Monday, June 28, 2010

Lost Colonies Session 19

There was one thing left unresolved from the funhouse dungeon that the party survived during the last three sessions. Something inside the dungeon had been stalking them and killing them one by one when they slept. The party had no idea what it was, nor had anyone spotted or seen what was stalking them. With that worry in mind, they settled down for their first night outside the dungeon.

Dn. Goram was awakened in the middle of the night by a brightly shining figure, who claimed to be St. Gabriel. The party had been transported to some kind of demi-plane where they had to get into a tower at the center of a city in order to save the life of one of the party members. The city was divided into seven sections. As they explored, Dn. Goram came to realize that each section represented one of the deadly sins. All the encounters in each section were related to a particular sin, and as the players exhibited these sins, they began to lose characteristic scores. As the evening progressed, the party came to realize that the entrance to the tower was locked and that in order to unlock it, they must make their way through all seven sections of the city, which they did. Once in the tower they found an amorphous being with a cruel, distorted face slowly devouring their companion. Once defeated, they found themselves back in the desert, with the creature dead at the feet of their companion, who was paralyzed but alive.

In order to emphasize the otherness of the city, I ran all the combat using a Weapon vs Armor combat system similar to what I described in a past post. Some observations:
  • Hamlen's player had a good time. He very quickly figured out that he could make tactical choices based on weapons and what armor he and his opponent were wearing. Every combat he'd be observing his opponents trying to guess what armor they had on so he could make his best weapon choice. As a result, Hamlen was very effective in combat and his player really appreciated this level of tactical choice.
  • The party quickly abandoned shields and went with two-handed weapons where ever possible. Doing as much damage as quickly as possible was more important to them than the -1 modifier to my to-hit rolls.
  • Damage was, as Dn. Goram's player termed, "spikey." With the party being 2nd to 4th level facing creatures from 1 to 6 HD, the amount of damage done per round had a tremendous amount of variability. For example, a normal 6HD creature could do from 1 to 36 points of damage in a single round. Thus, every combat was a risky endeavor and initiative became incredibly important. Towards the end of the evening, the party was trying to avoid all combat (this choice was egged on because the had a limited amount of time to accomplish their task and couldn't afford to rest and heal).
When I meditated upon this "spikey" damage, it dawned on me that this method keeps damage proportional to HD instead of HD getting ahead of damage as characters advance in level. Thus, a 1 HD creature can potentially do enough damage in one round to kill another 1 HD creature and a 9HD creature can potentially do enough damage in one round to kill another 9HD creature. Combat stays lethal regardless of character level. Depending on what style of play you like, this can be a very good thing. When I was younger, most of the campaigns I played fizzled out at mid-to-high levels because we enjoyed the by-the-seat-of-your pants lethality of lower levels so much. For my group, this change in mechanics would have been a really good fit.

Thus, there are a couple of things I need to experiment with:
  • Shields need a rethink. I can imagine giving different sizes of shields different defensive bonuses to make them more attractive. This would come at a cost of price and encumbrance.
  • Any kind of double damage (via charge, for example) is spectacularly lethal. In future I'll probable make the characters designate which die is their charge die. My players like to charge, so this won't make them happy; however, they were not on the receiving end of a charge all night...
  • There were a couple of times when the party won initiative against higher HD creatures and managed to fell the beasts prior to having to face any kind of attack by winning initiative and coordinating attacks. The players were rewarded for their cooperation and tactics; however, it wasn't as fun for me (I didn't get to see my players' horror as I pulled out 6 attack dice to spread across their front ranks). I'm not sure if there is a good way to "fix" this without unnecessarily complicating things and, frankly, I'm not sure it needs to get "fixed."
All-in-all, though, I like the system. It does what it is designed to do.

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