Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Into the Moathouse: After play report 2

Wow, it's been far too long here. Explanations are in order: first I lost my car to a roadside glacier (because it was better to hit that than the schoolbus), and then my wife got sick. With work ticking up on top of that, I simply haven't had time to do justice to this blog.

Hopefully now that I have a new car and my wife is on the mend, we can return to a normal posting schedule.

Calawas - Elf Thief (Katz)
Amalia - High Elf Cleric (Paraj)
Volbak - Dwarf Knight (Jim)
Lamaevhun - Wood Elf Scout (Tim)
Ilsildel - High Elf Wizard (Martin)
Chief - Wood Elf Barbarian (Catherine) Player absent, character present

We had our second session last night. I'm quickly learning the virtues of preparation beforehand; I didn't have much chance to prep anything new or even look at my old stuff, so this was successful only because I had previously done a lot of thinking about what the entrance to the Moathouse would be like.

Last session ended in the middle of combat with the frogs outside, with Lamaevhun in bad condition in the belly of a frog. At the same time, Calawas was charging into combat with a spear, barely keeping astride his ill-trained pony, looking set to go out in a blaze of glory.

Fortunately, Lamaevhun managed to wriggle his knife out while inside the belly of the beast. With his strong right arm, he quickly dispatched the beast and got down to the messy business of cutting himself an exit.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party marshalled well, cutting the frogs to shreds in short order. They even managed to avoid losing their horses, due to some amazing rolls on my part for horse morale. (Basically, I was having them make Fright Checks every other round - and they all passed. Every single one.)

Frogs dispatched, they fairly quickly decided to butcher and cook them. French cuisine is, after all, appreciated by all delvers, even the most uncultured. This was fortuitous for more than rations, though, as in the belly of the largest frog they also found a one-caret amethyst, in finest Gygaxian tradition. (How you find a rock about the size of a pea in the guts of a frog the size of a horse, I don't know. I don't question these things.)

Little did they know at the time that there was a pair of bandits watching them despatch the frogs, and then periodically poking their heads back out to see what the ruckus was about. So, when Calawas got bored and wandered into the Moathouse courtyard to poke about, he was shot several times and silenced before he could get a sound out. The bandits thereupon dragged him back to their hideout for questioning, to get the exact disposition of the forces outside, purpose, etc. (At this point, Katz, the guy who plays Calawas, started playing the barbarian instead, who is normally played by my wife. She was home sick.)

Fortunately for Calawas, the Lamaevhun noticed his absence not too long after he left, and Ilsildel even thought he heard a scuffle of chain against stone in a lull in the conversation. (I called for Perception checks; Ilsildel made his by six.)

In short order the party hobbled the horses, banked the fire, and went to take a look. The bandits for their part were mostly prepared, figuring the party would come in after their comrade.

For those of you who don't know or don't remember the first floor of the moathouse, the courtyard doubles as an abbatoir. The walls are pierced by murder holes, and the only entrance to the inner keep is up a small set of stairs and through a set of stout double doors. However, the bandits didn't have enough men (only eight) to take full advantage, and the doors are in bad disrepair, one completely off and the other only holding on by one rusty hinge. So when the party entered the courtyard, they bided their time until the party was close enough, at which point the four with crossbows let fly while four others set up a two-man deep blockade on the stairs.

They missed, causing the Ilsildel and Lamaevhun to drop to the ground. Neither of them care. Hooray for Heroic Archer. Also, they failed to consider the effect a raging barbarian with a Reach 2 weapon would have on their formation. Oh, and with someone behind you it's very difficult to retreat for +1/+3 to defenses. What should have been an easy victory for the bandits quickly turned into a slaughter, and then a rout. The bandit leader called for terms after Lamaevhun dropped one of the front line with an arrow, and Volbak split his head open like a melon.

Terms were accepted...sort of. Volbak made his roll to check his Bloodlust, but our barbarian didn't snap out of the berserker rage, which led to the line of the night:

Volbak, stepping up after a wounded bandit who has already dropped his weapon and is stepping back out of combat: "You realize she isn't going to stop." With Jim's delivery in a Nolan-esque Batman voice, it was very scary, especially if you were a bandit.

At that point it was every man for himself. Lamaevhun and Ilsildel worked together to light up the great hall with an arrow, and Amalia put a Sunbolt through the leader's shoulderblades for max damage, earning her first kill. Shortly thereafter they patched together one of the footmen and found Calawas, alive and hastily bandaged, tied up and slung onto a large block of stone.

We ended there, because it was ten o'clock. Everyone earned five character points (the first milestone being penetration into the moathouse and dealing with the bandits). Volbak earned the MVP point for 1) being awesome on the front line, and 2) having the best quote. Next session will start with finding and divvying up the loot, then deciding whether or not they want to go back to town.



The players have taken fairly well to me giving tactical suggestions. It both speeds along the fight and makes them more effective. At the same time, I've put in an effort to have more narrative flair. I feel it's pretty weak so far, but with time and practice I'll get better and more comfortable again.

One thing about the barbarian: I realized about halfway through the session that I'd brought the wrong character sheet. Instead, I had a higher-powered one (by 25 points) that had a maul instead of a mace. Normally, being 150 points, he wouldn't have enough strength to attack every round with a mace. I let it slide for this session though, because it was awesome. However, had he been played correctly, the bandits would have been much tougher opponents.

We got through one and a half fights in three hours, shoving in a fifteen minute break and some roleplaying/logistical discussion in between. It's a pretty good pace. I think it's helped along by a) me getting more comfortable with the capabilities of my NPCs, b) help provided by me and one of the players on tactical decisions, and c) an interest in fast play instead of strict rules-correctness.

I made a mistake in the mapping of the Moathouse: rather than remembering that the squares on the map are actually 10' squares, I went with 5' squares in my transposition to hexes. This means the moathouse is about 2/3rds the size it should be. (5' = 2 hexes, and 10' = 3 hexes, or close enough for government work.) Whoops. Maybe I need to take the maps, blow them up, and put them on hexes, but that seems like a lot of work. Either way, the first and second floors won't line up, if anyone cares.

I need to figure out what to do with players when their characters get killed. Fortunately, in this instance, there was another PC to jump into. However, generally speaking between sessions I want PCs to drop out (stay at camp, feel sick, whatever) when their players aren't about. The party so far has refused to hire on help; should I give them some hirelings who usually stay with the horses anyway? I'm not sure. One thing I know I don't want is for someone to have to just sit there and watch everyone else.


  1. You're using GURPS4e, right? You can use a mace every round in 4e - you can't attack and parry in the same round (usually), but you can attack every round.

    Or did you mean that the barbarian wasn't strong enough to attack every round with the maul? That would make more sense.

    1. Not strong enough to attack every round with the maul. He should be using a mace, but that character sheet has a maul on it.

  2. I'd encourage them to find ways to add new PCs - either hirelings, trips back to town to meet new travelers, a second wave of elves coming after them ("Great, my kid brother is here."), etc. Let them think it through for you.

    Tell them the problem (you die, you sit there), the possible solution (you die, you get a new guy from somewhere), and that you need them to pitch in ideas on how to make that happen seamlessly. Whatever answer you all come up with will work better than one you hand down to them, in all likelihood.

  3. The problem with hirelings is we don't trust NPCS, for several very good reasons:

    - There is clearly intrigue going on in town. Who can we trust?

    - The group is currently all family, mostly with appropriate SoD type disads so we know we can trust each other.

    - Not to mention the PC stamp, which is admittedly metagame trust, but also massive.

    - We can also trust Calowas' player to abuse NPCs. He just really seems to enjoy that, but it makes hirelings iffy. It makes hirelings who become PCs with a pre-established grudge against an existing PC doubly iffy.

    - In Gygaxian tradition, approximately 50% of NPCs are not trustworthy (to say the least). The other 50% hose you over if you don't trust them, because the Gygaxian tradition is not at all fair, but face it, most folks prefer to be overly suspicious and lose out than to be overly trusting and be played for a fool.

    So I don't think it is likely that we will easily take on NPCs. You can still probably finesse it if you try, or metagame it if you want, but allow me to tell a relevant war story from my middle school gaming days.

    Palace of the Silver Princess, old Red Box DnD. Party halfway through. New Player wants to join up. I really didn't think this guy was going to play more than once or twice, so I completely blew off plausibility and added his bound and gagged PC and his equipment in a big old treasure chest the party found in the very first room they explored that night.

    As soon as it was clear that this guy was the new PC, everyone stopped caring. No one even mentioned his odd origin again. That player stayed in the game until I moved.

    So yeah, I wouldn't worry about getting in backup PCs. If someone's PC dies, stuff the new PC in the next room with the flimsiest of pretexts, and we'll probably swallow it with minor sarcasm at worst. It won't be the least plausible part of the setting by far, after all... And the Game must go on.

    1. I'm not seriously worried about it. I think the other solution that was at the table - one of the players handing over his next PC - is a fine solution. (Better would be the player himself having a second at the table ready to pull out.)

      It's just something on my radar.

      As for hirelings, they don't matter. It probably makes my life easier if they aren't along. I just like DF 15.

  4. "Either way, the first and second floors won't line up, if anyone cares."

    The 1st and 2nd levels don't match up in the original moathouse either; you're taking part in an age-old tradition.

    Thanks for the gamelog. Besides being a Hommlet junky, I've long been fascinated with GURPS but have never actually played it so I'm groovin' on your experience.

    1. I saw that post. You've done some remarkable archaeology.

  5. Hooray! More AP reports, more posts!