Tuesday, November 5, 2013

In Quasquetherion: Almost A Session Recap

I realize shortly after writing the last Quasquetherion post that there's an influence I haven't appropriately credited and that's the Elfmaids & Octopi blog, where Konsumterra/ +Chris Tamm writes about his amazing Planet Psychon setting, which has an awesome "Heavy Metal on Carcosa" sort of vibe. It took me a minute to sort this out, but it came to light when I figured out exactly what Zonn the Mind-Breaker's Psychotherion is and where I got it's name from, or rather, "from what recesses of my recent experience my mind decided to assemble the name 'Pyschotherion.'" If you're not familiar with Konsumterra's work, go check it out, he's blowing my damn mind. I'm pretty sure the hexcrawl portion of the Quasquetherion game will be a lot like Planet Psychon.

So, let's get on to how things actually went down in Quasquetherion, shall we?

Character Creation

Here are the basic character creation rules I'd hashed out beforehand, with an eye on making things move along nice & smoothly.

  • 3d6 in order for Ability Scores
  • "Core Four" character classes (so, yes to the thief)
  • Everyone gets a backpack with some useful, standard gear and a roll on a special useful gear chart. No one starts with any money. (See below). 
  • Weapons & armor are rolled randomly on the charts for henchman's gear found in B1. This means that PCs can start with +1 weapons and armor. Or they could start with fuck all. (Magic users always start with a dagger.) 
  • Magic-users get three spells in their spellbooks. They pick one and roll randomly for the other two from the lists in the Delving Deeper books. 
So, the kids rolled up a Fighter (he was strong-ish and not very good at other stuff, but had a high Charisma), a Thief (also with a high Charisma) and two Magic-Users (one was clumsy but smart and yet again with a high Charisma, the other was pretty average and was the only character without an above-average Charisma). So, a party of relatively average but likable folks. Well, except for that one guy. Rolling on the random items chart (yes, that's totally an idea from DCC, but I love it!), there were some lanterns to go around (in addition to the 6 torches everyone already had), 6 pieces of chalk and ye olde 6 iron spikes and the small hammer. The clumsy-but-lovable MU ended up with mostly utility spells (Comprehend Languages [the one she chose], Floating Disk and Protection From Evil), whereas the largely-average-schlub MU ended up with a wider selection, choosing Read Magic (he actually chose Read Magic; who does that?) and rolling Magic Missile and Charm Person. On the gear front, the fighter rolled up that he started with just a shield (and no armor), so he was really in luck when he rolled the sword +1 that he started with.

Now, the oldest version of D&D that any of these kids had played was some 3.xe or 4e or somesuch, so they were surprised when the longest it took anyone to create a character was 15 minutes (which was because of spell choices). Once we were done with characters, some small token effort was made by the players to figure out why they were all adventuring together (and they came up with a tidy little fiction with only minimal prodding from yours truly) and then they were off into the depths of Quasquetherion. 

In Quasquetherion

Now, I'm going to stop short of actually describing the encounters in Quasquetherion, largely because some folks (*cough* +Jason Hobbs *cough*) have asked me to run it over G+ some time, and I think that'd be a blast. So, instead, I'll tell you what sort of things they had to deal with, and how they did. I'll also do this completely out of order, so it won't be obvious what happened where. There. Eat it. 

The group fought a pack of unusual undead, which was tougher than it might have been if someone had rolled up a cleric. But alas, there were no high Wisdom scores to be had, so the kids had to do this one the hard way. They displayed some remarkable ingenuity, such as the one MU casting her Protection From Evil, which kept the monsters from attacking her so she could keep stabbing them to death (which she did). The Thief tried to be sneaky thief time, and came very close to success, but just before she could backstab a monster, she was seen and had to join the fight conventionally. The other MU made some less-than-optimal choices for targeting his Magic Missile and ended up exploding an enemy all over his compatriots, while the "sword and board but no pants" Fighter faced down the jaws of death and experienced the dread of a gradually depleting pool of hit points. Now, that guy's player is totally freaked out and wants to go back to town. 

The party also found a trap without dying to it and figured out how to bypass it, all without recourse to using "thief skills." It was seriously neat to not have anyone ask the Thief "can you disarm that?" because (a) no one knew the Thief can do stuff like that and (b) the way the trap worked, it didn't make sense for some just to hand-wave it and fix it by rolling dice. I was really happy with how they handled this situation and that they used their brains to solve a problem in-game rather than relying on meta-knowledge. Well done, folks.


The last encounter they had was a random one. Using Cytherion's Wandering Monster table, I rolled up an encounter with Plague Children, which ended up being a completely terrifying encounter. I described that the party could see something moving at the edge of their torchlight, so the group doused their flames and moved in to sort out what was out there (the logic of this escaped me, but I rolled with it), and they nearly shit themselves when a child of indeterminate age and gender walked out of the darkness, wearing only a roughspun tunic (probably best described as a sack) and dragging a club behind him/her/it. When this child was joined by another (dragging a crowbar) and then another (dragging a board with a nail in it), the players asked "Can we talk to them?" Of course you can talk to them, kids, you can do whatever you want. After some failed attempts at greeting the plague children, it because clear to the kids that that plague children wanted their backpacks (or at least something in them) and thus the Fighter avoided any (probably very deadly due to disease) confrontation with them by throwing them his water skin and a day's worth of rations. Yet again, well done folks. It was really gratifying to see the kids get creeped out and not know what to do and having to place themselves mentally in their characters' boots to figure out what made sense.

All in all, it was a great session. I actually saw all of the kids yesterday (they are coworkers after all) and they were all excited for our next session and making plans for it. The session even gave the mediocre MU's player time travel-related, zombie animal-themed nightmares (multiple, apparently), so mission accomplished.

Mix & Match

Some stuff popped up earlier than I thought it would, which necessitated some on-the-fly rulings for things that I hadn't expected to have to rule on yet. Critical hits, for example. The lady MU, during the fight with the undead, had cast Protection From Evil on herself, and thus was immune to their attacks (that spell is seriously awesome in Delving Deeper), and as she went around the room carving up baddies with her dagger, she rolled a nat 20. When that die roll came up, the table resounded with cheers and the young lady who had rolled it looked up, confused and asked "Is that good?"

Of course it is, and so I launched into a brief explanation why the folks who'd played D&D before had gotten excited. I explained that, in the earliest D&D, that rolling a 20 just meant that you definitely hit and couldn't have missed. These days, though, I continued to explain, we like to celebrate that rare (well 5% chance) roll by making something extra awesome happen. Rather than just rely on a lame "double damage" interpretation, I let the player roll on DCC's Crit Table I to give us a little more description of what was going on, so her precision shot which did an extra d3 damage felt very substantial. This opportunity opened the door for me to start thinking about what other "foreign influences" I'm going to allow into the DD game. The use of DCC Crit Tables isn't a core change to the rules, but it is different, particularly since the game follows Uncle Gary's admonitions against critical hit rules (and the fact that they weren't included in the LBBs), and so I'm starting to think through what sorts of things I might bring in from other OSR & old school style games.

Not that I'm looking for stuff to import to the system, but I'm getting into having to consider what "IS Quasquetherion" and what "is NOT Quasquetherion" a lot earlier than I had planned on.

Gear!

Here's the stuff that all new characters in Quasquetherion get to start with:

  • 6 torches
  • 30' rope (originally, I gave out 100' of rope to each PC since that's the denomination of rope listed in DD, but that feels like too way too much)
  • 1 week's rations
  • Backpack
  • 1 waterskin
  • Tinderbox
  • 1 large sack
They also get to roll on the following chart (d10):
  1. 6 pieces of chalk
  2. Lantern and 2 pints of oil
  3. 10' pole
  4. Hammer & 6 iron spikes
  5. Small silver mirror
  6. Holy symbol
  7. Crowbar
  8. 2 flasks of wine
  9. Grappling hook
  10. Tent
The initial version of this chart was shorter (first 6 items), but since both folks rolled "lantern and oil," I changed up how it works and had to expand the chart. I thought about using the full d24 table from DCC, but thought that might be a little overboard. (Plus, at this time, I had yet to pull any non-DD books off my shelf other than the 1e DMG).

So, there you have a rough outline of the first Quasquetherion session, intentionally vague. I'm really excited for our second session, as are my players. They're really taking to old school gaming in a way that I feel vindicates my position on good games for new gamers. I was initially worried that folks with experience in "balanced games" might take issue with some of the randomness of early system (or early-style systems), but these kids didn't bat an eye. I'm really geeked to see where this all goes.