Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Back! Gaming! Happy!

I've been avoiding blogging the past week or so, because of the OGL whoop-de-doo. I said my peace earlier about it, and didn't really have more to add. And now, I've got my TS&R campaign started up again, and am working on notes for the next Star Wars d6 adventure (nearly done). My older boy and I also, at the invitation of a friend, started playing a campaign dungeon crawler board game called Swords & Sorcery: Ancient Chronicles. 

I mentioned this game over on BX Blackrazor's comment section, and it spawned a whole post by JB. I may have some thoughts to add to his post later. For now, though, I want to talk about the game itself.

Like many of these campaign style games, it's fairly rules heavy. The basic mechanics are pretty simple and straightforward. There are red and blue dice (d10s). Red are better offense, blue are better defense. For any task, you roll the number of red and/or blue dice indicated, and try to get the right symbols to come up. When to roll, what to roll for, and how the cards (items, abilities, etc.) interact make it complex. 

One really cool thing about the game is the way it runs monsters. After each player takes their turn, they turn over an Encounter card. This card will say to activate certain types of monsters. All monsters are colored by strength tier green - blue - red - purple, and given their primary attack method (Strength, Faith, Magic, Dexterity). The player characters also have these attack methods. So one card might say "Activate all red creatures -or- activate any two creatures." Any red creatures would then take an action, and if there are none, players decide which two creatures in play take actions instead. And each monster has a card with various if/then statements, combined with all their various attacks and defenses. So if a monster activates, we read its card to see which situation applies, and how they act. 

For example, the first two dungeons had a lot of giant spiders. The spider cards (didn't get a picture of that, so going from memory here) have actions for the spiders if there is a hero in the same area, 1 or 2 areas away, or farther than that. And within those, there are if/then conditionals. If a character is in the same area, and it is slowed (webbed up), the spider uses a special attack. If not, it bites then moves 1 area away. If a hero is 1-2 areas away, it shoots a web. If no heroes are within 2 spaces, it moves closer. 

The interaction between the Encounter cards and the various conditionals on the monster cards make the monster actions unpredictable, and emulate a DM running monsters in D&D fairly well. In fact, the monsters in this game are a lot more challenging and unpredictable than most monsters that I run in D&D... I do sometimes get into the bad habit of having monsters just rely on their main attacks once combat starts, unless I'd specifically prepared some interesting tactics for them beforehand. 

Another thing the game does that mimics D&D or other RPGs is that it has a story book. Certain markers get placed on the board, and when characters move onto them, story events happen. It's also a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure style, in that some of the events are different depending on if we're playing the Lawful or Chaotic versions of the heroes (my hero, the Thief or Alchemist, is always Neutral, so can play with either party). Also, some of the events include actual choices like a CYOA book that we can make. It's not quite the same as playing a proper RPG, but I can see why Adam (the host) prefers this sort of game to an RPG.

The premise of the game is that the gods have awakened these five heroes from their immortal slumber to stop an evil threat. Being already dead, death in the game is not the end. You become a ghost, and can rejuvenate at a shrine. The players fail the dungeon if all four are ghosts at the same time. And of course there are soul points that need to be earned during play, which need to be spent to rejuvenate...but they're also needed to level up your character. 

It's a bit of a learning curve, but we're getting better at it as we play. In the first session, we only managed to get through the introductory adventure and the first town phase (shopping, info gathering, gambling...we lost most of our cash there). The second dungeon took us two whole sessions (the picture above is where we stopped at the second session, halfway through the dungeon crawl. The third session, we managed to finish that dungeon. Each session has been 4 or 5 hours of play. It's a bit smoother, though, and probably our next session (next Monday) will go a bit faster than that. 

After we get through the winter break, we'll only be able to play on weekends, though, so that will probably have some conflicts with my D&D game.


In other news, Pat of the original Busan Board Game group is finally leaving Korea soon. As he prepares to leave, he's getting rid of a lot of stuff. He contacted me the other day and asked if I wanted his RPG books. Of course I said yes. So yesterday, I drove over to his apartment and got them. He had the 2E DMG and Monstrous Compendium (original versions, I only had the black reprint versions until now), a few modules and the Ravenloft Masque of the Red Death box set. 

Also, he gave my his 4E books. That collection includes the PHB, PHB2, DMG and MM, plus three modules and some modular dungeon tiles. 

I'd mentioned to Adam that he might dig 4E more than other editions of D&D, so the books may end up with him in the end. For now though, I'm wondering if I'd like to give them another try, running the game more like this S&S board game than a proper RPG campaign. I think that's what 4E was really designed to do, after all. But I've also got my TS&R campaign, my Star Wars campaign, and I think I'm about ready to take the plunge with a PbP Gamma World game that I've got set up but haven't recruited players for yet. So probably no time for an experiment with 4E.

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