Wednesday, February 22, 2012

[Play Report] Assault on Stormgate Island

Oof! Just got back from a couple of days' gaming and skiing in Maine. Had a chance to introduce the DT ruleset to a longtime member of my playing group (like, 35 years) and his two kids, along with my kid. We picked up the game where we left off but introduced a bunch of new characters who were also interested in catching the mysterious Snatchers and also in penetrating Obdura's prison/fortress.
Read on for the plot and for some interesting rules bits we tried out in play...OK, so I brought up shiny new copies of the DT character sheets and spread them out on the table. The kids snatched up the rogue, dwarf, and elf, and the dad grabbed the paladin. Backstory I created on the fly was that the elf had a talisman on her that she could use to renew the magical bonds on big bad Obdura for another thousand years (the first thousand being almost up), while the paladin was all like sworn to combat evil and looking for his first big quest and the dwarf and rogue were in it for the cash.
They captured one of the vulture riders and his mount, and used the mount to airdrop onto the battlements of the ruined offshore fortress where Obdura dwells. They ended up landing right on the other vulture riders' lair, and there was a kickass fight right away within the crumbling, open-roofed top story of a castle tower.
I used the pay-for-initiative rules I'd been musing about, and they worked great: pay one Luck to get the drop on the bad guys. The elf set herself up on some rubble to plink arrows at the enemy (a mix of human bandits and bogles who'd blown into town on their vultures from the distant east). The paladin and dwarf waded in directly, and the rogue snuck behind but soon found herself surrounded by three opponents and a bit outgunned. The paladin created a clever diversion by tossing out a bag of live rats (the vultures' favorite snack) and sending all the vultures into a squawk over the food.

It was kinda chaotic and no one came to the rogue's aid. She made a clutch Stunt roll to hop onto a tall pillar and escape the closing knot of foes around her. They tried to push the pillar over by force but she hopped to another one. Meanwhile the paladin was using Smite attacks to grind down his opponent. When the bad guys were down to one bogle and three men, they made an orderly retreat to a nearby stairwell. Three escaped, leaving the fourth one ignominiously behind to surrender. Everyone's Luck was running pretty low so it was a good thing the fight didn't last much longer. They decided not to pursue the three guys who ran away and instead appealed to the prisoner.
The fellow felt quite snubbed by his mates and agreed to join the party out of spite. He seemed to be a "survive by your wits" kind of charming little fink and I made up a picaresque back story for him on the spot and named him Shifty. He couldn't keep his eyes off the spot in the room where he'd hidden his treasure stash, and it was soon found and plundered, but the rogue, who has a kind heart, let Shifty keep a gold bar and gosh no one had ever done him such a good turn.
In DT, you get all your Luck back instantly between action scenes, so after a very brief breather, the party, joined by Shifty, went off in pursuit of the escaped Snatchers. At the head of the stairs, they found a secret door that led to a kind of safe room full of supplies, that in turn led to an old chimney leading down into the castle's interior. (They had stumbled upon the escape route, in reverse, of an evil sorcerer who is trying to raise Obdura from the depths and become her trusted servant, with help from some fanatical blackguards sworn to the sorcerer's service). Anyhoo, they climbed down the chimney and came out through the fireplace into a once-elegant hall. One heavily padlocked door yielded to the rogue's lockpicks via a Make roll, and they found the blackguards' treasure stash AND a box of six silver rings (I'll explain that one if that plot thread ever comes up later).
Well, wouldn't you know it, two blackguards on patrol show up and almost pass the party by but for the telltale ashy footprints everyone left coming out of the fireplace. Battle ensues, the blackguards are heavily armored tanks and arrows are plinking off them from Shifty's crossbow and the elf's longbow, while the paladin and the dwarf grind them down. The paladin gets down to one Luck, the dwarf is at three, one of the blackguards falls and the other one retreats through another doorway, banging his sword on his shield and raising the hue and cry. The dwarf and the paladin finish him off, but too late -- the whole cohort of blackguards has been alerted and is on the way. Our heroes retreat to the safe room and listen silently as the blackguards search for them.
We ended the game at a tense moment, after the party crept back out of the safe room and down some stairs that led them right back into two blackguards guarding the bottom! We all wanted to keep going but I had to pack up and go.
My gaming buddy has played blue box D&D, AD&D 1e, C&S, AD&D 2e, 3e, and Pathfinder. His gaming style is somewhere between kick-in-the-door and strategist, and he said liked this ruleset because it let you focus on "the fun stuff" (fighting and exploring, rather than bookkeeping).
Some other things we hammered out during play:
1. Starting money. All the players wanted some starting cash, so I had them roll ten dice and count each lucky color as one gold bar. (In case you forgot, the basic mechanic lets you choose two numbers (we use colors) on standard d6s to count as successes when you roll.
2. Simple pricing. I told them, don't sweat basic stuff like drinks at the tavern as long as you have at least one gold bar on you. Weapons cost between 1 and 10 gold bars, pretty much. I don't want this game to be about counting pennies.
3. Index cards. Everyone was responsible for making their own index cards for stuff acquired in game. I gave players a bonus die on their next action roll if they added an illustration to the card. It was fun to see how everyone visualized basic items like heal potions. Sometimes I'd draw up a card on the spot, like for a crossbow.
4. Bonus dice as short-term gimmes. When a character got a kill during a battle, I gave out a bonus die for his or her next action roll. This made them a bit more competitive and gung-ho.
5. Leveling up. At the end of your first game session and every other one thereafter, you add one to your Luck permanently. On the alternating (even-numbered) level-ups, you can choose to add a die to one of your actions permanently (maximum 6 dice) OR unlock another class power.

To sum up, it was a really fun, relaxed game and we didn't have any major rules snags. It was the most fun I'd had gaming in ages.

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