Blog for Stephanie Bryant, a writer with too many hobbies and not enough time.

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Gaming Catch-Up

Not wanting to fall too far behind on my gaming writeups, I’ll do a quick summary post:

Wednesday game: We played Time Quest, my Goblin Quest time-travel hack, and it was a lot of fun and resulted in a lot of really good ideas for improving the game. If you want to playtest it, leave a comment here or on Google+.

We’ve decided to put Monster of the Week on hold– my players’ play styles don’t mesh well enough to make it enjoyable for everyone. Instead, we’re going to playtest my Night’s Black Agents scenario, Day of the Wehrwolf, in the next few weeks, and see how well it runs. I was out sick with food poisoning this week, so we start that in 2 days.

Moving Forward: So. The apocalyptic event happened. We all leveled up to 10th level and fought a primordial in 2 phases (so, like 2 separate creatures). We did well. We lost two PCs– Ordune was literally ripped in two, and Firiel was disintegrated into her atomic parts. But we defeated the monster and learned something about its abilities, combat, and alliances. Also learned that Firiel’s patron is going to double cross and there’s nothing we can do about it if this fight goes as planned.

There was, in some of our treasure, a scroll that would undo the past 5 minutes of time. Gwenn has it. While Tristram was putting Ordune’s body onto a stretcher, she used it to undo the shot that killed Firiel. Instead, she slew the last of the monsters in that fight, and promptly threw up. Nobody else in the party knows about the world-ending events, although since their players know, and since Gwenn is presently keeping it a secret (we haven’t left Thuul yet, so we’re not safe enough to talk about it), all the players keep making references that are completely innocent, but make Gwenn blanch. Like Ordune will say something about splitting the party, or Firiel will comment that she sometimes feels downright invisible, etc. It’s awesome and good storytelling. We’re heading now into Vecna’s old house to find whatever horrific thing is in his lab. We should probably die there.

Dungeon World: We converted the Sunday Epyllion game to Dungeon World after the end of the dragon campaign. Now, many years after the Age of Dragons has ended, in the Age of Humanity, our PCs are going about our business, meddling in the affairs of dragons. We are Illustria, an illusionist wizard, Anitra, a sea druid whose natural form is a dog, and Ramona, an ancient bard with a songbook in draconic and no way to read it. We started out as circus owners, and have quickly found ourselves running away from everything until we accidentally-on-purpose released the protective bubble that covered the Hell Chasm, releasing the dragons and all the other monsters trapped within.

First Date: I played a playtest of a game by a friend of mine about going on a first date. We discovered that the math was not usable as it was– it was nigh-impossible to succeed at the game. You start with a goal– his was "to sell a timeshare" and mine was "to make him admit I’m smarter than him." The goal is public, so you can veto the other person’s goal if it’s creepy or weird. And then there’s a dice mechanic that was hard to track and harder to succeed– he’s going to go back to the drawing board on the dice and see what he can do to fix the math.

Whispering Road: We finished the Whispering Road game! After 5 sessions, each covering one act, we finally wrapped it up with a very satisfying ending. I’m going to write it up as a short story to post here in the next few weeks.

2 New Game Hacks

Last week, I stealthily released two new game hacks for Epyllion!

The Moon Mage, a compendium class for Dungeon World to let you play using Epyllion’s Moon Magic. I made this for a possible CC to be used in our Sunday night Dungeon World game.

My hack that brings Epyllion and Tiny Dragons RPG together.

Speaking of Epyllion, you might not know the Kickstarter is now live, through Sunday, May 3rd, and that my Encyclopedia Draconica entry about draconic rites of passage funded within hours! That’s exciting to me, since it means I’m definitely on deck for creating something for this awesome game!

There are still some amazing stretch goals being announced here in the final week, so if you haven’t backed the project yet, you should definitely take a look. The Friendship Gem mechanic is one of the more creative "fan mail" style game mechanics I’ve ever seen.

Orccon 2015 Roundup

2015-02-13 14.37.01I went to Strategicon over Presidents Day weekend, and did some gaming! I brought a friend and fellow gamer along with me, who played in most of the games I participated in (this was his first larger convention, so it was good to have a buddy). Mike and Justin also went to Strategicon, but I barely saw them all weekend.

Friday Afternoon: Dungeon World Dragonslaying

On Friday afternoon, I jumped into Matt Smith’s Dungeon World game about slaying a dragon. Alas, we had about 2 too many players, but it was a raucous fun game with lots of over-the-top shenanigans. I played the Thief and made a dragon-sleeping poison that I used to knock it out and then backstabbed it for the final death blow!

One thing I did like about the session was that Matt had given the game a Monster of the Week structure, which intrigued me enough to buy a copy for future gaming.

We had some player-conflict when one of the players picked my friend’s cleric to be the target of all his bonds. This resulted in my friend feeling like he was being told how to play his character. Normally, when you have a bond or two, you’re influencing someone else’s character, but they still have a lot of say in who that PC is. In this case, the guy was inventing years of backstory that my friend just wasn’t enthusiastically consenting to. At one point, the guy implied some priestly "inappropriate touching," and that was when the X card was thrown.

We took a bio break, the player and my friend discussed it and he changed directions, but it put a damper on my friend’s enjoyment of the rest of the session. He still managed to have some fun, but we both didn’t mind taking the night off afterwards.

Saturday Morning: Best Friends at Games on Demand2015-02-14 09.14.35

Saturday morning, I had signed up for a session, but decided to spend the time doing my stint at Games on Demand.

Games on Demand is a different format from the usual "pre-register/sign up and play a 4-hour session prepped and offered by GMs" format. Instead, the games are shorter– about 2 hours is average. It’s more like a demo. And the GM doesn’t provide a single game, but rather has a few options on offer.

In my case, I was prepared to run one of five games, including Best Friends, Time Quest (a time travel hack for Goblin Quest that I’m writing), Lasers and Feelings, Out of the Blue, and Vesna Thaw. We hung around for about forty minutes while a few ambitious players found us, and then started Best Friends.

The players were my friend, Kristine (who works for a game company), and Ira (who played the Holder in last Strategicon’s AW game). We all played time travelers, stranded in the Cretaceous period, a few hours before the asteroid is about to hit Earth, wiping out the dinosaurs.

This was actually a really good setup and crisis. Our characters were a 21st century goth girl, an Italian Renaissance woman, an advanced being from the 30th century, and a homeschooled fundamentalist/paleontologist (she studies the paleo record in search of hard evidence proving the coexistence of dinosaurs and homo sapiens). The homeschooled was my character– I tried to handle it in a gently zealous way without being offensive.

My character also had a very uncomfortable crush on the goth girl.

Anyway, there were many shenanigans as we tried to deal with a sabotages time machine, a baby triceratops… then a mother triceratops! An ichthyosaur. Imminent fiery death. The belief that the imminent fiery death was an angel. And a certain amount of narrative symmetry that only comes about when the storytellers are really just keeping the ball up in the air for as long as they can.

At one point, the goth girl framed me for sabotage, claiming that I had thrown a bunch of gears from the time machine into the ocean. Not long after, I deliberately messed up the Italian girl’s drawing out of jealousy. She (played by Ira) responded by smashing the canvas over my head, literally framing me. When I found the actual saboteur was the goth girl, I covered for her and threw the gears (from her purse) into the ocean. When she found out, she accused me of doing so, but at that point, everyone had already heard that story and just said "so what?"

We resolved the story narratively by fixing the time machine just enough to go to one place and time, and picked Renaissance Italy. The goth girl and I hung around, finally heading up north to join the Vikings, which is where we were when a phone booth containing George Carlin arrived to save us.

Saturday Evening: Mecha vs. Kaiju FATE Game

godzillaIn the evening, we got into a FATE game using the Mecha vs. Kaiju rules. This was an odd game–very mechanics intensive, considering it’s still a FATE game. The players played the mecha, except my friend, who played Godzilla from the Godzilla Power Hour Saturday morning kids’ cartoon. I was a Battletech mecha whose main aspects seemed to revolve around being connected to her team. We were, none of us, a team, so that rather failed to be engaged.

The strength in the game was that the GM was really, really into kaiju and knew absolutely everything about them. The first two and a half hours were spent basically on the opening scene/first round of combat, while the conversation drifted around among various Godzilla movies and whether the Matthew Broderick Godzilla is the absolute worst, or just in the top 3.

To put this in perspective: I do not know many kaiju movies. I saw last year’s Godzilla, and I saw Cloverfield. The ins and outs of whether Mechagodzilla would take Mechmothra in a fight just elude me.

But for two and a half hours, I was laughing my ass off and caught up in their enthusiasm and having a great time.

And then… we hit the Plot. There is nothing wrong with having a plot framework, but the GM had previously been saying "yeah, why not?" whenever we suggested doing something wild and crazy. Now, once we had encountered the Plot and were trying to creatively problem-solve… now, we heard "no" a lot.

The first two and a half hours were epic. The last 90 minutes found us doodling in the margins and passing notes asking if it would be rude to leave (answer: yes, by that point it would be).

It was clear that the GM had a firm idea of how we should resolve the adventure, and although fighting it out was interesting to some of the players, it just didn’t do it for Saturday Morning Godzilla, so he tried talking to the kaiju opponent to resolve it. That didn’t go over well with the GM, but eventually the rest of the players did enough physical damage to the kaiju forces to make him feel like he could surrender, I suppose.

By the end, we were pretty drained, but we did have fun for most of the session. It was just a good object lesson in letting go of your plot as a GM.

Sunday Afternoon: Night’s Black Agents

On Sunday afternoon, I ran the Night’s Black Agents scenario I’ve been writing for Pelgrane Press. I won’t go too much into it here, just that (a) I need to get more writing done, and (b) there’s a lot that has to be left out for convention play. Also: Don’t forget to print out and bring the pre-gens, or it’ll cut into your session considerably (sigh).

Sunday Evening: Spirit of 77

This was the unexpected highlight of the convention for us. Spirit of 77 is an Apocalypse Engine game set in the 1970’s in a high-octane action media extravaganza. We had Bowie Stardust (a David Bowie character), Natalya the former Russian Olympic athlete-turned-private investigator, The Hammer (a sexy beast of a man), . And the GM was extremely well-prepped with a very fun, over-the-top hilarious scenario that had multiple directions it could go.

The scenario was "Escape from the Women’s Prison of the Apes." The concept was that we needed to orchestrate a prison break, from a women’s prison, which had turned to enhanced simians as guards.

The role-playing and shenanigans… well, at one point, the vigilante was so intimidating, the GM said "you know, I find myself actually intimidated by that glare of yours." My friend playing Bowie commented later that he was actually kind of afraid, until the guy broke character and started laughing. I used my fake Russian accent to great advantage.

"Anyone remember who invented the twerk?" asks Matt, playing the Hammer.

"I think the Hammer did," I reply.

"That’s right!" And he jumps up to start twerking, explaining that his character is pantsless, on the back of the Burnside, and waving an American flag.

And at one point, the redneck was told "well, the ape you made friends with is on the other side of that concrete wall, so…" "Oh, I get out of my truck and go inside to get her!" "No, no. I mean it’s right on the other side of the wall, there." "Then forget the first half of that statement. I just go inside. With the truck."

The whole session was full of fun and laughter and music and silliness. It was amazing and a great way to cap off the weekend. When we left, my friend told me to go on the Kickstarter and add a physical copy of the game to my backer rewards, because he wants his own copy that much.

The Rest of the Weekend

The rest of the weekend was either non-gaming, small casual games (we played Loonacy a couple of times), and the games auction. At the end of the auction, we had sold 9 lots of gaming books and materials, going home with just my Dystopian Wars miniatures. Apparently, I’m going to have to take it back up again just to have a reason to still have those minis and paints.

Dungeon World and the Slave Pits of Drazhu

108028There is an excellent Dungeon World one-shot by Jason Morningstar called The Slave Pit of Drazhu. It’s designed to run in about 2 hours, which makes it a perfect choice for demo games and for running during D&D Encounters at my FLGS.

See, I get burned out on D&D, especially when I have a really bad game night. So I wanted to shake things up and offer something that wasn’t D&D.

We had 10 players on Wednesday. About 8 of them signed up for Dungeon World. I picked 4 and handed the rest over to the Encounters table. I handed out character sheets– I had the 4 “iconic” classes– cleric, wizard, fighter, and thief. I also had the Pit Slave playbooks, but nobody wanted those.

The cleric talked everyone else into playing Evil alignment PCs. I asked some questions about their backstory and gave them bonds to work with each other. They found the backstory questions compelling and interesting and very much engaged in the fiction.

Drazhu the lich was new to lichdom and had once been a member of the cleric’s order.

Drazhu had stolen the halfling fighter’s “girl.” (I changed the orc tunnel-keeper to a female human fighter).

The wizard used to work for Drazhu, but “went too far.” I’m not sure what “too far” is when you’re employed by a lich, but it displeased Drazhu.

The thief had been stealing something from Drazhu’s minions when he was caught and thrown into the slave pit.

I’ve linked the adventure above, so you can read it if you want. My party killed the overseer and then ushered all the pit slaves towards the orc lair. Once done, the cleric said “ok, we follow,” and I grinned and pointed to the other exit.

“Do you? Or, since you know the orcs are gonna be busy slaughtering them, do you take the other exit?”

“Oooh, yeah.” After all, “save the pit slaves” is not a mission objective, here.

In the killing pit, three of the PCs were eventually paralyzed, with the fighter making a Last Breath move. Death’s bargain was this: I let you live, you send me your girl.

The evening was highlighted by lots and lots of 6- rolls. I got to make a lot of moves on these characters. One of these resulted in a second giant spider (“I call him ‘Jumpy!'”) arriving, and all the desiccated corpses hanging in the webs suddenly having their eyes start to glow ominously. This had little meaning in-game, but was a reflection of Drazhu’s new aspect: He knows you’re coming.

The party eventually finished off the spiders and made for what they hoped would be a bridge across the bottomless chasm. In the interest of time, I skipped the assassin vines and the webs and instead put a narrow ledge leading from the tunnel to the bridge (the one on the other side of the orc nest).

All they had to do was walk precariously over to the bridge.

Cleric: “I want to get down on the ledge and check for a mechanism or something that will extract a bridge on this side.”

I nod. Okay, then. I had already warned these players that they might “succeed” on a miss but still have it be a terrible, terrible thing for them, and they had seen that at play several times by this point. They’d stopped keeping track of how many XP they’d earned– it was an impressive amount, let me assure you.

He rolls his Discern Realities and gets a 3 on the dice. Well, damn.

“OK, there is a lever there, next to the ledge, just below it.”

Wizard and Thief: “Uh… I step back into the tunnel.”

Cleric: “I lie down on the ledge and pull the lever.”

Me: facepalm. “OK. The ledge you and the fighter are perched on? Folds down.” Aaaaiii!!!!

They both grab hold of the ledge and lever to save themselves, and the party works to get them back into the tunnel. In the process, the cleric breaks the lever and the ledge is no longer usable.

Before he looked for a lever, there was none there. There had been no trap. The cleric made that trap happen.

I love Dungeon World.

Okay, so the wizard summons up the spirit of the dwarf who originally built this cavern, who is crotchety and pissy and hates heights and people. He chuckles about his ledge trap, and then tells the PCs very little of substance, other than the fact there is no other way to get across, other than the bridge.

They head back to the orc nest, where everyone is dead except a couple of orcs. They kill those and go grab the treasure from the whipmaster’s chambers, where the whipmaster’s pet rat bites one of them.

They continue on, to the bridge (again, no assassin vines– Encounters table had wrapped up by now). They make it to the antechamber. Turn left, and there’s a lich. Turn right, and there’s freedom.

They turn left. The wizard has picked up a support beam from somewhere and goes to open the door to the left. Just as he does so, pushing the door open with the beam, the cleric yells “wait, it’s a trap!” He is not in time to defy the danger of the trap, though, and the ceiling opens, raining a zombie horde down on the PCs.

They are dismayed. The cleric casts Turn Undead to keep them at bay, but oh, look! there’s a lich in the next room!

They move into the next room and slam the door shut, barring it with the support beam.

Yes, they just locked themselves in with a lich.

And his girlfriend.

The party fights both, with the girlfriend barely even acknowledging the fighter (who does, in fact, kill her, completing his bargain with Death. Later, he learns that she barely even knew he existed). They fight the lich, he eventually dies, and they run for freedom.

Hooray!

And they all want to play Dungeon World again. I told them next week or the week after, I’ll run DW as a more whimsical version, but we could possibly do a Grim World campaign a few weeks after that….?

When the Planarch Vault Went Wrong

This writeup is an example of what can occur when you "play to find out what happens."

I ran a game of Dungeon World this weekend while visiting my family. We had originally planned to play a lighthearted game with my niece and her girlfriends, but all the friends backed out (sick, busy, etc… common in any gaming group, even when you’re 12), so she was excited to join us for the evening "grown ups" game.

I printed out about 30 playbooks so everyone would have some really cool options.

The players were my sister, her husband, his friend from a previous workplace, the friend’s wife, and my niece.

The adult players were currently or previously all corrections officers in the state of Missouri.

I made two decisions as the GM about the tone and brutality of the game. I wanted to run the game as a Grim World style game. Really brutal and bloody, and gritty and grim. I warned the players as they were selecting playbooks: "I will dismember you, kill your pet, and devour its corpse. Got it?"

Continue reading When the Planarch Vault Went Wrong

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