January 27th, 2011

delve, glyph

playtest session 44 -- scenario M5m1 keeps up the action

1/4/11 -- me GMing for John, Dan and Merlin at John's place

They used every last chunk of alodite to divide the bodiless demon into bits and stash the bits int eh magic safe. Then they let John get hypnotized and called into the tentacle room, opening a new path and setting off a fun fight.

More magic

They tried to activate their rune using alodite charged by the bodiless demon, or by the wardrobe itself. This didn't work. To explain why, I described how this alodite, with a small bit of a demon passing briefly through it, didn't look like the properly-charged alodite of previous uses. I need to pick a visual for "charged alodite" and remember it. I think "faintly glowing" works.

The guys also engineered a brilliant way to "bleed" a demon. By letting tiny fragments of it escape from its container, one tiny bit at a time, with each bit too weak to survive.

Fun and unique combat

Late in this session there was a fight that required some impromptu arbitration. The guys were all fighting a tentacle monster. The most important things they tried to do were to:
(a) get within range of the tentacle's base, the better to sever it,
(b) avoid being grabbed,
(c) upon landing a hit, to slice all the way through the tentacle, and
(d) when grabbed, to escape.

I hadn't made rules for any of these things beforehand. Generally, in combat, we use Maneuver checks to resolve attempts at positioning. So, we did a bunch of those. I allowed the players to use relevant bonuses from Circling and Pressing. It seemed like a fun reward for having bought those skills and it was plausible enough.

As for the severing of tentacles, damage dealt played a role, but I also made them make Strength checks for complete severing. It seemed a good way to work in a stat that is generally short-changed. The big NPC tank was finally good for something.

As for when Merlin got grabbed by a tentacle, there was a whole lot of wingin' it. I basically described how it was difficult. He described what he was trying to do. And Dan described how he was trying to help. The sum of all that was interpreted as some combo of Agility, Maneuver, and Wrestling checks.

I've been thinking about how to make combats interesting. This one definitely was. Perhaps in the future, when creating monsters, I should predetermine which mechanics apply when battling them. For my home group, though, we are able enough to agree on the fiction and sufficient ways to arbitrate it. No one's too picky, as long as it makes sense.

Unfortunately, at conventions, without prior play to establish that this process is indeed fair, I run the risk of that reaction where players go, "Fuck. The GM's just winging it. He's going to produce the outcome he wants. I am disempowered." I wonder if intro rules chat can cover this. At the very least, if some player is vehemently opposed to ad libbed resolution particulars, perhaps I can take some pauses in play to script things so I don't get spotted winging it.

Or perhaps I should do what Matt said, and hide all the die rolls so the issue never comes up. The downside of that is that the players may constantly feel disempowered.

New idea: remember to elicit intents; state (and discuss if necessary) relevant factors, and then map said factors to stat- or luck-based rolls. That might work as an explicit, standardized version of what I already kinda mostly do.