Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Nuts & Bolts #21 - Cinco con Queso - Session 2 - The "Crap I Forgot to Take Notes" Edition

So, yeah, first off let me just say that I forgot to take notes last night. Didn't think to write down any of the witty quotes, or uber awesome moves. In other words: I suck at actual play recaps. I had a ton of respect for what +James Walls does with his recaps before trying to do the same and now, well .... I'm not worthy.

So Cinco con Queso wrapped up last night. The last session of the last system of the ten week long experiment in insanity of Quattro con Carnage & Cinco con Queso (Carnage con Queso perhaps?). Last week I ran the group through as shortish session content wise because I wanted to show the stock AGE system combat. Five party members and six hellhounds (blight wolves) later and the combat had chowed down on a good 90 minutes of the session.  I love the AGE system for the stunts but even I admit that combat can become too much of a grind at times. We also had some "Umbrin" going on with people missing, or failing to roll for a stunt when they did connect. Being that I feel the jewel in AGE is the Stunt system I decided to change things up for this week.

Yesterday's Nuts & Bolts blog, about the 13th Age Escalation Die, was intentionally timely. I knew that whatever change I made I wanted it to make stunts pop a little more. During the weekend as I reviewed my list of topics for Nuts & Bolts I saw my note about the Escalation Die and realized it was a good solution. In brief if you don't want to check out the other blog, the Escalation Die provides a bonus that ticks up with each successive round of combat. In 13th Age it is a to hit bonus, and I certainly could have done so for AGE, but I wanted to highlight the stunt system, so instead I ruled that the value of the Escalation Die would become automatic stunt points for any successful attack or spell check, and if the roll would already have been a stunt the value was added to the dragon die.  Rank and file enemies wouldn't get this, but named and key enemies would. As was pointed out to me by +Michael Barry, it's similar to the Savage Worlds Wild Die for Wildcards.

The result worked rather well I think. Adding a single stunt point in the 2nd round wasn't much but by the time the combat was ticking on and every successful hit was generating a minimum of 4 SP things got interesting. The best stunt we saw last night if my memory serves was a 9 point stunt, but even without extremes the bonus made the rolled stunts average higher and added a little something something to the normally "bland" regular hits. I don't want to speak for my players but I personally think it worked well, and as they got the hang of it (and the Stunt system in general) each attack become a far more exciting thing to resolve. It also helped to speed up combat, which is never a bad thing in my mind.

I'm going to do a quick format recap again, in part because of my lack of notes, and in part became of limited time, and I do apologize for forgetting to write down quotes as we went; I was super disappointed when I remembered near the tail end of the session. I'm going to blame my doctor because he stole a pint of blood from me yesterday while I wasn't looking.  That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

Dramatis Personae con Queso

Umbrin, played by Jeremy (warrior)
A guard-for-hire from Tannryth once in the employee of a wealthy Archon

Rydian Ornitiar, played by Andy (mage)
An Aarenian relic-hunter who longs to recover a lost family artifact

Jorin Everlast, played by Craig (rogue)
A pilfering initiate to the Embrace who just "made bones"

Kaezoh, played by Jim (warrior)
A dwarf, brother to Callidan, and new disciple of Drogos

Callidan, played by Andreas (mage as cleric)
Kaezoh's brother, gifted with a vision of the dwarven god Drogos' birth

The Return of an Old Evil

The small village of Vintever was in trouble, a demon, freed by a local tribe of wildfolk, had attacked, and would likely be back if it wasn't dealt with. The wildfolk too had been attacked and nearly wiped out, by the demon and its minions. Eshara, wounded during her escape from her fellow hunters, told the group of a ruined tower that had imprisoned the demon. Though she was too injured to help them, Harran, on of her kin, was willing to guide them as best he could. He was no warrior, but he at least knew the forest paths.

The group decided to head out to the wildfolk's encampment first, and on the way they got their first sign that the demon was already corrupting the environment around it. A small flock of mutated crows was lying in ambush at a bridge crossing. Luckily Umbrin and Kaezoh thought to check for ambush before starting across the makeshift bridge; really an old pine toppled across the gorge and stripped of its branches. They spied the crows hiding in the trees, and with the throw of a stone (that missed) Umbrin set the flock off.

The birds were no match however, having little in the way of hit points and being unable to make strafing attacks without a stunt (which I only rolled one of for them). With only a few scrapes the party destroyed the corrupted birds and completed their trek to the wildfolk camp.

The camp was destroyed, as Harran and his wife had told them. Sever bodies had been left amidst the ruined tents and dead pack horses. The group set to recovering what supplies they could while checking for tracks. They found strange signs of booted feet marching the survivors off to the south. Harran insisted that their attackers had been beasts not men. Man-shaped to be sure, but with boney canine heads and wicked clawed hands.

The late hour made the group decide to camp for the night, allow the mages to recover their lost mana, and head out first thing. Harran announced that in the morn he would start laying his people to rest; unfortunately he would never get the chance.

Around midnight, as Kaezoh dozed instead of staying alert on his watch a group of half a dozen Vengers ambushed the camp. A pitched battle occurred around the campfire which itself became a weapon as the heroes pushed their enemies into the fire when opportunity arose. The battle was not without its losses however as Harran was disemboweled by one of the Vengers.

Investigating the Vengers the group realized that these were either the other members of the hunting party, or some of the surviving wildfolk from the encampment, corrupted by the demon's evil into predatory beasts. When first light rose they followed the Vengers trail back and found the ruined citadel that Eshara had told them about.

A large tower and a second squat building on a raised berm, the ruins showed little sign of being guarded. The group entered the tower and found decaying furniture, and rusted weapons long left idle. Behind a door to the other part of the ruins they heard voices, indistinct but clearly human, or human-like. Jorin moved to investigate and found the door trapped. Easily disarming the simple tripwire he prevented the deadfall of old weapons that had been staged just through the doorway.

Beyond they found a long corridor with rooms on either side and at the very end a stairwell down into a room from which guttural chanting was heard. Despite the wildfolk prisoners locked in cages the party moved forward to the chamber at the end, and burst in at the tail end of a corruption ceremony.

Five Vengers were arrayed around the room as the demon-possessed wildfolk hunter turned yet another of his kin into a venger, the poor woman's body twisting and mutating under the influence of dire magics as her mind was stripped away to only animal instinct and rage.

The demon then charged the party, using the upper hand to drive forward into combat, a decision it would come to regret once it became clear that the heroes were more than up to the task of vanquishing this old evil. Kaezoh and Umbrin hit hard and fast, aided by Jorin's backstab and Rydian's powerful arcane blasts they had the demon on the ropes.

The Vengers were not to be discounted though, and worse their corruption would serve the demon further when he absorbed their very life essence. The newly transformed woman exploded, the demonic essence within streaming into the demon and reinvigorating it. The group now realized that the Vengers were every bit as much a threat as the demon, even if only because they could fuel its hate filled essence.  Switching tactics they quickly dispatched with the Vengers while Umbrin and the demon went toe-to-toe with Umbrin taking several wounding hits that had Callidan scrambling to ensure his friends stayed on their feet.

In the end the battle was one of attrition and the demon lacked the resources to win. With a final mighty blow he was felled and his essence destroyed. An investigation of the room found that the very circle used to transform the wildfolk had once been the demon's prison, but the twisted silver link that had been in Eshara's possession had been the final piece. Now the chain, saturated with the evil, had become a tool of corruption. The triumphant party destroyed it and freed the remaining wildfolk.

Behind the Scenes

Since I don't have some quotes to share I'm going to drop a quick BTS instead. Coming out of Jim's last QcC session we had a setting were old sleeping gods were starting to wake, and the first new god in ages was born. I thought it would be interesting if with the awakening of the old gods some of their dormant minions might also wake. The demon here was roused but needed to be freed. The wildfolk hunting party gave it the opportunity to trick one of their member to break the chain that held it and provided a convenient vessel to inhabit. The other hunters became its first Venger minions and they went on to attack the wild folk encampment and the farmstead seeking more people to corrupt.

Had the party taken the link from Eshara it's magic would have been a potent boon against the demon, providing a boost in combat against him and its minions. Had time been permitting I had planned to have the group find the ruins empty save the prisoners. Freeing them they would have learned that the demon had gone to attack the village again with a full dozen Vengers. The party would have had to race back to save the village the final battle would have taken place there. Time being what it was I ultimately decided that they would find the demon still building its army instead.

The session ran a little long (maybe 30 minutes more than I thought) and we got a bit of a late start so we ended up playing till midnight Eastern but I hope it was worth it. I know I enjoyed sitting in the drivers seat, though I do think I could have done a couple things better in hindsight. I certainly have a new appreciation for the pacing needs of one- and two-shot games, including con scenarios, as well as the challenges of online play (note to self, ready my Google Draw battle maps ahead of time).

Thanks again to +James Walls +Jeremy Land +Craig McCullough +Andreas Walters and +andrew lyon for not only a fun two weeks as GM but a fun ten (10!) weeks of Carnage con Queso. I learned a lot about how the tone of game play can shift from system to system and got to try out three new games. It was a great idea Jim, and really well executed!