Zackspacks trains it to 7 Hills

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Seven Hills is a new roleplaying convention, to be held in Sheffield, the Rome of the north, on the 26th and 27th of April 2014.

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Zackspacks trains it to 7 Hills

Postby zackspacks » 5:42pm on 18 Apr 16

Arrived Friday night on the train for a change, for some drinkies and chats with other con folk, good stuff, too many beers though. By this time it looked like I was going to have to leave on Sunday afternoon due to Mrs Z’s business trip early Monday. Having just got back from one myself in France, I was toying with giving up Slot 5, but it was Guy running Hommlet,hmm. By Sunday first thing I opted for the Brownie points of going home early.

Slot 1
GM Name: Guy Milner, Title: The Empress’ New Clothes, System: Feng Shui 2
I had KSed this, never read or played it, and I got to play the Wuxia Archer girl, ‘Tifa Tri-Strike’ in a brilliant adventure. I don’t want to say too much about what happened, but Guy runs a brilliant game, full of energy and well up for it. Great set of other players too. This game was utterly amazing, if you liked wuxia, then this had it all. Great system for it, and I am still stunned by this game, BRILLIANT! THANKS ALL! 8)

Slot 2 – me running Savage Worlds Lankhmar ‘A Murder Of Crows’ with the Mitchenator, Graham, Dan and Paul B. All four were prebookings, and a great set of players who got into the black humour of the setting. Thanks guys, I thoroughly enjoyed this, and it has inspired me to get writing more Savage Lankhmar. By now I was totally buzzing…

Slot 3 – me running Savage Worlds Captain Scarlet ‘Back In Black’ with TPK,Glen,Keary, Jason, and James. This was the original scenario from 6 years ago, and for me it showed. The players got into it, but with two major car chases, admittedly with loads of cool models, they took up far too much of the slot for me in my ‘nowadays’ mode. As a result, the game was ‘okay’, but I can do far better than this, so this scenario is going in the drawer *ahem* bin. By now I was reflectful…

Slot 4
GM Name: Remi Fayomi, Title: Ice and Steel and death all too real, System: The Mutant Chronicles. Another setting I had KSed and only skim read (as I have a lot of the original MC and Warzone stuff, including the original minis) and also not played.


MINI SYSTEM REVIEW

Of note it that the GM starts with 3 Dark Symmetry Points (DSP) per player. That is 18 to start off with and the GM has to use these points to do anything , be it an event, or to activate an NPC. Bean counting gone mad. The PCs to succeed at a skill roll 2d20, take the best (lowest) result , as they are trying to roll under their skill, and see if they succeed. If the test is harder (e.g. shooting someone in cover) they needed two successes. The best skill in the party was about 12, so a hard roll was pretty hard to do. Wait though, you can roll extra d20, up to 5 max, but for each one you take, the GM gets DSP, on a 1 for 1 basis. So if you go from 2d20 to 5d20 you may succeed but you have just given the GM 3 extra ways to bad fun the party.

You see the DSPs are basically points to activate NPCs and provide smackdowns to players: forget hindrances and compels – the GM spends one point and your weakness HAPPENS to your detriment. GM can also spend points to give you mental anguish. In combat : for the combat round initiative it looks great – all the PCs get to go first and then the GM has to spend these points to activate the NPCs to retaliate!

Things that make you go hmmmm…

Quick note on 2d20 combat – I would say it runs about the same speed as Spacemaster. You roll to hit, you count your success, you then check any special weapon things (eg blast) , you then roll a d20 for hit location, you then roll the damage (special d6 upon which 3 faces do NO damage), you then apply the damage to that location, your adversary may then have to make a check depending upon amount of damage done, you then apply any secondary gun effects (e.g. another hit on another location – repeat and rinse above). On top of this is another thing to bean count which is Momentum, it’s just more stuff to keep track of, and spend. Oh, and then there’s Chronicle points which are like Bennies. Loads of moving parts!


Con Game Review:

I saw some cool officer lady with a huge powered sword, and grabbed that. It turned out she was the leader, and from a noble family. She had twin swords, an auto machine gun, a heavy pistol and anti armour grenades – BOOM WOW BAM!. The rest of the party were similarly kitted out. Spolier alert – I never got to use ANY of this stuff ONCE, the whole game.

Okay, so we started off, apparently with a Spy in our party, who was called out by the GM. Looks like we are playing an open game then! We were after some artefact of unknown size or purpose in the radiated border between Whitestar and Asia. Remi did a good job of describing the faction and the setting. He probably should have mentioned the Dark Symmetry/Legion and the effect on corrupting tech part a bit more, as that IMHO is the really cool and disturbing part of the game, but no worries, as I knew about it already. To be fair he didn’t spend any DSP to do this, so fair enough.

The adventure saw us racing through the Siberian wastes in a jeep and a special motorised truck to the site of the artefact. Remi described this well, he created a great atmosphere, I enjoyed this bit. Then suddenly the NPC scout (the only person that knew the way) was drunk in charge of the jeep. How did this happen? Fellow player TPK tried to question the GM about this, as his character had been sitting next to him in the jeep. No explanation, what are you going to do now? I asked if there were comms between the jeep and the truck, and I was called out for trying to put BS items in the game. Apparently he was okay with this if I could roll X on a d20 for us to have BS items in the game. I told him I was just asking if we had them, he called BS on me again, and that it required a special roll on his house rule dice for the comms to be there. I gave up, we just stopped our vehicles and my character got out of the truck to talk to the jeep. The scout was blind drunk, we didn’t know where we were going, so we had to make camp.

Next morning we awake to find the scout disappeared along with the batteries for both the jeep and the truck. To track him was especially hard, guess what – yeah we had to give the GM more DSP’s to get extra d20s to find the now dying scout and the batteries. We healed him, in order to question him. My character was particularly interested in why he had performed such a bizarre action – apparently it transpired the batteries reminded him of his babies. Okay, let’s crack on. He was now alive but of no use to us, so we then had to go to the nearest village to pick up some guys that were blatantly going to ambush us in the woods. Before that though, we lost the jeep as Ferg’s characters heavy machine gun came off it’s pintle, landed on the bonnet destroying the jeep. No roll, it just happened. We then had to ditch the truck as the going was getting worse, fair do's on that one. Next thing, we were on horseback with most of the party being rubbish at riding. We got to a nearby dodgy village, and got the appropriate ‘guides’. Next day, they rode off ahead in the forest, no chance to use a skill to catch them, they were gone. I even said out loud what they were going to do, no matter, we were teleported into the ambush and they were rolling surprise against us.

Our Sniper, played by Ferg, got first shot, with his worst gun, a hand pistol – all his cool stuff had been strapped onto mules and couldn’t be used. I thought I was in there weaponry at the ready, reaching for my 2d20… then Remi reaches out picks up my 2d20 to stop me from getting to them ( EEEK – hands off my dice dude! ) because he could spend one point to interrupt with each standard ‘trooper’ NPC. So what happened to us? He spent 5 (for all 5 of the NPC ambushers) and riddled us with gun fire,[for 20 minutes real time] then they all ran off (which was actually an illegal move, but…. whatever, loads of rules to understand) and we couldn’t return fire.They had vanished. We then had a bizarre ending in which TPK got laughed at by Remi for not realising who his spy contact was. No, it wasn’t written on his character sheet apart from some vague phrase saying he had a contact at this village, no name though, nothing. TPK had failed, and I do normally agree that more people should laugh at him IRL. Mind you, I was actually crying laughing at this point myself.

Remi is full of energy and got into the setting, and out of game a very personable guy, but this game wasn't my cup of tea at all. Bizarrely though, by now I was actually up for writing some Mutant Chronicles myself, as I had forgotten how much I loved the setting. So although it wasn’t my type of game mate, you have gotten me well back into the setting.

Slot 5 – train home to Brownie points.

Excellent con, looking forward to the next 7 Hills! Thanks to Paul & Graham for organising and letting me run stuff, and joining in one of my games!
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Re: Zackspacks trains it to 7 Hills

Postby negromaestro » 11:18pm on 22 Apr 16

Sorry, Zackspacks that you did not enjoy the game as much as I thought you may have. The giant D20 was done in jest and I will ensure to ask permission from the table in advance before introducing such silly houserules. :(

As for the battle in the forest, there were five assailants, Natalia (the leader), Klaus, Hans, Claude and Boris (and only the last two escaped), Natalia in particular got her right arm blown off by your team's Sniper, who used his most powerful weapon (and not the pistol), just that the weapon according to the rules dealt recoil damage. Sorry that your character, Luda Kurganova did not get to shoot. Several other characters did, including the Doctor (twice).

We did not get to experience the corruption from the Dark Symmetry upon securing the artefact, sadly.

Anyway, thank you for the indepth review so I can improve on the experience when next I run the game.
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Re: Zackspacks trains it to 7 Hills

Postby negromaestro » 2:44am on 23 Apr 16

Another correction Zackspacks, though your team sniper got his first shot with the pistol, in the next round he had his heavy weapon blasting away at the enemy. And in the 20 minutes of combat several other players got to do fun stuff with their characters. My apologies that you did not get such opportunities.

Maybe, I should have taken the cue when you prevented me using your dice to roll for the NPCs. :(

Finally, with regards to rolling for various other activities, there were lots of dice rolls already, including resisting copious consumption of vodka. And yet to save time, in certain situations,I opted to just narrate outcomes but never resulting in Total Party Kill. :brofist:

Lessons learned, especially to guarantee more screen time to all players.

Thanks for the input. Though now due to spoilers, I must rework this adventure.
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Re: Zackspacks trains it to 7 Hills

Postby j0rdi » 8:49am on 23 Apr 16

Just as a quick reply, I didn't want to chime in because the only reason I was in your game (thanks for letting me in) was because my game didn't run. I don't want you to think there are any sour grapes here. (I dont' want to get bogged down in chatting about this too much but if you want to PM me feel free); hopefully there's no spoilers in this.

The Bullsh*t dice was fine, I didn't have a problem with it and I don't know if anyone else did either, but the trouble was you wanted to roll it when we were just asking questions to try and establish and understand what was going on in the scene, not to add anything to it. If we'd asked 'Can there be an oil drum nearby?', then a Bullsh*t roll would be totally cool, for me anyway. Just asking for example, 'Is there a tree I can climb to see farther?' isn't. I hope you see the difference?

There was only one combat round (where I went first, which was nice) and then all the npcs went (which wasn't because it meant at least 2 players didn't get to act at all), even though we knew what was going to happen. The sniper reacted with his pistol on their go and then used his gun on his which then ran away. :) I can't remember the Dr getting two actions? But maybe he did, he was one of the few people at the table who had used the system before. The remaining npcs then vanished into the woods, with two scouts in the party, in a snowy wood, in daylight and we were given no chance to find/track them. Maybe that's meant to happen for the plot, ok, but can you see why that may be annoying to some? You attack us, spent points to go first, some players didn't act and then the attackers magically get away (I think personally I'd have had one or two npcs attack first to show us players how it worked and then let us have fun, all of them going first was too many imho). That single round lasted a lot longer than 20 mins, probably because we were mostly completely new to the system and had to ask how to do everything (and there are a LOT of rolls for combat). If you haven't already, that 'table of noobs' needs to be taken into consideration when planning the game length (3hrs may have been too short, there was a lot to get in and as you say, you narrated a fair bit to catch up).

I (and a few others) jumped in that game specifically to try out the system (as Conan 2d20 uses it, I wanted to try it in action because I didn't like the look of it on paper). If you handwave/narrate outcomes we don't see the system as a whole, so maybe just explain when you do it and why?

I hope you take these points in the spirit they're intended and if you want to PM me as I said, feel free.
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Re: Zackspacks trains it to 7 Hills

Postby zackspacks » 10:18am on 24 Apr 16

negromaestro wrote:Another correction Zackspacks, <snip>
Remi, on the subject of those corrections, the sniper pistol shot was a 'reaction' type skill he had, so not actually his first turn. We clearly have a very different view on how the game went, and claiming that we made loads to resist copious amounts of vodka is simply not true. Those of the party that drank the vodka made one roll each, that was it.

I had a lot of problems with your constant use of GM Fiat to move us from one set piece to the next, with any player inputs being either (a) ignored or (b) allowed to give the input, but subsequently brushed aside as you had decided what was going to happen regardless of the player input e.g. the driver getting drunk whilst sat next to a PC, our machine gun flying off its' pintle, the ambushers riding off ahead, the ambushers still rolling for surprise, the ambushers then all going first and disappearing once more.

Also, you had a tendency to tell players how their characters were feeling emotionally. At one point, you also spoke on behalf of two of the player characters, saying how one was now happy that we were on horseback, but the techie guy was not. For me, the scenario didn't start properly until the ambush.

My advice as to a rewrite, is that you open the scenario at the ambush, just give some of your cool narration about how we have trekked through the tundra abandoning first vehicles, then horses, and other equipment, and now almost on our knees we are nearing the destination and... BANG! A nearby tree nearby explodes in a shower of splinters, you notice shapes moving in the thick undergrowth, the glistening of a rifle caught by the low sun etc etc. Game on, let's rock...

As you can tell, we have vastly different expectations as to the GM/Player social contract.
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Re: Zackspacks trains it to 7 Hills

Postby negromaestro » 8:16pm on 24 Apr 16

Zackspacks, thanks again for further insight. Yes, the sniper pistol was a response, but still, that is a player action.

With regards to GM Fiat, it is not as bad as you narrate. For example, the driver getting drunk. None of the PCs observed the driver's state at the start of the journey. Everyone assumed he was normal. Furthermore, he stopped the vehicle and said it was out of petrol. A PC played by J0rdi (Brother Stalinov) challenged this and rolled a successful mechanics check, then narrated that it was just a fuel gauge problem rather than a lack of fuel. The driver could have drunk a whole flask of vodka before the journey(40% to 50% alcohol) or even during that PC intervention. Why was he drunk? I was just setting an example of how the Dark Symmetry affects mental state.

Next, before riding into the ambush, the PCs were climbing a steep mountain and those "dodgy" guides actually warned against using the shortcut through the forest. It was a PC decision to abandon the upward climb and take the forest route. Your character, Luda Kurganova, had lots of observation skills. My fault for not highlighting them to you, since you are new to the game and, thus, missed playing out your character's skill to unveil ambushes.

Also, my apologies for not giving your character time to engage in battlefield tactics. That was her major strength and she did not get to use her unique skills, unlike the Doctor, the Mechanic and the Monk characters, who all did.

Unfortunately, we were running out of time, and your team already dispatched more than half of the enemy team. To save time I narrated that surviving enemies fled the scene. Yes, you could have rolled dice to track them. But if time was not an issue, then I would have actually just let the battle continue beyond the 20 plus minutes anyway. So once again, I accept my mistake in shortening that battle scene. Lesson learned here. Should have first asked if running overtime was cool with the group. Thanks.

In retrospect, I will encourage more player engagement before throwing up GM challenges, options or enemies. So thanks for the feedback (I wish you did not unveil the whole scenario which I have to alter now, but thanks for the advice).

Cheers!
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Re: Zackspacks trains it to 7 Hills

Postby PaulBaldowski » 10:10am on 25 Apr 16

negromaestro wrote:The driver could have drunk a whole flask of vodka before the journey(40% to 50% alcohol) or even during that PC intervention.

You do realise how easy smelling a drunk is, Remi? Seriously, unless future alcohol has some special additive, someone swimming in vodka will smell of the stuff. Whoever shared a cabin with the driver would have been clued into the issue within minutes...

negromaestro wrote:I wish you did not unveil the whole scenario which I have to alter now, but thanks for the advice).

It's part of the business of running games. People chat, plots become open knowledge. Within the game, characters don't know any better. As many of the decisions in this game seem to have involved dice rolls, knowing one thing will not necessarily prepare them for an issue, problem or encounter. As the game should be about having fun rather than winning, knowing how something works out to 'cheat' just doesn't make sense. Where's the fun in steering robot-like through a walkthrough?
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Re: Zackspacks trains it to 7 Hills

Postby First Age » 4:56pm on 25 Apr 16

I'd like to try Mutant Chronicles. I really enjoyed the 2d20 Conan, it had system weight, but not much more than Savage. Perhaps full fat is too much?

I gave a shed load coming, so I'd like to experience some more. 2d20 absolutely is Con gamable as a system, I've run it fastish online with newbies but, you know, maybe they clogged it up with guff?

Mind you The Black Hack looks like a fun winner and that's just 19 pages.
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