Saturday, 27 March 2010

Deadlands update - dream a little dream

The Deadlands campaign is starting to gather steam now - at least in my head! We've played a couple of trial games: one was a one-sheet from Pinnacle to help us learn the rules, the other was a modified Cray Canyon (for GURPS) to help settle the players in.

Currently, we're loving it!

The system adheres to its Fast Furious Fun promise, although some aspects can take a bit of getting used to. My players think they need more Guts - I did point out that they were essentially first level weaklings (nicely) and they had been facing undead, who get a toughness bonus and take half damage from guns...

Savage Worlds is a system that doesn't pull punches, and my lot are too used to encounters being balanced to their level. It's too easy to get into the Open Door Slay Minions Get Chest Open Door Slay Minions grind without thinking about the scenario - if you were really encountering a group of undead zombies you'd run like hell, not try to gun 'em down. And I have pointed out that XP gained goes on successfulness of the session, not kills!

It's going to be a fun learning curve!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Thoughts on 4e

I've been reading through NewbieDM's thoughts on helping your players in 4e, and it ties in quite nicely with my thoughts for fleshing it out a bit.

My group went way off 4e, mainly because of perceived power creep, lack of "depth", the generic nature of powers and the counterintuitiveness of skill challenges. If that's a word.

Maybe we were playing it wrong - I think a lot of bad feeling bubbled up from the progressively weirder race/class combinations being thrown in by a couple of players, simply as ways to max damage. Powers had cool names, but were never described. Skill challenges went wrong because players either a) has no skills as they'd maxed out for combat, or b) declared "I'm using my History skill to..." which just feels weird.

It does sound like things have changed, and maybe we were too harsh on 4e. In addition to reminding players of the things NewbieDM mentions, I'm considering:

* Limiting PCs to a maximum of 16 in any stat before racial modifiers?

* Getting players to describe their powers. "My sword bursts into green flames as I strike down the closest bugbear," rather than, "I use my Green Flame Blade on bugbear 3 - it is number 3 that's bloodied, right?"

* Giving generic XP rewards for any successful skill check in a skill challenge - making it a less formal process?

4e was the first tabletop RPG I ran - or indeed played - so I guess with hindsight we could have done things a little differently... Any thoughts?

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Descent and balance

Descent's a great game, but our group's reaching the point where the Heroes are rapidly outclassing the Overlord player. We're only 4 or so missions in, so hopefully the balance will be shifted in the later missions.

Two of us took four heroes against the forces of darkness this week, and won by a margin of over a dozen conquest tokens!

We only used pretty basic strategies too:

* Open doors at the start of a turn, run in and collect chests/glyphs before slaughtering minions before they can react.

* Quaff fatigue potions with gay abandon to achieve the above - spend all money in ton on more fatigue potions!

* Position heroes to limit the areas the overlord can spawn in, as (s)he has to spawn out of LOS.

Now, either there're some equally basic Overlord tactics we're missing, or the game's balance is crazy... My thoughts on addressing this imbalance are:

* Start the heroes on zero conquest (or one, maybe) as the chances of getting slotted before activating a glyph are slim to none?

* Allow the Overlord to play multiple spawns when the boss room door has been opened - after all, the remaining minions would rush to the defence of their master, right?

* Give players fewer skills - maybe draw three as standard, but discard one?

* Maybe we should have just had one hero each, instead of two?

Any thoughts, or (better) advice? I'm aware that the expansions swing the balance back the other way, but we're only playing vanilla descent for now!

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Descent Ownage

Thursday's Deadlands session was put off as we were missing a member, so we cracked Descent out instead for some good ol' fashioned dungeon crawling.

Mark elected to be Overlord, which meant I got to play the Heroes, for once, with Dave. Random selection netted me Silhouette and Sir Whatsit, Dave got Landrec and Ronan. I was pretty happy with my two, decking Valadir? out as "tank" with decent armour and a sword & shield, and Silhouette as "runner" with a shield & crossbow. Landrec drew the cards that gave him Command and Sorcery 1, making him an unofficial "leader" type, while Ronan ended up with Marksman and some miscellaneous oddments that didn't really affect gameplay.

It soon transpired that Silhouette was grossly overpowered; I'd drawn Rapid Fire and Crack Shot for her, which was handy, but I also got the card that gives +2 fatigue - cranking her up to a game-breaker. With her 5 move and 7 fatigue, the original plan was to run her around and take glyphs / chests, using her shield to keep her alive and the crossbow in an emergency. Ronan and Landrec were going to be crowd control, while Valadir duked it out with whatever was trying to munch on the party.

This soon changed when we figured out that Rapid Fire can be used multiple times in a turn - Silhouette was clearing out rooms as we discovered them with 10+ attacks in a turn before nipping off to town for more potions. Even when Mark revealed a room full of master skellys and sorcerors, the only reason it took two turns for her to beat them all down was because he was incredibly lucky with his Undying rolls.

He conceded - we had over 15 conquest points and a couple of gold items each, and he really couldn't see it getting any tougher for us. Disappointing, but we're having a rematch next week!

We may have to houserule it, in hindsight - anyone else had a similar experience?

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