Sunday 31 August 2014

Quantum Combats and Holy Horticulture

Well, for the second session of "Hoard of the Dragon Queen", I actually tried to figure out who the other members of the party were, so here's the lineup(note, holes in the writer's knowledge may have been filled using some license, artistic or otherwise):

  • Sir Manly of the Holy Turnip(played by yours truly)- a Halfling paladin who is better at roleplaying than at... just about any game mechanic. His squire is a living vegetable with 4 HP and the chutzpa to keep showing him up in combat
  • Pam aka. Drugs- a badass WFRP Dwarf/Alchemist, ported-over from WFRP 1e in the spirit of FLAILSNAILS. Be nice to her and she'll let you touch her stash(mustache--it's funny cause Dwarven women have beards--but it's not funny cause I had to explain it...)
  • Drizzita the Drow- a deadly Drow Archer, recently arisen from the Underdark
  • Lego the Bastard- the Half-Elf Warlock! He likes to electrocute anything with more than 1HD, like Emperor Palpatine with a Taser...

The Prisoners Dilemma

Once safely inside the keep, the party was offered a number of possible missions. One was to fight the dragon assaulting the parapets(fat chance!) We settled on sneaking out of the keep and either rescuing imprisoned townspeople or capturing cultists for interrogation. We ended up doing both.

From there, we defended the keep a bit from a break in the wall and then went out to try and attack the Cultists' leader. Unfortunately, we were headed-off by their second in command and a small army of kobolds. He demanded a champion to face him in single combat. Since Sir Manly is the only thing remotely resembling a fighter in our party, and since he was honor-bound to accept the challenge, he stepped forward, despite considering it a suicide mission. The half-dragon commander beat him bloody but spared his life, in the end.

Game Design Bait & Switch

...and I'm starting to sense a trend here.  Previously, we played a session or two from Dead in Thay, and ran into a similar situation of "Combats That Aren't Combats". We got dropped into the middle of this epic battle with a bunch of NPC's far more powerful than us facing-off against each other and the clear implication of the impossible odds was that this wasn't a real battle.

Now comes Hoard of the Dragon Queen with it's no-stakes challenge fight. Also, we learned afterwards that, had we chosen to take-on the dragon in the parapets, it would have fled after having sustained minimal damage.

I'm sure that any of these encounters on it's own could be defended as being sort of interesting and original ideas, but the net result is that our party is only allowed to fight:

  1. Low-level combats against foes that pose no risk to them
  2. Big dramatic encounters that look scary but really pose no risk to them

Certainly the debate over how to handle campaign lethality in practice is alive and well. But, whatever approach you take, you need to find a balance somewhere between two conceptual extremes:
  1. if there is no reasonable possibility of lasting harm, then the risks PC's take are meaningless and Players will no longer be fooled into feeling tension
  2. if the campaign is too lethal then there is no possibility of PC development and Players will begin to only feel frustration

I can't help but feel that WotC's current game designers don't really understand point #1, although they're hardly alone.

Playing the Hell out of the Paladin

So, here's my dirty little secret--I've never played a Paladin or Cleric before. And here's my other dirty little secret--I'm having a blast!

After somewhat cooling my criticism of Adventure Bonds, I asked myself what Sir Manly really wants out of this visit to Greenest. The answer is obvious, he wants to spread his religion, of which he is currently the only adherent.

So, I role-played the heck out of this premise this past session. Sir Manly convinced the Town's leadership to switch their main crop to Turnips, he sought to convert his cultist enemies, and when confronted by a townswoman who remembered his rather sorry state during his last visit here, he convinced her that he had turned over a new leaf thanks to the redemptive power of the Holy Turnip.

dreaming of a world where turnips and radishes can live in harmony
And Sir Manly's mission has progressed even further thanks to some between-session roleplay(thanks, DM):

  • He used his now lofty status among the townsfolk to commission a shrine to be built to the Divine Turnip on the edge of town
  • His Sentient Vegetable friend will be named Prior Raddish and put in charge of the Shrine's upkeep
  • Sir Manly was inspired to pen the code of conduct for followers of the Divine Turnip on a plaque in the shrine:
    • You can't have pudding unless you eat your Turnips
    • Radishes are not to be trusted(unless they repent)
    • Bountiful Tithes should be given to the nearest Shrine of the Holy Turnip
    • We all hope and pray for the rebuilding of the Temple to the Holy Turnip

And with that, this player will, for now, end this account of his slow descent into madness...

1 comment:

  1. That, was one of the awesomer things I've seen today.
    [golf claps]
    Sir Manly seems like my kind of Halfling.