Friday, September 19, 2014

Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures

My normal game of Dungeon Crawl Classics fell through because one player had Adult Real Life Stuff come up. I still had 2 of my regular players as well as the teenage son of our host interested in a game, so I decided to run Beyond the Wall.

I chose Beyond the Wall for a few different reasons. The tone of the game is more appropriate for a younger player than DCC is, character creation is fun, and the base mechanics are familiar to anyone who's played Basic Dungeons and Dragons.

Character creation in this game is a group activity. You pick a character playbook and roll your way through your childhood and early teens: some of the rolls you make will affect other characters in the party, and others will connect your character to Non-Player Characters in your village.

Normally, the players would also be involved in mapping out the home-village itself, but in this case I used a map drawn by Sarah Richardson and assigned homes and locations to the players and NPCs. The map looked great, in stark contrast to the later scribbles I made to show areas outside the village.

The game is designed to start with a bang, so the characters found themselves in the woods outside of town fighting a mutated, diseased bear. They took it down, grabbed an ear as proof, and were heading back into the village when they ran into a couple goblins on the path. About the same time they saw an orange glow and smelled smoke coming from the direction of the village.

Look at the teeth on that guy.

Quickly dispatching the goblins with a combination of archery and magic, the party ran home. They arrived to find the Bountiful Banshee Inn on fire and a group of armed citizens around the home of a retired mercenary soldier. The Sheriff informed them that goblins had set fire to the inn and barricaded themselves in the house. Bashing in the door, the players were hit by goblin arrows but quickly overcame their foes, with most of the damage to the characters from friendly fire.

The goblins had tunneled up from underneath the house, collapsing the tunnel on their way back and leaving a few of their number stranded topside.

Tunneling goblins speak with a pirate accent.

The players went on to save the village from a plague that the Hobgoblin Chief had inflicted through the use of hex bags, fleece an unsuspecting carriage on the King's Road, kill a great many more goblins using fire, magic, bows and swords, and ultimately come face to face with the head Hobgoblin and his Orc lieutenants in a dark, goblin-modified mine. All in all, it was fun and epic.

Hobgoblin chieftain, uninterested in parlay.

Some observations:

A) Bows were deadly, both to the enemy and to other characters when shots fired into melee missed their target.

B) Magic was very effective. The Elf-Ranger used Entanglement on three occasions, and it wrought havoc every time.

C) The static initiative worked great.

D) It was fun having one character that was neutral-capitalist and pushed for rewards and bounties, while looking for opportunities to rob the rich. And the poor. And the middle class.

So what would I do differently, the next time I run the game?

1) Better time management on my part. I was supposed to be rolling on the random charts for the adventure I had chosen while the players were making their characters, but I really wanted to be a part of that experience. Next time, I'll roll up the scenario ahead of time.

2) More maps. Good maps add to the fun and beauty of the game, while my child-like scribbles detract.

3) Have the To-Hit, Saving Throw, and Skill Check roll types memorized. I kept forgetting which were supposed to be high, and which was low. Because Mad-Cow. Embarrassing and wastes time.

4) Make a reference sheet. The rules are a breeze to read, but in the game I found myself paging back and forth and flipping between documents a lot. There's no reason for that, when I can put all the important stuff on a page or two and have it in front of me.

I recommend this game and hope I get a chance to play it again soon.

Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures