Monday, July 30, 2012

Firefly game

Last Friday, we met for the second Firefly/Rarescape game.  I think the most enjoyable part of the evening, though, was the discussion afterwards; what type of game do we all want to play on a Friday night after a rough week?

So, the story opened up with us in the Black and on our way to Haven.  Our two passengers are still upset by our close encounter with an Alliance ship in which our gambler had to burn a resource to get them to leave us alone.  The device that the scientist passenger had brought aboard was a cloaking device of sorts, produced by him in Alliance labs.  He was hoping to sell it to a shady character out near Haven in the hopes of paying off some gambling debts.  His female friend turns out to be a hacker (her words) and is also wanted...but not by the Alliance.  Our hacker decides to check on stories and starts nosing about the Cortex in an effort to find info.  He discovers the lady's real name and that she is not wanted by anyone.  She is also from one of the Rim worlds as well. 

We decide to stop the ship until we get more answers.  We interrogate the scientist and discover that the device has a serious flaw.  It drains power and disrupts electronic devices on the ship it's installed on and it prevents accurate navigation of the ship.  As we're talking with Dr. Sung (our scientist), Maggie (the girl passenger) sets off our system alarms as she is trying to get out some messages secretly.  We discover that she's trying to sell the old doc out for cash.  Then, our sensors go off.  A Reaver ship has homed in on our energy signal from the stop.  To fool it, we start flying away as though we're running.  As it nears, I tell them to turn on the cloaking device, nose the ship straight down and then nose it again toward Ferris (the nearest planet).  Pushing the systems to the limit to make sure we were "gone" to the Reavers, we eventually turn off the device.  But it had done some serious damage to the ship's systems. 

We limp into Ferris and try to get repairs done.  We also have a crewmembers only meeting.  After much discussion, we realize the following:
1.  If we keep it, the Alliance will hunt us down relentlessly.  Cloaked pirates are too dangerous to let go.
2.  If we sell it, the buyer will have to kill us to protect himself.  Can't have anyone knowing he has this device.
3.  If we just turn it over to the Alliance, we're all going to jail for aiding and abetting since we didn't turn them in right away.
4.  If we don't complete the job, Badger will be after us as well since he hired us to do this.

So, we think we had the perfect solution.  While on Ferris, we made a big deal about trying to find more cargo so we could pay off the repairs needed to the ship.  The Doc had some cash but we had to dig into profits to pay for the rest of it.  Then, we headed back to Persephone.  We continued to monitor the waves from Maggie and found out who the buyer was going to be.  We also learned they were not happy with our "delays".  Oh well.

A day out from Persephone, we drugged the two of them.  We then stripped them naked and crated them in their own crates.  Immediately upon landing, we rented a warehouse near an Alliance post and put a timer on the cloaking device.  We then put the device and the two crated individuals in the warehouse, which had been rented in Badger's name.  We put a few more clues around to point to Badger and then we fueled up and got ready to leave.  But as we were loading up, a couple of goons under the employ of the Haven contact showed up to challenge our arrival and departure.  As captain, I told them Badger had sent us a wave to return because he had someone else interested in our cargo who offered a higher price.  As the head goon left to verify this, we ambushed the 3 guards and lit out for the Black.  Monitoring the wave traffic, we catch a news report of a whole section of town "disappearing" and the chaos that entailed.  Then we hear of an Alliance round up of known criminals and we were laughing all the way to the Rim.

Now, we finished about an hour or more earlier than usual so one of the players could get home and get some rest before a big miniatures con game the next day.  Stan also wanted feedback on his Rarescape rules.  Rather than go through the entire discussion, I'm going to try to summarize...which means I'm going to give my interpretation and you can add yours in the comments.

Rarescape rules are very flat in terms of the power curve.  Levelling takes time and a high level character doesn't have a major advantage over a low level character.  I personally dislike using negative numbers, whether for hit points or AC (sorry, Chris) or anything.  Let 0 hp be dead and I can deal with that.  I enjoy Banes or Hindrances a lot.  I still have a set of tables from my 1e AD&D days of Quirks that help to flesh out a character.  I disliked not being able to figure out what was a "tough" task vs. an "impossible" task, though that may be more of my not understanding of the rules rather than it being a rules problem.  So, in summary, I'd probably be interested in playing this ruleset again but not in this genre. 

See, a side discussion developed about how literary settings do not do well as rpgs because the setting is so rigid.  There is not much we could do to change the Firefly universe because too much was set as "canon".  The same would be true for trying to play in Middle Earth or Star Wars or Star Trek, etc.  If you make the setting playable, then you have to dump a lot of the "fixed knowns" in the setting.  For example, if we started the game 10 years after the end of Serenity (the movie) and the Alliance is now only in the Core worlds, the Reavers are not a constant threat, and there are several groups vying for control of the Rim, then we could have an interesting game. 

There was more discussion, but I'll have to post more on it later.  I'm beat.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

I Have An Excuse!

Yeah, I screwed up again but I have a really good reason.  Drew got back on Monday from a year (almost) in Japan.  We had a lot of housework and errands to run to get things ready for him.  And then, we got busy just getting caught up with all he missed and hearing all his stories. 

Anyway, on with the play reports.  First up, last week's Pathfinder game with the Fishermen.

So, this time we were missing our two tanks: the heavy hitting half orc barbarian and the nimble dex fighter.  Our job was to go to the keep we had been avoiding to discover if the magic item we needed for the flying ship was there.  A quick reconnoiter of the place led us to be caught by a group of hobgoblins who were watching the place as well.  They were upset with the fire drakes and the elven wizard who had control of them.  After some careful bargaining, we got their promise to come help if we would be sure to eliminate the mage.  They gave us some good info on the flying habits of the drakes as well as how many may be in the keep.  Looking from cover, we saw that there was only one direct entrance into the keep and that one was in the wide open.  In fact, there was 600 yards of burnt earth between the scrub edge and the keep.  No way to sneak in there easily.

We talked amongst ourselves and looked over magic items trying to formulate a plan of attack. We finally settled on a judicious use of a very large bag of holding, a potion of invisibility, and a potion of climbing.  As we were prepping this, six of the drakes took off and headed toward the valley where the ship was.  Since we couldn't do anything to stop that, we took advantage of their absence.  I put everyone into the bag of holding, and drank the invisibility potion.  Then I took off, moving at a careful double move rate across the open toward the tower furthest from the cliff face.  A mild scare as one bugbear appeared initially to be looking at the tracks I might have been making, and then I was at the tower.  I drank the climb potion and went up the side of the tower.  At the top, I found only one bugbear sentry.  Again, taking advantage of the invisibility, I got to do my sneak attack and take him out.

There were four ballistae on the roof and we could see across to the cliff face into a cave where two fire drakes were fighting over some food.  Despite my pleadings to allow me to try a sneak attack with a ballista, I was told "no".  Pulling everyone out of the bag, we carefully rearranged the ballistae and took four shots at the drakes.  We managed to kill one and wound the other.  It flew up and started strafing us with fire.  Our wizard opened the trap door into the tower and saw it was a barracks, so he fireballed it.  Our psionic dwarf summoned a construct to help battle the drake and we finally managed to kill it. 

Entering the tower, I took a crit shot to the gut and that took me out of the game for a little while.  We tracked the lone bugbear survivor straight to the mage and started the fight.  It was hairy.  The cleric took a hit that dropped him to -12 (exactly his Con) and the mage had to revive him quickly with a potion.  I bagged the magic item as the mage was grabbed by another construct which upset her so much she opened the trapdoor under her which was meant for us.  She managed to escape but we got what we came for. 

We teleported out to the meeting spot for the hobgoblins, only to see them running toward the keep.  We decided that it was their battle now and we headed back to the ship.  On our arrival, we found the drakes dead and nearly everyone else hurt or killed.  The ship had taken some damage, but at least we don't have anyone breathing down our necks now.

Not sure where we're going from here.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Gaming Stories, Part 2

So, this past Friday we got to play a new game with a new set of rules.  We were scheduled to play the Savage Worlds: Space 1889 game but two of the core players had conflicts, so we opted to try out Stan's newly written rules called Rarescape.  Stan wanted a play test and said that things will probably be changing as he worked out the bugs that we found in his rules.  I have to say, I really like the simplicity of the ruleset as well as the ease of making up a character.  We had characters within 10 minutes, most of that time was spent arguing over who had which Bane (similar to a Hindrance in Savage Worlds). 

The setting was Firefly/Serenity, a few years after the end of the Serenity movie.  So, the word is out that the Alliance created the Reavers but not everyone got the initial broadcast.  So there are groups now which don't believe the replayed films as well as those who do.  I can even see some NPCs we'll encounter who think it was some sort of greater conspiracy.  As for our start, I was picked by Stan to be the Captain/Owner of the ship purely because I'll always be present for the game (since it's at my house).  Basically, I bought the ship through a broker and was delighted to find it was the infamous Serenity.  On board was a note which just read, "Take good care of her.  She's a mighty fine ship."  I had gathered a crew which consisted of a swordsmaster & gambler, a warrior (like Jayne), a hacker, an engineer, and a medical doctor.  And of course, each person has their foibles.  The doctor has Tourrette's.  The engineer is the sidekick of the warrior, who has a deathwish.  The hacker is intensely curious.  The swordsmaster/gambler is Wanted.  And my character is Disowned.

So, we're on Persephone and we get contacted by Badger to meet with a guy who needs to get out to the Rim quickly and quietly.  The meetup is at a bar.  The guy is described as gray-haired with spectacles and should be wearing a red scarf.  We get there and find two grayheaded guys but no red scarves.  One is by himself and the other has a girl hanging on him.  Both are gambling.  I talk with the barkeep, asking if he's seen either of these guys with red scarves or handkerchiefs.  Just then, we figure out that the one with the girl is our contact.  We get him away from the gambling table after he has won a considerable pot.  The girl was not part of the contract.  He cannot extricate himself from her, so we tell her how much it is to book passage.  This is above and separate from the cut Badger wants.  The guy wants us to pick up a large crate and bring it on the trip.  The warrior gets that while our gambler tries to find any other cargo to fill up our hold.  The only lead he finds is a group of musicians who cannot afford passage.  So, we head out once everyone is aboard.  Shortly after entering Rim space, we detect an Alliance cruiser coming up fast.  We do a little move to slowly change course for another planet and it changes with us.  Once in radio range, it hails us and demands to board and inspect us.  We try three different ways to discourage them, finally having to pull a high security code to disentangle us.  At the same time, our hacker figures out that the device is some sort of cloaking system.  Now, we're out in the black with a serious dilemma.  If we allow the client to give the device to his contact, someone will be after us because we know too much.  If we hand him over to the Alliance, they might do us in because we know too much.  If we off the client and steal the device, we have no one who can fix it if it breaks. 

And that's where we stopped.....I want to play this some more!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Gaming Stories, Part 1

Yeah, I'm late with writing up the Pathfinder game from over a week ago.  Last week was the final week of Summer Camp for this year and I had an unusually large group of kids.  The maximum is 16 and we had 14 in the morning and 15 in the afternoon.  On top of that, several of the kids could not follow instructions about gluing or sanding.  But we made it work.

So, as for the game, we were missing a couple of players initially due to job conflicts.  However, most of the job problems resolved themselves and we got the full group back minus the cleric.  We were presented with two options: hunt down the source of the "black water" or find the missing helm of the ship.  The "black water" occurred every month, one the new moon, in which the incoming river turned black and essentially poisoned the lake.  It cleared within a day but everyone within a certain distance of the shore was ill for 3 days.  The missing helm was probably in the hands of the hobgoblins and bugbears which held a keep we bypassed on our way to the lake and the ship.  Since we had lizardfolk allies, we asked them to essentially search the lake bottom for the helm just to make sure it wasn't in the lake.  We hunted upstream for the source of the "black water" while this was occurring.  We had a time limit of a couple of days to find the source and stop it.

Two days of hiking and searching, looking for areas where the plants and animals avoided the water led us to a clearing high up in the hills.  In the clearing were several bones and bits of debris (like belt buckles, shoes, etc.) which indicated a battle had occurred there about a decade ago....the same time as the crash of the airship.  No animal tracks were found within a 100 yards of the clearing which gave us a clue that the problem was here.  We sorely missed our cleric at that time.  I had a strong hunch that we'd be fighting undead and it would have been nice to have gotten a clue from a Speak with Dead spell.  Oh well.  We spread out just outside the clearing and waited for sundown.

Shortly after full dark, we saw a group of ghostly figures heading upstream and into the clearing.  They were gesticulating and "talking" but we heard nothing.  They then spun about and looked into the woods opposite of the river and drew weapons.  A "battle" ensued and we saw several of them fall.  If the bodies landed in the stream, a black spot would spread and move down.  If they fell in the clearing, a black spot would spread over the ground.  We walked out and tried to hail them but they ignored us.  Looking for invisible creatures, we found 3 bugbear spectres attacking the ghostly creatures.  We attacked the bugbears and immediately all the sailing crew vanished.  The fight with the spectres was tough and I had to resort to the Rod of Wonder again.  It sent one of our group into the Ethereal Plane who then could wail away on the spectres with no miss chance.  It turned me invisible on the second use.  And I cannot remember what happened on the 3rd discharge.  But it was a pitched battle and we managed to overcome them.

Once the spectres were defeated, the ghostly crew returned and awarded our finesse fighter with a magical rapier. Then the ghostly crew disappeared.  No more "black water" which means we don't have to haul all the lizardfolk out now.  They can stay in this area, which is what they wanted anyway.  Several of us gained a level which means more screwing with numbers and stuff.  Ugh...hate that part.  Especially for a PF rogue....

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Return of the Fishermen

So, we all gathered to pick up the story of the fishermen turned into adventurers this past Friday.  After several minutes trying to remember where we left off, who had done what to whom, what our job was supposed to be, and what did all these numbers mean (ugh....Pathfinder....), our DM set the stage at a few months after our arrival in a hidden valley.  We (the entire group, not just the PCs) had pulled the sky ship from its crash site in the lake.  The adepts were busy working on restoring the woodwork while the rest of us foraged for food or searched for other debris which might be useful.  We had discovered that about a week after our arrival, the lake turned jet black and gave off an odd odor.  At least one person died from the "water" and everyone else grew sick from the air.  After two days, the water returned back to normal as the black water worked its way downstream and on the 3rd day, all were back to full health.  Then about 28 days after the first change, the lake turned again.  No one drank the water so no one died, but everyone was sick for 3 days again.  Searching upstream for the source did not produce anything.  So, the game was starting about 3 days from the next darkening. 

I suggested we meet with John Featherstone (our employer) and find out what we could do to hurry up the reconstruction so we would all be gone by the time the water changed.  He told us we had all we needed for the sky ship, except for the throne/helm.  It was a highly magical item needed to control and fly the ship.  It was nowhere to be found, though we hadn't fully plumbed the depths of the lake.   We also heard that there was something going on with the drakes which had attacked us when we were making our way to the valley.  They were seen more and more frequently on the horizon.  As we were discussing whether to go upstream to look again for the source of the black water or go downstream to check out the bugbear/hobgoblin fortress or try to find a way to search the lake bottom with magical aid, we got reports from the outer guards that a large group of lizardfolk were heading upstream on the opposite side of the lake.  This we took to be fortuitous and headed upstream on our side of the lake in the hopes of meeting at a fording place.

A few hours later, we find a fording spot.  The lizardfolk had spotted us, but as we were only 7 (6 PCs and an NPC) they were not overly concerned.  The leader appeared to be a shaman of some kind.  The group consisted of a few warriors, a lot of females and young.  At the ford, we greeted them and asked why they were headed in this direction.  The shaman said that it looked good for a new home.  I asked if the black water was something they were associated with or knew of.  This was news to the shaman.  He said then that they were cursed.  They had had a bad fight with the bugbears as they were migrating to a new home.  He was leading the noncombatants with the hopes that the warriors would be able to catch up.  As we were talking a runner came up (as we had seen before on their walk) and informed them of a group of bugbears following.  I offered a trade: help us search the lake for more parts of the boat as well as finding materials to speed up the building of the ship and we would fight the bugbears as well as try to get them somewhere away from the drakes and bugbears.  After some thought, he agreed.  He sent an apprentice with us to show us to observe and we found an ambush spot for the bugbears.  We sent the NPC with him back to camp to work out the deal in detail with Featherstone.

Our militant dwarven cleric decided to stand in the middle of the road to challenge the bugbears because he wanted a clean fight and a real toe-to-toe fight.  The 3 brothers (me - the human rogue, Dewayne - the half-orc barbarian, and Charlie - the half-elf ranger) were on one side of the road in cover while the apprentice, the finesse fighter and the sorceror (a new player) were on the other side.  The bugbears approached and the cleric challenged.  The lead bugbear rushed in for the fight.  Our ranger cast Entangle on the rest of the bugbear group.  Then a bugbear in the back reciprocated with Entangle on us.  (jerk)  Half of them failed their saves and were stuck, half of us were stuck.  Long story short - our barbarian got badly hurt, we killed 4 of the bugbears, hurt several, and chased them off.  Gathering our breath, binding wounds, and healing up we looted the bodies.  Mostly useless stuff but they were using poisoned weapons.  It's a nasty poison and I'm tempted to use it with my rogue.....but my rolls have been crappy and I'm afraid I'll poison myself.

PF is not a bad game, but it is numbers heavy.  The characters are more balanced in some senses, but I find my rogue is pretty useless in the wilderness.  The barbarian and the ranger can deal some serious damage. All I've got is my Rod of Wonder, which only put Faerie Fire on the big bad guy.  Eh, that's okay.  It slowed and then petrified a Huge chimera last time we played PF. 

Next week should be Space 1889.  Looking forward to that one.