Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lost Colonies Session 25

The last time we saw our stalwart adventurers, they had just driven off the Yellow Lady after efficiently taking care of her ogre minions. Initially, the party were happy to see her go, feeling that they had secured an advantageous ground by occupying the Yellow Lady's sleeping quarters. After assessing how little damage and spells they used to fend off the ogres, they decided to pursue.

They found her in a giant, columned hallway at the end of which was a cauldron shaped like a gaping, demonic mouth. The whole room was filled with a low hum and living corpses were crawling out of the cauldron. The Yellow Lady lay before the cauldron in a pool of blood and a giant amber statue of a cyclops with blood dripping down its face stood between the party and their quarry.

The ensuing combat was brutal, but fun. Both Hamlen and Swibish were on death's door several times during the melee and had I not rolled a '1' for damage on the last hit I got in on them, Swibish would have breathed his last. This combat demonstrated to me that the Fighter in older editions is far more powerful and useful than is generally accepted. Hamlen was responsible for doing most of the damage and was able to absorb a lot of hits that would have otherwise killed other party members and their henchmen.

It turned out that the cyclopean statue was being controlled by the Yellow Lady. She had cut out her own eye and placed it in the statue's socket in order to do so. This was supposed to be a puzzle for the players; however, in her desperation to get her spell book back from the characters (though they didn't know they had it and she didn't know that they didn't know), she decided to use the cursed statue herself.

As they have done in the past, the players prayed, used a bless spell and their holy symbols in order to destroy the demonic cauldron. I know it sounds easy, but I do allow these things a saving throw, based upon what kind of effort the players put into such things.

There was one casualty in the whole affair — Tyrd the goblin cook. Ahkmed failed his saving throw, his sword Hornet took over and skewered the goblin just as he was rejoicing over the demise of his former master. Surprisingly, the whole party took Tyrd's death rather hard and immediately set about leaving the dungeon with their hoard to find a way to get the little guy raised — Hamlen argued that it was a matter of honor.

The rest of the session saw the party confer with Fr. Valinor (who showed great distress over Ahkmed's growing relationship with Hornet) and set off to Trisagia in hopes of getting Tyrd raised. Bishop Iova of Trisagia was more than happy to help, but offered an alternative in order to possibly avoid future episodes with Ahkmed and his sword — a reincarnation spell. Thus, we ended our session by rolling on a combination of tables and Tyrd woke up with a mixture of relief and chagrin as a half-elf magic user.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Weapon vs. AC (again)

Or . . . Why the Alternate Combat System became the Standard

I've been meditating on the Weapon Vs. AC system I proposed and used a while back. As much as I like the idea intellectually, it has done much to make me realize why the "alternate combat system" of 0e became the default in later editions. When using a static "to hit" chart and an increasing number of attacks per round per round as in the Chainmail rules, the result is a combat system that is quick and brutal. Hit points do not outstrip the ability to do damage as in the alternate combat system. A 4HD creature has the capability to kill 4HD worth of opponents per round. Initiative becomes exponentially more important than in the alternate system and finding a way for combat to be anything other than a brief and brutal bloodbath is difficult.

For example, imagine a party of 4th level characters. To make things simple, I'll say they are all fighters. This means that the party has the capability to kill 16HD worth of monsters per round. If we assume that fighters are all armed with swords and they are going up against orcs wearing chainmail, this means the fighters have a 30% chance to hit per attack, using the table I used when I playtested my own version of the Chainmail rules using a d20 system. Using d6 damage and assuming the fighters have a +1 to damage, this means on average the fighters will do 22 points of damage per round (16 attacks x .3 chance to hit x 3.5+1 average damage). Compare that to the alternate system (as per LL) the same group of fighters would only do an average of 7 points per round (4 attacks x .4 chance to hit x 3.5+1 average damage). In other words, between four and five orcs are going to die every round versus one or two with the alternate combat system.

In order to make combat last more than one or two rounds and thus have any kind of meaning or drama, the number of HD brought to bear needs to be of a value close to that of the fighters; however the closer the HD equal each other the more likely it is that the fighters will have a casualty, especially if they lose initiative. In the end, I don't know how fun this system would be, especially when compared to the excitement the alternative combat system can generate, especially at higher levels.

Thus, it is no surprise that the alternate combat system quickly became the default combat system.

Thus, I have come to the conclusion that the direction I have been taking on Weapon vs. AC is as practical as the tables found in the 1st ed PHB (meaning not practical at all). This has me trying to think outside the box. Which brings me to the concept of a dynamic AC system. This could get complicated and ugly quickly, so I've been thinking of a simple, abstract system that includes the normal Base AC that we are all familiar with. Then there would be two other Armor Classes, indicating armor vs. a weapon class. These would be a simple +/- 1 and could be abbreviated sAC (slashing), bAC (blunt) and pAC for piercing. For example

Leather: AC = 7; sAC = 8; bAC = 6
Chain: AC = 5; pAC = 6; sAC = 4
Plate: AC = 3; bAC = 4; pAC = 2

Otherwise, combat proceeds as normal.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Lost Colonies Session 24

When we last left our stalwart adventurers, they were fighting their way through an orc fortress carved out of the rock wall of a fungal forest underneath an abandoned monastery. Having no luck finding their quarry (a golden-masked magic user now simply referred to as The Yellow Lady), the party continued to seek out prisoners that they could interrogate. Most of the evening's fun centered around dealing with the kitchen staff, made up entirely of witless goblins.

After an initial show of bravado, the goblins broke and started to run. This led to the party splitting up in order to prevent others from being informed of their position, and to try and get some information. Unfortunately, the latter proved difficult because of Ahkmed's sword Hornet. Magical in nature, it requires the dwarf to make a Save vs. Magic every time goblins are around. If he fails, the sword appears in his hands and he is compelled to attack until all said goblins are dead. Ahkmed failed is saving throw.

In addition, one of the goblins managed to hide himself quite well in a meat locker. After failing to find it, Ahkmed decided to surrender his own will to the sword in order to allow it to find the goblin. Hornet glowed blue, as did Ahkmed's eyes. He began shouting various things in Elvish and proceeded to hack everything in the meat locker to pieces until the goblin was found and skewered. After which, he proceeded to eviscerate the captive goblins, much to the horror and frustration of the rest of the party. Once dead, the blue glow faded and Ahkmed was forced to ask every one what just happened. He is now aware of a sleeping entity in the back of his mind that keeps whispering Elvish sweet nothings to his subconscious.

Fortunately, Hamlen forsaw the possible rampage by his dwarven companion and managed to secure a captive in another storage room while Ahkmed was busy on his killing spree. He managed to convince (scare) the goblin into taking a job at his bar in Headwaters. He then learned that the kitchen staff would deliver food to the orcs and ogres "downstairs through the secret door where the lady is." Having secured this valuable piece of information, Hamlen risked introducing "Tyrd" (not my doing, Hamlen insisted on re-naming the poor fellow after a "great warrior king") to the rest of the party. Ahkmed made his saving throw.

The rest of the session saw the party explore the level behind the secret door. They found several storage areas, which had items of much more interest to the party than the stuff they were finding in the levels above. Of particular interest were three barrels of what has been termed "alchemist fire" — a black powder that explodes when exposed to fire. There was a great deal of discussion as to what to do with it. Hamlen finally convinced the party to leave it alone — the idea of being hit with a fireball while in possession of three barrels of the stuff was enough to give everyone pause.

The party also found what appeared to be the sleeping quarters for the Yellow Lady. There was a tapestry depicting an alien city, a chest protected by a magical trap the party couldn't disarm and a desk that seemed to be built to have a drawer, but had no visible sign of one except for a circular indentation at the back. Rather than mess with these things, the party decided to set up an ambush, banking on the fact that if the Yellow Lady had a bed, she had to sleep. Therefore, eventually she would come to them. This seemed eminently better than they going to her.

The session ended with a battle. Indeed, the Yellow Lady showed up with a pair of ogres in tow, one of which was armed with a weapon that used the alchemist fire. Limited in her spell selection, lest she destroy her own possessions, the Yellow Lady primarily allowed the ogres to do her fighting. Unfortunately for her, the party had worked out a very good anti-ogre strategy that proved very effective. Rather than continue with her handicap the Yellow Lady fled and the group was very happy to stay put.