Friday, March 9, 2012

Tankards and Broadswords RPG: Playtest Session 2

Last night's game was supposed to have a third player, but he wasn't able to attend, instead, I quickly whipped up an NPC Captain of the Blue Tower Guards, a warrior named Alcarn.  One goal of the game is to make sure creating an NPC is quick and painless; I use the "monster" format for these sorts of NPCs.  Attack, Defense, Reflexes, Athletics, Detection, and Stealth for skills, plus Peril checks, Health, Damage, and Armor rating.  It's 12 quick values, no skill focuses, no Statuses.  Mail armor, battle axe, two daggers, and a shield.  Maybe not QUITE as fast as throwing together a B/X D&D henchman, but pretty darn close.

In case you didn't see the first session post, here it is.

The PCs have been asked by the Blue Tower to go into the edge of the Cthonian Wood and investigate an abandoned wizard's tower that has been located.  The Tower of Arion was well outside the wood before the Cataclysm struck and sent a ravaging storm of magical destruction across the land.  Now, the Cthonian Wood is much, much larger and its border has swallowed up many now-forgotten towers and villages.  The PCs are going to set out on a "fact finding mission" to the rumored location of the tower and see if it is worth sending a larger expedition.  Alcarn will accompany them as a representative of the Blue Tower.  The PCs are offered any form of basic gear they wish.  Marikh takes some mail armor and a shield, while Jayne grabs up a crossbow, a warhammer, grapple and rope, and a deluxe healer's kit.  The party are given horses as well as food, torches, and so forth.

The party rides for one of the many roadside forts located between population centers.  Think something along the lines of a frontier stockade; a tall wooden palisade with an elevated walk, a bunkhouse, stable, well, and a fire pit.  There's a heavy timber gate that can be barred as well.  When the PCs get there, no one is occupying the fort, so they settle down for the night.  Watches are set, and near the end of the second watch, Marikh makes a solid Detection roll and notices that a lot of the night sounds have died away, and that the horses are beginning to act nervous.  Jayne's cat (while enjoying the hospitality of the Blue Tower, Jayne used her Beastmaster spells to acquire an Animal Ally in the form of a stray cat) tells her it smells like "bad meat" out beyond the stockade.  With everyone awake, Marikh and Alcarn take to the battlements, while Jayne remains in the center of the stockade with her crossbow ready.

Hunkered down behind the palisade, Marikh suddenly finds himself face-to-face with a ghoulish creature that'd silently scaled the outside of the wooden wall.  It swipes for his face with its taloned hand, but Marikh fends it off with the hilt of his sword, then proceeds to bisect its head with his first stroke.

What followed was a fairly brief battle against half a dozen more of these ghoulish Flesh Hunters.  Some quick observations about the combat:
  1. Wearing armor made a huge difference.  Marikh and Alcarn were both wearing mail, and while they took some damage apiece, it would have been far worse without the damage absorbing abilities of the armor.  Rolling 1d + Balance for damage, several of the Flesh Hunter's successful attacks were completely ineffective damage-wise thanks to the mail armor worn by these two characters.
  2. Combat maneuvers made things a lot more interesting.  Faced with two opponents several times, Marikh used "Web of Death" to attack both at the same time.  He also suffered a Charge Attack from one of the Hunters, and whiffed his Athletics check badly; the resulting huge bonus for the Hunter allowed it to deliver Marikh's only real wound of the fight.
  3. You have to really pay attention to Initiative.  Because every attack is an attack roll vs. a defense roll, it is easy to forget who actually attacked in a round and who only defended.  I found writing down everyone's order of operations, then checking off their number when they acted was a helpful visual aid.
  4. The Healing Skill works almost too well.  A good healer with a deluxe healer's kit tests against a BP of 7, and a starting character with Medicine of 3, +1 for First aid, +1 for the deluxe kit, essentially can't fail a healing check.  When I make my post-playtest changes, I may remove the extra 1d from healing and just make points recovered equal to the Balance of the roll.
After the stockade battle, the players make their way to the Verdant Keep, where they spend the night enjoying the hospitality of the forest-wardens stationed there.  The PCs are told the Hunters have been emerging from the Bone Wastes in larger numbers lately, possibly the work of the Red Wizard's Tower.  They are also cautioned to leave their horses at the Keep before going into the Cthonian Wood; the forest is just too dense and the mounts would spook too easily.

The next day the PCs set out and make it to the edge of the Wood by late afternoon.  Wisely deciding to stay the night outside the border of the forest, the night is uneventful except for a few "movement sounds" from the forest.  Entering the Wood the next morning, the PCs find it pretty rough going (poor Athletics checks) and take more time than they should getting through the thick undergrowth.  What's more, they get lost (poor navigational Survival checks) and turned around, and don't find Arion's tower until mid afternoon.  The tower is about sixty feet in diameter and about that high, made of dark stone and windowless as far as can be discerned.  The whole tower is covered in thick ivy, vines, moss, and other vegetation.  The doors are opened a bit, and no movement can be seen or heard.

The PCs decide to move inside.  Within, they make out a semi-circular room about thirty feet deep and close to twenty feet tall.  Flanking the doorway there are a pair of statues depicting a well-dressed man and woman, but the statues are overgrown, cracked, and broken.  The room itself is filled with vegetation and plant growth, almost to an unnatural degree; both corners of the room are completely overrun with vines and what seems to be small stunted trees growing right out of the stone floor.  Marikh goes to investigate the overgrowth to the left of the door, when the plants seem to rustle and some noises are discerned.  He backs off, only to hear the same from the right, and soon, five Winged Apes burst out of the two locations.  The battle is short but fierce, leaving the PCs triumphant with only a couple of minor wounds.  Marikh did try a Feint maneuver and his opponent failed miserably to detect it; the resulting attack bonus let Marikh kill the creature with ease.

The evening was getting late so we called the game at this point.  Plenty more of exploring to be done, so next time we'll begin to get into the heart of the tower.  Playtest-wise, so far so good...


Runjikol said...

Sounds like an interesting system with a lot of concepts that I use in my Simple2d6. Do you have a draft rules that can be downloaded?

Jack Badelaire said...

I don't yet have a downloadable copy, no. I'm going through a major edit right now - the first full draft was really bloated with a lot of, as Rob Lang would put it, "fluff" text which I feel isn't really necessary. Once I can pare the rules back to their core again, I'd be happy to share a draft.