Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Events From This Last Weekend

I know last week I posted a list of what I was working on - and I'm still working on it. But I wanted to talk a bit about this last weekend, and push back scheduled posts in the process.

Because last weekend was one of the best weekends of gaming I have had in a very long time. And it was only two games.

We started by kicking off a Risk Legacy campaign with the full five players. Stultz, Jim, Wade, Steph, and myself.  I dealt the starting power cards randomly, and so each player gave each faction a single power. I dealt out resource cards randomly, and each player then applied coins to location cards.

That way, everyone was invested in the game from the beginning.  It was fascinating, because everyone flinched when they tore up the unselected faction power. And when the first scars were applied to the board, people (again) flinched a bit - even when other players were the ones doing the scarring.

Then Wade upped the ante - the winner of the game could add +1 to one of their Icon Relationship rolls that night. He's the GM, he can do that.

The game was ... fun. And refreshing in a way that Risk rarely is. And it was over in an hour and change. And Wade won.

We'll be getting together before every 13th Age session in order to play.

We followed that up with our 13th Age game.  We picked up in media res - we just finished some combat last week, and we continued with more this session.  Our characters were out of or low on daily abilities, and some of us were low on hit points.

We had one small skirmish encounter against some zero-level foes (which we mowed through like wheat), and discovered a hellhole opening under the town.  We're not well-equipped to handle hellholes. But there were other foes about, too.

One of our recurring nuisances is a character named Thurash Many-Rocks, Smasher of Elves. I don't think those stats are current, because we've been dealing with him since we were second or third level.  We're fifth level, now. And we finally had our throwdown with him (and a couple of his mooks). We dealt with the mooks pretty quickly, but Thurash himself was a bit more of a challenge.

Our Ranger eventually dealt with him.

And then demons possessed the corpses of the fallen Orcs, and we were in Big Trouble. There were four of us and four of them, and they hit as hard as (or harder than) we did and had more hit points than most of us.  How many did they have? Enough that our Wizard's "Sleep" spell couldn't take any of them down.

We were - as mentioned earlier - depleted. Beaten. Worn down. Defeated. I was out of Command Points (which are a class thing for the Commander class, and which I used a couple of times to heal the party and let them re-roll attacks or damage).

"Wade," I said, "I'd like to spend one of my Icon Relationships."  Hochnor, you see, has a conflicted relationship with the Crusader.

Have I discussed Icon Relationships here, before? Let me explain:

Every character in 13th Age has a relationship of some sort with one or more of the big Movers & Shakers of the setting. Before each session, you roll 1d6 per relationship point. On a five, you can get a favor with a complication of some sort. On a six, you can call on that Icon for direct assistance with no complication. These favors aren't explicitly spelled out in the rulebook, so as a player, you need to figure out what to ask for, and then the GM needs to rule if the complication is severe enough or what.

"Wade," I said, "I rolled a five with the Crusader, and I'd like to spend that, now."

See, at this point we were fighting demons in a city that was being consumed by a direct portal to Hell.  That is a very good time to call in a favor or ask for help. The Crusader isn't someone I'd choose as an ally, but he hates demons. And he has armies at his beck and call.

"I'd like some allies for this fight. This is very much an 'enemy of my enemy' situation. And, for the complication, we can give him the city after this is over."

The rest of the party gaped at me a bit.

"What? It's not like we can do anything with the hellhole - and the Crusader loves turning hellholes into forts. Our options are pretty clear; Even if we beat these things, we can't do anything about the hellhole. The Crusader can. And giving up the entire city is a significant complication. We also know that there are some of his troops on the way. By spending this roll, I'm accelerating the aid in a way that may keep us alive."

Wade thought about it for a moment, and then a portal opened up and four of the Crusader's elites stepped through to assist us. They locked themselves in combat with two of the four demon-possessed orc corpses. That was half of our foes.

At this point, the party got a couple of hits in on one of the corpses. Not enough, but a bit. I was between them and the rest of the party.

Hochnor normally relies on his high AC to avoid getting hit. And it usually works. He plants himself between the rest of the party and the foes, soaks a few hits here and there, and everyone works together to take down whatever.

Unfortunately, he was down to 34 hit points and these foes dealt miss damage.

You see, in 13th Age, even when you miss with an attack, you will often still deal damage.  But usually that only applies to PCs. Enemies that deal miss damage are rare and exceedingly dangerous.

I took miss damage from one, and then the other one scored a hit with just enough damage to knock me down. This left the squishy party members with no wall in place.

We're a party without a cleric. I'm the primary party healer, via the "Rally now!" Command. So when I'm down, we're in trouble.  Especially when we're out of healing potions. Especially when the casters are out of their heavy artillery.

In 13th Age, Death Saves are made every round when you're down. On a 16+, you can recover, and then act naturally in the following round.  On a Nat20, you can get up and act right away. If you fail four times, you die.

We didn't have four rounds to spare. The orc corpses were dealing 20-ish points on a hit and six or seven on a miss, and most of the party doesn't have enough HP to take that amount of punishment for more than a round or two. And the party wasn't rolling great damage when they hit that night.

"Wade," I said on my turn. "I have this Six with the Emperor. Since our dying causes this city to fall and probably starts a domino effect in favor of the Diabolist, this is Very Much an Imperial Matter. So I'm cashing this in for my Death Save."

He gave me the effect of a Natural Twenty on that save, so I got to act immediately.

"I Smite Evil!"  It's a once-per-battle paladin ability. I get a +4 to hit and add 2d12 to my damage. It's not a small thing to use, and - realistically - I should probably start each battle with it.

I rolled a natural 20.  Wade didn't even make me roll damage - that killed the thing dead (even though realistically the maximum damage would have been 128 on a perfect roll and it hadn't even been touched, yet, because of how the rest of the party was rolling).

That roll turned the tide, and the party's rolls improved almost immediately. I wasn't able to get a solit hit in on the remaining thing, but it couldn't hit me, either.  The rest of the party dealt with it. The last foe down, we got out of town and called it for the night.

It was an epic session, and I was more engaged than I usually am.

Our next session is only two weeks out, and we get to start with game two of our Risk Legacy campaign.  I can't wait to see what is unlocked.


  1. I updated Thurash on Obsidian Portal to reflect the more experienced and powerful foe you faced on Saturday.

    1. See, NOW he looks like a threat that Nureddin could conceivably have struggled with.

  2. "Wade didn't even make me roll damage - that killed the thing dead (even though realistically the maximum damage would have been 128 on a perfect roll and it hadn't even been touched, yet, because of how the rest of the party was rolling)."

    This is because the monster you hit has the following ability:

    "Unholy aversion: When an enemy makes a spell attack or magic weapon attack against the corpse dybbuk that deals holy damage and rolls a natural 18+, the dybbuk leaves its host body."

    Your attack technically doesn't do holy damage, but under the circumstances, it seemed entirely appropriate to invoke this effect: you'd just spent a 6 with the Emperor and used the paladin's Smite Evil power, and I was treating it as a natural 20. I decided to go with it.

  3. Sounds like an awesome session!