Changing Horses Pt 4, 13th Age part 2

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We ran our second session of 13th Age this past week.  The overall verdict was very good. Everyone had a better handle on the characters and the rules this time around and things went much smoother.

I decided not to record this session for a couple of reasons, primary of which being that recording made me incredibly self-conscious the first time out.  Another big reason was that this session tied in very strongly with some stuff in the overall 4e campaign, and without that context I think the listener would be pretty confused.  Lastly, I knew this session was going to be a lot of talking/planning/thinking things through which would only barely touch the system at all (with some background tests and relationship checks) and although we are wildly entertaining I didn’t think that would have much interest for the half dozen or so of you who are reading this but not actually in the game.

The next couple paragraphs are a synopsis of the session and don’t touch on the system much. If you don’t care about such things and want to know how the system worked, skip down below and I’ll flag where the fighty bits started.

(Last time, on 13th Age, our heroes were recruited by an individual named Derenda the Wanderer, an agent of the Archmage, to look into a band of odd looking people in full plate armor who were setting up some magical apparatus in the path of an oncoming Koru Behemoth up by the Living Wall.  Upon arriving Derenda identified the beings not as armored humans but as “Warforged,” a race not heretofore known in the world.)

The session started with the PCs deciding to just walk right up to the Warforged and ask them what was going on. I really should have seen that coming. I figured they’d heed the warnings of their friendly NPC that these creatures served a twisted and malicious god and it would be best to not interact with them. But I knew what they were all about and what they were doing well enough to roll with it and it gave some good stuff for later. There was some background testing here, as the characters tried to suss out what the Warforged were *really* up to. The Warforged assured them that they were just there to study the Behemoth, but were cagey around the topic of what exactly their apparatus would do to the beast. They definitely left with a bad impression, although there were too many Warforged there to just launch a frontal assault. They also learned there was another group about 5 miles away, on the other side of the behemoth path.

Concluding their interview, the group was intercepted by some rather curt Drow who invited/demanded the group accompany them back to the Court of Stars to speak before the Court about this whole Warforged situation.  The Court was in emergency session trying to decide what to do about this, partly out of concern that if someone ticked off a Behemoth it might rampage into the Queen’s Wood.  Elves being what they are, the session had been going on for 4 days already and the queue of speakers wanting the floor was estimated at taking another couple of days.  The Behemoth was roughly 1 day from the Warforged.

PCs being PCs, they took matters into their own hands. They sought counsel from representatives of other Icons who had been dispatched to the Court. One of the High Stewards of the Archmage was present. He was able to note that some of the runes on the magical apparatus were related to transportation magics. He also revealed that no one named Deranda was presently in the service of the Archmage, although there was someone named Deranda the Wanderer who had been an ally of the Archmage of the 5th Age, thousands of years ago.  There was also a representative of the High Druid present, a Wood Elf who was much more interested in proactively wiping out the Warforged (unliving abominations against nature) lest they bring any harm to the Behemoth. Lastly a Prince of the Imperial Court was present, but he was a foppish dandy of very little use.

(I had decided ahead of time which Icons had representatives here.  What I *should* have done was just let the players roll on any relationship they wanted. A 5 or 6 meaning there was a rep here and indicating the level of support/assistance/information provided.)

So the PCs sent the High Druid’s rep off to try to warn the Behemoth and they themselves interrupted the Court (violating all manner of rules of order and social mores!) to give a stirring speech about the imminent danger and the need for action. A handful of more impetuous elves agreed and went off with the party to deal with the Warforged.

(oh, and they confronted Derenda about who he really was, and he was kind of cagey but did admit he’d been following the Warforged from world to world and was seeking to oppose them and their god, and whoever he might be he and the PCs had a similar goal in stopping whatever the Warforged were up to, so let’s just roll with this and not question me too intently, okay?)

For those of you skipping the boring talky parts, the fighty bits start here.

So we got into a combat.  We again used minis on the battlemat and the demarcations between Near and Far ranges were much clearer than last time.  I decided the half dozen elven rangers they brought with them were mooks and pulled their stats in about 30 seconds. The encounter had a “boss” (statted up as a Large creature) 2 standard baddies and a group of 5 mooks, all at +1 level from the PCs (because this was Chamion tier). I also added in another 10 or so mooks on the Warforged side to balance this out and raise the stakes a bit.  My intent was that this would be a single encounter in the session so it should be higher difficulty than a standard one.  That’s something I’m going to write in to the playtester comments – how to scale encounters when you don’t do the 4e model of fight-fight-fight-fight-rest but maybe just have one big fight scene and a lot of talking in a day.

The “victory conditions” for the encounter would be destroying/altering the apparatus or wiping out the Warforged. I imagined the former would be easier than the latter but instead the group just plowed directly in to the Warforged.  I didn’t use the fixed damage presented in v3 of the playtest rules because I like a little swing in my baddie damage and less predictability. Instead I rolled a max of 3 dice and standardized the rest of the damage for all their attacks (so an 8d10 attack did 3d10+27). It worked out well and I didn’t have any one-shotting of a PC on a crit like I did last time.

Largely because everybody was more familiar with their characters, the entire combat lasted about an hour.  In 4e that size fight would have easily gone two and a half hours or more with my group.  A definite plus.

When we left off, Derenda had run up to the apparatus and done…something to it but I rolled a 1 on his attempt, and then a baddie critted against him.  So in my mind that combination of unluck means Something Bad Happened. But I didn’t decide/reveal exactly what.  The next player to go wiped out the remaining Warforged. And we ended the session there. We decided to go on for a third session to deal with whatever happened to that apparatus, to deliver the beat down on the other Warforged encampment on the other side of the Behemoth path, and then handle whatever fallout happens afterward.  Stay tuned!

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