea of paying some "hate-the-rich hooligans" to cause a diversion by knocking at her door and then bricking every window in the front of her house, while we climbed up the back to the roof.

It worked. We had plenty of time to search her bedroom and a secret room, got the proof we needed, found evidence of even greater evil and then the artist arrived and attacked. As a five hit dice opponent against first level Fighter and Cleric and a barely level two Specialist it was not an easy fight, and she did have a special ability to ward us off. Still: we got a few hits in, the Cleric used Command to force her to her knees (she failed the save) and then we got some serious hits in. She tried to run, but a Sneak Attack with a short bow was enough to amp up the damage. BAM! One dead bad guy, XP galore.

Chased out by an undead house protector, Charley had to jump off the roof while the others climbed to safety. Very lucky that he got levelling HP earlier in the day. We returned to the office of the city factotum who gave us the mission and accidentally presented him with a magical item which put him in a state of kleptomania. With only minutes to go before the end of the session it seemed appropriate to put him to sleep in order to get our possessions back.

This is where I fell down. I pushed my luck too far with the Lords of the Roll and spectacularly failed my roll for the Command spell (Patrick's house rule for unmemorised magic) causing my Cleric's shadow to separate and try to kill him.

"And that's where we leave things for tonight..."

Awesome - and the first time I've had a character level up in LotFP/D&D. Great games night.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Thursday Tales

The Tales From Zero Point Oracle delivers something a little different...
Queen of Spades: A trio of crippled friends, none human, all without fear and destined for adventure.
Six of Clubs: A starscraper lies empty, save for the man who tries to maintain it.
Nine of Diamonds: A slum lord depressurizes a section of the station because his tenants can't pay the rent.
Seven of Spades: An epochs-old damaged war mech, one functioning weapons pod and cracked lenses, guarding the last repository of original art.

The Caretaker lives in a starscraper that is owned by the Slum Lord. He's the last person living there after the Slum Lord depressurised it because of "non-payment of tithes". The Slum Lord sees himself as a feudal baron, and because he has access codes to local environmental controls (among other things) he will see his will be done. He has some retainers, police thugs, and most of the tenants were evicted beforehand. He is waiting for them to disperse before he can repressurise it and claim their belongings, then advertise the starscraper as new living/business space. Living in the far future, his thinking is trapped in a hybrid 12th/20th century model. He holds secure a treasure trove of art, acting as banker and broker for minor art houses (some legit, some not).

The Trio lived in the outer floors of the starscraper, on the 110th floor out to space, in a relatively low gravity environment away from the core of Zero Point. They were soldiers, variously an uplifted dolphin, an uplifted wolf and a neanderthal. Wounded in battle, they retired to live out their remaining years in peace and quiet. Until now. They have left the starscraper in some basic mobility suits, but need both power, shelter and revenge on the Slum Lord... A plan is formed.

The PCs
The Dolphin: is totally reliant on the suit that she wears. A muscle paralyser dart has reduced her motor functions, and besides she can't get around on land easily without it. In the water she can get about. Her best interests are to locate the art and to have revenge on the Slum Lord.
The Wolf: has two cybernetic hind legs, and has cognitive brain functions boosted by implants. Consequently he is tactically brilliant, even if his mobility is not what it once was. His best interest is to rip the throat out of the Slum Lord.
The Neanderthal: lost his arms and eyes in combat. He has excellent vision now, his eyes boost light in multiple wavelengths and "see" what the station sees (where service allows), but his arms are very basic models, and do not fit with his body type at all. His best interest is to take the Slum Lord's place and attempt to lead well (not as a tyrant).

The NPCs
The Slum Lord: an evil greedy bastard, basically. Not too smart, but not stupid either. If there's an angle, he wants to play it. The artworks are a nest egg; he gets a cut of their appreciating value, and a cut when transactions are made. Usually, everything stays in the vault, which is guarded by the Mech: a great big ancient City Pacifier, capable of controlling a city district of 10^6 sentients single-handedly. Luckily it doesn't have the firepower it once had... Right? The Slum Lord's best interest is to do whatever it takes to get the Caretaker out of the starscraper, to establish total control, kill anyone he has to and make a lot of money.
The Caretaker: a middle-aged man, trying to find a way to usurp the starscraper controls away from the Slum Lord, hopefully permanently. If he can do that then hopefully the former tenants can move back in, and form a proper defence against the Slum Lord's future ambitions. He has a few floors pressurised, and otherwise gets around in an atmosphere rig. His best interest is to get control of the starscraper and re-pressurise it. If possible he may want to try and lock out the Slum Lord's access permanently. (could work as a PC)
Various Thugs: a motley crew of ne'er-do-wells and mercs, they do what the Slum Lord says. He pays them. Their best interest is to get the job done and drink themselves stupid afterwards. Nuff said.
Former Starscraper Tenants: have set up a shanty town nearby to the starscraper. Thugs keep harassing them, but so far it is mostly for fun. The Slum Lord will want them to be moved soon though, so that he can sell up the facilities. Their leader has lived in the starscraper for her whole life, and is uncomfortable at the fringes of the Zero Point habitat. The Tenants' best interest is to hold out and reclaim their homes.

The trio jump out to me as protagonists, but maybe that is because the Paralympics start today. I also like the idea of the themes about justice and revenge. If the Slum Lord is taken out then there may be some social justice, but possibly through the lens of revenge... Why does the Neanderthal want to lead in the place of the Slum Lord? What is the motivation?

What do you see in the Oracle?

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Thursday Tales

Following on from last week I thought it might be interesting to take something from the Zero Point oracle that our group put together for a far future sci-fi setting (which sits within our Microscope-generated "To The Stars" universe), and see what falls out of the elements selected. This is just my interpretation - the story set-up that I see. If you see something else, then tell me in the comments!
The Oracle says...
Jack of Hearts: Monks plot revenge on those they envy.
Eight of Hearts: There are ghosts in space who worship Satan.
Five of Diamonds: After civilisation collapses, an AI takes the form of an ancestor spirit to relate to the survivors.
Seven of Diamonds: A grief-stricken soul dreams of a new life as a ship's captain.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Games Night: A New Man in Yoon-Suin

Last night was another journey in Yoon-Suin, and my new character didn't disappoint. noisms has given a good account of the session, but states early on that I rolled "a ridiculously lucky set of stats" which, I guess, is probably accurate.

noisms method for rolling stats was to roll in order for STR, DEX, INT, WIS, CON and CHA, and he would allow one switch after they were all rolled (i.e., no re-rolling, but if I wanted to WIS and CON scores I could). Thankfully, the dice were extremely well-behaved last night!

STR 16
DEX 13
INT 11
WIS 13
CON 13

Well, OK, except for Charisma... I decided that these were pretty good stats for a Fighter, and early on decided that the only way to play someone with a Charisma of 6 is to act as someone who thinks they are very charming, and can't understand why others seem to screw their face up at him or roll their eyes. Poor Manjeet.

I don't have a clear picture in my head yet of what Manjeet actually looks like; I'm thinking tall, shaved head but with a few days of stubble coming in around his chin. His family are artisans (again, the luck of a random roll; after my previous success with stats and maximum hit points everyone was rooting for my personal history to reveal I was a eunuch) so I guess he would be fairly well turned out.

When I first met Marich (David) and Anil (Patrick) in the forest they gave great short descriptions of themselves. Patrick said, "You see a short, squat, bald man." David: "You see Prince Harry in a wizard's robe."

A high point of the session for me was being the one to deliver the killing blow to Manesh, the Bandit Chief who we battled against last time. I think we were really well coordinated, and Patrick's idea to hire retainers and to kit them out properly worked well. Not only did they hold their own quite well in delaying large numbers of attackers, but because we bothered to armour them up they didn't just die as soon as an opponent looked at them.

noisms claims I was ridiculously lucky; a quick bit of calculation and it turns out he is probably right: there's approximately a 1 in 6.8 million chance of me being that "lucky". And that's before you factor in the max HP roll as well. I just see it as the dice rewarding me for the spectacular fails in the last session. I wonder if I will be so lucky next Tuesday. When you have a Charisma of 6 you really have to make your own luck I guess...

Monday, 20 August 2012

Human Again

Two weeks ago my slug-man magic user Eki Ulele was killed in our regular OD&D game. noisms has hinted a little that there may be ways to raise characters from the dead in Yoon-Suin but has given no actual hints about how that might be done. That means that tomorrow I will be statting up a new character, and I've decided that this time he's going to be human.

And he won't be a magic user: after five sessions of getting knocked out and several where I've had spells that were often not useful - possibly, this was down to me not finding a use for them - I've decided that it might be best to go down the Fighter route. Our party already has a Cleric and a Magic-User, so I've decided that someone a bit hands on, covered in armour might be good. Playing as a Thief is tempting, but I'm not sure what the benefits of being a thief are in OD&D.

So I think I will be a Human Fighter. And I might play with the George Costanza path to decision-making: whatever my first inclination is, I will do the opposite. A pacifist fighter... Hmm. Maybe not.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Getting My Maths On

Watch this space; I've been struck by inspiration somehow today, and so am finally getting maths thoughts out of my head where they have been stewing for ages. I've been writing for a work-type project (I do skills training with PhD students and research staff) and need a different kind of outlet. I thought that was going to be figuring out whether or not to use Apocalypse World, GHOST/ECHO or Cyberpunk as the basis for a small campaign that I want to GM, but it turns out that I've had this growing thought about finally figuring out the In A Wicked Age dice-rolling probabilities that has been bugging me. I don't know the answer now, but I SEE the connections.

In maths, when you have enough pieces, sometimes you can just run them together and get an answer spit back out. Building proofs from the conceptual machinery of algebra is dizzying. You can go so far so quickly.

Of course, there are probably resources out there that have looked at this. On an internet with this many connected souls, the chances are quite high that that's true. However, there is something great about sitting down, spending the time and doing some maths for the sake of it. So that's what I'm doing.

Watch this space: soon we'll have the final word on rolling dice for In A Wicked Age!*

*because, you know, that's what everyone has been waiting for in RPGS...

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Wicked Wednesday (Sort Of)

No trip to Yoon-Suin this week: noisms was too busy with work, and then Patrick and David both had to cancel on the hastily arranged In A Wicked Age/Tales From Zero Point one-shot that I proposed.

I'm quite a fan of both In A Wicked Age and our homebrew oracle that we played with the same mechanics, Tales From Zero Point (I've blogged about them here and here before). Plus I like GMing and those have been my only experiences so far.

So it was that yesterday evening I decided to draw the cards anyway for what the story might have been at Zero Point Waystation, the greatest single work of humanity ever, a vast space station adrift in the Oort Cloud, right at the edge of the solar system...

Ace of Spades: An insane Robot tends an ancient mosaic, endlessly renewed.
4 of Hearts: A criminal punished with sentient stasis.
10 of Spades: The foundation stone. A beam of iron drawn from the heart of the Sun. The druid that serves it.
King of Clubs: A militant hegemony virus propagates through the transient population.

Now, I have no idea what Patrick and David would have made of this, but in the ten minutes after I pulled those cards, the following ideas for characters and interests came to me.

The insane Robot who builds the mosaic is not "insane" in human terms, it merely has Asimov circuits and directives that are stuck. I think this would be a good NPC. It used to work for or with the Criminal, a PC, who has been released from millenia of stasis by the Druid, also a PC, who is more of an Engineer-Mystic who tends the deep bowels of Zero Point and worships the central beam of perfect iron at the exact centre of the station.

No-one seems to know where the Virus has come from: perhaps somewhere long forgotten within the station, perhaps from a fragment brought in by a salvage-captain. Maybe it is a weapon sent by the Schwarm-Laden beings from beyond space-time. What is known is that it is organising. It creates a network within the small pockets of sentience within the station, then it spreads. And spreads.

The druid thinks that the criminal might be able to help stop it, and the criminal needs the robot repairing to get it done. It's in the druid's best interests to help the criminal recover and stop the Virus. The criminal wants to escape the station and head for Far-Away Earth, even after all this time. So he'll do what he needs to in order to achieve that. The Robot, for now at least, just wants to perfect the mosaic.

And the Virus... Well, no-one can figure out what It wants...

I'll turn it over to you anyway: given the four prompts from our Oracle up there, what do you see?

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Games Night Redux

Some thoughts, actions and communication from this week's games night, which I talked about here and noisms talked about here.

As some party members consider attacking some birdmen...
Me: You know that a slingshot has roughly a 30% chance of killing you outright?
David (Level 1 magic-user): What???

After a spot of melee, our party decides to psyche out our remaining, retreating opponents...
David: I pick up the head of one of their fallen comrades and throw it at them!
noisms (DM) (immediate quip): It does d6 damage...

Following another battle, we have killed six bandits but paid a heavy price. The DM summarises...
noisms: You two are on your feet, you're unconscious, Asha and Bam (retainers) are dead... What do you do?
(give up?!)

After a night of wandering through the bamboo forest, randomly encountering non-aggressive animals...
Me: Did I recover a hit point?
noisms: No, you've been up all night messing with peacocks...

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Games Night: Yoon-Suin Obituary

noisms has already pretty much covered exactly what happened last night in Yoon-Suin, although there are a few points that I want to clarify, before I get on to talk about Eki Ulele.
With Eki Ulele eventually recovered, they pressed on, and discovered the treasure of the Feathered Men: 800 gold pieces in metallic urns. These urns, coated with poison, nearly killed the foolhardy Eki Ulele...
I was far from foolhardy! noisms described the urns as being covered in a thick, clear gel or oil. I scraped some off with my knife, looked at it under the light. Sniffed it, dabbed a rag into it to see if it was corrosive in some way, I think I tried burning it to see if it was some intense flammable agent. Finally I very carefully dabbed the tip of my little finger into it.

"Roll a d20," says the DM.
"What's your save against poison?"
"...oh come on!!!"

At the end of the session, Eki Ulele's death mirrored his life: he wanted to be more than a magician or wizard, he wanted to be other than a slug-man, bound by his caste and his father/mother. Despite being high-born, he had a rage against the unhuman and the inhumane, the treacherous and the despicable. And yes, somewhere along the way he decided that the Jack Bauer approach to getting information from NPCs was 100% legit.

Eki knew Read Magic, Read Languages and Charm Person: only the latter ever really worked, and even then it was used to charm opponents to lie down on the floor while he stabbed them through the back of the neck. He liked to talk, and his strange relationship with the world meant that he would veer wildly from acts of cowardice to acts of courage. He was about three-quarters of the way towards levelling up, and was desperate for more hit points and an offensive spell.

His death, in a bizarre and random encounter after successfully giving his friends time to make their escape was exactly in keeping with his life: short, strange and utterly unpredictable.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Games Night Redux

A few days ago I forgot to include a few things from our Yoon-Suin game that had really tickled me. Patrick, in writing about the game that he is DMing and which my nephew is a player in, reminded me of the importance of great lines and player strategy that come out in play, and which really should be recorded.

Here are some notes I made from last week's game; apologies if they make little sense to anyone else out there. They were perfectly reasonable at the time.

Patrick, thinking like a giant lungfish (whose stomachs were filled with silver pieces): "I'm so hungry, have you got any coins?"

(honestly, why am I even posting this, why would anyone care??? I had to hold my head and pinch by brow to stop myself from crying with laughter at the feeding habits of dungeon dwelling lungfish)

Eki Ulele, my slug-man magic-user, has a reputation for going all red mist-y around the edges whenever someone tries to get one over on us. His standard reaction is to burn the village and salt the land with the widows' tears. When the others talked him down from killing an unarmed prisoner it made me realise: "I'm like a slug Jack Bauer!"

noisms, the DM, as we set forth on an improvised bamboo raft across a dungeon lake: "You float off into the Dark Sea of Doom."
Everyone else thinks: "I've made a huge mistake."

Patrick's PC, Anil, is a cleric who serves Manpac (rearrange the syllables); Manpac is apparently the god of mazes, the eater of ghosts and his servants chant wakka-wakka-wakka as they do his work. When Patrick exclaimed "fear the might of Manpac" I thought I was going to die laughing.

But here's the thing: the repurposing of Manpac is AWESOME. If I was a cleric in another world, another time, I can totally see "the God of Mazes, the Eater of Ghosts" as a being who is to be feared and obeyed.

And Games Night is tomorrow.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Games Night: Yoon-Suin

noisms has already written about one aspect of last night's Yoon-Suin escapades, the loss of our devoted teenage retainer Dev. We all miss him very much. It was a strange sort of evening, our initial plan to get back to the dungeon and take some names was thwarted by running into some bandits.

We killed several of them easily enough, but a few escaped on horseback and another was our prisoner for a short time before he escaped as well. We know the name of the bandit leader, and perhaps we will have to do something about him sooner or later, but it was decided that we should push on to Sangmengzhang.

Some dwarf skeletons in armour nearly killed one of the PCs, and so we retreated out of the dungeon to rest up for a few days. We went back in, where we were promptly attacked by a horde of cockroaches. Escape on a flimsy raft across a deep lake of glow-in-the-dark jellyfish worked well; as we reached the far bank we tried to take out some giant lungfish that were stirring in a cave. Even this was beyond us, but eventually they ran and we licked our wounds.

For two minutes, until a giant slug oozed out of the lake and chased us into a corridor. Thank heaven for doors.

I'm beginning to find out more about my character. Eki Ulele is a slug-man magic-user. He has 3HP when at full health (more on this in a second), and the spells he knows are only borderline useful most of the time - although Charm has worked out quite well. He tends to think quickly, is more often than not an optimist (at least with others' lives). He is prone to rage and violent acts against unarmed opponents, possibly as an overcompensating reaction to his caste - his desire to adventure is atypical for slug-men - and possibly as a result of his upbringing, having a father-mother who was utterly indifferent to him.

I'm almost halfway towards levelling up, and next time we really need to find some treasure to make that happen. I did some back of the napkin maths and realised that an attack by someone with a d4 weapon has a probability of nearly 30% of knocking me out (if not outright killing me). For someone with a d6 weapon that probability jumps to almost 40%. Given that most things we meet have attacks at that level (at the moment) this is very, very bad.