Monday, July 28, 2008

The City of Kings Pt1 - Hot in the City

As no-one else seems to have blogged about last night's D&D game, I might as well kick things off. I've been giving Andrew all manner of grief over the last month about the levels of expectation for this game and in true Watsonian fashion, Andrew delivered. As the first session of a campaign, it was wonderfully evocative and played to our groups strengths. Not everything was perfect - it never is - but I left the session feeling like a 'proper gamer', which is silly, I know, but it was true.


1. The rules tweaks - 'Wealth levels' instead of money makes coin counting obselete. 'Legacy items' - iconic magic items which scale with level and include the balancing properties of all the necessary items in the game are wonderful. Abstract levelling rather than XP grind allows us to pace the game and see the run of the system without 'grinding'. We discussed them before the game and they worked well.

2. Peripherals - we used a battleboard, minatures, dungeon tiles, power cards - hell, we even had an official D&D pen at the table. It all worked really well. The combats we played out were so very different from the ones we have done before. They were tactical. They required thought. Every single roll of the dice had a weight of meaning that, on reflection, I have rarely seen before. Not one of the fights had a bit of wiffle in it. The minatures were evocative and worked far better than I ever thought they would. Even something as petty as the power cards really cut down the amount of book flicking that was needed. Really really good for this game.

3. Reskinned monsters - I loved the fact that Andrew had taken the time to create his own monsters for the game, even if they were reskinned versions of Monster Manual creatures. Faced with the slavering savagery of a Carnage Demon, what were we to expect? Skeletal Flame Priests? Hounds of Shadow? The risen cadaver of the Sun God Azhura. Hardened gamers reduced to second-guessing noobs. Love it. Total and utter ignorance.

4. Structure and Pacing - the structure of the game was great. We were straight into the action at the start of our rebellion sanctioned tomb robbing, rather than playing out the arrival in the City of Kings or our meeting with the rebellion. It kicked the game off brilliantly.

5. Skill Challenges - Andrew's interpretation of the skills challenge system is inspired. Rather than wander a tomb checking for traps, we have to make two successes before we make two failures using a selection of skills. If we succeeded, we narrated a situation and how we got around it. If we failed, it triggered an encounter prepared by the DM. Why was this gold? Threefold. First off, it took what could have been a dire dungeon crawl and made it very quick and dynamic, cutting to the good stuff. Second, it made us use an array of skills in very different ways. So rather than the Ranger/Thief stealthing through the entire dungeon, the Mage and the Paladin narrated the unpicking of a runic bomb trap using magic and religious nouse. Thirdly, once again, every roll counts. Feel the tension.

6. Missio... sorry, I mean Quests - We all have group and personal Quests to fulfil in true MMO style and they work magnificently. It adds a focus to the game, reinforces situation, tweaks conflict, plans out our rewards and generally makes the game a lot of fun.


1. FOCUS - Whilst I readily accept that this was due to it being the first session of the game, it did feel a little stop/start at times, especially around food ordering and breaks etc. They were the right times to do them, but I was so 'in the zone' that I didn't want to stop!

2. CHARACTERISATION - We REALLY are going to have to keep an eye on our characterisation if we are going to stop the game descending into a glorified game of Warhammer Dungeon. We can't let our characters just become pieces on a board.

3. NO TALKY TALKY - We had very few chances to actually roleplay within the adventure. There were some, I admit, which we may not have grabbed. However, we're dead good at this roleplaying lark and less so at this tactical combat malarky, so we probably needed the practice!

4. THE BOW OF ILLUSIONISM - Artemis got his legacy item, a magical phoenix style bow (very cool, even if he is now forever Ranger from the D&D cartoon). We were told not to take things from the tomb or we would have to face the wrath of the dead Sun God. The Bow was in the tomb. Oh, so we're fighting the Sun God then, regardless, because well ... we're not leaving someone's Legacy item behind. Or are we? We could have and then Andrew could have been placed in a real pickle. Would he have had to reintroduce the item at a future point? Would he have let Artemis continue the entire campaign hamstrung without his item? No, whilst we appeared to have a choice, we had no choice at all. But really, like we wanted to avoid a fight like that - which was tooth and nail awesome!

It was a great game which really hammered home that (a) system matters, (b) we really do love fantasy, (c) Andrew is an excellent GM and (d) we've got a whole lot of gaming in the City of Kings to come.

Personally, its the first time in well over a decade that I have levelled a D&D character and I was thrilled. Morn, the 2nd level Paladin, is an absolute S.O.B. and I'm loving it!


Anonymous said...

I will comment more later but I wanted to pick up on the issue of the Bow.

You absolutely could have left the Bow behind. It would not have turned up later. There are lots of different possible Legacy items dotted around for people to pick and choose from, you shouldnt feel constrained to have to take the one in front of you.

The Legacy Items you will come across will all have their own history and in game complications. However, if you havent found one you like by the time we enter the Paragon Tier you get to choose any piece of your equipment and declare that your Legacy Item, essentially generating your own Legend.


Anonymous said...

Bah, I really should be going out to do some shopping.
On the talky issue you can expect the next session to feature much more social stuff.


Anonymous said...

One last comment before I go out.

I think we only referenced the books at the table twice during the entire game and as I become more familiar with some of the more obscure rules I imagine we wont need to refer at all.

I dont think you can underestimate just how useful having the power cards is, the really cut down on play time.

If we can get a print out of the efects of status conditions it will become even smoother.


Anonymous said...

The game was indeed a great deal of fun. On characters I really wanted to check out the cool new stuff, combat, miniatures for us, powers and abilities in 4E - so these were uppermost in my mind, whereas we've all roleplayed before so we know we can do that. As has been said, characters will come next I think and develop.

One form of development for me is a cementing in my mind of a semi-priestly background, and the multiclass into cleric. to be honest, for the cost of 1 feat I think it's very good value indeed to pick up a daily bonus power and gain access to cleric abilities.

On skills, I am a little worried that every encounter will become a Religion / Arcana roll to solve - I'm sure this won't be intended to happen, but I don't know the range of skills we have within the group. Some challenges of course can be auto-fail on use of Religion (You awake the Tomb guard..) or Arcana (you trip the magic detection...).

I think levelling at the end of an adventure is cool, but doing it mid adventure at the end of a session would probably be too much.

Anyway - lets play more!


Fandomlife said...

On skill ranges, there is a danger you can focus on set high skills, but then it won't be appropriate in all circumstances (or it might be at a much higher difficulty). It's also true to say, that using Arcana a bit more than other options is character defining, you just have to spin as to how.

I suspect character skills differ, I think I have about 7 skills trained with good bonuses - but I think Ranger / Rogue are on the higher side.

With respect to the initial multi-classing feat you get a skill and a power as a daily or encounter (mostly likely an at will in the class itself). It doesn't give you access to anything else Clerical (though there are further feats for that.

It is a no brainer to take some of the initial multi-class feats though, as its a feat to train the skill anyway.

Vodkashok said...

It does allow you to take feats that are accessible by that class only. I'm thinking quite hard about taking the Fighter multiclass in order to gain access to some of the Shield feats.

Fandomlife said...

Hah, I didn't realise you qualified for feats. Nifty.

I suspect the problem will remain the same, technically qualifying due to being multi-classed but not actually qualifying.

While the compendium isn't the best way to look these up I notice the shield feats need the target to be combat challenged (which I assume is the fighter mark) - it now sees you don't get that as per the fighter multi-class.

Not sure if the above is right or wrong, but it's that sort of 'take fighter feats' but then being faced with 'not actually qualifying' you have to watch out for.

It's a bit like sneak attack, sounds great but by RAW it can only be done with light weapons, sling and hand crossbow - so I'd rarely use it.

Vodkashok said...

Yeah, I noticed that as well. Bummer.


AndrewW said...

It also allows you to qualify for that class paragon paths.

Anonymous said...

I think we'll just see how it plays out over time. FR book soon!