Monday, November 28, 2011

It's a GammaWorld Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown

So I did something a little funky for the holidays this year and I thought I'd share what happened. On Thanksgiving, we usually go over to my wife's family's house and during the festivities at some point, all of us in the "next gen" category play games together. It's been Rock Band, Settlers of Katan, Citadels, Munchkin, etc, the game changes up year to year. So this year, the family proposed that we maybe play a little GammaWorld to introduce the cousins to. My wife and her two sisters are all players in my regular 4E game, so they know the mechanics and have all rolled up a GammaWorld character at some point, but the two cousins (both guys) had never played a tabletop RPG. Also did I mention that I found out about this idea with only a day to prep? I'm normally a very proactive planner when it comes to gaming material so I got more than a little nervous about having something to show for the newbies as well as my sister-in-laws who have a bit of RPG background.

I already talked about how awesome I think the Fourthcore Alphabet is and if you haven't check it out, you need to, but I thought I'd put it to the test and use the randomized tables from the Alphabet to create the scenes for the adventure on Thanksgiving. I didn't really have a full idea of what I wanted so I decided to use the random tables and create a quest for the players.

So rolling up ideas, I came up with a simple Quest that my party was going to have to seal away a powerful enemy using some kind of ritual, they were going to have to seek an enemy's help to do it and as a result, the enemy was going to gain access to a powerful artifact as a result of their quest. I wanted to do something remotely Thanksgiving related so I decided that the enemy who had to be sealed away would be something known only as "The Gobbler" and when I came up with more details I would make sure that the turkey theme continued. I also decided that in order to stop the Gobbler, they couldn't just fight him, they'd have to lure him on a "table" and set the table with ingredients which would activate its containment (and yes the ingredients were all components of a thanksgiving meal). This information would be had by a biker gang of Porkers, which several of my players have already had horrible run ins with Porkers in our previous missions in GammaWorld, but the Porkers wouldn't just fork over this information. They want Omega Tech for it. So there is a sacrifice up front, but it hopefully pans out since they gain the means to actually stop the BigBad.

At this point, I started flipping through the Monster Vault to try and find a creature I could use for the Gobbler. I was having a hard time coming up with something, so I turned to the Overlord section of the Fourthcore Alphabet. Randomly I determined that the overlord (i.e. The Gobbler) couldn't speak,but used telepathy to speak through a proxy. I also determined that he controlled his allies through a ritual that must be repeated on a regular basis. This was how the Porkers were able to escape! I also determined that there were bas relief images that covered his entire base and I decided that these would be images of natives fighting armored warriors (a little nod to the colonial Americas).

After that I realized I needed to determine what the base looked like. So I rolled on the Dungeon section. It came across that they were caverns which were constructed by an ancient people who no longer used them. I decided it worked well to have these caverns be a home to a native people group who lived their until they fled do to the advances of a force known as the Grims. I also determined that the main denizens of the dungeon were Animated Constructs. At this point I landed on the page of elementals and start thinking about how perfect it would be if the minions of the Gobbler were all Thanksgiving food related. Fighting a golem made of gravy would make for a very different meal afterwards.

I decided that I wanted the caverns to be made up of 3 chambers (a little classic and blah, but game time was limited). I wanted the first chamber to have potential for a combat, a temptation, and a puzzle. I thought a fountain with a potentially dangerous outcome could be perfect so I went and ahead and declared it a gravy Fountain (great source for constructs if they failed the puzzle) that if drank would attack the player and if hit they would die of a heart attack. I actually rolled the effect and was like, wow, that's appropriate. Drinking from the gravy fountain and just drop dead. Huh. Then I rolled for the Puzzle. I came up with the series of bells in a chamber that need to be rung to sound like the bell on a grandfather clock in the room when the hands are set at midnight. This was a little obscure a puzzle and knowing my players to not be the best at puzzles, I decided to include a subtle detail to give them a hint. The clasp on the bells, the part you hold, looked like two hands side by side straight up. I thought this would give them the piece they needed to solve it pretty easily, but they still spent over half the time in this adventure in that front room. They failed with the bells and summoned increasingly more Gravy Constructs (reskinned water elementals) until finally someone just clicked on the idea and set the hands up and then rang the bell. It was awesome once she got it. :)

The next chamber I wanted to be a gauntlet of Traps so I rolled for three devious devices that they would have to get past to gain access to the next area. The first one was spectral tendrils, that I reflavored as cranberry sauce reaching out to grab people. It had the effect on a hit that the items on the creature would begin to rust and decay away as the jello salad made them older and older. The next trap was a pitfall full of old turkey carcasses and bones that if a party member fell into it (they had to jump the pit, which they used some very creative thinking to make it over) would summon 4 skeleton turkey minions (reskinned skeleton warriors). The final trap was a false floor made of stuffing that gave way when three party members stood on it. They failed their perception checks to smell the difference and it gave way under the whole group dropping them into the last section.

As the party was working their way through the caverns, they collected different bits from the different traps and constructs since they knew they were going to have to use them to lock down the Gobbler. As they walk into the main room, there were Broccoli and Mashed Potato constructs that were reskinned fire and earth elementals and the Big Gobbler himself a reskinned Beholder Gauth. Using the Beholder was something I was particularly proud of. It worked really well with the concept and it was giving the party a really hard time. They were having a hard time of it until they realized they should focus on the constructs to gather the needed materials for the ritual. Once they realized this they were able to maneuver the Gobbler onto "the table" and start putting the ingredients in place to imprison it there. Overall game time took 3 hours and was a LOT of fun. Creating the adventure took 15 minutes. That's what impressed me so much. The Fourthcore Alphabet was a great means for story ideas and made it a snap to make something really specific and cool. I'm definitely using this again when I have another quick adventure to put together and need something really special and different.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Awesomeness All Over the Place

So I'm doing a lot of cool stuff right now. My gaming schedule has shifted pretty substantially in the last month and instead of predominantly running games, I'm actually a player quite a bit.

We took a month off of our regular D&D game that I play in (run by Humorous Endeavors) and have been trying other RPGs. We tried out World of Darkness (which was creepy), Mouseguard (which was AWESOME and a really stark juxtaposition to the dark world concept of the previous game), and this week I ran a one shot of Old School Hack and ran through a pared down version of "The Ghost Tower of Inverness" from early D&D lore. There is something cool about taking a break from your usual game and trying something new that gives you an appreciation for the original game and a new approach to thinking about the game in the first place. We start up our regular 4E game next week and I'm honestly really excited about it.

I'm playing in the WeeklyGrind4E series that MilwaukeeJoe is running (the room we are currently on is the first that he wrote himself and it's absolutely devastating right now, especially since the last room killed over half of our party). Having time to think about how my actions unfold (which you don't get to do quite as much in a live game) has been really cool and has let me think about just what it looks like when my character takes particular actions. A really fun exercise in description and tactical combat without the visual cues and table talk of a regular table top game. This blog taught me how to do play-by-post and it has proved absolutely invaluable for the other thing that is taking up my time right now.

CStevenRoss is doing some great stuff and started running a PvP game using 4E and I'm on a team (playing, I know how silly!) and it's SO INTENSE. I'm literally refreshing my browser to keep an eye on just how many hit points I have left and whether I'm in danger or not. The decision-making process and balancing the potential dangers all over the map embrace exactly what Fourthcore represents.

Speaking about Fourthcore, this past week marked the release of the Fourthcore Alphabet by Sersa V which is essentially a book filled with awesome charts filled with incredibly innovative and descriptive dungeon and monster design ideas. Just flipping through the tables, I got all kinds of ideas on how to better describe and inhabit any dark and spooky place that an adventuring party could explore. The tables are really game system neutral so you could use it to create all kinds of interesting locations for any game. All the charts work as random tables if you want to let chance decide the fate of your dungeoneers, but just reading through the charts is a great way to find cool ideas and really develop a stronger dungeon vocabulary. D&D is a game of  heroes wandering into dark places, hopefully to come back out and this resource can help a gamemaster make that darkness seem especially dark. It's seriously awesome and really worth the $5.99 to pick it up.

My actual game (the one I run) has been slow lately. We've had a lot of random breaks that slowed us down and that has made it more difficult to keep momentum. Especially at Epic tier. Big exciting things take so long to unfold that having these big breaks has really hindered our ability to keep our energy and excitement high. We had a pretty awesome session last time (week and a half ago) involving an elder worm (note that it's not a wyrm) summoned by the blood of Mephistopheles in a gladiatorial arena in Hell. They then traveled from Hell to Letherna and met the Raven Queen in her palace. And since the session wasn't epic enough at this point, they ended up on the shores of Hestavar in the Astral Sea with a squadron of angels and silver dragon-knights flying down on them. I love big cliffhangers. :) It's go time in just a few days and boy do I miss running our normal game.

So that is what I have been up to lately. Sometime soon I'm going to post a write up of my worm arena combat because I sculpted the worm and painted it up myself and it turned out pretty cool. So until next time...