[4e] Tonight everyone but Pius will die

Started by JoyWriter, December 13, 2011, 07:59:43 AM

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I played a fully functioning participationist game the other week!

The GM loves his characters and world, and they are his; we do all the pawn stance tactical combat stuff, he does all the in-character foibles, with us slowly adding in new elements and diversifying them from the original template.

He mainly does this via the effect part of the resolution system; we say our tactical disposition, we roll, and he narrates that with varying levels of cinematic badassery or comicness based on the character and the roll.

In fact the original characters were played by entirely different people, but due to the GM (I'll call him D)'s desire to continue to explore the same set of modules and celebrate these characters that have so much history to him, he put out a general call for new players. He tries to get us involved in the previous story by doing flashbacks/anecdotes at random times.

One of these flashbacks turned into a full self contained session, when he realised it would take too long to tell (and disrupt the flow of the session), and decided that he would rewrite it on the basis of a one shot "delve" type encounter.

And so we get to the present, with me, 5 other friends, two of them long standing ones I pulled in with me. We are going to be portraying the last squad of warforged, on a suicide mission trying to take out the local leadership of the forces of the enemy demonic nation, after the leadership of one of our own brigades went turncoat and left a major city undefended.

We know that only the fighter of the group, Pius, will survive, because he has been set up as "the last of the warforged".

We've already picked our characters from a set of pregens, mostly playing against type, so the player "H", more prone to keeping his characters separate and alive is playing a paladin, who in 4e heal by giving surges away, and who generally has to put himself in harms way for other characters.

I was going to play the dual wielding ranger, against my normal type of puzzle-solving leaders, but my friend M wanted to play him, so I'm going with the Invoker (a caster/buffer type) instead, far closer to normal.

T, who usually plays wizards, and is new to the group, is given Pius to make things easier on him, given that we all knew he wasn't going to die.

R, who usually plays prudent and diplomatic characters gets the general, a warlord who had various self-endangering powers in order to give bonuses to others.

The first few rounds of the game are usual squad combat stuff; working out our synergies and finding that we should minimise our front to the enemies, with everyone but me sprinting for the casters/leaders, causing a massive pile up of interpolating minions, which I progressively clean out with area-of-effects.

As this happens D is giving colour to the enemies by describing them as they appear, in basic sights/smells terms, and then in more tactical terms as M identifies them with the ranger's nature checks. There's a little bit of "villain dialog" when we enter a place, as we sneak the first few steps, get enough info to identify who's in charge (and so coincidentally, also likely a caster), and then charge out of hiding. He's also doing his usual "narrate the killing blow" stuff.

Finally we get into the cave where we believe the general is, and march through a waterfall in formation, only to discover two trolls, at this point a nature check reveals that fire will be needed to kill them, but because the GM was misled by 4e's description/rules mismatch, we have no fire attacks! Specifically I have firey chains that deal no fire damage.

So we improvise, M suggests that he matadors the trolls into the waterfall pool, and then we drown them as we do not have to breathe, assuming their regeneration wouldn't work with no air. D gainsays this suggestion basically because it is too cool, and therefore should be the subject of a power. (He does this a lot as he hates "cheating", but in this case M already had a power of very similar effect, which D gave his character and forgot about)

We then try a more complex version with us all jostling about using our movement powers to move them into the pool, and after a bit D realises that he's set a time limit and we are likely to go over it, so he brings in the enemy general, who has possessed a "land shark". M tries to climb the landshark and find soft spots in it's armour, dune style, using his ranger knowledge, but instead just gets hit by an opportunity attack. D realises that this was a bad idea as now instead of heading towards mucking around and using up all the time, we are now heading towards wipeout, so he copes by having the next critical do what M was trying to do, only this time it temporarily removes the demon lords control over his mount/body, which tries to eat one of the trolls. We then immediately take advantage of the situation... to try to push the other troll down the waterfall again!

H has not been able to do that much this session, because his high defence but lower attack means that he basically has been being a portable wall. He decides that he should grab the troll we've been fighting and pull it single handedly down the waterfall, punching it and strangling it on the way and dying appropriately given the setting and still opening up things for the rest of us. It's cool, but D seems likely to play it by the book, and the number of rolls required is unreasonable to actually succeed, so I suggest he wait until we push the troll to the precipice game-mechanically. I also suggest that while the Demon's control is hindered and he's trying to get it back, he's probably not going to be able to give the signal, because if he doesn't need a solid link to a body to give it we have nothing to gain from killing him, therefore we can wait for the other troll to do most of our work then do the last few blows.

We also suggest aiding the landshark's saves against possession or something, but D hadn't thought of that and doesn't like the idea of buffs being used against the combat enemy.

D shrugs and takes both the troll models off the table, saying "ok for some reason you defeat them", and brings in the landshark. Everyone is now back on the same side again, with hacking and slashing going on, improv'ing description, talking about dice's "opinions", with the wonderful 4e death mechanic coming into play with M's character getting vindictively attacked, criticaling death saves and getting straight back up, or getting healed by H's paladin. Meanwhile the paladin special ability is burning the landshark every time it attacks someone else, but it won't hit him anyway so goes for other people, leading to a pretty reliable damage buildup.

This is where D insures that T's character, Pius, will survive, by suggesting emotional reasons for the landshark demon lord to go after specific characters, M's first because he is a high damage dealer and worked out how to disrupt his control, then R's indirectly because of his "hit me but my friend can hit you" ability, then the paladin who is marking him, then finally there's just me and T, I remark that I've been on 5 health for ages, to which he goes "oh have you?" and has the landshark attack me for the first time that session, taking me out and taking a little bit of damage from my attack triggered ability, putting him in the region to be killed by T.


At the end of the session everyone was pretty happy with it, except for H, who was mechanically effective without really making significant choices (he stood in the right place for his passive abilities to work, the end). I was mainly happy for the excuse to see T and M and joke about stuff, but also liked the tactical wargaming we were able to do. M and T for the same kind of reasons, although M was in on the whole "celebrate 300-isms" with D. R is quite quiet and wry, so it's harder to tell what he thought, but he was amused by same kind of OTTness that M and D took semi-seriously.

So not fully effective, H would have been a lot happier if he could set up his own dramatic death, or possibly if he'd just had more situational and likely to hit powers! I think D's "awesome stuff only happens on a critical" and my "twist the situation in new directions, conventional drama be damned" instincts blocked him a little. R would have expanded into the roll of "general" more if he'd been given more choice over tactics and approach, but D couldn't handle that within the constraints he'd set himself. But regardless, we had a lot of fun.

Walking to the carpark afterwards me and D find a solution to the trolls; we were down 1 magic item each from standard, presumably they were some kind of flame bomb that turned off their regeneration and therefore allowed us to kill them with the damage we were doing.. Very important to get these things sorted. :)