Dec 20 2012

Worst Game Session Evar

Posted by

I don’t know why, but I woke up remembering the worst game session evar this morning, and I’ve decided to record it for posterity.

It was at a convention. It doesn’t matter which convention it was, nor really who the other participants were. I will say that we were at least theoretically supposed to be playing Mongoose’s Conan d20 game. My character was a Bossonian archer; my memory is that the other characters were an Aquilonian soldier (P1) and a Zamoran rogue (P2). Basically, except for the Cimmerian barbarian, we were Ye Olde Hyborian Cliché Party.

That’s okay, RPGs are like that. But little did we know what were were getting into from there…

(Note: This is paraphrased from memory.)

GM: You’re in Nemedia, all headed for a tavern. It’s getting dark. Up ahead the road goes through a narrow gorge. (draws the road on the mat)

Me: Uh-oh, smells like ambush. I’ll hang back.

P2: I’ll hang back too.

P1: Well, I guess I’ll march ahead then.

GM: A bunch of bandits pop up out of the rocks and charge you! Roll for initiative. (we do: P1 gets a 12, P2 gets a 15, I get an 8)

GM: Okay, the bandits go first. These three attack you (P1), these two run towards you (P2), these two run towards you (me). (rolling dice) Two hit you, doing 15 points of damage.

P1: Holy crap! Good thing I’ve got 23 hit points.

P2: Okay, my turn. I’ll move forward and attack this one. (roll) 15?

GM: You miss.

P2: Wow, on a 15. What kind of armor are they wearing?

GM: They’ve got a real high DEX.

P2: Oh. Okay.

P1: (roll dice) 20! Let’s see if I crit. (roll) 16?

GM: Nope, not a crit.

P1: Aww, crap. Okay… (roll dice) 15 points of damage.

GM: (frowning) You kill that one.

P1: Sweet! I’ve got Cleave, so I’ll attack one of the other guys next to me. (roll dice) 18.

GM: Miss.

P1: Miss? On an 18? Seriously?

Me: (doesn’t roll anything like a 20, so I miss) I waste some arrows.

GM: These two attack you (P1) again. These two see their friend go down and break off from you (P2) to go attack the fighter.

P2: Cool! Attack of opportunity time! (starts to roll dice)

GM: Nope, they have Combat Reflexes.

P2: What does that have to do with it? Combat Reflexes just gives you extra attacks of opportunity.

GM: Not Combat Reflexes. The other one. (looks at his notes) Mobility.

P2: So they get a bonus to their AC. I still get to roll, tho.

GM: No, one of my house rules is that Combat Reflexes mean you just don’t get attacks of opportunity against them. You would have missed anyway, this is faster.

P2:

GM: (roll dice) Okay, that one hits you (P1) for only 5 points of damage that time.

P1: Cripes! I only have 3 hit points left.

GM: Suddenly this amazingly gorgeous woman comes around the corner. She’s wearing nothing but these skimpy furs, and some fur boots, and a big fur cape. She’s got this amazing flowing blonde hair and blue eyes, and she’s obviously a barbarian. But she’s like, hot. She has 18 Charisma. She’s carrying a big, blood-spattered axe.

Me: Well there’s something you don’t see every day.

GM: It’s her initiative right after the bandits, so she charges the bandit that just hit you. (roll dice) She kills him! She’s got Great Cleave, so she attacks the other two.

Me: Doesn’t Great Cleave mean you can only keep attacking as long as you kill each target?

GM: (roll dice) Well, she does.

P1, P2, Me: Ooohkay.

P1: Well, uh, I guess I’ll move to this guy and attack. (roll dice) 14.

GM: You miss.

P2: I’ll move into flanking position, with the +2 that gives me (roll dice) 18.

GM: You miss.

Me: Guess I’ll shoot! (roll dice) 17.

GM: 15. You’re -2 for shooting into a melee.

Me: You mean the -4? I’ve got Precise Shot.

GM: That’s one of my house rules. Precise Shot means you only get -2.

Me: (sigh) Doesn’t matter, I would have missed anyway.

(next round: barbarian chick easily wipes out remaining bandits)

GM: She says, “My name is Anima. You’re lucky I happened to be here, this road is dangerous. These bandits were probably searching for the cursed amulet I carry.”

P2: No doubt.

Me: I recover whatever arrows I can and say, “Well thank you, Anima. We’re headed for the tavern ahead.”

GM: “I’ll join you, in case more bandits show up and you need my help.”

P1, P2, Me: (exchange dubious glances)

GM: You go to the tavern. Anima orders a huge chunk of meat and just starts eating it right off the bone. Then she guzzles down a whole mug of ale all at once and orders another. She obviously has no idea of what to do in civilization.

Me: Uh huh. Well I’ll go find a seat somewhere and order a meal.

P1: I guess I’ll sit with Anima. I eat about the same way she does!

GM: You spend the meal staring at Anima. She’s hot.

P2: I’m looking around for pockets to pick.

GM: (roll dice) You find about 22 silver pieces from picking pockets.

(fast forward over a painful scene of attempting to do a little RP talking to the innkeeper and such that goes nowhere)

GM: Anima says, “Those bandits were sent by an evil wizard who wants the cursed amulet I’m carrying. We have to go kill him.”

Me: Like, right now? It’s night.

GM: “Yes. We’re going now.” (erases the canyon from the map, then draws almost-identical lines to indicate a road) So after paying your tavern bill, you start heading for the wizard’s tower. You’re walking on a raised road that goes through a swamp. Anima says, “There’s undead in this swamp.”

P1: Bring ’em on! They need wiping out.

GM: Anima says, “Be careful what you wish for!” (laughs the typical “I’m an evil GM and you’re in for it!” laugh)

Me: I’m not afraid of undead. We’re protected by Mary Sue the Barbarian.

P2: (snicker)

GM: These zombie-things come shambling out of the swamp at you. They all have gemstones in their chest that look like the amulet Anima is carrying. She says, “Oh no, they’re being drawn to the power of the amulet!” Roll initiative. (we do: I get 19, P1 gets 11, P2 get 15) Okay, the zombies go first.

Me: Wow. Before my 19?

GM: Yep, they’re really fast.

Me: Huh. Really fast zombies.

GM: They all shuffle towards Anima. (creepy groaning noises) She snarls and says, “I hate undead!” and attacks.

Me: Because her initiative is higher than 19, too.

GM: (roll dice) She kills that one. And with Great Cleave, she runs over and attacks the next one (rolls dice) but misses.

P1: Uh, I’m pretty sure that Great Cleave doesn’t let you move.

GM: Yes it does. That’s one of my house rules.

P1, Me: (shrug at each other)

GM: Okay, your turn.

Me: (roll dice) 20! I assume I can’t crit these guys.

GM: No, you can’t. Also, you missed.

Me: What??? I rolled a 20!

GM: Yeah, but they’re undead. You need a magic weapon to hit them. Anima can hit them because she’s carrying the amulet that gives them their power.

Me:

Shortly thereafter, the session ended due to time. Strange as it may sound, the other players and I did manage to have some fun, but for all the wrong reasons. It was a bit like a cross between a tabletop RPG and living an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

-The Gneech

Dec 17 2012

Monday Monster: Tremorwhip

Posted by

Tremorwhips are burrowing, vaguely snake-like creatures native to Coventry. The smallest specimens have deadly venom; the largest specimens have long, barbed tentacles and swordlike stingers on the end of their tails. They are attracted to vibrations in the ground, making them a perennial road hazard and a constant nuisance at industrial stations. This is a fairly typical specimen, roughly 20′ long (rising 12′ from the ground when attacking) with two tentacles.


The Worm King by ~Marauder6272 on deviantART

Tremorwhip

Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6(A), Spirit d10, Strength d12+2, Vigor d10
Skills: Fighting d6, Notice d10, Stealth d10
Pace: 6/20, Parry: 5, Toughness: 12(2), Charisma: 0
Bite/Lash: d6 (Str+d6)
Burrowing 20″: Surprise on Stealth vs. Notice (+2 attack; +4 raise)
Hardy: Once Shaken, further Shaken results ignored
Large: Attackers gain +2 on attack rolls
Natural Armor +2: Natural defenses
Size +3: Adjustment to Toughness based on creature’s mass
Slam: Opposed Fighting vs. Agility for 4d6 damage
Stretch: Reach for slam attack equal to current Size
Swallow Whole: Fighting -2 to swallow target 3 sizes smaller; swallowed target is immobile and takes automatic bite damage each round; attacks from inside the tremorwhip ignore armor and size bonuses to Toughness

Text and “Coventry” setting ©2012 by John “The Gneech” Robey. Artwork ©2009-2012 by Marauder6272. Stat block created by Hero Lab® (Registered Trademarks of LWD Technology, Inc. Free download at http://www.wolflair.com). Savage Worlds is Copyright © 2004-2012 by Pinnacle Entertainment Group. All rights reserved.

Filed under : Monster Monday | Comments Off on Monday Monster: Tremorwhip
Dec 10 2012

Coventry: A Savage Worlds Campaign

Posted by

I’ve been making a few noises about this for a while now, but the Players Handbook for my new Savage Worlds campaign inspired by Borderlands is finally ready!

Coventry Players Guide for Savage Worlds, by The Gneech
(click through for PDF)

From the guide:

Coventry is a gung-ho adventure campaign somewhere between Mad Max and Cowboy Bebop, with a side of Escape From L.A. The year is 2766 and your characters all live on the quarantined prison world of Coventry, trying to make your way as best you can among the local monsters, the faction wars, the octane-sucking racing circuit, and of course the occasional insane robot. You might be a local, born and raised on Coventry, you might have been “dropped” here, or you might even have arrived here by accident due to a shipwreck or other mishap. However you came to be here, however, it’s all but impossible to leave.

The prison world of Coventry originally appeared in my Star Hero campaign in the early ’90s (Holy crap, was that really 20 years ago? O.o), and I’ve toyed with the idea of running a game there off and on many times since then, but it wasn’t until the Savage Worlds setting 50 Fathoms, combined with playing Borderlands 2, that a solid vision of how to make it work as a campaign finally gelled. By using the Savage Worlds “Plot Point” model, all I have to do is toss out a few hooks and let the players create the actual campaign, by fleshing out the ones they bite on.

Coventry as it appears here is a bit different from my initial conception in details, but much the same in spirit. I originally pictured it as a kind of “lost world” jungle setting with megafauna and people attempting to carve civilization out of it without help from the outside, but after playing Borderlands the idea of it being more like a dystopian “through the looking glass” world full to the brim with its own variety of Mad Hatters really appealed to me. This version is also in a separate continuity from my Star Hero game, not so much to avoid any clash with previous continuity (assuming any of could even remember the previous continuity), as just for stylistic reasons.

I’m thinking about trying to write up the setting for eventual publication as an officially-licensed Savage Worlds setting, but that will take time, development, and probably a Kickstarter campaign to finance some non-cribbed artwork. What I’ve got here is a draft/proof-of-concept more than anything else, but I’m pleased with it and I think the group will have fun with it.

…After we finish the current Ghostbusters scenario, of course. ¬.¬

Still! Players, start your thinkers. If all goes well, we could be playing this game on the 29th.

-The Gneech

Dec 05 2012

Ain’t No Place For a Hero: Thoughts On “Of Assholes and Antiheroes: Morality in Borderlands 2”

Posted by

Tags: ,

It’s hardly a secret that in real life I’m a big woobie neutral good Boy Scout kind of guy. Sometimes, tho, it can be refreshing to put that aside and be a wiseass, letting out my internal Bugs Bunny (who spends most of his time being thwarted) in an environment without consequences.

Borderlands 2 is all about that; it’s one of the reasons I’ve been enjoying it. Even within the context of Borderlands, anybody you shoot, melt, or slice in half can just be revived at the nearest “New U” station– presumably getting blown to bits still stings, but mainly it’s just annoying and eats up money.

It’s a weird psychological line to walk; I don’t generally like “dark comedy” and roll my eyes at things like Pulp Fiction, but I thought the quest to shoot “Face McShooty” in the face was hilarious and always chuckle when my siren character shouts “That was awesome!” after one-shotting a foe. What’s the difference? I’m not sure.

I did find an interesting discussion of the issue however, called “Of Assholes and Antiheroes: Morality in Borderlands 2. From the article:

It’s important to note that this is not an instance of ludic dissonance, when the gameplay and the story contradict each other. Instead, you’re participating in two parallel stories: the story of you against Jack and the story of you against the planet of Pandora. In one story, I’m clearly the good guy, but in the other story, it’s not so clear. Killing the other bandits can’t be justified the same way that killing Jack is justified since the bandits never tried to kill you (and in fact, whenever they do shoot at you, it’s because you’re in their territory). We have no personal motivation for these fights, so instead the game gives us external motivation. We’re told that the two gangs are vicious and cruel—they are gangs after all. This is the justification for most of what we do: The bandits are bandits, that semantic “fact” alone makes it okay to kill them.

This is the exact same reasoning that Handsome Jack uses to justify killing everyone on Pandora. From an objective point of view, there’s no difference between us. Despite all of our talk of saving the world, we slaughter our bandit enemies without a second thought. Despite Jack’s dream of a crime-free Pandora, he’s really just slaughtering his enemies without a second thought as well.

What’s interesting about Jack is that he represents the traditional gamer morality turned back on us. The only reason that he is the bad guy in this scenario is because he is not a playable character. If the plot of Borderlands 2 stayed the same, and we simply took control of Jack instead of the Vault Hunters, we would see him as an antihero, not a villain. We wouldn’t question his horrible actions, just as we don’t question the actions of the Vault Hunters. Both parties are antiheroes in their own story, both parties are wronged by each other, and the ultimate justification of everything that they do is that “the other guy deserved it.” But to be perfectly honest, I don’t hold this against Maya, my character. Yet I hate Jack so much. Why?

Because Jack is a jerk.

This train of thought doesn’t come out of nowhere: in the game, Jack is constantly having a sort of meta-discussion with your character about this very topic. He repeatedly refers to himself as “the hero of the story” and your character as “the bad guy,” and gets very upset about the fact that you’re not falling into line with this. Even in his very final speech in the game, he’s ranting about the fact that the player character isn’t following the expected “bad guy” behavior of getting killed at the end.

Furthermore, a lot of the random NPC dialog explicitly calls you out for what you’re doing on any given mission, from the Hyperion combat engineers who say “Dammit! I was almost done with my shift, you bastard!” as they die, to the A.I. gun you pick up halfway through the game that shrieks “THEY PROBABLY HAD A FAMILY!” when you shoot it at someone (or “Now you’re just wasting ammo!” when you reload). The writers very clearly want these issues to be on your mind as you play.

To what purpose? That’s a harder thing to pin down; it’s not like the game takes a real stance on the issue. Like everything else on Pandora, the exploration of themes seems to be done with a kind of sophomoric smirk. It may very well be that the writers don’t really have a stance on the issue, they’re just messin’ with you. But at the same time, just the fact that the issue is there for analysis and discussion, adds a kind of depth that makes Borderlands 2 much more enjoyable than just another round of watching this set of pixels blow up that set of pixels.

-The Gneech

Dec 04 2012

Fictionlet

Posted by

Greg blinked at the little slip of paper. “Okay, that’s probably the weirdest fortune cookie I’ve ever seen.”

“Hmm?” said Brigid. “What does it say?”

Greg shrugged. “It says, ‘All your friends just lost The Game. Ask them why.'”

“Gaaah, dammit!” said Brigid.

“Huh?” said Greg.

-The Gneech

<-- previous B&G
next B&G–>

Filed under : Brigid and Greg Fictionlets | Comments Off on Fictionlet