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Author Topic: [Agon} Week 2  (Read 1858 times)
Valamir
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« on: September 02, 2006, 03:15:58 PM »

Following on the heals of this actual play thread and discussions from the Helping Dice thread in the Agon forum, our group played its second session of Agon last night.

For reference the players are Seth Ben-Ezra, his wife Crystal, his sister Gabrielle, and Keith Sears of Heraldic Games.

In the game the heroes returned with the royal crown to the palace, and were asked to help protect the funeral of the slain King of Halavra.  This battle consisted of 4 waves of 5 Minions each, attacking with the goal of disrupting the funeral.  If enough (4) of them made it off the far side of the range track the funeral would be a failure.  Only 1 got through, but I gleefully watched as the players burned masses of resources.  Gabrielle, with the most battered hero, used Divine Favor to slay 3 Minions in a single exchange.

Without giving the players any chance to recover, the next battle commenced with Malleus, the leader of the Hundred Swords, arriving with a fresh guard of 10 Minions.  I designed Malleus to be an offensive juggernaught, but he wound up going down pretty quickly after only 2 rounds of attacks.  I did manage to snag 10 Strife for putting down Gabrielle's character in the first round but fell short of getting another 8 for putting down Seth's as he burned through ALOT of Fate to keep standing.

We ended the session after the battle (to leave time for a couple rounds of Jungle Speed...yessss yesss my precious...it is spreading even now.)

I'll have to wait until next week to see how much strife I get as a result of players calling for Interludes.  There's a good bit of wounds, next to no Divine Favor, and there are few abilities left to Impair on any of the character's sheets.  I suspect I'll be getting somewhere between 12 and 20 Strife depending on how on the edge they want to be. 

Unfortuneately for the heroes they'll have to fight the last battle all over again.  One of the secrets of the Island of Halavra is that the mercenaries will flee Halavra when their leader is slain...unless the Sea Monster (from another quest) hasn't been set free yet...in which case the Sea Monster will prevent the mercenaries from leaving causing them to elect a new leader and continue to occupy the city.  That, and several other tidbits could be gleaned but so far none of the players had thought to ask...heh...


We decided to test the two mechanics found in the Helping Dice thread (+1 for any Helping Die that didn't roll high, and Impairing Advantages).  I decided not to try any of the changes proposed following my last game, wanting to keep the number of moving parts to a minimum.

Verdict:  A definite improvement but still needs a bit of tweaking.

The Advantage Dice Impairment worked flawlessly.  Advantage dice now become a system of "roll your own" abilities with multiple Victories being now VERY useful.  Originally the Advantage Dice were fairly marginal...1d8 for one roll...kind of meh.  Now the d8 is actually a d8 that will become a d6 that will become a d4.  Given the +1 Helping die rule thats 3 rolls probably resulting in a +3.  MUCH more useful.

The Helping Dice rule (which we dubbed "Crystal's Rule" in honor of the queen of bad dice rolling) was successful at eliminating the whiff factor.  It did have a downside to Crystal's Rule was that it made the game feel very mechanically deterministic.  Instead of heroic combat with Greek Heroes the feel was more of a battle of spreadsheets.  Agon is definitely a game about resource management.  There's ALOT of resources to juggle:  Fate, Divine Favor, Wounds, Oaths, Ability Impairment, Advantage Dice, Glory, Strife.  All are essentially numbers that get juggled much the same way as D&D players might ration healing potions, hitpoints, or wizard spells.  Since resource management on this scale was not a feature of any of the Greek Myths, there's always going to be a bit of a disconnect between the feel of the game mechanics and the feel of the source material. 

The Helping Dice rule adds to this disconnect because there is an absolute +1 attached to each die.  Battles started to take the form of:  "I rolled a 6 he rolled a 9.  I need to come up with 3 points from somewhere in order to hit.  Ok...I'll burn one Impairment and 2 oaths...I don't really care what the dice are, I'm just milking them for the +1 apiece they'll give me.  There, now I hit, remove a minion."  In otherwords while it definitely completely fixed the whiffage factor it did eliminate something of the suspenseful drama of a "to-hit" roll.  You know how in D&D when you absolutely positively HAD to drop that ogre before it interfered with the spell caster and you sat there...all eyes on you...shaking that d20 in your hand whispering encouragement to the die...and then the sickening lurch when you tossed the die and holding your breath while you waited until it stopped rolling...Well, the Helping Die rule completely eliminates any chance of that feeling in Agon.  Because all of the tactical choice of spending the resources happens AFTER the die hits the table there is no suspense of "do I hit or miss" rather its just "how much will I have to burn to hit".  We actually joked that the battle was fought in Greek "Bullet Time" with the spear poised in super slow mo waiting for the player to descide what ability to Impair that would let it hit.

One session is definitely not enough to judge whether this effect is a long term negative or just a different experience enjoyable in its own right, so I shant pass any judgement on it at this point.  Mechanically it works.  Whether it "feels" good is much harder to evaluate.  Possibly helping dice should be called upon BEFORE the roll?


The other main issue we had last week, however, was only partially addressed.  That being that the battles just went on past the point anyone (including me as the Antagonist) was interested in them).  At a couple of points I was ready to just say "ok, the remaining guys run away" like I did last week...but that would be robbing players of the chance to accumulate glory...basically removing the field of competition...so we played them out till the end.  As I noted in the other thread, this may not be a problem of Agon, but more of a personal preference.  From the sounds of some of the other actual play posts, folks are finding the battles very interesting and riveting.  For us, however, we want short, intense, dramatic, heroic encounters...punchy...exciting...and then over.  Agon conflict is much like D&D (not surprising given the inspiration in the design credits)...a long, attrition based, whittling down, requiring patience while the mechanics crunch through the cycle. 

Related to this, interestingly enough, is that we we found the NPCs...the big bad bosses...to go down FAR too quickly (forget the reduce the Wounds to 4 idea I had last week).  Granted, for this boss the "FAR" part was partially due to me optimizing for offence rather than defense, but even so the effect is noticeable.  What caused the battle to drag on and on were the minions.  In both of our big boss battles so far, the boss went down like a punk and we spent the next hour plus finishing off the minions.  In addition to this violating our personal sense of a dramatic punchy encounter, its also fairly backwards to have the minions be the real threat and the big boss be a relative pushover.

I've got quite a few ideas on reinventing the Battle cycle.  But I'm going to start a thread over in the Agon forum to discuss it.

Overall I think it was a successful session...but it wasn't exactly "thrilling".
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Adam Dray
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« Reply #1 on: September 13, 2006, 10:25:07 AM »

Why did the combats seem to drag on for you? I suspect from my own play that the end of a combat turns into a slogfest because there are really limited tactical options for a player to explore. Okay, I'm in range. I smack'em. I use a trait for a bump.

I found myself burning through Divine Favor and Fate just to make the tactical game more interesting.
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
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Callan S.
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« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2006, 07:37:22 PM »

Quote
Since resource management on this scale was not a feature of any of the Greek Myths, there's always going to be a bit of a disconnect between the feel of the game mechanics and the feel of the source material.
Isn't it about this time that you consider using on table tokens, like bits of greek styled food or wine and such, to book keep some of the resources? :)

Quote
The Helping Dice rule adds to this disconnect because there is an absolute +1 attached to each die.  Battles started to take the form of:  "I rolled a 6 he rolled a 9.  I need to come up with 3 points from somewhere in order to hit.  Ok...I'll burn one Impairment and 2 oaths...I don't really care what the dice are, I'm just milking them for the +1 apiece they'll give me.  There, now I hit, remove a minion."  In otherwords while it definitely completely fixed the whiffage factor it did eliminate something of the suspenseful drama of a "to-hit" roll.  You know how in D&D when you absolutely positively HAD to drop that ogre before it interfered with the spell caster and you sat there...all eyes on you...shaking that d20 in your hand whispering encouragement to the die...and then the sickening lurch when you tossed the die and holding your breath while you waited until it stopped rolling...Well, the Helping Die rule completely eliminates any chance of that feeling in Agon.
In warhammer quest, rolling enough damage for a deathblow let you make another attack on a monster that was next to the one you killed. It was pretty damn cool - missing your first attack wasn't a wiff because damn, it meant the big issue of missing out on the chance of killing every single monster near you. And imagine getting on a lucky streak and killing all eight monsters in the squares around you. Each time it happened in warhammer - ahhhhhhhhhhhhh! :)

Here you could do the same - sure, modified first roll. But if you kill them off in one blow, you get a second with no modifier. Now, can you knock off two or not?? Sure, one is assured (so no whiff) but the second is unknown (suspense).
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Philosopher Gamer
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