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[Storming the Wizard's Tower] - Get those Vikings outta Egypt!

Started by Darcy Burgess, August 30, 2009, 01:29:09 PM

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Darcy Burgess

Glenn H, Glenn W, Jason, Steve and I just wrapped our Verradheim campaign of Storming the Wizard's Tower.  We ended up playing three adventures, and never made it to level two. We got really close (I think it was just a matter of XP), but the inherent problems of the system made it obvious that we needed to put a bullet in it.

Here's a compilation of our documents from the campaign, including the players' guide as well as my notes for the three adventures.  I've omitted the monsters' stats; if someone really wants them, let me know and I'll post those too.

Oh!  Maps.  Yes, we have those too.

What's Really Fun:

  • generating adventures and monsters is exactly the fun kind of GM work that I want. I don't enjoy prep for most games, but this is an exception. Actually, this (mostly) also applies to generating campaigns as well; see below.
  • generating adventures & monsters is *easy*. I've followed the procedures as written, and I've never been caught up short for something to present to the players. I'll cook up a basic kernel of an idea over the week leading up to the game, and over dinner (the night of the session), I'll stat up all the monsters and whatnot. It works really well.
    Building the campaign wasn't as easy, but I'm suspicious that that's because there's more pure creation involved in that step. The upside is that once the campaign material is established, it really helps feed the adventure prep.
  • It doesn't take long for the world to really feel lived in. I didn't pull out any noteworthy GM tehniques (I may have used the Mountain Witch trick once or twice over the course of 4 sessionss), but the players really responded to the world. They were engaged in actively building it.
  • Mesmerize.  This is, without a doubt, the best implementation of mind control that I've ever seen.  Ever.  Kudos.
  • I *love* using the terrain monster rules for creating "Oh shit, the mine is collapsing!" -- fun chase (or escape) scenes.

What was not fun
As a point of reference, when I talk about the "sucky rule", I'm referring to the "monsters hit every character who rolls worse" rule.

  • As written, in combination with the sucky rule, introducing Poison into an adventure more-or-less guarantees that you'll be fielding a completely different party during the next game. We didn't enjoy this - it's more fun if there's some sort of continuity between player characters.
    Additionally, because I knew that Poison was not fun, I was loathe to include it even when it felt perfectly right for the adventure.
    And when I did include it, I'd see the players completely deflate as soon as they found out poison was in play.  It was a "oh well, I guess we won't be playing *these* guys next time" sort of vibe.
  • Spellcasting in combat is too hard in combination with the sucky rule, and usually for too little gain.  I may have not been careful enough with being fair about who was within the power of the monsters' attacks, but using one of your support characters (more on *that* issue below) to protect your spellcaster is a waste -- it isn't guaranteed to work, and their effort is better invested elsewhere.
  • The amount of fun had during fights was very much a function of my ability to balance terrain monsters and well, monster monsters.  High-strength characters are great in normal fights, and you need terrain monsters to showcase characters who are strong in other stats.  Sometimes your adventure just doesn't *need* terrain monsters, in which case, non-fighty types don't get their moment to shine.  However, fighty types are more or less guaranteed to get some time in the spotlight every game.
  • Finally, winning fights is all about building the best ICBM you can; pick the character best-suited to winning a given fight and pile all of your bonus dice on him.  This is where the notion of "support characters" comes in.  In terms of fictional satisfaction, it's really hard to feel good about "winning" when all you did was shout encouragement (give orders) to the big burly fighter.  We found an optimal strategy, and it wasn't the *fun* strategy.

The Big Picture
Finish the damned game, Vincent.  I've got four players who really, really like the world we've created, and want to get back into it.  So much of the game is really good.  Unfortunately, the few fatal flaws we found made it sufficiently un-fun that I had to call the game "mostly undead on the slab".

We'd love to raise it from the dead and give it a big ol' tonguey kiss.


Black Cadillacs - Your soapbox about War.  Use it.