Saturday, February 20, 2010

Experimental Super Friends Day, Pt. 2

So this is a post about how this experimental day of D&D went.

Quick re-cap: multiple plot-threads, multiple rule-sets, brand new character class, mass combat, a few more things, too. Probably just click that link up there if you're really interested. Anyway...

Connie and Satine In The Puzzle-Temple

I could've written way less puzzlestuff than I did for the puzzletemple. They spent most of their time debating how to get past various obstacles--which was fun for them, so it was cool.

Also, since the set-up required I cut from team to team, it gave me a natural way to do that:


"Ok, I'm going to tie a rope around my waste and get a running start and jump as far into the pool as I possibly can."

"Ok, you run, and then you leap--what's your strength?--ok, you leap fourteen feet over the the black muck aaaand...CUT--Mandy and Frankie, what are you guys doing?"

Mandy, Frankie, and the Mass-Battle Rules

So Mandy, Frankie and occasionally KK (she had errands to run and so was in and out) faced Gorth's unhallowed legions openly on the field of battle.

Mandy, realizing she was outgunned, kicked off the fight with a classic of asymmetrical warfare...

Being me, I had this idea a few months ago that a first-level wizard should be allowed to, in addition to the usual spells, be allowed to choose ANY one spell in the book--Power Word Kill, Summon Worst Thing Ever, Alter Reality--so long as it had a 50% chance of backfiring and affecting the caster. The Poorly Learned Spell rule.

Mandy'd picked Acid Cloud. Mandy ran up to the War Witch Squad, used Acid Cloud, rolled poorly, it backfired, she went down to zero, along with most of the Witches. Let it never be said she's not a true Suicide Girl.

Meanwhile, Frankie--showing up to play after a very long and sleepless night the precise nature of which gentlemanly discretion prevents me from describing--spent a lot of time actually unconscious.

KK showed up long enough to lead some elves in an attack on some abominations and then find a loophole in the rules and then was immediately laid low by a combination of a hideous bite to her PCs face and a bad burrito to her actual self.

So here's the deal with the loophole and how to avoid it:

The mass combat rules I whipped up make everybody more vulnerable. Close combat is over fast. This is fine for the rank-and-file troops. However, I really do not feel comfortable telling my players (many of whom have just now gotten used to the normal combat system) that all of a sudden they have one hit point.

So I worked it out so that once a PC is engaged, they and whoever they're personally fighting fight according to normal D&D rules, while everyone else uses the fast rules. That way you get your mass combat cake and get to individual-valorously eat it, too.

Trust me, it isn't that complicated. You fight like normal for a bit, then go around the table seeing how all these mini-battles on around the table turned out. Most will end with someone dying.

The only hitch to remember is: give the PC and his/her personal foe a few rounds of fighting (neither side has to go down, you can move on halfway through), THEN go to the mooks, resolve their combats, THEN move to the next initiative countdown.

If you resolve the mooks first, then what happens is some of the mooks and their enemies die, which leaves the PC standing there fighting while surrounded by a bunch of unengaged pals and going "Well can any of these rhubarbs get over here and help me?" and you have to go "No, not til their initiative comes up next round." Which creates a sort of annoying time paradox.

If you do it PCs then mooks, however, it works like a charm. Plus the Pcs face the interesting choice next turn of whether to have their units help them or engage somebody else on the field.

The main dirty little secret to making D&D work as a wargame in this way is: when you modify it as much as I did, then basically it's almost not D&D --which is not such a big deal, so long as you warn your players first.

One other note--next time I design a scenario like this I want to make sure both sides have lots of distance attacks. If one side doesn't have them or doesn't have many, there are way less dimensions to the strategy involved, since basically at some point you have to charge into close combat and then the dice do most of the work.

Anyway, to make a long story short, Frankie eventually clericked Mandy back to consciousness and the girls managed to handle both the enemy and the mass combat system despite KK's indigestion.

Joe V. Gorth

And what, then, of Joe, lone first-level rogue charged with the task of distracting the evil wizard who set loose all this archvillainy in the first place?

Remember Joe's task is merely to distract the fearsome Nth-level mage, not destroy him, but still: things don't look good for Joe. And nobody wanted to help him.

So omigod, dig Joe...

First round:

Move Silently and Hide In Shadows up behind Gorth.

Roll, roll, succeed succeed.
I figure, hey, Gorth's a busy man, directing a whole battle from atop his giant disembodied hand in the center of the battlefield and of course, posesses the arrogance of all wizardkind. So yeah, he's not gonna notice this gnat creeping up on him since he's got an empire of pain to run.

Kind of a Flash-Vs.-Darkseid thing developing here.

Second round:

Joe climbs up the tower and then the hand, from behind, naturally.

I figure, Gorth gets lots of modifiers, he's gonna notice this shit. But no, he rolls a 1.

Third round:

Joe taps Gorth on the shoulder while holding up the severed head of medusa which he remembered to write down on his equipment list from when he chopped it off during the first time he ever played, this past Thanksgiving.

Joe may have thought to do this because he works in special effects and so has probably seen Clash of the Titans 20 times. Fucking Ray Harryhausen.

Now I figure:

Wizard, eldritch wisdom, reflex save, he's gotta have something going on, right? So I roll and yes, Gorth is indeed on the ball enough to not turn around.

So now what's the most interesting horrible thing Gorth could do without looking Joeward? I figure: look down, use Animate Object on Joe's shoes so Joe is forced to skitter and tap-dance off the tower.

Down goes Joe, falling damage takes he, but he's got 2 hit points left because he's tough and lucky.

Fourth Round:

Gorth pulls out an eyeball and drops it on Joe to go see what it is that Joe's up to. The eyeball gets turned to stone, ok. So now Gorth knows he's got a medusa head.

I walk over to my minis shelf and pull down the biggest, scariest monster I haven't used recently (this warhammer ghost guy) and tell Joe Gorth just summoned it.

Joe runs and runs. Gorth goes back to what he was doing.

Fifth Round:

Joe get sick of running, turns around and tries to see if this medusa head will work on the ghost. It doesn't but then the ghost attacks and Joe realizes it's just an illusion.

And then:

I think there's no chance Joe'll be able to sneak up on Gorth again, but Joe realizes that--

he climbs halfway up, then grappling hooks the wizard, yanks him (opposed strength roll) off the giant hand, the wizard falls right next to Joe.

Initiative. Joe wins, stabs the facedown (trying to avoid the medusa head) wizard in the back, rolling a 19. That's a critical with a dagger on a prone opponent. Now, still, nowhere near enough damage to hurt Gorth at all but I figure you're a rogue and you roll a 19 to the back you gotta get something, right? So I say Gorth basically loses a turn.

So Joe grabs Gorth's one-eyed head and tries to pull his face up to look at the medusa head. Opposed strength roll. Gorth manages to keep his feeble wizard head down. But then:
initiative, Joe wins, tries all over again. Succeeds, now Gorth's made of stone.

Nice job Joe.

Then everybody got together (in total Justice League style) and fought a giant two-headed snake. They beat it.

The Only Thing I Didn't Really Test...

...was the alchemist class. It worked ok this time, but I feel like the real test is how it works once Satine starts running out of potions and has to try to mix up new stuff.

Anyway, successful test, basically, just next time I need to make sure Frankie gets enough sleep before game day and KK lays off the cheap mexican.


  1. Indeed! Normally I'm on the edge of my seat reading what the lethal lovely ladies are up to but this time its all about Joe!

    Got get'em J-Man!

    I'm glad it worked out for you. As I said its a stlye I favor myself.

  2. Yeah. That Mexican should spend more money on KK, she deserves it.

    What happened with the leap over the black muck?
    You literally (in a virtual manner) left us hanging.

  3. Cool!

    Is Joe's character named Cugel?

  4. when you modify it as much as I did, then basically it's almost not D&D

    And yet you all had massive fun playing something we all recognize:

    "The D&D is that is almost not D&D is the true D&D" (?)


    This post is loaded to the gunwales with win. It has filled my heart with fanboyish squee and nerdgasm.

    Mandy's kamikaze acid cloud is classic. Forget setting yourself on fire and hurling yourself upon the foe, acid is the wave of the future when it comes to intimidating the enemy.

    And when I think of Joe's character all I can see in my mind's eye is a panel from the old "Spriggan" manga: bloodied, battered, completely outclassed protagonist sneering at the Omnicidal Maniac villain and asking if that was actually supposed to hurt.

  5. Totally epic, especially the Suicide Girl and Joe vs Gorth. Battle system sounds interesting too.

  6. Hail to Joe the Wizard Slayer!

    Did everyone have fun? Because it was great fun to read.

    I ran my similar mass combat last night, and while it was a success, it wasn't nearly as wild and woolly as this was. Clearly my players aren't as heroic and adventurous as yours!

  7. Chris nailed it I think-- the coined motto! The DnD That Is Not DnD Is The True DnD. When things break down & the DM is wining it & the PCs are throwing screwball plans & the ad hoc rules are TIGHT & the story is just ripping along; hell yeah.

  8. lucky rogue, or loaded dice?
    never eat at the taco halls marked "K" even if it's your initials and has gumby riding a quesadilla.

  9. That was pretty damn epic! And I now realize that I can in fact see the hand in that pic. That's badass.

    @Chris: "Omnicidal" is totally getting added to my personal lexicon. Well done.

  10. Wow, way to go, gang. :) (and Zak) -- special kudos to Joe for using his head. ;)

    @Zak -- something which might pay off well would be to let the players without a character in the scene play an allied NPC. Worked well storming Innsmouth.
    Possible problem with the alchemist -- sooner or later someone gets the bright idea of poisoning their blades and arrowheads for easy kills, especially when outnumbered....

  11. GM
    -in this game, everybody was perfectly happy to discuss tactics when the spotlight wasn't on thme--but it's an interesting selection for later.

    i don;t see it being a problem-- the way i wrote the class up you get a very limited number of potions over time and can only replenish it under special circumstances.

  12. Very exciting. I love your game writeups and I'm glad your mass combat system worked out.

  13. Woo-hoo! GO JOE!
    I'm sure his character is going to face a sixpack of trouble because of this epic victory sooner or later, probably sooner... but hey, it's totally worth it!

  14. One thing I don't quite understand is where did the giant amphisbaena come from? Did it pop in through the Mysterious Puzzle Temple of Doom? Did the party indeed remember to take it to fulfil the list of quest item requirements or is it just too freakin big?
    Was it somehow the power behind Gorth and this is a Serpents vs. Spiders Blood War? :0