Sunday, September 29, 2013

13th Age: Wyrd of the Wild Wood, Chapters 2-3

The last thing henchman Drogan saw before he was ripped in two.

I ran a group through the second and third chapters of "Wyrd of the Wild Wood" tonight. Attendance was low again: Sundays really do just bring out the board gamers. But we decided to persevere and go ahead with just two PCs. I augmented the group's numbers with a suggestion from the Google+ 13th Age community, giving them a panther animal companion reskinned as a human fighter henchman. If the players had rolled better, I think "Drogan the Fighter" would have been a bigger asset to the group. Unfortunately, while the players were rolling low all night, I kept rolling high. Given that the party consisted of two adventurers and a wimpy henchman, I tweaked numbers when necessary. This was especially the case with the "feral halfling" fight: the original number of "feral halflings" and "halfling madminds" appearing in the encounter was too high, guaranteeing some TPK action. But even with the correct numbers for a party of 2.5 adventurers, we felt that the "feral halflings" were too potent by half for level 2 mooks: their poison dart attack did both damage and "dazed (save ends)" on the first attack and then knocked targets "unconscious (save ends)" if they failed their first save against the poison.

The other fights went better . . . well, for certain values of better. The dark elf wizard found a ring of defense in the ruins of a blue dragon lair. Good. But in taking the ring he triggered the lair's magical defenses. Bad. The adventurers cleverly used a "Ray of Frost" ritual to cross a gaping chasm by constructing an ice bridge, and they deftly avoided the dangers of the Swamp of Flame Spurts (with its perilously close-to-copyright-violating Vermin of Unusual Size). Good. But the gnome rogue didn't see the otyugh in time and came within a single hit point of being swallowed alive. Bad.

The deadliest battle was the one with the emaciated owl bear. The creature was too much for a pair of adventurers and their henchman. So when it rolled a natural 20 on its attack against the henchman, I ruled that the owl bear treated the henchman like a strongman treats a phone book. The hungry creature got to return to its lair with half a henchman and the adventurers got to live to fight another day. Owl bears in 13th Age are creatures of respect.

I'm switching the game to Wednesday nights starting October 9th. We'll see if going head to head with the D&D Next Encounters crowd allows us to seduce a few folks to the 13th Age Side of the Force.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

13th Age: You Know You've Spent Too Much Time Reading OSR Blogs . . .

. . . when your response to the umpteenth Internet complaint about the simplicity of 13th Age's Barbarian, Ranger, and Paladin classes is to note that people seemed to get along just fine playing even less complex Barbarians, Rangers, and Paladins in AD&D.

(For me, the meat of 13th Age are the One Unique Things, Icon Relationships, and Backgrounds. The various class-specific Talents and the like are secondary to my fun.)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

13th Age: Wyrd of the Wild Wood, Chapter One

(The adventurers confront monsters disguised as dice.)

Today, as part of the Gamer Gathering celebration at Armored Gopher Games, I ran the first chapter of "Wyrd of the Wild Wood," the second in an ongoing series of organized play adventures for Pelgrane Press's 13th Age. The following characters made appearances:

Captain Nagal, Tiefling Fighter

One Unique Thing: "I'm the sole survivor of the Perilous Host, a mercenary company sworn to the service of the Crusader."

Icon Relationships: Crusader (Conflicted) 2, Diabolist (Negative) 1.

Backgrounds: Mercenary Captain +5, Nursemaid to an Ailing Mother +2, Hunted and Persecuted +1.

Gral, Human Paladin

One Unique Thing: "I occasionally gain glimpses of people's souls."

Icon Relationships: Crusader (Conflicted) 1, Emperor (Conflicted) 1, Priestess (Conflicted) 1.

Backgrounds: Courtly Upbringing +2, Fought for the Crusader +2, Student of Myth +2, Wandering Theologian +2.

Kadüm, Half-Orc Barbarian

One Unique Thing: "I'm the bastard son of the Orc Lord."

Icon Relationships: Orc Lord (Conflicted) 2, Lich King (Negative) 1.

Backgrounds: Black Dog Mercenary +3, Basic Imperial Training +2, Thieves' Guild Muscle +2, Banished to Abandoned Outpost +1.

Stick, Gnome Bard

One Unique Thing: "I'm the world's tallest gnome."

Icon Relationships: Crusader (Negative) 1, High Druid (Negative) 1, Orc Lord (Negative) 1.

Backgrounds: Has Performed in Every Slum in the Empire +5, Used to Life on the Road +3.

The adventure began on the floating island of Darkskye, a former magic crystal mine turned into an imperial prison. Gral and Stick were on Darkskye as investigators for the Priestess's Committee on Prison Reform (Gral because he believes in the Priestess's work, Stick because he had stolen the High Druid's stash and was trying to get as far away from the Wild Wood as possible); Captain Nagal was serving as one of the prison guards; and Kadüm was a prisoner (with a secret mission to mess with the Lich King's black market trade in Darkskye crystal dust).

Gral and Stick were asking Kadüm questions in Captain Nagal's presence about conditions at the prison when a powerful explosion shook the island. The floor of Kadüm's cell split open, nearly sending the half-orc falling into open air; only the quick reflexes of Captain Nagal saved him from disaster. Gral and Stick dove out of the way as a portion of the cell's ceiling collapsed onto the interview table, crushing it. The party decided that the best bet for survival was to stick together and make their way to the top of the island (rather than being crushed inside its bowels).

As they moved through the tunnels comprising the prison, they enjoyed scenes of disaster and madness. The explosion had supercharged the island's crystals, causing them to warp anything they penetrated. In one case, this meant a group of prisoners and guards from the mess hall. Transformed into hideous mutants, the unfortunate souls attacked the party. Doubly unfortunate because they were swiftly slain by the adventurers.

The prison continued to spiral out of control, and the adventurers were lucky to reach the island's top. When they did, they discovered that they were falling out of the sky above the Wild Wood. A stand of particularly tall trees stood within jumping distance of the lurching island, offering a means of escape. Before the party could take advantage of this fact, they found themselves facing a golem formed from the living crystals of the mines. Backing up the golem were a small hoard of crystalline minions. Things looked grim: the golem was laying into Gral, nearly beating the paladin into unconsciousness, and the other adventurers had suffered greatly from the razor-sharp storm of crystals swirling around the creature. But then Kadüm became a whirling dervish of death, destroying all of the minions and laying into the golem with his axe. The other adventurers rallied, making short order of the golem.

But they had no opportunity to celebrate their victory—the walls of the rainwater reservoir located on the island's surface crumbled with another lurch of the island, and a torrent of water rushed toward the party. Their only hope was the stand of trees. If they could leap over to them, then they would avoid the rushing flood and certain death by drowning.

Of course, every single character failed the DC 15 skill check needed to safely jump into the trees.

So the session ended with the party being swept over the side of Darkskye, plummeting to the Wild Wood below. Nothing like a good old-fashioned cliffhanger!

Some of the OOC highlights of the game: (1) the interview with Kadüm revealed that the Darkskye prisoners routinely dined on sky lobsters—caught with nets by flyers and cooked in delicious cloud butter; (2) barbarians are rough on mooks; Kadüm managed to crit his Whirlwind attack on the crystal minions for a total of 55 damage, singlehandedly wiping out all 10 mooks in a single standard action; and (3) a high-Charisma paladin can really lock down a big bad with Smite Evils.

I also felt that the simplified combat ranges of 13th Age (nearby and far away) worked quite well in play. As the photo at the start of this post indicates, we used minis for each PC and dice for the monsters. We didn't track exact position on a map, but used the minis and dice to indicate which combatants were engaged with one another. Everything else was "theatre of the mind."

I'm looking forward to running Chapter Two next weekend! Thanks to Pelgrane for a great game!