Monday, October 1, 2012

Game of Taps: A Sack Full of Catfish

Last Monday marked the third session of the Game of Taps, and suffered a serious delay and need to reschedule. Honestly, the only session that ran smoothly was the first one, and I'm starting to think that I just need to plan for problems (really not used to having to do that). So, the second session's problem was that two players didn't (couldn't) show up, and the third session's problem was that three players didn't (couldn't) show up. Realistically, one of these players I didn't expect to show (I have no way of contacting him), but the other two were a surprise, so I had to drastically shift gears.

As readers may recall, my original plan for Session 3 was to essentially "go back in time" to where Session 1 had left the players during Sailors of the Starless Sea: they were about to get on a longship and investigate a ziggurat rising out of the waters of an underground "sea." Then, after that, we were going to jump forward in time to where Session 2 had left a slightly different group of heroes during Perils of the Sunken City: just about to descend into the depths of a dungeon beneath a forgotten gladiatorial arena.

Attendance Problem #1 made the first part of that plan impossible (The Sailors part), since Matt R. & Terra couldn't make it due to a family emergency. Well, that would have left the Shoveler and Meewick the Mage alone against the forces of Chaos in the Starless Ziggurat, so that was a no-go. Attendance Problem #2 was more surmountable: James from Session 2 didn't make it to Session 3, meaning that we had to find a stand-in to take over for him. I ended up getting a hold of Matt W. (from Session 1; the guy who lost three level 0s to a single cursed room in Sailors) to kill off take charge of James's surviving level 0s. And so we dove right back into the Perils of the Sunken City, suffering our first casualty right away.

James's (now Matt W's) gong farmer was the first casualty of the night, dying to a gaggle of skeletons pretty much right away. He could have been a thief, he could have been a wizard, but thanks to those damn skeletons, he's a smear in a dungeon. Once the party defeated the skeletons, it looked like they were about to suffer more losses as they found an underground river and its inhabitant: a giant mutant catfish. The Shoveler waded out into the river to protect the halfling haberdasher who swam across to loot a poorly-constructed shack on the far shore and formed a one-man wall blocking it from moving any further upstream. The group pelted the catfish from a bit further out ranged weapons to little effect until the Shoveler unleashed shovel-y hell on it. I have no idea how Chris is accomplishing this, but the Shoveler's entire in-combat effectiveness has been centered around dishing out critical hits. This time, his massive critical smashed the catfish's fins into uselessness and did an overwhelming amount of damage. Thanks to the Shoveler's gigantic crit, the party made short work of the catfish in just a round or two. Doug's barber and caravan guard went to town cutting up what they assumed were the edible parts of the catfish and stuffing it into sacks. One of Doug's character sheets now states "sackful of catfish meat." Mmmmm, lack of refrigeration...

Once the catfish was dead, the halfling (fearless as halflings should be), went exploring and got followed by a roomful of tiny purple slugs that just kept humming. Unnerving as this was, once the slugs had been dealt with, the purple slimes that the party found in the room that slugs had been in were even more disturbing, ultimately driving either the barber or the caravan guard (I can't remember which one) insane for a time, keeping him from participating in the rest of the night's activity (good thing Doug had two more PCs). Not having caused enough trouble, the halfling haberdasher went on to discover a room filled with large clay bottles that, when burst, contained either an electrum piece (which is the DCC equivalent of platinum) or a cloud of poison gas. Now, the halfling being a pretty lucky sort, he discovered three coins before he found a face full of death, but a face full of death he did indeed find.

I'd like to point out that, with the death of the halfling, Matt W had successfully killed off both of the 0s he'd been brought in to play. So far, he's batting 1000; of the 6 total level 0s that he's played during the Game of Taps, he's killed all of them. If he shows for next week's game, we're going to see about changing that.

Moving forward, the remaining players (Chris and Doug) faced off against a strange tree-like idol/tentacle monster thing, all to retrieve a little bit of treasure. Somehow, they survived and we ended the session there with Doug's three surviving characters making it to 1st level. Here's a few things we learned in the process:
  • No one will run through 0s like Matt W. If you have 0s you need killed, point Matt W at them.
  • Miracles do happen and you can get most of your 0 level PCs to 1st level; Doug ended up with 3.
  • I think that future editions of DCC should include a brief note about what class abilities demihumans get at 0th level. This can get just a little confusing. Do halfings get double the benefit of Luck or can they burn it to help their pals at level 0? My ruling is that no, they can't, but I'd like an official ruling somewhere that isn't on Goodman Games's forums (I hate internet forums). Something small like an asterisk could accomplish this without being too intrusive.
  • Why does Blogger think I've misspelled the word "internet?" Worse, why does Blogger think I've misspelled the word "Blogger?"
  • The funnel is a great way to introduce new players to the DCC system. First, the process of rolling up 4 characters gets folks used to the dice and the level of randomness in the game. Second, the characters tend to be pretty simple and therefore don't have tons of modifiers. I don't say "make a Fortitude save" to a funnel player, I say "roll a d20 and add your Stamina modifier." We can worry about what things are called at 1st level. Running funnel players alongside players of 1st+ level characters allows them to experience the simplicity of level 0, but see how effective a level 1 PC can be. 
  • I really enjoy Purple Sorcerer's material. I may not be able to use a lot of their stuff (Perils is a lot more usable to me than Ooze Pits of Jonas Gralk due to tone, for example), but I love a lot of their central ideas and have stolen more than a few of them. I plan on continuing to use the Sunken City, for one, as well as the demon Sender and the two teleportation stones, but they'll only function within the Sunken City. 
For our next session, I've decided that time travel is for the birds and I won't be planning on it. We will moving forward with the players who do show up and I'm casting extra players just to make sure that I have my bases covered.