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Author Topic: AP: Swordcrafters  (Read 1745 times)

stras

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AP: Swordcrafters
« on: May 03, 2012, 07:01:54 AM »
Wow. One heck of a game last Thur.

I was actually pinch hitting for my Thursday Marvel Heroic Game.  The GM was packing for a trip, and we have a tradition of doing one-off games whenever we’re short folks (or in this case, RL took precedence over gaming).  So yeah. DW! Here goes.

The characters:

Shrike - Human Ranger. Long hair, tall.  Fights alongside Iral, his goshawk.
Sherasyth - The elven fighter wielder of the demon blade Woe.  (side note: what is it about badass female elven fighters? Every DW game I’ve run so far has had one of the ladies at the table choosing the fighter and kicking six kinds of ass)
Aldarys - Human Wizard.
Petor - Human Priest of Helios (the God of light and the Greater Good)
Rook - halfling thief (I love these guys)

Setup
We run a pretty tight schedule.  Folks assemble around 6:30 and we’re out of there by 10-10:30. But our GM was booking out at 10 sharp.  I mention this because I never cease to be amazed at exactly how much we get done in DW.  The system just moves so quickly that by the end I realize that we’ve gone through what most ‘fantasy’ staples take weeks and entire arcs to accomplish.  But I digress.

First up was character creation and world creation.  I took a few minutes to explain to everyone the fact that we were going to be making a world together, and I that this was more of an ‘old school’ game - meaning I was running with the fiction (so they shouldn’t expect to win constantly and indeed their lives would frequently be in jeopardy).  So they made characters, and I asked lots of questions.  My friend Jeff helped out and dropped some map action on the board, and wrote down notes for things we said.

We found out that Aldar was the capital of this nation, and Aldarys (being the Human Wizard) was actually a nobleman.  That nobility wielded magic, it ran in the blood, and he was a pretty boy, who got by on good looks and his noble status more than true study. 

We found out that the great Cathedral of the Church of the Sun was in Aldar.  We learned that not too far away was the town of Perrywood (about 5 days by boat) at the confluence of two major rivers, and across from that was the Iron Woods - where a massive orc army had wintered and were waiting for the thaw to end so they could ford the river and continue their rampage.

We also found out that the orcs were far better organized than they should be.  That they served demons (one of whom Sherasyth made a pact with to escape, and one of which is embodied in her blade), they hosted gladiatory combat for entertainment.

Game
Time to begin.  ACTION! Apparently they’re fighting an orc squad on top of a pontoon bridge (made of logs) which has been lit on fire by the ranger.  Combat ensues.  The fighter charges with teeth bared, and sweeps through lesser orcs, and attracts the attention of a champion.  The orc shaman calls to the fire on the bridge and blows the logs away, and the ranger is swept downstream.  The rogue (not wanting any part of this, sneaks off through the tall grass, and snags the ranger, pulling him to shore, and stops rifling through his belongings once he realises the ranger is still alive).

His side pierced by wizard magic, the shaman sumons a monster made of his blood, fire, and dying breath.  The wizard throws up a shield, and the two clash.  The ranger realizes quickly that the flame demon is impervious to his mundane arrows (nice use of ‘this is not hack and slash’) but attempts a ‘called shot’ by tossing up his waterskin and pinning it to the monsters head (and rolled 12+!).

The fighter is fought to a standstill, till the halfling moving with only a tiny shimmy of stalks of tall grass to betray him, sneaks up to the orc champion and backstabs.  Sherasyth completes a killing blow and her blade, Woe, devours the orc’s champion demon blade (leaving the tiny halfling as the only one to witness it, which the other players played up as nonsense when he tried telling the story at camp).

The demon stunned by the water splashed on it’s fiery form gives the wizard and the cleric a chance to break for the river.  The party, fleeing its fiery wrath makes it to safety, with a few folks getting singed badly in the process.  The demon stands at the edge of the river, roaring in anger, and begins a ritual.  The wizard realizes that it's opening a portal, and about to turn the water in the river to fire, and summon further reingforcements in the shape of demonic cohorts - and begins a ritual of his own, seeking to chain the demon in place.  He manages to tap into the power of the ritual and uses the unbridled magic to drain the heat out of the river freezing the demon still.  The ranger uses his cloak and heaping helpings of river water to extinguish their enemies last flames.

Beaten, bruised, burned, cut, the party decides to travel towards the next nearest town.  They make camp for the night, and are no sooner asleep than the ranger (who was on watch) sees his hawk perturbed.  Heading back the way they came, he spots a cowled figure tracking them, pausing periodically to sniff the ground.  He wakes up the rest of the group, and the wizard uses his magic sight to view their opponent.  He realizes that the mans spirit form is immense, and chained painfully to the frail humanoid shape tracking them.  Also he realizes the party is horribly outclassed.  They book it.

The ranger takes the time to distract and mislead their tracker before hooking around and catching up to the group.

The party (peeing their pants at this point) look for short term solutions.  Sherasyth mentions that the next town over has a Grove in the woods dedicated to the Old Gods (spout lore) and that the old powers of the earth might be able to hide them from such a creature.  The party decides to go there, but the cleric trusts in his god and heads to town.

There's some roleplay that ensues over the course of the next day.  The group rests in the grove under the watchful eye of its elven caretaker.  In talking (and making some spout lore checks, using his bag-o-books) the Fighter talks about how the cloaked figure is one of a dozen or so that lead the orcs.  The wizard explains that this was probably one of a group of ancient sorcerer kings, and that although they could burn, stab and otherwise maul the physical form of the black Walker that was chasing them, the only way to defeat it was with a weapon capable of severing the spiritual chains that bound it.  And that would take some rare ingredients.  He doesn't have a full list, so the group plans a trip to the library in the great spire of the White city to the south.  The wizard explains that it would be a few weeks travel at best overland, but not too far away is a Knot in the world, and if he can get there he could probably shave weeks off of their journey by activating the ancient portal to transmit them closer to their destination.  They begin prep.

The rogue is the only one with solvent coin, and he ends up  very sadly paying for the suplies.  They prepare to leave in the morning, but the priest (still in town) is woken up in the middle of the night.  The orcs have forded the river and are assaulting the city.  He blesses and heals the paladin of his faith guarding the church, but departs silently out back, following the guidance of his god.  He ignores the pleas of people (I really tried tempting him to stay even though he was horribly outnumbered, but he stayed the course) and the burning of the town, and sneaks out to the Grove to meet the rest of the party

The group gets to learn how to make a perilous journey (which is pretty awesome by the by) and end up encountering several warbands of orcs before we called the session as they entered the ruins at the World Knot.

Review
So the group was enthralled enough that this has been declared the official 'off week' game.  There were many glowing examples of praise, but I'll start with the problems and questions we encountered.

First off: Gear.  I want to give you guys a highfive on the new 'starting gear' solution with the boxes.  It's actually pretty awesome and I had zero questions on how to use it.  As a matter of fact, the players finished it before I even got to the 'gear' section in instructions.

There were a few minor problems however noted afterwards.  The ranger noted that he requires a Str +2 to even carry his basic loadout (actually it looks like the ammo aka arrows come in 2 weight bundles, which is inconsistent with the 'gear' chapter which labels them weight 1).  The rogue picked halfling (again) and complained (much like the last one) that there was no thrown/ranged weapon option.  I definitely suggest you guys put in a few throwing knives in the rogues starting gear list if at all possible, as this is the most consistent suggestion I've heard.  This might also be due to my predilection of starting with action as opposed to a shopping trip in a town, but that has gotten vocal thumbs up, so take it for what it's worth.

Mechanics
Funny story, the ranger picked the 1d4 option on ferocity (ha ha).  He had a hawk and thought this line was the most accurate representation.  As a result I made his hawk awesome.  When he would send it to scout and lookout (it's tricks) I'd make sure it came back with useful info.  Consequently I didn't see the ranger as a high-dps class.

The only complaint he had was that he saw his character as a forest/mountain-man, and largely a bow-hunter.  He thought the human racial was very counter-intuitive and against the concept of the ranger, and mentioned that he would rather see the a choice of terrains for where he could ‘forage’ for rations (although he really liked the elf one, just didn’t want to play the elf, so was excited to get to the half-elven advance).  Also he was hoping for more bow-play options in the advances.

There was also a question posed by the thief, wherein which he asked if when using a precise weapon Backstab worked with Dex.  I ruled no, since Backstab as I’ve seen is about striking once, as hard as possible to end a fight.  So to Backstab in the first place (to make the move) required an action focused on Str, so it wouldn’t be applicable. A similar action with Dex would be a hack-and slash.  But I wanted to pass on the question and ask for an official stance (albeit precise only speaks about Hack and Slash and not Backstab, even though one seems an extension of the other).

Fighter (unsurprisingly ;) ) thought fighters were awesome.  How there were abilities already written into the game to support her character ideas didn’t hurt one wee bit.

The Wizard really thumbs-upped the spell system. He loved how not automatically losing the spells made him feel less like a 1-trick 1-magic-missile pony, yet the fact that they did go away retained all the flavor of the original game.  Other big favorites included arcane shielding, and how he could ‘pull books out’ of his stack and use them.

The whole party actually commented on the initiative system (that is to say the lack thereof).  My favorite point was brought up by a player who said that usually they’re borderline ADD and seeing that there’s 10 people on the track till ‘their turn’ they check their G+/Facebook, but with player actions driving things, it was always being on the toes, ready to pounce at any chance, ready to jump in wherever possible (and I’ll note no phones were checked till after game AND after wrapup and chats).

I as a GM am slowly starting to get the hang of threats and hard/soft moves.  I still would like a shiny printable official GM sheet included with the character sheets, but I prepped this time with some index cards and that helped immensely.  Also I found that the spreads look gorgeous and are easy to bookmark and consult on my Transformer (tablet).

Overall, I find that I’m consistently having a blast with this, and that a similar group comp can have wildly differing adventures even with the same party composition.  It doesn’t hurt that prep involves a brief stop at Kinkos on the way to game (printing double sided on an inkjet at home is kind of a pain in the tush).  I *want* to run this more frequently, and it doesn’t overwhelm me in terms of time investment.

My only real complaint … is lack of druids ^_~ (kidding!)
« Last Edit: May 03, 2012, 07:14:05 AM by stras »

iserith

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Re: AP: Swordcrafters
« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2012, 03:34:48 PM »
Sweet write-up, thanks for that. It was a good read. Question: All the fluff that seemed to come about from the game, was that GM or player generated? If it was both, where did most of it come from? It sounds like from your writing that the players were coming up with it on the fly. If that's the case, cool!

I mention this because I never cease to be amazed at exactly how much we get done in DW.  The system just moves so quickly that by the end I realize that we’ve gone through what most ‘fantasy’ staples take weeks and entire arcs to accomplish.

Totally. This is why I've dropped 4e for my ongoing campaign and we're now using DW. Tonight is our first game after the conversion. We're two big adventures from finishing and I calculated that would take 4-6 months given 1/week 3-hour sessions in 4e. In DW, it should take a lot less time. (Not that this is a bash on 4e which I enjoy for different reasons. I'm just hunting for time-savings after a 1.5 year campaign.)

There were a few minor problems however noted afterwards.  The ranger noted that he requires a Str +2 to even carry his basic loadout (actually it looks like the ammo aka arrows come in 2 weight bundles, which is inconsistent with the 'gear' chapter which labels them weight 1).

Isn't it Strength SCORE plus base to calculate Load? That's the only thing that made sense to me.

The only complaint he had was that he saw his character as a forest/mountain-man, and largely a bow-hunter.  He thought the human racial was very counter-intuitive and against the concept of the ranger, and mentioned that he would rather see the a choice of terrains for where he could ‘forage’ for rations (although he really liked the elf one, just didn’t want to play the elf, so was excited to get to the half-elven advance).  Also he was hoping for more bow-play options in the advances.

Sounds like a good house rule on the rations. One of my players opted to try and go for an "urban ranger" thing recently rather like a private investigator. I thought it worked really well in play. A ranger with good Cha, you say?

There was also a question posed by the thief, wherein which he asked if when using a precise weapon Backstab worked with Dex.  I ruled no, since Backstab as I’ve seen is about striking once, as hard as possible to end a fight.

Precise weapons affect Hack & Slash only according to the rules. Backstab is Str, straight up. I've seen thieves in the game forgo Strength altogether in favor of Int or Cha, then just take the auto-damage from Backstab rather than roll for it. Damn failure-mitigators!

The whole party actually commented on the initiative system (that is to say the lack thereof).  My favorite point was brought up by a player who said that usually they’re borderline ADD and seeing that there’s 10 people on the track till ‘their turn’ they check their G+/Facebook, but with player actions driving things, it was always being on the toes, ready to pounce at any chance, ready to jump in wherever possible (and I’ll note no phones were checked till after game AND after wrapup and chats).

This is a struggle in my online games. You can't see someone squirming in their seat and it's hard to hear when people talk over each other on Skype or Teamspeak. As a result, it's become much more turn-based than I think is intended. I definitely try to encourage people to do multiple things on their "turn" and jump around to someone else when I think it makes sense. It can be exhausting. I'd love to hear some solutions if anyone has any... but it may just be a fact of life in online games.

stras

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Re: AP: Swordcrafters
« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2012, 06:06:51 AM »
Sweet write-up, thanks for that. It was a good read. Question: All the fluff that seemed to come about from the game, was that GM or player generated? If it was both, where did most of it come from? It sounds like from your writing that the players were coming up with it on the fly. If that's the case, cool!

Fluff definitely comes about from the game.  I take my 'play to find out what happens' very seriously (I have a big beef with illusionism).  The fluff comes from us combined (mostly players initially, mostly me later on), I do pretty much what the game says to do.  I ask questions, listen, add the fantastical and fill their lives with danger and adventure.  I'm just short-handing a lot in the AP report because otherwise it would take me weeks to set up a transcription.  I'll try to outline what I mean though.

So everyone comes up with a name, and a description and tweak out their characters a bit.  So I'll usually start with someone, at this game I picked the ranger because he was done and sitting on my right.  It kind of works like this.

Me: So Shrike, you're a ranger right?
John: Sure.
Me: What's the area you live in like? Are you a mountain ranger? Do you live in a swamp?
John: Some woods.
Me: Cool.  What are they called.
John: Irontree Woods.
(I draw some trees on the whiteboard or paper and label it 'irontree woods').
Me: Ok, so when you need materials you can't necessarily make yourself like axe-heads or knives, how do you get them?
John: I suppose I trade in town.
Me: How far away is this town?
John: Not too far outside the forest.
Me: Cool, what's it called?
John: Perrytown.
(I draw a couple tiny houses, and label it Perrytown)

Next to him is Sherasyth, our elven fighter.  I address her:
Me: So Sherasyth!
S: Yes?
Me: Where did you get your scars?
S: In ... the arena?
Me: Sounds good.  Was this for glory or...?
S: (cuts me off) No I was a slave.
Me: Cool.  Who owned you?
S: Orcs.
(I write down 'ORCS!' in red. I make a mental note they're probably becoming a Front)
Me: Where do these orcs live?
S: (looks around, looks at map) In the Irontree Woods.
Me: Oho, for an arena there's probably some construction... this is more than just a couple huts and a handful of orcs?
S: Yeah, there's lots of them.
Me: How many?
S: A Horde.
(I put down 'Orcs travel in Hordes'.  Then erase a couple trees and draw an orc-face in the woods.  Oh yeah, definitely a front.)
Me: What's the scariest thing they made you fight?
S: A forest troll.
(I write down 'allied with Forest Trolls' next to 'ORCS!')

I look back at Shrike.
Me: So you live in these woods right?  You've been watching these orcs a while, scouting them right?
John: Sounds about right.
Me: How long have they been in your woods?
John: Less than six months.
(oho so they're on the move and only recently arrived. I make a mental note.)
Me: And what scares you the most about this horde?
John: They ... ... ... they serve demons?
Me: Cool.
(write that down)

And so on.  Basically I am the keeper of the world.  I let what the players say inspire me.  I'll ask hard questions to keep things coherent and on track.  Ex: The priest says the capital is 5 days away by boat.  I point out this means that there's an orc army about a weeks hard march from the nations capital.  The player blanch.  I ask why they haven't struck.  In this specific instance nobody came up with an idea right away, so I suggested that winter made the rivers impassable by army, so they had essentially dug into the forest to use the wood to build catapults.  So the players asked why the orcs were building siege weaponry, and that got added as a portent/plot idea and so on.

Basically this fiction has a ton of tropes.  We all know them.  We've read the books, played the games, know the score.  Most players are pretty creative, and once they unclench and realize that this isn't a 'gotcha' and see other people having fun throwing stuff into the pot, they join in.  I just crank up the cinematics.

Elf: So if this thing can track us, is there some ancient magic that can shield us?
Me: Wizard, you're an expert on magic! What do your ancient tomes tell you?
Wizard: That I sleep in class? No ... uh ... ... is there some old religion?
Me: Sure, the God in the Wastes? (note: I'm using the ranger move here to apply mechanics to fiction)
Elf: Ok, so lets go to one of these.
Me: Great who knows where there is one?
Wizard: You know I might have been awake in one of my classes!
(I make him do a Spout Lore, he succeeds with a strong hit, so I translate that as knowing something helpful and nearby)
Me: There is a Grove like that in the nearby woods.  (And when they get there I describe the ancient trees with faces carved in them very Pict/Celtic style, add atmosphere, describe the power thrumming and so on)

You can see though that I'm getting a lot of my information from the players, and then just curating and running with it and expanding on it.  Once there's enough information on the table, the game carries itself forward.  In handling one threat/challenge we frequently come up with another.  It's kind of like an avalanche.  Enough fiction in a setting and it gains its own momentum.

In between games I just codify and clarify this by making it formal (aka attaching it to fronts/dangers, detailing portents, and maybe coming up with a few sweet custom moves).

Hope that helps.

Isn't it Strength SCORE plus base to calculate Load? That's the only thing that made sense to me.

No it's +Str which is the modifier (not 6+Strength, but 6+Str).  Not sure how that affects things for you.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2012, 06:17:08 AM by stras »

noofy

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Re: AP: Swordcrafters
« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2012, 09:57:06 AM »
Stras! That's such a wicked write up, and close to my heart as its how we like to play too. So cool. Have you sat down with the group to make the steading of Perrytown? Or even the Capital?
I hope you guys do play every other week, caus its a great game.

In answer to your questions, I let the fiction (player's intent) determine whether backstab with a precise weapon is STR or DEX. If the player wants one or the other attribute to be the governing score (usually dex) I offer them a hard bargain or explain the consequences and cost before the roll. Hooks them every time

Rangers are what you make of them, and they cover a lot of existing tropes, so I think you guys did awesome with the mountain man concept, the half-elven compromise is usually a hit (I can see the Tanis Half-elven elmore-esque feathers and buckskins already).

Nothing stops the sneaky halfling thief from using throwing daggers if you are a propnent of saying Yes and..... (which I gather you are). Just be a fan of the characters. 'Sure you can have throwing daggers, but you are a thrown knife aficionado, so you lose that cumbersome shortsword and replace it with a bandolier of knifes / stars / spikes: whatever. Okay?'

In regards to load, well, stuff is heavy yeah? That's what hirelings or paladins are for anyways, lugging crap around the dungeon.

Oh and druids as a compendium class of cleric? The funky shit yo.
Thanks for sharing, you rawk like the ranger's hawk! Awesome AP!

iserith

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Re: AP: Swordcrafters
« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2012, 01:38:23 PM »
Thanks for the write-up and examples. I do the same or similar. I chose a published setting as my backdrop for my first campaign this time though. I think I might try a game like Microscope down the road to create the world and its history with the group, then create our adventuring party in DW, pick a place and time to start, and go from there. Anyone try Microscope yet?

As for the Load issue, the book doesn't come right out and say it, but I'm pretty sure it's Strength score. It does reference it under Debilities on pp. 14, 159-160 of Beta 2.2: "Each debility is tied to a stat and gives you -1 to that stat's modifier. The stat's score is unaffected so you don't have to worry about changing your Load when you're Weak." And honestly, it's the only thing that makes sense to me.

donbaloo

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Re: AP: Swordcrafters
« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2012, 02:11:32 AM »
p.303 of Beta 2.2 is clear that it's class + strength modifier. As are all the Loads in each class description. It's always listed as Class+STR. This hasn't seemed problematic in our couple of games.

But you're right Iserith, that section under debilities gives the impression that it may be strength score. As of now I have to consider the debilities section misleading though since everywhere else seems clear that it's modifier.
Chris McNeilly