Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Green Slime in Grymvald

We took a session off last week due to Gary Con XI occupying so much of everyone's schedule but we got back to our 1E AD&D game in the "secret" room at Lake Geneva Games almost at full strength.  One of our numbers could not attend but another player who is temporarily in town joined in the fun.  Our temp player is Alex's nephew, Mike, who is here after Gary Con for just a short bit.  It was easy enough to have him use Alex's backup character.  As folks might recall, the players all created two characters right away with one being a backup, to be brought in right away (as soon as reasonable) in the event they suffer a dramatic loss of hit points with their current bundle of stats.  Mike became Kuma the Cleric for the evening, an acolyte who wouldn't stand for being a background player for long!  After spending a bit of time rehashing the events of two weeks prior, when two players were absent, and doling out the Experience Points, treasure was divided and some spent at the mining camp, which has a general supply store.  There was also some healing to be done due to wounds from their previous foray into the underground complex below the ruins of Marak Tor on the northern edge of the Trackless Moors.

 One down but one up . . .

When their transactions were complete, a meeting with the supervisor of the mining camp confirmed that our fearless adventurers were on the cutting edge of civilized ruins exploration.  He had no new information for them and when the group explained they suspected cultists were taking root in Marak Tor, it came as a surprise to the supervisor.  The party wondered if he was being fully forthcoming, so they left the mining camp with pretensions of heading back to the town of Holdmarch but left the path surreptitiously and traveled back to Marak Tor, refreshed and resupplied.

The group knew there were three people held up in the bunker above the complex, the lone building standing intact on the tor, so they attempted to make contact and swiftly did.  They had only seen the trio while the group was battling goblins three days prior, and hadn't made direct contact, so discovering Count Ulrich, a down-on-his-luck noble, his man-servant, Slanch, and Penelophe, a mysterious, tight-lipped cohort, cleared up a minor mystery.  Sir Virgil, the party Paladin of Darrien the Defender, picked up no evil from the three bunker dwellers so the trio were invited to join in the next expedition below.  Although he laid no current claim to the ruins or complex, Count Ulrich explained that his ancestor, two hundred years ago, had built this place as a means to explore further south onto the Trackless Moors where a series of towers known as the Dragon's Teeth were know to exist.  After Ulrich tithed the two clerics and the paladin, they formed up with the count and Penelophe in the center of the group, leaving Slanch behind to keep watch on the bunker.  Now ten strong, the group prepared to descend.

If these dice could talk . . .

During a break, Alex was kind enough to pass on a pair of ten-sided dice to me that his father had left to him.  He told me that, given his father had many, many dice, they weren't unique or particularly special but I begged to differ and thanked him.  These dice would claim the life of a character before the night was over.  Perhaps it was bravery or maybe hubris that guided the plans of the group when they opened the secret door they had only suspected existed which gave them a second entryway to the underground complex.  They had previously come toward it from beneath but rethought their route when a ponderously slow-moving and malformed humanoid statue ground its way across the foyer when last they explored.  Now, knowing the secret door's mechanism, they opened it and planned to delve right in directly toward their next objective, a third-level deep room completely enveloped in green slime . . . but not before surrounding the eight-foot tall stone monster with massive fists that moves so slow it would have been fairly easy to avoid.

About half of the ten party members went more-or-less straight below but several members of the group engaged the juggernaut with weapons while one awaited a chance to join the action and Sonoma, the dwarf fighter, attempted to tie the one ton animated statue's legs together with some silk rope.  Sadly, this is where my newly acquired dice finished off Segovax the Fighter with two hard hits in succession from the guardian statue.  Perhaps it was the lack of effectiveness of their weapons, or maybe the fighter's blood and brains strewn over their boots and greaves, but it was around this time they disengaged from the entry guardian and got on with their mission.  It was a tough loss but Cerverious (sp?) the Fighter was nearby and joined the group as a replacement.

Once on the second level of the complex below, they established that some others had indeed been there in the interim since a tapestry had been re-hung.  The group checked around in known locations but found no other signs of cultists (or otherwise), though a previously missed feature, pillars that didn't extend to a ceiling, warranted attention and turned up a key.  Back on mission, they took the long way around to re-open the secret door, and necessary step in venting the smoke and heat if the group was going to burn out the slime infestation in the first room of the third level below and gain access to more of the complex.  They used enough oil to burn a little more than a third of the green slime and reveal a doorway as well as clear a path to it.  The key, as it happens, looked like it would fit the lock on the door but without a party thief, a debate ensued regarding the best approach.

The Witch of Dour Haven

It was Kuma the Cleric who, perhaps out of frustration with his over-cautious (?) companions, took the key and moved forward to unlock the door.  He managed the task but not without tripping a poison needle trap which his body was unable to withstand.  First his fingers went numb, then his hand and arm, his shoulder next, followed by his whole side, causing him to collapse on the newly-cleared floor.  As the remainder of the cleric seized up, someone checked for life and found he had only been paralyzed.  Rather than remove him from the complex, the group (who was strung out across a narrow passage through the slime and up a narrow spiral staircase) decided it would be best to check the now unlocked door.  It revealed a short hallway beyond that opened into a larger chamber.  Despite the lingering odor of burnt slime, some in the group could smell burning incense and those toward the front could see flickering candle light.  Finley, the ranger in the front, and Nydijan, the cleric in the rear, donned a pair of cultist robes they had picked up on a previous exploration and a rope was shared out over the length of the single-file party to simulate that the party were captives.  The ranger stepped through the door and triggered a covered-pit trap.

It was fortunate the rope had been shared as it prevented the ranger from falling the full twenty feet to the spikes in the bottom of the pit.  As it was, he managed to slam into the wall of the pit about halfway down, dangling from the rope secured above by Sir Virgil the paladin.  At this time, a pair of cultists stepped into view across the far side of the pit trap, shielding an unkempt woman who was casting a spell.  The paladin's armor began to feel quite warm.  Although a couple of party members attempted to fire missiles, the cultists were hit for but little damage.  Despite his armor and metal accouterments burning his flesh, the paladin held fast on the rope and tried to help the ranger climb out of the pit.  Sadly, their first attempt almost resulted in the ranger losing his grip and falling further.  With the armor continuing to burn the paladin, the green slime then began to recover the entirety of the room.  It was then that Count Ulrich and Penelophe decided enough was enough and worked their way through the party to the rear, doing their best to escape.  After an attempt to prevent their exit, some quick shifting around allowed them egress.

The paladin now managed to pull the ranger from the pit and the last few party members rushed for the narrow, spiral staircase.  But Thonon, the magic-user, remembered Kuma the Cleric was not truly dead and could not leave him to be overtaken by the progressing green slime.  Thonon dodged around Cerverious (sp?) the fighter and sidestepped Finley the Ranger but ran full-on into Sir Virgil, the paladin, who was off-balance as he both tried to leave the green slime encroachment even as he was attempting to remove the last of his burning armor.  The two fell to the floor, the paladin finished off as his flesh was deeply seared and green slime dropped upon both him and Thonon.  It was all the magic user could do to escape the slime.  He and Borbeoy, the druid, watched helplessly, the green slime enveloped Sir Virgil and the paralyzed Kuma, swiftly eating away their flesh.  With no alternatives, the party retreated upward, having lost three party members but gaining some solid intelligence on the nature of the Witch of Dour Haven.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Gary Con XI

Took a few pics at Gary Con XI.  The first small batch were some early arrivals and gaming pre-con.  Picked up my badge on Wednesday and caught up with some folks for a bit of Liar's Dice.

Thursday was fairly full with Vikingar in the morning, The Dark Eye in the afternoon, then on to our annual Divine Right game in the evening.  I was also lucky enough Thursday evening to run into some friends and get to try out Larry Hamilton's burgeoning card game.

I kept myself mostly open on Friday to catch up with friends and prep for the Tourney of Legends, which I had been asked to help DM in the eleventh hour due to a cancellation.  Saturday got a bit convoluted during the daytime with some "off-campus" obligations but I loosely consulted during the big Middle Earth Chainmail game on the side of Sauron the Fair against the Numenoreans, then it was time to run my traditional 1E AD&D game Saturday evening.  Sunday was mainly about Avalon Hill's Civilization returning to the schedule.

I wish I could have done more but I had a great time playing and running games.  As usual, there are a lot of pics from the dealer's area and the wargaming tables.  I'll write more up about specific games and such in the future but this posting is simply and overview and to say that full albums can be found on Facebook here and Google here.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Pre-Convention 1E AD&D Game

Carl Black​ apparently found this surly miniature somewhere and immediately thought of Tom Tullis​, so Carl bought it and brought it to Gary Con XI as a gift for the founder of Fat Dragon Games​.  I was pressed into running this 1E AD&D game on fairly short notice and snagged some Dyson Logos​ maps to utilize, including one he was kind enough to name my honor some time ago.  When this miniature was gifted to Tom at the game table, I couldn't help but work it into the adventure.

Essentially, the group, most of whom have a connection to a local brewery and restaurant on the shores of Gentle Lake, are asked to convey a barge of ale across to the Isle of Clover for an impending festival.  They manage to fight off a rather nasty water elemental which attacked the barge, possibly due to someone defiling the lake with some of the, admittedly, inferior ale.  As they finish the crossing, they are also informed that as part of the festival, there will be a lottery to choose who will have the honor of being the first to explore a newly discovered underground complex beneath the island.  The players jumped though a lot of hoops to enter their name as a group and attempt to influence the outcome of the lottery in their favor.  Just their luck, they win (since no one else had entered any names) and, after consuming copious amounts of free ale at the festival, are lodged in a luxurious pavilion.

Thanks to Dyson Logos, I had a ready-made and personalized adventure location!

They do set watches and during the night some distant drums draw the attention of the fighter on first watch just before he is meant to rouse watchman number two.  He pokes his head out of the pavilion and is saved by his helmet as a sock full of slugs is used to try and kidnap him by a handful of cultists.  Several cultists are killed though two manage to flee.  Most of the group dons gear and pursues and find that despite the weakness of the individual cultists, their fortifications are dangerously formidable.  The defenses claimed several of the adventurers.

Once they finally gain access to the cultists' lair, and the remaining adventurers are all reunited, they dispatched a number of other cultists before finally locating the secret, inner sanctum.  Unfortunately, while attempting to thwart the sacrifice, some spilled blood triggers the very ritual they wished to prevent and a tentacled horror rises from the depths of a pit, flailing about.  During the ensuing battle, the horror laid low all but one of the adventurers before it was vanquished!  With their leaders and false god destroyed, the surviving islanders were quick to offer whatever they could in recompense to the hero(s) who saved the Isle of Clover.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Raiders of the North Sea (2015)

Wendy is running a slot of Raiders of the North Sea (2015) for Gary Con XI, so she wanted to get in a quick refresher game at Culver's on Friday.  Having recently played Architects of the West Kingdom (2018), this one was fun to play again and see how some of the similar mechanics and features were used.  I think it had been a couple of years since I had last played this game, but I did recall how important the Valkyrie are and making sure to have more provisions and silver than you think you might need in case someone steals from your stores.  Lots of fun and it moves pretty quickly if everyone stays focused and keeps the phases of their turn in mind and in order.  Definitely a high quality game that's fun to play again and again.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Prophecy (2002)

Prophecy (2002) is designed by Vlaada Chv├ítil.  Originally published by Altar Games, the version I have is published by Z-Man Games which I understand includes some upgrades and corrections.  We watched a how to play video from Scott Nicholson so we could hit the ground running since none of my group of four had previously played.  Most of us have played similar games, so it wasn't too tough to pick up though there were a few sticking points we needed to clarify, like what is meant by "least" and what is meant by "fewer."  I know semantically there is a difference but wasn't sure how that distinction translated to the game nor if ties mattered in one or both cases.  Turns out it does matter in the former case but not in the later.  There were a few other odd cases that needed rules reference but mainly just getting to know the various in-game items and abilities ate a lot of time.  We gained speed with each round of turns.  We also established early on that the game would take us longer than the time we had allotted for play, so we sped things up after a couple of rounds of turns by making sure each player got a regular item and an ability from one of their two starting guilds.  We individually drafted one of each from three cards in each case.  That helped us get moving more than anything.  Once we weren't stuck in the mud, we all enjoyed the game a lot more.

I got a good deal on this game through eBay and the seller through in some minis to be used in place of the character standees, so I'd be pleased enough to get just a few playthroughs.  But I think with some adjustments like the drafting mechanic for one regular item and one trained ability, gameplay is vastly improved by eliminating the first, slow third of the game.  Maybe that third of the game would prove interesting for folks unused to such games but it's a lot of hoop jumping for experienced players to overcome for little reward.  Once on the far side of that first third, the game picks up tremendously.  I've also got the first of two expansions and look forward to adding it in for a subsequent game, though maybe not the next time since there is still more to be gleaned from the base game, I think.  There's a third expansion which appears to change the game quite a bit more than the first though I may pick it up just to own the complete set.  We'll see.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Something from Nothing: 1E AD&D in my Grymvald Setting

Folks will recall I planned to start up a 1E AD&D campaign in 2019 and I did just that.  It's been slow going putting together the group then getting up and running mostly because the weather has been uncooperative but we're on track now.  I set a target number for players at ten or more but wound up with eight after two of the ten dropped early on due to changing commitments.  I've been running games for a long time but usually kept the number to around five or six.  I've never been one who enjoys running a game if only one or two players are involved, and even three players can feel a little light, though doable.  Five to six feels comfortable for me even if one or two people cannot make it on a given week.  It's also been true that for most of my life the game spaces available to me would have made larger groups problematic.  I have run the occasional one-shot game for gamedays or conventions with a higher number than six, even as many as a dozen or more, but a large-group campaign had never been a goal not a result.  With our first campaign meeting set for the 2019 1E AD&D campaign in my Grymvald setting, we had a solid eight players, and a comfortable place to play in the secret game room of Lake Geneva Games.

Thanks to "Scott Michael" for the picture!

In January, the remaining nine of us gathered and created characters.  I asked everyone to make two characters initially.  This is a First Edition campaign and that can get deadly rather swiftly, depending on the choices of the players, but I don't want anyone sitting around just watching everyone else play if their character dies. Even if it feels like I am using a giant shoehorn to do it, I want a player to have a back up character ready and for me to be able to bring them into play as quickly as I can come up with a contrivance to do so.  Our first meeting was mostly about character creation but included some casual RPGing to set the stage.  While this first session saw the players doing little more than establishing their places in the town of Holdmarch, they also gained knowledge of the mining operation on the Trackless Moors south of the village.  A couple of the players had a connection to to the mining camp.  We had utilized the secondary skill table from the DMG during character creation and one player had a mining background with another being a teamster, so that lent itself nicely to that bond.  In fact, two were leatherworkers and two were fishers, so I decided to have pairs of players start the campaign by knowing one another.  The gardener and the carpenter was a bit of a stretch but since they were the remaining two, I made it work.

With that groundwork laid, the campaign was set to begin on the following week but a subsequent four weeks of freakish storms, which seemed to mostly target our game night, made gathering to play an impossibility.  From week to week our group watched the impending forecasts hoping they'd be in error but finding when the day came each week for us to play, cancelling was the only prudent choice.  While I live nearby, as do one or two others, the majority of the players have a fair distance to drive for our game and even in the best conditions it's tricky, work schedules being what they are.  The first week that we cancelled, I didn't think much of it.  I like establishing a game as weekly knowing that from time to time we'd need to cancel due to weather or some other scheduling conflict.  If a weekly campaign meets three or even two times in a month, I consider it normal.  It became quite strange, though, to find that four weeks in a row we were forced to consider cancelling, and each of those four weeks I felt it best that we do.  However, two weeks ago we returned to the table for our second campaign meeting and managed to have a third get together earlier this week.  We are taking this coming week off for Gary Con but we're all going to the convention so none of us will miss out on gaming during the campaign break.  We plan to gather again the following week.

The second week of play saw our first character death.  The group had followed up on some information from the mining camp about some ruins discovered on the Trackless Moors.  I won't go into too much detail because I plan to have this available for me to run at Gary Con but let's just say there was no returning for the fallen thief.  These are veteran players but as with all new groups it can take a while to find their groove.  This lack of cohesion can manifest in chaos and disorder.  This can in turn lead to splitting the party which is tricky enough when it results in two smaller groups but we had player characters in three separate locations with some impediments between each.  A warning sign was ignored, a dangerous foe attracted, and an overwhelming force resulted in a quick death and the subsequent destruction of the player character's body as well as much of their equipment.  I mention the latter because it may have played a role in the concerns of the surviving characters.  While they moved quickly to discover what had happened, and did overcome the foe with quick action, some of the table talk set a tone prioritizing life and wealth, among other things, in a fairly mercenary hierarchy.  We'll see how that plays out but it might be good for the players to insulate themselves from character death if it means they will take more chances and have more fun.

They seem happy and this was taken at the end of the evening!

Two of the players couldn't make it out for our third campaign meeting but we pressed on and I fudged one thing to avoid a potential Total Party Kill.  It wasn't retroactive, so I wasn't turning back the clock, and it probably changed how things played out though not so much the result.  This was definitely a DMing decision made on the fly but under the circumstance it was the right call.  Really, it came down to design versus play.  I had designed this adventure location with certain norms in mind that weren't in evidence when we got together to play.  I think we make assumptions all the time while prepping for games but in this case I had left only a crude back up plan, an encounter with one primary solution and nothing but brute force as an alternative.  It's true that there are times when brute force should be the final option for adventurers but I hadn't envisioned it in this case and I was surprised by it when I shouldn't have been.  Even an old dog, I suppose . . .

Despite the vagueness of this summary, I think that brings folks up to speed on the campaign.  Post-Gary Con, I'll be able to give more details with the updates, so I look forward to being less guarded.  While I'll be able to post more about the ongoing campaign, I'll also only be able to post so much about that game I run at Gary Con since it will then be spoilers for the ongoing campaign.  What a tangled web we weave.  More coming soon, I hope!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Hansa Teutonica, Sushi Go, and New Frontiers

The Thursday Night gang was short a couple of players this week, so they were kind enough to let me join in their fun and even let me pick the game.  In fact, we worked it out in advance and everyone had the chance to familiarize themselves with the game, Hansa Teutonica (2009), before we arrived.  I had played once before but JP, Cera, and John were all new to the game though you couldn't tell it by the way anyone perfomed.  We played twice and the final scores were tight.  It's definitely a game where there are a lot of paths to victory and everyone needs to make sure that no one exploits one path unimpeded or unchecked.  JP set the tone by immediately horning in on trade routes, so we all followed suit and were not squeamish or worried about stepping on one another's toes.  We played twice and it got more raucous as we went along.  It's a game that demands interaction so if direct confrontation in a non-wargame boardgame makes someone uncomfortable, this game is not for them.  Otherwise, it's a free-for-all!

I find it odd that the opportunity to play Sushi Go (2013) hasn't presented itself to me in the past but every now and then there's a game that I miss without having dismissed it.  We opened our Friday with a this gem.  Sushi Go is a fast little card drafting game with no small amount of scoring and signal-reading complexity.  The more clever your opponents, the less light this game will play.  We had a fairly-even crew, myself being the only new player, and we played a couple of times through and I managed to be in the mix the second time.  Higher scores are had by taking some risks but this also means that the scores can swing wildly from round to round if some players are making unorthodox drafting choices.  This isn't a bad thing because that opens the door for a slightly more conservative strategy.  A player definitely needs to pick their moments.

I forgot to snap a picture but we also got in another game of New Frontiers: A Race for the Galaxy Board Game (2018).  This one has been tough for me because I keep finding myself surprised by the final scores and also find it hard getting my game engine started if the combination of my starting world and the random development cards don't present some intuitive synergies.  I might not be giving myself enough credit because my final scores range from competitive to very good but during gameplay I often feel like I am foundering and waiting for some lucky break rather than steering my own course and mitigating bad breaks.  I can deal with the latter but hoping for some random mechanic to allow me a chance to win is frustrating to me as a player who likes more control over my own fate.  I'll still play this again but if I get the same feeling next time, I'll probably avoid this one in the future.