Monday, May 21, 2007

Now, Thats Soldiering... and Devilling and Solaring

It's the CottageCon report, part the first.

Lets get the operational stuff covered first. Drive down was miraculously clear of traffic and had rather good weather, the venue was wonderful and very clean and spacious and everyone arrived on time with muchos awesome pizza. We watched an episode of Sharpe to get us in the mood for Duty and Honour. OK, it was also to allow me to write something approaching an adventure as my ability to time manage was wtfpwnd by a Girls Aloud concert and 28 Weeks Later earlier in the week.

Duty and Honour was the first fix playtest of a new system I have been fiddling with to emulate Sharpe and other such Napoleonic properties. It uses a career progression based character generation system and a playing card based resolution system (because gentlemen don't play dice!). It's very much a bare bones system at the moment and it needs a lot of depth put into it.

The premise was to take the action away from the 95th Rifles, Wellington and Sharpe and focus on the much maligned (and if fact totally fictional) actions against the French in the south of France. In prepping the game I had to focus on three things. The first was a story problem in that the players all belonged to seperate regiments! The second was that I needed to keep it quite simple as everyone had come from a day at work and needed some mindless fun. The third was that I needed to give the systems a thorough work out.

The set-up was that the British army had recently taken heavy casualties in the South and the players were part of a rag tag group being reassigned to the 70th Glasgow Lowlanders - a scum ridden band of ne'er do wells, known for their infective storming and general uselessness. Quickly we established the pairing of the Sergeant (who is a rogue pretending to be company man) and his Corporal (who was a sergeant in the militia and is a stickler for discipline) causing chaos in the ranks and providing no small amount of humour for the former priest Grenadier who has been watching them from the ranks. Their new officer, a member of the Kings German Legion, gets into a squabble in the Officers Mess and refuses to bet his men's behaviour with a fellow officer 'as I don't gamble about army service, it is my job!'. However, his commanding officer believes that it would do the regiments morale good to see the offending annoyance of an officer taken down a peg or two so he requests that the KGL officer undertakes a mission. Go to a village and blow up some Moorish cannon emplacements before the French take them. A simple job for a group including a sapper.

Of course as the small group sets off, things are never that easy. They are harried by French cavalry, which to be fair, they decimate with some rather fruity firing. They discover that the French have already entered the village! A peasant girl reveals that they are being sold to an Algerian slaver who is holding the women and children in the church! (Watch the burly former priest spring into action!). At night, following an old goat path, the small company descend in almost silence into the village, dispatch the picquets and begin to plant the explosives. The French rally, and the units that have been disembarked down in the bay take notice of the small arms fire and start to investigate. The corporal, a rifleman, takes a position in the church tower and acts as a sniper of sorts, saving the Lieutenant who was shot down by a Frenchman. HEADSHOT indeed! The private, leaving his charge laying duties, deals with the Arab slaver with cold hard steel. As the gun emplacements explode, the mostly intact company make double time back to their ranks and the praise of their new found regiment.

OK, it wasn't the greatest of storylines and given more planning there could have been so much more done with it. However it did show that the system worked almost invisibly and seemed to please the players. There were some suggestions about things that could be added to chargen related to rank, which were very good. Oh, and some of the talents need to be tweaked and beefed up as well. All in all though I was very pleased.

The next day, Ian arrived and we commenced our E-P-I-C D&D 3.5e session. This was a completely new venture for all the players. 18th level characters in all their glory are something we have never even contemplated. They really are more like superheroes than fantasy characters. It was a game that I personally was dreading. Whilst the characters were great, they seemed just so smothered in the claustrophobic crunch of the D&D system. I had foolishly taken the Sorceror Summoner route and thus HAD to take my laptop to be able to moderate the madness that was ensuing with my small army of devils. I detest overt non-story related crunch and I was convinced that this was going to become a festival of dice rolling direness.

Oh how wrong I was. And I raise my hands and say 'sorry' to Andrew for ever thinking this. What a fucking AWESOME game that was. The plot was basically a cross between World War Z and Star Wars. The planet was ravaged by a zombie plague caused by the God King Ozymandias and we, the gathered powers, were charged with stopping him in his ziggurat of Doom whilst the armies of Good distracted him. Andrews narration of this was brilliant, conjuring exactly the correct images whilst littering enough Star Wars references so subtley that we knew what he was talking about without him having to be explicit. The twist, for me, was that my PC was a servant of The Nine Hells and I had some agendas of my own.... Group conflicts ahoy!

Want to know how good it was? The GM even made a Gelatinous Cube a viable threat!

We moved through the pyramid (with attendent undead beholders, Vrocks and other nastiness) and then passed into the Suul Land of the Dead. There we confronted Sokar, the Bloody Angel of Doom. Oh that was fun. He tried to tempt us, we had none of it and kicked his ass. He teleported away, so we Miracled him back and kicked his ass some more. I got his sword. Mission One complete. Then we travelled to The God Kings demi-realm where we discovered that Dave's character was seen as a Goddess, the GK wanted me as an advisor and all manner of other stuff. Then Dave summoned a Solar to judge the actions of Ozymandias and all Hell broke loose - literally in my case. We had pit fiends, horned devils, ice devils, solars, Greater Air Elementals, ultra hard undead things, a pseudo-God and his bint. It was amazing. Actually, beyond the amazingness of the setting and premise was the ability of Andrew to make the crunch just disappear in a gentle puff of narrative. God, does he know his D&D stuff!!!! In the end, we won but it was a bit of a pyyric victory as we released some Demon King in the process.

Is it something I would want to do again? Possibly not - but 100% from the angle of not wanting to try (and fail) to recapture that lightning in the bottle. What we had was an exceptional session - and the first one EVER that I have spontaneously clapped at the end of.

And now, onto Spirit of the Century and Pendragon!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The most impressive thing for me, while not intending to take anything away from the game itself, which was great, was Andrew's knowledge of D&D. If anyone else had run that, it would have been a disaster under an avalanche of crunch.

It also inspired me and made me realise my random musings about a Mutants and Masterminds epic fantasy superheroes game would actually work BIG STYLE!

One day.