Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Collective Distress


We advanced our Starfleet mission last Saturday in the continuing voyages of the USS Lyonesse having stopped the previous session in the middle of a two part episode. Last time saw us initially investigate an ancient seed vault on a long dead world initially explored by a Vulcan away team from the missing VES Sunak. On further investigation the seed vault was just a front for what looked like an old military bunker possibly designed as an operational facility after a nuclear attack. However, at it's core we discovered that a technological entity was active in the hibernation level which was storing the personalities of many individuals that had previously ventured into its trap. We were just the latest recruits.

The action picked up straight from our prior ambush by several compromised security robots that were instructed to escort us for absorption into the hive. It was a tense moment as its was one of those situations with all the guns pointing at us when we had to risk spending a round or two trying to reason with the entity or losing the initiative and being shot at point blank range with no cover. In due Starfleet fashion we tried reason first which got our redshirt immediately wounded. Thinking back on it I suppose the entity may well have been aiming to disable us as rather than kill us as we were a resource it needed. Either way we had to grind down the robots one by one which wasn't difficult for the security officer as we were sporting much superior firepower but even old automatic projectile weapons are not to be underestimated. The sight or our poor Vulcan officer being dragged off to be processed next to an eviscerated pile his prior kin was just too ironic as he had just been getting over a similar shock from a previous episode. I think this may be the theme of the series..

I really appreciated the initial ethical dilemma from the doctor's point of view - would you consider the individuals of a hive mind as patients to treat or are you dealing with an overall entity that has to be judged as a separate and morally culpable being? This is the heart of Star Trek for me and as in the case of the Borg, our need for survival resolved the dilemma but we did manage to rescue and ascend a child's mind that was archived by its father against the original design of the architects. Ultimately we left orbit with all hands and set sail on the solar winds towards our next episode.

Monday, 16 November 2020

Heavy duty damage

So it was one of those moments. Typically we were having a bad session of poor dice rolls in our latest Warhammer which is not unusual from time to time but it just coincided with our GM seemingly having lady luck on his side. We were using the Roll20 health bars overlaid onto our characters and it was getting fairly obvious that our opponents health was barely being scratched whilst were were going down quite quickly. The killer event was really an enemy wizard dropping a combat spell that stunned two of our main fighters and all it took was a couple of follow up strikes with the Warhammer critical Ulric's Fury to slay our Kossar instantly with a single blow to the head.

Now I have lost many characters over the years and see it as a healthy sacrifice to the gods of roleplaying but there is always a context and the player concerned has now left the game although the event was perhaps the last straw for him. I think the main issue is that WFR is its actually quite a heavy duty system mechanically which really puts the pressure on the GM and is particularly unsuitable for on line play as its too cumbersome to help less experienced players navigate the labyrinthine system as we are all remote and often talk over each other. Add to that, there are six of us in total so the already naturally slow game really hits bullet time as we sequence through each of our initiatives along with the enemies. Finally there are the parry mechanics that I have seen before in such behemoths as Rolemaster that simply serve to slow the game down horribly if you are caught up in them.

Not sure what the next session will bring and we will have to clear the air and chat about the game going forward but at the end of the day, its only a game.

Tuesday, 10 November 2020

A Hollow Gesture

It seems that both Hasbro and its subsidiary Wizards of the Coast are doing quite well in the stay at home era unsurprisingly with revenue up 11% in the Hasbro Interactive games market and a whopping %40 in the Magic the Gathering ecosystem as well as %20 for D&D products. Whilst it may seem they can give stuff away free it will always be part of a wider strategic plan so its always interesting to keep an eye on the crumbs that occasionally fall from the giant's table. Crumbs these days are rapidly digitized, repackaged and pumped though distributors such as DriveThru and notably they have the classic 'Wrath of the Immortals' available for free.

Whilst the disclaimer indicates that this is a discontinued product and not aligned for use with 5e it is logical to presume that it is having a makeover. The sourcebook is not very well known as it is one of the version 1 products introducing the world of Mystara to the basic game edition in the 80s and early 90s. The realm consists of the  'Known World', a continent consisting of a jigsaw of human and non human cultures based on real world histories but unlike 5e introduces ascended immortal beings instead of a pantheon. This gives it some of the flavor of the Greek mythologies where the gods were really just the embodiment of humanities worst traits giving the era a somewhat tragic backdrop. 

More interestingly Mystara is a hollow world (not to be confused with the formal Hollow Wolrd releases) with a red sun at its center and whilst the inner and outer realms are not generally aware of each other, the poles of the planet are giant holes that connect the two. This inner world was discovered by Ka the Preserver who migrated the fantastical beasts that were nearing extinction on the outer world to a realm where they would prosper.

Mystara also describes areas of the Savage Coast and Thunder Rift. The former being a 2000 mile coastal area whos inhabitants live under the Red Curse that slowly mutates them in the absence of a magical metal. The Thunder rift is just a valley intended as an introductory area for a starting party. It all sounds quite interesting to me so I don't know why it wasn't carried forward into AD&D but it looks like it might be rediscovered in the age of brand milking but whilst I would prefer attention to Darksun and Planescape hopefully they will do it justice.

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

You idiot


So as the USA election winds down, which of course it wont now due to the gnomelike fraud ridden bureaucratic ballot system in place, it is worth reflecting that some outcomes are anyone's guess. More accurately for those partial to a punt, the betting odds favoring Trump have narrowed to a very uncomfortable level for the accountants working for some of the large betting houses and we will see if they are still in employment over the next few weeks. I suspect the lesson is not to gamble as there are many shades of shady transactions that offer a quick way to part from ones gold - an idiot and his money are soon parted. This includes people who adventure with the aforementioned idiots.

Having said this our recent Warhammer game did give us a thoroughly enjoyable session hanging out in a village near the boarder between two warring factions with an evening spent roleplaying heartily as we took the opportunity to relax and earn a bit of gold. As boredom in small towns seems to be a particular issue imagine our warrior's delight when we happened across fighting pit and an opportunity to bet heavily on our renowned party member.

Very cleverly Andras decided that his character would deliberately take a bit of a beating first for a couple of rounds in order to ratchet up the odds against him so that we could then cash in big when he delivered the rallying set of punches to victory. What he didn't quite plan on was the truly dreadful series dice rolls that were of course waiting for him. Whilst rolling low on a D100 in Warhammer is good I don't think we saw him roll below 90 during the fight whilst on the other side GM Jack's protagonist was having the best fight of his entire life and didn't roll above a 10. Imagine our excitement as our intrepid Yevgheni put on an absolutely amazing show of getting the crap beaten out of him right up to the dramatic moment when he was to counter with a devastating attack, at which point he collapsed with internal bleeding. I think Jon's character saw all this coming and won a side bet against our own party but we were out of pocket as a group and just a bit pissed off with our prize fighter. As second place in a boxing match doesn't really count for much I don't think there will be a rematch soon but perhaps on our way back after the adventure we can pop back into the village when no doubt, exactly the same thing will happen again.