Moth gently reminded me that I hadn’t been updating here regarding our progress on the Long March in about six months. Shameful! We continue onward!
The pace has been slower than originally intended. What I envisioned as one-shots has become 3-4 shots so it’s taking us about 2 months to get through each Age. I don’t think that’s entirely a bad thing; it gives us a chance to poke at the systems in more depth and also to get in touch with the characters.
The other change is that John dropped out, which left us with a substantial hole in the roster of games to be played. We’re filling that in as we go, and I’m hoping to stumble across some games when we go to Origins next week that can be put into the lineup. As noted in the paragraph above we’re not in an all-fired hurry. So far we’ve swapped out Burning Wheel for Torchbearer (easier to jump into for a short run), added in the “basic” version of D&D Next that is coming out later this summer, and Ali is probably going to run Princesses and Palaces at some point.
I’m going to focus on system stuff here. The “in-story” stuff can all be found at the game wiki: https://sites.google.com/site/bookofthelongmarch/ (Eventually. I haven’t put up all the 3rd Age stuff yet)
The First Age/Chapter 2 was Agon, a game of Greek myth, legend and honor. Ali ran this one. I’d played this at come cons years ago and really liked it but I have to say it didn’t click for us here. I’m not sure if it was the size of the group or the fact that we’ve now seen 13th Age do zone-based combat really really well (no offense to Agon) but the combat piece in particular felt clunky and we didn’t really get the hang of positioning and splitting the dice pool and such, and we ended up just kind of abstracting things toward the end. I wish I’d written this back closer to when we played so I could give more concrete examples of where the system caused us frustrations; I remember flipping through the book a lot and looking for answers to some questions that came up. Maybe I should have read the text more carefully to internalize it and prepare.
For the Second Age Bill ran Numenera. The default setting for this game is a post-apocalyptic world, so Bill crashed a moon into the middle of the map. The system here I feel took a backseat to a mystery/puzzle solving bit Bill inserted where we were trying to decipher the strange runes and text we found inside one of the complexes. The fact that these runes were from a culture with a completely different mindset and the same rune could mean multiple things depending on context really added to the mysterious and alien feeling of the game. The system itself was okay, but not something I’d rush back to play again. It uses the same stats for expending effort as it does for “hit points” with the result that once you start getting injured it’s hard to succeed at anything and you just get locked into the death spiral. That’s one of my pet peeves in games. I also think it would have been better if it hadn’t been slavishly married to the d20. Each “step” of difficulty was actually +/- 3 on the die and at least initially that gave me a massive brain disconnect. I feel like moving it to a percentile based system or a dice pool or something might have gotten around that.
We’re currently in the middle of the Third Age, which is being run by Kevin. For this we’re going back to the classics: Basic/Expert D&D. The red and blue books from the early 1980s. It’s a fun nostalgia trip for those of us who played back then, but I fear it’s all weird nonsense to those who didn’t. When we were making characters, Jonathan asked why all the attributes were in the “wrong order” (Strength, Int, Wisdom, Dex, Con, Cha) rather than being grouped logically like in 3/4e (Str, Dex, Con, Int, Wis, Cha). The only answer we could give was “it’s the order that Gary thought of them. Now shut up and roll your 3d6 to generate your random stats!” Armor Classes going down instead of up, THAC0, wanting high rolls for some things and low for others, alignment languages…man, this game is nuts. Also brutal. Two Cure Light Wounds spells per day does not get the job done! 4e has made us soft.
So that’s where we are. One or two more sessions of Basic and then I inflict Rolemaster on the group!