Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ripping Off Ali Baba (Part 2)

[continued from here. Just BTW, this is NOT what I want to write about at the moment, but I definitely want to get this play-test report out-o-the-way so it’s not bugging on my mind; on the other hand, this would have been posted a lot sooner if I hadn't spent the last couple hours watching Beastmaster]

Okay, so the last thing I wrote was that invisible sorcerer, Hakim, ended up in the “throne room” cavern of the “bandit king,” while Rhiann the thief went chasing down a lone messenger-bandit. We’ll deal with the latter first.

Comparing movement rates, Rhiann was able to catch-up to the lone messenger and bushwhack him (that’s the technical, game term) from behind, clubbing him unconscious with an unlit torch. Deciding that Allah (or, rather, “Halah”) would not want her to slit the throat of an unconscious man…even a brigand…she opted instead for tying him up with his own turban and dragging him over to the side of the road. She then decided to pad off back after the other brigands (curiosity getting the better of her) to see what they were up to with the bodies. And perhaps to find her cousin.

Said cousin was poking around the huge cavern, trying not to bump into anyone and checking out exits. The bandit king meanwhile was ordering his men to go back and look for the wretch that had stoned his people to death…not knowing that she was already on her way, right to his very lair.

Needless to say she was captured.

It’s been a few days now (and I was pretty hammered at the time) so I don’t remember exactly how it happened…she may have been surprised by the brigands coming back down the tunnel, or else she was discovered when trying to make a stealth or hide roll (though I don’t remember her ever actually failing the latter). Dragged before the “king” and questioned regarding her intrusion, Rhiann opted for the simple truth: she had entered the caves looking for missing “swamp people” and had not meant to disturb the brigands nor infringe on their territory, and had only acted previously to defend herself.

“Aye, such was not your intention, but this is what happened,” intoned the bandit king. “And it is death to reveal our secrets, for that is our law. Right or wrong you now know where we lair, but since you came upon us unprovoked, we will offer you one of two choices:

“You may choose death, swift and merciful. Or you may choose life…but it will be a life here in darkness, never to again return to the surface world. You will indeed discover what has befallen the people of the swamp (for you will share their fate)…but I warn you, you may prefer the swift death. Regardless, you may never again return to your home.”

Now I don’t remember if Rhiann actually had a chance to choose an option (though I’m pretty sure she would have chosen life over death if only to assuage her own curiosity)…what I do remember is Hakim deciding it was time to “make his move,” and he used his invisibility to sneak up behind the bandit king, knife in hand.

[said knife had been stolen from the cavern itself…we had a nice little sidebar about whether or not the knife would remain visible if it were picked up, and whether (if it DID remain visible) whether or not it could be wrapped in the folds of the invisible sorcerer’s robes or whether its glaring visibility would “shine through.” Ahhh…one of the age old questions of D&Disms: if my invisible character decides to eat something, will the contents of his belly be revealed to all?]

Anyway, Hakim sidled up behind the bandit and put the curvy knife blade to the man’s throat, before dropping the invisibility spell for utmost dramatic effect. “I suggest a third choice: you let her free and you get to keep your own head.” As the knife was to his throat, but he was on display in front of his subjects, I elected to have the player make a morale check for the bandit king (in this game there are a couple of interesting “oddities” compared to standard D&D…one is that rolling HIGH is always better for the person doing the rolling. Another thing is that when an NPC has a chance of breaking morale it is the player (doing the breaking) who gets to roll the result of the possible surrender or route).

Hakim rolled the worst possible result (snake eyes) indicating that not only the bandit king NOT going to be intimidated on his own turf, and instead wound up hostile and enraged. Turning on the sorcerer, the bandit lord wrestled him for the knife while the sorcerer attempted to stab him (“Because you’re SO good at that,” quipped Rhiann)…and as might be surmised, Hakim was disarmed and thrown to the ground.

Whereupon we decided we’d stop the adventure so that Will could catch his bus home.

Despite getting used as a punching bag for much of the night, Will did express his enjoyment of the game. His character was no shakes in hand-to-hand combat (I don’t think he really expected to be), but he was still effective at doing stuff, magic-wise. I think is the first time I’ve ever had a 1st level character with one (1) hp on an adventure, before…well other than a game of DCC…and Will’s PC still survived (unlike your average DCC adventurer).

I had more opportunity to debrief with Kayce afterwards. She really liked her character’s effectiveness (rather than having to go through a 1st level “shmucky” period as is usual for a thief). She liked the setting, but agreed it was much more “Ali Baba” than gritty sword & sorcery. She DID think the setting was neat, but wondered if the game would have slowed down with more players. Not because the system is slow (the mechanics are fairly fast and light…even faster than, say, DMI since there’s no justification needed for using abilities and no “buy back” card mechanic)…but because of the attention paid to characters (so as to better integrate folks with the setting)...well, it might be tough.

But then again, it might not be. All you have to say is, “hey, you’re cousins…go adventure” and away you fly. It may be that I’ve made the setting too complicated…again, in an attempt to keep a very specific historical (if fantastic) world setting I’ve made it a real bitch to justify going underground in the Underworld. In making a world with a well-developed civilization, I’ve limited the number of “ancient ruins” and crypts and tombs that are ripe for exploration and exploitation.

I may have to just junk much of the setting…at least as far as the history and religion goes. But if I do that, I’ll have to reconsider the way I’m currently doing the cleric class.

Which I’ll talk about more in my next post. Cheers.


  1. Sounds like a great time! I'm really dying for more details on the mechanics of your system.

    As for the pseudo-real world setting, it's funny that you mentioned Ars Magica's Mythic Europe in your first post about this session, because I've just been looking at it as a possible setting for a Labyrinth Lord campaign. I've been really underwhelmed of late with published high fantasy settings that exist in totally imaginary worlds.

    Rather, I've been feeling like I really need a setting that I can get excited about, and not just another generic fantasy world. I'm a history buff, so I see the opportunity to do a campaign based on a fantastical version of Earth's Middle Ages as an excuse to delve into history while getting my game on. I definitely believe this would get me more excited about a campaign, and would be something worthy of my precious free time.

  2. @ Anthony:

    You need a setting that gets your juices flowing...though recently (and I'll have to ponder this a bit more) it seems like the more interested I am in a particular setting, the harder it is to get into it in actual play. Perhaps because my sessions have been so sporadic of late and I want to include SO MUCH of the setting and don't have a chance to get to every particular nuance. The background/setting info in 5AK is pretty extensive (compared to what I normally do) and includes specific mechanics that integrate the setting with the system. But I'm starting to wonder if it's too much.

    If you dig history, I'd strongly suggest using a historical game setting (lots of info and ideas, little effort needed). However, I would ALSO suggest focusing on a particular locale...say 12th century Poland or 10th century England (not the UK as a whole!)...there's just so much ground to cover, it can be overwhelming otherwise. Start small, and then build on your setting as your campaign progresses...if your PCs want to cross the English Channel to adventure in Mythic Normandy, for instance that gives you time to prepare a new region of exploration!
    : )

  3. @ Anthony:
    I've been having similar thoughts lately when reading Charlemagne's Paladins from TSR. Real, evocative place names and historical/legendary places and events are something special; it's a lot easier to interest players in Charlemagne or King Arthur as an NPC than Good King Madeupname.

    Thing is, I don't feel like D&D - at least the way I do it - is a great fit for historical gaming. High level characters get obscenely powerful compared to level 1 types populating the world, to the point where a high-level party with magical gear and spells can stand off against armies - and win. Traditional high-level D&D adventuring activities like planar travel and expeditions deep into the underdark dilute the historical world feel.

    Also, delving Roman fort ruins full of undead legionaries may have more of an authentic ring to it than generic fantasy ruins; but the fighter isn't likely to get a magic longsword or chainmail in one, since ancient Romans didn't have them.

    Looking back through the old HR sourcebooks for D&D, it's striking how much they had to change or remove whole classes and rewrite spell lists as well as equipment lists to get D&D to "do history", and even then it seems like the tip of the iceberg compared to the other implications of the system.