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Author Topic: Agon: The Kleos Cup, Dreamation '09  (Read 2536 times)
Judd
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« on: February 23, 2009, 09:36:01 PM »

Ever since reading Agon I have thought it was tailor-made for convention tournaments, like competitive deals that you read about as jokes in Knights of the Dinner Table only in Agon, because of the rules, it effin' works, man.  It works!

So, it worked.

Well, kinda.

The tournament format was totally miscommunicated, so the bulk of our players were in the second slot.  It was a fubar, as the second slot was supposed to be comprised of the best from the two tables in the first slot.

Ah well.

We played a nifty scenario called the Beast of Kolkoris.  Nathan ran it and I played alongside Joel, a nice guy I had just met.  Two player Agon is a kinda lukewarm thing but it was great to brush up on my Agon and fantastic to meet Joel. 

I didn't particularly like the Beasts of Kolkoris adventure all that much.  It was interesting but there is a kind of moral dilemma at the heart of it that I think is out of place in Agon a bit.  I dunno.  Maybe I am wrong.  I just want to oil up and spear some mofo's, ya know?

While playing I found several pieces of scrap paper with quest concepts scrawled on them.  They were:

Quote
Zeus wants you to kill the renegade Cyclops and give the lightning bolts back to the clouds:

 - Climb Mt. Cylon
 - Find out who is supplying him with molten primordial lightning
 - Lift the renegade's hammer and throw it back into the heavens

Quote
Hera wants you to destroy the Holiest of Bastards, a horde of bandits who claim to be scions of her husband.

 - find their keep in the Swan Forest
 - Make their leader publically deny his holy lineage on the steps of Hera's Temple
 - (nothing there but obviously a spot for one more thing)

Quote
Artemis wants you to set the Lion of Argos free

 - sneak into Argos, past the walls
 - defeat the Sons of Argos
 - defeat the King of Argos
 - break the Lion's chains, forged by Hephaestus

I immediately wanted to run the Renegade Cyclops adventure, so on Saturday afternoon, after taking a much-needed nap, I wrote it up before we met at 8 o'clock.  It was easy but I will note below how it could have been made better and thoughts on how I would do future quest designs

Saturday, we had a table of five.

  • Nathan, my co-organizer, played Clear-Eyed Leonidas

    Eppy, one of my many roomates for the con played Strong-Limbed Argos
    Ralph, who I have managed to have several cool conversations over the years at Dreamation played Long-limbed Thyros the Mighty.

    Greg played in an early 1st Quest playtest two years ago.  He walked in late and asked if we had room at the table and we thought five would be a great number for the adventure.  He played Wise-Eyed Gladavus.

    Both Jason and Julie I had never met before.  They seemed to be dating.  Jason played Beast-Master Shylax and Julie played Wise-Eyed Sophia.

I wrote the strife point accounting I had done on a manila envelope and really liked that.  I will write Agon adventure details on manila envelopes in the future.  That was handy, to have my adventure written on the thing holding the character sheets and other play-tools.

I haven't run Agon in a long, long time and honestly, I wasn't too damned adept at it.  For the first hour and a half, I just hammered on the players.

After the Oaths were done (Ralph took a beating in the oaths section of play), I just hammered on them. 

"The sheer cliffs of Mt. Cylon loom before you!  Who can climb its sheer rock!"  Not being able to climb it just mean that I had a bonus die for the next challenge, in which the Storm Eagles attacked.  Honestly, the storm was originally just a storm but I felt bad that Jason had made up a Beast-Master and wouldn't get to use him, so I tossed them in as beasts.  Originally, those eagles were just a storm but I liked them being eagles that shot lightning from their beaks.

Then there was an avalanche challenge.  Then the Cylon Legionaires attacked.

This was an hour or more of me hammering on the PC's.  I called a bathroom break and asked Nathan for some advice on how to slow things down and shift into a different gear.  Turns out, I needed to relax and just play a role-playing game a bit.  I had stuck my head into these challenges and had forgotten to do so.

I described Cylon's Crown, the fell city the renegade Cyclops had made at the top of the mountain, and allowed the players to challenge each other a bit and interact with the populace.  I tossed in a young hero for the players to impress.  That was a huge deal.

Giving these great heroes an audience changed the game.  They sought to impress him, to talk him out of joining the Cylon Legions as he said he wanted to.  Eppy won the young hero's services and had him carry his helmet for the rest of the adventure.

Ralph and Sophia made short work of the Cyclops and in the final tally, even after owing everyone oaths, Ralph won the Kleos Cup and won the highest roll with 20 on a defense roll, I believe.

That was an awesome amount of fun and I'd love to run a proper tournament at Dexcon and the next Dreamation.

Thoughts:

 - I'd never put just minions or just NPC's in a combat again.  A mix is key.  It'd be good to have statted out, some Cylon Legionnaire Minions, an officer legionnaire NPC and several eagle minions along with an eagle beast NPC.  That way, for the final battle I could have had some eagles along with the Cyclops.  He got cut down in short order. 

 - I have to get my head out of CHALLENGE-CHALLENGE-CHALLENGE and think about role-playing a bit and giving it all context and meaning.

 - I wonder if the heroic trait, Long-Limbed is broken.  This isn't from Ralph's well-earned win but also from the previous game with Joel, where long-limbed ruled the roost. 

 - I was worried that Julie didn't enjoy herself at all, not because it is my responsibility to provide enjoyment but it worried me nonetheless.

That is a damned fun game.  I want me some cool little ancient-looking Greek coins to use for tokens on the battle-map.
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jefgodesky
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« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2009, 04:44:59 AM »

Hi, this is the aforementioned Jason. The storm eagles weren't in the original plan? I never would've known, but thanks--I really liked that twist on it. And not just because I got +2 position vs. beasts; there's so many myths and legends of things like thunderbirds that I appreciated the bird-storm connection on that level.

Giuli is my wife. She can get temperamental about her games, though; some she really likes, some she just doesn't, and when she doesn't, she kind of, well, just shuts down, like you saw. Unfortunately, it seems that Agon simply isn't her kind of game. Don't take it personally; it has nothing to do with your game-running skills, and like you said, it isn't your responsibility to pull up the fun truck, either. It's just the way she responds when a game doesn't suit her.
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Judd
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« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2009, 07:34:10 AM »

Giuli is my wife. She can get temperamental about her games, though; some she really likes, some she just doesn't, and when she doesn't, she kind of, well, just shuts down, like you saw. Unfortunately, it seems that Agon simply isn't her kind of game. Don't take it personally; it has nothing to do with your game-running skills, and like you said, it isn't your responsibility to pull up the fun truck, either. It's just the way she responds when a game doesn't suit her.

Oh yeah, man, I wasn't mad at her or mad at me or mad at any level.  My response is akin to you and Giuli (sorry for the misspelling of her name above) coming over to my house and not enjoying my chili because it is just too spicy.
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Mel White
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« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2009, 09:45:55 AM »

Judd,
Nice write-up--I appreciate the insights into the roleplaying aspects of Agon.  The quest ideas are a bonus I'm filing away for future use!
Mel
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John Harper
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« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2009, 01:19:00 PM »

This makes me so happy. Thanks for the write-up, Judd.

Long-limbed is... a very good heroic trait. It can be a big problem to be really good at something in Agon, but only if your fellow heroes are on the ball.
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Judd
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« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2009, 04:14:42 PM »

Another cool moment just occurred to me:

It was the last test of the game and it came down to Might, to see who could toss the cyclops' hammer back to Olympus, back to Zeus.  Throughout the game, Eppy's character, Argos had been talking up the might of Ares and talking down Zeus and he won the Might contest handily.  So I narrated the hammer flying up to the clouds and landing at Ares' feet.

It is interesting to me with the abstracted combat and the board gaminess of it how incredibly important those little bits of color can be.  In a campaign, that would have ended up being important down the road, methinks.

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Valamir
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« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2009, 10:09:08 AM »

Hey, I totally missed this thread!

Long Limbed (or Far Reaching as I believe its called) isn't broken, its just more subtle than some of the other ones that give a definitive bonus against stuff.

To come clean, I "cheated" a bit.  In the sense that I gambled that none of the other players had enough experience with Agon to recognize what I was doing with my character.  If I'd been playing with Agon veterans, I've no doubt that Thyros the might would have gotten smoked.

First I built a character without any d12 stats which let me have more d10 stats.  Plus I sold a bunch of stats down to d4 to buy more up to d8.  This wound up not coming into play much because there was very little using of Helping dice in the game.  This is because you were throwing a never ending stream of d12 challenges at us.  A d12 challenge in Agon will never draw out resources, because its just not a good trade off to impair d8 traits to hope to beat it.  If you'd used more d8 or even d10 challenges I think you would have seen alot more Impairment...because rolling an extra 2d8 against a d8 challenge is worthwhile.  Plus rolling an extra d6 vs. a d8 is more worthwhile than rolling an extra d10 vs. a d12 because you care less about burning a ubiquitous d6 than burning a valuable d10.  You could have burned alot more of our resources with middle challenges.  Since you didn't the fact that I wasn't relying on a single big stat I couldn't afford to burn didn't help me much.

Having built a character with a bunch of d4 skills I made myself a total target for Oaths.  That was fine with me because I figured a) the players really wouldn't know how to use those Oaths effectively yet, and b) I could probably rely on the default "party mentality" to protect me from being too abused by all the oaths I owed.  I think in the end only 2 oaths got called, 1 was on a roll and using a stat that didn't really matter.  Only Nathan really used one of my oaths to hose me, forcing me to waste a die I needed on a challenge to help him instead (amusingly he rolled so bad he came in last in that challenge despite taking my best die).  In a game with more experienced players those Oaths would have laid me low.  I also made a point of making my challenge against a strong skill rather than picking on a d4, and loudly proclaiming how noble I was for not taking advantage of people.  That was mostly just some fun roleplaying, but it may also have helped keep me from being targeted.

But the real min maxing was that I took Far Reaching, Sword and Shield, and every piece of armor I could.  This is a potentially dangerous combination.  Far Reaching is most effective with Spear when it allows truly long ranged melee, and heavy armor is really only effective with long range attacks because of the positioning penalties.  I was hoping we'd have a few indoor scenes so I could balance my positioning penalty against by positioning bonus when inside, but I don't think we had any. 

What taking Sword enabled me to do was get the first attack in, killing minions before the spear and bow folk were able to.  Swords only use d6s, but the extra d6 actually maxes out often enough that exploding the die with fate makes multiple d6 better (in many cases) than a d8 (if you have the fate to spend).  What the Far Reaching enabled me to do was have more minions in my effective range without taking the -2 penalty. And what the heavy armor allowed me to do was bounce a couple of your nasty hits on me when I got bum rushed by the minions.

All of which would have back fired if people had used their positioning moves to get me out of the way.  You sent me to the back once with your positioning moves which rendered me largely ineffective for that battle, but only Nathan groked the game enough to try to block me out so I was able to get away with a character build that normally one couldn't get away with.

I really like the tactical interplay of all the different options and potentials for conflict in Agon.  I think its weakest points are that sometimes the skillfull play required by the GM to challenge the players can lead to not fun tactics (the brutal turtle strategy can be devastating to hit the players with, but its not so much fun to face).  That and the multiple die types / roll high mechanic means that there are some rolls where you just can't win without getting a lucky max out roll and spending fate. 

I wonder if a roll low mechanic where rolling a 1 means "you came in first" would work better, that way d4s would be the best dice but it would be possible to roll a 1 even on a really poor d12.  Where as currently its impossible to roll a 12 on a really poor d4.  It would also help eliminate some of the whiffiness of rolling a 1 or a 2 on your best die.  With a roll low option the worst you could get on your best die is a 4. 

What this would do is mean your best dice reliably produce great rolls (there's no possibility of Hercules being unable to lift a pebble because he rolled a 1 on his d12 Might) and that ALL of your dice are potentially worth impairing for assistance because any die could possible get lucky enough to win.  Which would increase the use of the impairment mechanic dramatically, I think...even if the GM was using the most difficult challenges.
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John Harper
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« Reply #7 on: March 03, 2009, 11:53:09 AM »

Very nice character build there, Ralph. Playing on the party mentality of first-timers is a great move, too. People sometimes dismiss the importance of roleplaying in the competitive parts of the game, but playing a noble and kind character can be a powerful defense against getting hosed by your fellow heroes, thus allowing you to play an even more twinked-out character -- as you showed here.

Your low-roll idea is intriguing. I'm not sure if more achievement is what I want in Agon -- there's something to be said for the cruelty of fate and rolls that you just can't win. But your reasoning is sound and it's certainly worth a playtest to see how it performs at the table.
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Judd
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« Reply #8 on: March 03, 2009, 12:26:05 PM »

Ralph,

You obviously deserved to win the Kleos Cup because you were obviously playing Agon at a higher level than anyone else at the table.

Our short conversation after the game about pairing minions with NPC's and Monsters was really eye-opening for me.

Oddly, playing Agon has inspired me to want to play some 4e in the coming month.

Judd
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Nathan P.
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« Reply #9 on: March 03, 2009, 02:38:41 PM »

I learned that there's really not a good matching missile build to the Far-Reaching melee build, cuz I was kind of trying for it, but the fact that bows go last meant that it's not as effective...at least, not against minions. If there had been more named characters, it may have been a slightly different story.

I did try to hose Ralph with positioning rolls when I could, but I often felt that it was more worth it to use those to try and break up the minions, especially the goddam eagles. But yes, I bow to Ralph's superior grasp of the game tactics...this time.

This time.
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Nathan P.
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jefgodesky
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« Reply #10 on: March 03, 2009, 02:43:26 PM »

Wow, Ralph -- kudos. Your assumptions definitely payed off. I had no idea all that was going on.
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Judd
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« Reply #11 on: March 03, 2009, 04:41:02 PM »

This is because you were throwing a never ending stream of d12 challenges at us.  A d12 challenge in Agon will never draw out resources, because its just not a good trade off to impair d8 traits to hope to beat it.  If you'd used more d8 or even d10 challenges I think you would have seen alot more Impairment...because rolling an extra 2d8 against a d8 challenge is worthwhile.  Plus rolling an extra d6 vs. a d8 is more worthwhile than rolling an extra d10 vs. a d12 because you care less about burning a ubiquitous d6 than burning a valuable d10.  You could have burned alot more of our resources with middle challenges.  Since you didn't the fact that I wasn't relying on a single big stat I couldn't afford to burn didn't help me much.

That is really interesting and is the paragraph I have come back to this thread in order to read it over and over.

There's a strategy to throwing out medium challenges; that is something I had never considered at all, really.

Interesting.
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John Harper
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« Reply #12 on: March 03, 2009, 04:44:16 PM »

Oh, hey. I owe someone (Ralph) a t-shirt prize, don't I?
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Valamir
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« Reply #13 on: March 03, 2009, 05:50:00 PM »

Judd, when I read my own paragraph you quoted alls I get is a whole bunch of rambling confusion :-)
Kudos to you for deciphering it.

John, if so...sweet.  Your t-shirts are teh hawt.
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