13th Age: Gorram Adventurers #3

Shadows in Eldolan continues; as before, given this is playtest material I’m being intentionally vague.

Last session ended in a cliffhanger, with characters facing a dozen or so enemies.

While waiting for TS and AK to arrive we went through icon relationships for characters of those present, checking if there was a background that explained the nature of the connection, and talking about how the players and I saw the relationships as working. This was really good. In most cases the background was fairly obvious, and but the nature of the individual connections wasn’t always as I had assumed. There was one case were we realized the connection was far from obvious, and had to rethink things a bit.

Not entirely sure if it would have been better to do this during chargen, or if it was actually better to leave it a bit late like this.

Then we talked a bit about Horizon, since all the characters are supposed to be familiar with it, but it hasn’t made an appearance in the game yet. We established a sense of what the city looks from afar, and some history, but then TS and AK arrived and it was time to start the game proper.

I would in many cases have been perfectly willing to start without them, but I had left the game in a cliffhanger with the characters facing a hard fight, and decided to use the time while waiting otherwise — especially since I knew beforehand that they would be late. TPK in session #3 while waiting for reinforcements would have been pretty rough…

At this point I also explained my experimental take on icon relationship rolls.  …and then it was roll initiative!

At first things seemed to be off to a grim start as two of the opponents started manipulating the environment magically, essentially using the room the characters were in as a weapon — but then one accidentally hit the other, and it was downhill from there. Luck of the dice. The characters took out most of the mooks before the poor bastards even managed their first action, and after that it was mopping up, mostly, at least for the first chamber.

In the second chamber evil was afoot, and I asked the players to choose if they would either take a quick rest before attacking the inner sanctum resetting the escalation die to 0, or if that if they managed to penetrate to the next chamber in one round they could keep the current escalation. They elected to press on.

The fight in the second chamber was brief but very hectic! The door area was quickly overcrowded, and it took a few tried before anyone was able to engage the leader inside, trying to interrupt his nefarious plans… which didn’t quite work out. Still, once the dust settled the characters emerged victorious and alive. They had captured one enemy alive, but he later died from his wounds.

Leo also discovered that the belt Ancalimë had used to hang herself earlier is now apparently possessed by the ghost of his father. A magical belt is a nice thing to have… but this one has a personality and an agenda.

Highlights from the fight:

  • Enemy fumbles. Gods. Ouch.
  • Robina opening the fight by nailing two enemies with a single arrow, then subsequently attempting to surf past some enemies on an overturned brazier and …not quite making it.
  • Leo using the chain that was supposed to trap him to swing around the room. Swashbuckling talent is made of awesome. His later attempt to tumble through a mess of people in a doorway was less successful, but also possibly a misruling on my part. Need to think about the nature of engagement a bit more.
  • Lucius’ by turns brutally primitive and madly skillful tactics: at one point he engaged essentially all opponents all by his lonesome, and seemed very happy doing so. :)
  • Ancalimë teleporting in front of the evil leader and using Shocking Grasp to throw him backwards so he wasn’t where he wanted to be. Very stylish, very tactical. Who needs a bloody grid?
  • Eisenzwerg powering through the opposition to reach the big bad, and giving it the big smackdown with a big hammer.

I really really like the way the rules work. There is an awfully nice mix of “dice tell you what happens” and “players tell you what happens” at play here.

This was an awesome fight in many ways, but … it took  too long. (Then again, it was essentially a fight + a double strength fight in a row, so maybe that isn’t too surprising.)

I like to describe what’s happening, the players like to describe what their characters are doing, everyone has fun and laughs: this takes a lot longer than “I attack, 17, 5 damage”.

Everyone is getting proficient with their character abilities, so there was only a tiny bit of “Can I do this?” and “How does this work?”, and I had prepared a bit better so I had less paper to shuffle: I’m pretty sure if we’d run this fight last week it would have taken a lot longer. So progress is good. :)

Still, I do want to speed them up some more yet.

I don’t want to cut down on the awesome or the fun, but I do want to be able to fit more non-combat stuff in a session. Will need to think about this, keeping an eye out on what actually takes most of the time. Maybe it’s just making sure that one turn follows another without delay. Maybe it’s me looking for the right die. (I kept dropping my dice on the floor all the time tonight!)

My OSR influenced inclination would be to just cut everyone’s HP in half… but I’m not sure how well that would go down. :P

Surveying the place after opposition had been removed revealed some clues that the characters decided to follow up next day. There was some debate about weather they should report to the authorities or possibly torch the building (I told them that cities are usually warded quite well, so they’re highly unlikely to burn down more than the single building. Highly unlikely.) In the end they decided to stash all the corposed in the secret basement so innocent bystanders would not stumble across them too easily. They also rescued one prisoner who was still unconscious when they vacated the premises.

There is one complication that is emerging that I’m not entirely happy with: the fiction is forming in a way that bodies just left where they fall are quite likely to rise as undead due to the call of the Lick King. This means that adventurers who care about stuff need to spend time disposing of the bodies of their enemies.

It’s a dose of realism in a way, and not entirely bad, but it is a timing and logistics wrinkle — and I’m not entirely sure what it will do to the tone of the game.

We’ll need to talk about this a bit. I suspect the easiest solution is to say “it’s possible”, but that 99 times out of hundred when a zombie rises “spontaneously” there’s really an active agency behind it: so leaving a battlefield with thousands of dead on it to fester would be a spectacularly bad idea, but a dozen corpses in basement would not be much of an issue.

Next session will probably be next week. Based on the plans I’ve heard the players mention so far the adventure as written is probably about to go offroad — but that’s fine by me. :D

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