Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Questing in Elfgames VII - Quest and Anti-quest

Let us assume that the PCs agree to play a game in which there is a quest. They must, I think, therefore be in favour of the general aims of the quest. Does it necessarily follow, however, that all of them must be in agreement over the methods used to fulfil the quest?

A thought experiment, once more based on Lord of the Rings (not the first time I have done this I admit). The quest in Lord of the Rings is to destroy the Ring by taking it to Orodruin. However, Boromir, in 'Minority Report' style, departs from the consensus and wants to use the Ring as a weapon against Mordor. Both viewpoints are about fighting Sauron, one by destroying a powerful artefact that could be used by the baddies, the other by using the artefact against the baddies. In this thought-experiment version, Boromir takes the Ring from Frodo at Amon Hen. What happens next?

Boromir has fallen under the baleful influence of the Ring, but hasn't changed sides; he is still opposed to Sauron, and wants to use it as a weapon against Sauron for the good of Gondor (as he sees it). He's not going to ally himself with the Orcs in the woods, they and he are still still enemies. The rest of the party... err, Fellowship... wants to 'rescue', not fight, him, even if they fundamentally disagree with his perspective. So, Boromir is still fighting the Orcs, but not allowing the Fellowship to stop him taking the Ring to Minas Tirith. He battles his way to Gondor, and from there the plot takes a different turn as the now Ring-wielding Gondorian forces both resist Sauron and are corrupted from the inside.

There are some successes for Gondor due to wielding the Ring but also increasing jealousy between Boromir and Denethor, as well as paranoia in the Gondor command about 'internal enemies' (not helped by Faramir throwing in his lot with Aragorn's 'loyal opposition'). This leads to a nightmare 3-way war between the forces of Sauron, the Ring-wielding Gondorian faction around Boromir (after a power-struggle, Boromir kills Denethor and takes absolute control) and the Aragorn/Faramir faction, waging guerrilla war from Ithilien, fighting off the Gondorian loyalists as well as Mordor, but also trying to unite all the anti-Mordor forces. Ultimately, Aragorn's guerrillas break into Minas Tirith and steal the Ring before racing to destroy it in Mt Doom. Boromir, perhaps, is unsavable, and resists the Aragornian 'rebellion' to the end, but ultimately the Ring is destroyed and Gondor saved.

Is something like this a reasonable version of 'the Quest'? It's not Tolkien's story but is it a reasonable, workable, even playable departure from it? I think it is. It's maybe a bit more 'Game of Thrones' (or even 'Star Wars') than 'Lord of the Rings', but I can see how it might work. There's no reason why this couldn't be the unfolding story of a game based on the starting-point of 'The Lord of the Rings'.

In the Quest for the Relics of McGuffin, the Sages of the Unpr'Onounc'Eable Temple want the Relics brought back to the Temple so they can use them to defeat Lord Doombad. Let's say the NPC Sage Andonion has roped in Scrofula the Thief, who is a PC, to bring back one of McGuffin's relics, the Spoon of Density, from the Dank Citadel. However, Scrofula, having gone to to the Dank Citadel with his mates (the rest of the party) and liberated the the Spoon of Density, decides he wants to go off-piste and uses it to attack Lord Doombad instead of taking it back to the Sages. Is this reasonable?

It might not be in a novel (I don't know, actually maybe it would) but it should be in a game. A quest does not necessarily imply unanimity about methods, just aims. In 'Lord of the Rings' everyone wants Sauron defeated, but they disagree about how that is best done. That should be OK in a game too, and it should be possible to change course to fulfil the quest. The Sage Andonion has engaged the PCs - somehow! (and that 'how?'still requires some thinking about) - in a quest (getting the Spoon from the Dank Citadel will somehow help defeat Lord Doombad... either because the Spoon is a powerful artefact and it will help to add its power to the good side, or to deny its power to the evil side) but the PCs have autonomy to carry out the quest in the way they see fit. How they see that will depend on the setup, how the information is actually given to them, and how much they trust the veracity or sagacity of their quest patron.

But probably I need to keep picking away at those things, so I'll leave this here for the moment.

Happy Christmas, and whatever else you may be celebrating.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Rift City session 17

So, the 17th session of Wandering Monster Table and the Rift City campaign...

A few of the usual players couldn't make this session, so the party consisted of:

Bonjella the 1st Level Elf;
Galan the 1st Level Elf;
Gene the 2nd Level Fighter;
Gibbet the 3rd Level Thief;
Karensa the 1st Level Elf.

Their plan was again to raid the 'Bath-house of Blibdoolpoolp'. I rolled for Ademus the Priest's reaction - he wasn't having any of it, preferring to follow up on the rumour that Ulfang the Black was in another part of the complex, so Ademus has gone adventuring with another group. The PCs might hear what happened about this when they get back to town.

Today, on approaching the entrance cavern, the party saw that the door was smashed and there was excrement around the doorway. There's no reason for any of them to be experts in animal excrement (except Gene who it's previously established was brought up on a farm, but this didn't look like any kind of excrement Gene had encountered) so they were none the wiser. They wondered if it was Giant Bat guano, as they'd run into one of those previously in this area (maybe last session thinking about it, probably could have mentioned that in the last write-up).

It wasn't bats; the PCs leapt into the room and were confronted by some (3) Harpies who had moved in to the cave entrance. The PCs had surprised them for sure but the Harpies were tough; the 3 Elves, after managing to get some wounds in, all failed their saving throws against the Harpies' song and it was left to Gene and Gibbet to dispatch two of them while the third fled, horribly injured. In the meantime however, both humans took injuries. Searching the room produced a big sack of coins that went straight into Galan's Bag of Holding.

Moving on to the next room, they found the door wedged from the other side (presumably to stop the Harpies getting into the rest of the dungeon). Being 4/5 clad in plate, the PCs barged the door down, and slammed into the next room. Finding some Orcs in there, Bonjella used her Sleep spell on them and the PCs then slit their throats. Looting the bodies and the room produced a big red gem and some Orc swords (which were soon discarded).

The section of 'The Bath-house of Blibdoolpoolp' that the PCs have explored
Heading south out of the Orcs' room, the PCs came to an open area with various doors coming off it. Having already explored quite a lot towards the east (the library, tannery, Kobold temple where the PCs smashed a statue of Kurtalmuk, wine cellar and the 'necro-room', which contained Giant Rats and a lot of skulls and candles had all been explored in the previous two visits), the party turned west. The ignored the teleport room (the small room at the far end of the north-west corridor) and instead made for the room marked 'rats' on my map. Listening at the door indeed allowed them to hear that something was within - not Kobolds however. A somewhat complicated plan ensued with the door being quickly opened and a lit torch thrown in. When the (Giant) Rats inside panicked and made for the door, the party quickly shut it.

Exactly what happened next I don't actually remember. There was definitely a fight with the Rats. The party made short work of the R.O.U.S. (3 dead and the other 4 so panicked that they turned and fled down a small hole), leaving time to search the room. Several things caught their attention. First, on a shelf along the north wall, five large jars stood in a row. Amidst the dust and slime and rat-crap, a small metal chest was also visible. Gibbet searched that, found no traps and tried to unlock it. He succeeded and the chest sprang open. Inside was a was a leather purse containing coins (209GP) and four ceramic vials in the shape of dragons emerging from eggs. Meanwhile, Galan discovered that the vases each contained hundreds of silver pieces. Everything went into the Bag of Holding.

There was also a gaggle of wandering Fire Beetles that turned up. Another Sleep spell dealt with them pretty quickly and the party harvested their glow-glands for sale to Gisuintha back in town. This may have been before the fight with the R.O.U.S. but I can't actually recall.

Pushing on through the Rat room, the party opened the western door. This led to a very strange room indeed. As soon as the door opened, a warm light and soothing music was heard. Having previously been victims of the Harpies' Charm, everyone freaked out and decided that they all needed to stuff things in their ears and wrap things round their heads to block out the sound. Only Gene refused to do so. 

I have to admit that I misread the room description when the PCs did go in. There was supposed to be some smashed furniture and disembodied harp music, but I told them there was an actual harp sitting on a somewhat smashed desk. D'oh. Now instead of a groovy room effect, they have an actual enchanted harp, because of course it ended up in the bag. Bonjella poked around in the smashed furniture, and unfortunately set off a surviving trap, being hit by a spring-loaded bolt, which caused her an injury but luckily not death. There was however also some cash lying about, a purse with coins in it that the trap was meant to protect.

That was about it for that room however, so with the harp and the cash, they opened another door - again, the western one. They could see about 10' away a curtain of water falling but could not see if the corridor continued beyond it. Leaving that for another day, they opened the door in the north wall. As that only seemed to lead to another corridor with several more doors, they retreated back the way they'd come and out of the Rat room.

Deciding that with three party-members injured, only one spell between them and a lot of loot, they might be best of heading back, they opted to try one last room and see what was what, so they chose to open the southern-most door in the wide section of corridor, into the room marked 'beetles' - in this case, more Fire Beetles. The room was some sort of mausoleum, with five large sarcophagi standing about, and the beetles running in between them, partly out of sight and definitely difficult to kill.

However, the party was determined to get them and add some more glands to the pile, so they marched through the room butchering the beetles. The attacks were maybe a little fierce however, as I ruled that most of the precious glands were destroyed and they only managed to get three out of a possible nine. Even so better than nothing and it rounded off the haul for the day. Disappointingly for the PCs, the sarcophagi turned out to be empty.

The PCs made it back to the entrance without incident, and high-tailed it to town with their loot. Totting up at the end of the session, Galan announced that he had also gone up a level. This levelling-up thing is catching. And now, the party has a spell-caster with two spells - what will they think of next?

Monday, 10 December 2018

Rift City Session 16

What can I say about this game?

Cnut the Fighter (2nd Level)
Galan the Elf (1st Level)
Gene the Fighter (1st Level)
Gibbet the Thief (2nd Level)
Gwynthor the Cleric (2nd Level)
Karansa the Elf (1st Level)
Shazam the Elf (1st Level) with Ugulmuk AKA Keith the Kobold, his Charmed henchbeing...

went dungeoneering with Ademus, the NPC Cleric.

The party had a new plan, to head back to 'The Bath-house of Blibdoolpoolp' where they had been in session 14. Ademus asked about Ulfang the Black (he's the focus of Ademus's quest) and the party assured him that there were Kobolds in this area too - it was just a case of finding out where Ulfang was. I rolled for Ademus's reaction and he seemed happy to go along with what the party was suggesting - as long as there would be Kobolds to kill he would be happy.

So off they went - sidling up to the door, where once before they had forced their way in and found Kobolds.

And kill Kobolds they did - and Giant Rats and some Zombies too. They found the key to a previously-locked room, and unlocked it. It was seemingly a kind of Kobold-temple. They searched the library again and stole some more books.

But this was now weeks ago and sadly I can't remember the details very well (I'm rubbish at keeping records of what the PCs are up to, beyond '6 dead Kobolds, 260cp looted' and such like.

What I do remember is that at the end of the session, Gibbet went up to 3rd Level and Gene went up to 2nd...