Monthly Archives: December 2012

On The Rails – Eberron Game Session 4

After a brief foray to Gamma Terra, we return to Eberron for the continuation of our regularly scheduled D&D game.

When last we left our intrepid…heroes…they were on their way to Sharn, having cured a town of a magical plague despite their best efforts at leaving the townsfolk to their uncertain fates. Master Yorel greeted them with sacks of gold after receiving the Coat of Eyes and bade his  Acquisition Experts to standby for another assignment. A few days later, he presented them with round-trip Lighting Rail passes to Starilaskur. Their new mission was to transport a strongbox from Sharn to a colleague of his at The Broken Forge, Clockwork. In addition to the money he gave them upon bringing him the coat of eyes, he gave them each an additional 250 GP for expenses and sent them on their way.

The first leg of the trip, from Sharn to Wroat, passed uneventfully. What apparently transpired in some of the cabins is best left for certain texts of a more…blue…nature. They stretched their legs at Wroat, and were surprised that no one accosted them or tried to rob them or tried to hire them and boarded the train again. The next day, while on the long leg of the trip between Wroat and Starilaskur, the…debaucheries…were interrupted by armed men demanding money from the passengers. Our intrepid heroes would have none of it and slaughtered them in hallway of their coach. The screams of the passengers in the other cars caught their interest, but they decided to climb to the top of their coach to survey situation. Mounted Gnolls ran alongside the train and more bandits, humans and gnolls advanced upon them. As they fought back the ones on top of the Lightning Rail, the conveyance came to a halt. Once the gnolls on top of the train were dealt with and the mounted ones fled, our heroes questioned the Lighting Rail driver about why they stopped. Someone had stolen enough of the conductor stones guiding the Lighting Rail, that the coaches could not continue without derailing.

Track led away from the route, tracks which suggested someone stole the conductor stones deliberately to halt the Lightning Rail. Our heroes followed the trail into the hills, making sure their strongbox was secure and well-guarded…

It seems like nothing happened, but 4E combat takes a lot of time. Plus, we did slip into a lot of tangents. They were entertaining, but tangents, nonetheless. Plus, a few players don’t have DDI accounts, so some of the characters had to be updated prior to the game on my PC and that caused us to get a late start. It’s the biggest downside I’m seeing to this 4E game. I don’t feel right asking everyone to have a DDI subscription, so I may start asking people to e-mail what changes they want made to their characters so I can go ahead and make them and print them before the game starts. Ultimately, I’m finding the reliance on the electronic tools for tracking characters to be more of a hindrance than a boon, though I do like the DM’s tools (particularly the Encounter Builder, even if it isn’t as up-to-date as I’d like).

I’m also starting to get a feel about what will motivate my group, in game, and I’m having to adjust my playstyle accordingly. My attempt at the last session to allow them a chance to play the role of the hero went over like a lead balloon (they wanted to leave the town to its fate and were very reluctant to determine the cause of the plague). Clearly, I should have made more clear my ideas that they would be playing the Heroes in this game. Ah well. These things happen and I’ll just adjust my expectations; it’s no biggie.

Also, I have observed that I feel very RUSTY when running adventures of my own design. When I brought this group together, it was after, essentially, a three year hiatus from GMing. Sure, I ran a few games at conventions in the interim, but those were one shots and mostly Paranoia (which is MUCH easier to run/play than D&D). When I started again, I was running pre-made adventures. Clearly, my skills have atrophied a bit as I am not really comfortable writing my own adventures for D&D anymore. I don’t have a problem with other systems, like Star Wars (d6), or Paranoia, so I wonder if I’m just not feeling the DM vibe anymore. Or maybe, I’m just out of practice. Maybe since D&D 4E isn’t my favorite variation of the game, I’m not as into it as I could be. It could be several things or something I haven’t thought of yet. One thing I may try is to adapt a pre-written adventure to fit into this Eberron campaign and see how that feels. Maybe I’m just feeling the crunch of working, trying to spend time with my family, trying to write books to publishing, AND write stuff to GM. Nevertheless, I’m committed to trying to provide an entertaining game for my friends, so I shall soldier on.

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A Detour to Gamma Terra

Since Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving, aka Nov. 23) was a day I knew not everyone would be available for gaming, I planned a different game than our regularly scheduled D&D game. I decided it would be a good chance to try Gamma World. A few folks on Twitter suggested that I set the game in a mall and somehow work in references to Black Friday, so I did. And since I’m hopelessly behind in updating this post, the actual game write-up will be brief…also, some names may have changed since I can’t remember exactly what Gamma Speak I used now…except The Walma. It’s always THE WALMA.

In the world of Gamma Terra, Black Free Day is the day after the Feast of Hallothankwanzamassukah. It is thought to be an orgiastic celebration of looting and consumerism at a mystical place known as The Walma. After finding out the PCs were not hungover or dead from the previous evening’s celebrations, the village elder sent them in search of The Walma.

After a rambling, Simpsons-homage-filled set of directions*, the chosen villagers headed out of the relative safety of ‘Tain Squa and into the wilderness. The directions were surprisingly accurate and they made exceptionally good use of the environment to defeat some mutated horrors which sought to eat them. A battle was raging at The Walma when they arrived between various groups of scavengers including Porkers, Badders, and mutants. They decided not to risk a frontal engagement and circled around looking for other entrances**.

They found a group of dabbers (they’re mutated bipedal raccoons) trying to break into a large overhead door marked UT  ERVI. One extremely intimidating encounter later, the PCs were trying to break into a large overhead door marked UT ERVI while the dabbers were running for the hills. They broke into The Walma, found a few wheeled carts and proceeded to loot the store out from under the battle raging outside…except for the guys in the canned good aisle who were determined to make the PCs pay in BLOOD for their bounty.

While it was a fairly close fight with some friendly fire injuries and a lot of collateral damage, the PCs won the day and returned victorious to ‘Tain Squa with their Hallothankwanzamassukah bounty.

Everyone seemed to have a really good time with this game. A few players commented that the preferred the simplified system of Gamma World to D&D 4E (Savage Worlds…here we come!). I really liked the wacky amalgamation of the real world and the fantastic, especially since I could throw in post-apoc tropes as well as cram in Borderlands-like weapons (which will see more play in future games) and it all fits because: GAMMA WORLD. The combat encounters weren’t as good as I wanted because I was counting on two hours of prep time that I didn’t get when a guest player showed up two hours early.

And, I got to use the toy cars I bought for my ill-fated Gen Con Atomic Highway/Fallout game, so that’s a plus. I think Gamma World will be my go-to Alt game while we’re playing D&D 4E. Once the Eberron game wraps-up, I may switch to Pathfinder, though, ’cause I really want to run some adventure paths and my Rise of the Runelords Deluxe Collector’s Edition is here (it was my reward to myself for working through my vacation this summer…and getting a bonus for doing so). On the other hand, as a GM, I like rules-light systems more and more these days and Pathfinder is anything but rules-light. I can do rules-heavy as a player, but as a GM, game-prep for rules-heavy systems is more like work than enjoyment, and I get PAID for work. I hope prep for an adventure path won’t be so bad since I won’t have to write up every encounter and plot point myself.

I think I actually enjoy running this genre (or at least a more modern genre) of game to Fantasy. With fantasy, I’m worried about anachronisms when I have to ad lib, and that really makes me have to think too hard when things go off the rails. In a more futuristic or modern setting, I can just go off on a Simpsons/Futurama-inspired ramble and it fits. The comic tangent in the directions just wouldn’t fit in the with the tone I like in my fantasy, but works with Gamma World. Maybe I need to stick with pre-written adventures for Fantasy and when I need to stretch my creative legs play games more modern/sci-fi in tone.

* “Follow Dry Gulch until you find that big, rotten tree. Hopefully, it hasn’t fallen down yet. Turn left and you should see a big elevated road. You know that road use to take you south to the river. Of course, walking, that would take you days. You’d just followed that elevated road all the way until you got to the big river, cross it, then you could keep going south until you practically hit the ocean. Why, I bet that was at least a week away. Maybe more, hell, I don’t know, I never went there. I went down three days, though. It gets hilly and I heard the hills used to be covered in trees what wouldn’t eat you. We’d tie an onion to our belts, ‘cause that was the style of the time, plus, it kept the trees from eating you, at least, my old man always said it would. Of course, he thought you could stick fat people with a pin and they’d pop like a balloon…”

** The area they traveled was based on the area in which we live. So, to prevent meta-gamey cheese, I totally burned Gander Mountain to the ground***. They already had enough guns anyway.

*** For those of you from the U.S. Government who are spying on my blog, I’m talking about a tabletop GAME. I did NOT engage in any domestic terrorism. I have better things to do with my life. I suggest you do the same and go out and catch real criminals and stop spying on the people who pay your salary. Yes, I’m talking about you, George. YOU. The one in Fairfax.  Also, you have a spot on your tie. Sometimes, the dry cleaner can get those out, but usually you have to buy a new tie. Take some pride in your appearance, dude.

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