Thursday, April 21, 2016

Endless Sea of Darkness - GMA solo adventure - character creation

As I was inspired by the fluf from Blades in the dark, I wanted to play a Leviathan hunting game using free  GMA/ALONe engine, modified to be more FATE like.

So, here is Dolphin, hero of these adventures:

Family members: Sun/Shield/Target
Growing at the shores of the Endless Sea, means having no real family. Dolphin's father was a captain of the great Leviathan hunting ship, and he spent most of the year on the sea. Dolphin knew that he wants to be just like him when he grows up - he will also become famous captain and great leader of men.

As a young boy, Dolphin lived in the old captain's beach mansion, surrounded with servants. As captain's hair, he lived in the main building. Left wing of the mansion was Female house, where captain's harem was kept. Right wing was Servants house, home for all other mail members of captain's household.

Aspect: Hair of influential family (+ with rich classes, - with poor or with women).

Childhood: Tower/Crown/Hearth
Since his father was constantly at sea, the main Dolphin caretaker was Carpfish, the household cheef of stuff. Thanks to him, Dolphin never lacked any love as a child.

Aspect: Carpfish is my true family.

Youth: Crown/Skull/Target
The time has come for Dolphin to leave his father's mansion and to start his study years at seamanship academy. Next years he spent on training ship, learning to navigate, command the crew and hunt for fish and smaller predators of the Endless Sea. His contact with his father's mansion were limited to rare letters from Carpfish.

Aspect: Sea legs (+1 at sea, -1 at land for physical tasks)

Coming of age: Wand/Crown/Hearth
A year before he was schedule to finish his training at academy, Dolphin participated in a strange event. While hunting Sea Dogs, medium sized predators of Endless Sea, Dolphin spotted a single young Leviathan, scattered away from his family as a result of other ships activity. Even though such actions are officially prohibited, Dolphin ordered his crew to go after the beast. They managed to kill it, and the small ship triumphantly sailed to the harbor with leviathan carcass attached.
Dolphin's actions were approved by authorities, he was awarded his ranks before time, and as best student of the academy given command over one of the supporting ships for Leviathan hunt.
By this, he effectively stole the honors from Shark, boy one year older then him. As Shark was also a hair of renown Leviathan hunter captain, he was offered a compensation by being promoted to the commander on a merchant ship (something that never been done before), but Shark still felt as he was stolen from.  

Aspect: Shark thinks he can do it better.

And that is it. I really like how ALONe guides me through FATE like character creation process, that emulates the players interaction during character creation in FATE Core. It takes my character to the places I would not be able to find without it.

To be continued......

Friday, April 8, 2016

4 against darkness

Recently, I had a chance to play several solo dungeon crawling games, from different publishing companies.
One of them is 4 against darkness by Ganesha games.

So, team consisting form rogue, cleric, wizard and elf descended into the dungeon.

1. Entrance
2. Trapdoor, guarding 5gp. Rogue disarmed it.
3. Empty room. Elf found a clue leading to the location of the rich merchant who dissapeared here recently.
4. Another empty room. Nothing here.
5. This room is a home of the small dragon. Party retreated from the room, shutting the door behind them, but not before they were all burned by dragon's breath.
6. 6 Fungi Folk. After killing them, party found wand of sleep that was given to Wizard.
7. 2 Trolls were guarding this tunnel. On their bodies, party found another wand of sleep. This one was given to the Elf. This tunnel contains a short-cut to dragons lair, which party noticed for the future.
8. Party met wandering alchemist, but they were not rich enough to buy anything from him.
9. 3 trolls on the crossroads. Tough fight, but only 5gp of treasure.
10. 6 orcs. Same as above.
11. Weird monster - iron eater. Put to sleep by wizard. Elf gains a level.
12. Empty tunnel, but the search brought attention of wandering boss monster - Orc Brute. Wand of Sleep did the job again, but party become seriously injured by this time, s they did some healing. Wizard gains a level.
13 and 14 - empty, containing clues. Elf was now sure that merchant is near.
15. Level 4 trap, disarmed by rogue. 130 gp hidden. Finally a better loot. Returning to crossroads, party encountered 4 giant centipedes (wandering monsters) but they were easy pray for our heroes.
16. 6 zombies guarding a merchant chained to the wall. Party killed the undead and saved their target.
On their way back, party was attacked by a boss wandering monster - a mummy. wizard hit it with the fireball, and cleric finished the job. Rogue tried to level up but rolled a 1, so he stayed on the first level.
The party escorted merchant back to town and picked up their reward.

Verdict: 4AD is a fast game - you can play a level of dungeon within an hour. What I really liked are monster reaction tables - when you meet a monster you can select to take initiative and attack first, or roll to see monster's reaction. Some monsters will fight - and then they strike first. But some will run away, or let you pass, ask for a bribe, offer help, and some will even give you quests.
Another important thing to know is that 4ad is a light game. You can play it anywhere and everywhere, all you need is some graph paper and a way to roll some d6. Still with quests, clues, etc, there is enough material for 10 to 15 games before you explore main possibilities. So far, basic rules offer just one level of the dungeon, but main book mentions expansion called Deeper levels that is in the pipeline, that should provide further fun.
Finally, for the more creative type out there, this game is fairly easy to customize to your taste. Player can create tables similar to the ones from the book with ease, and it will not spoil the fun of exploring the dungeon.

PS. There is also a competition by Ganesha games, so if you play 4AD and make an AAR of your exploits, connect the publisher, you might get a chance to win some Ganesha games products.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

BattleSworn solo

BattleSworn by Ganesha Games (the ones producing Song of Blades and Heroes and other games in the range) was always a game that tickled my imagination. It has a great mechanics since players bid for their actions, which is really innovative in wargaming world.
But as the game was not playable solo, I stayed away from it.
Recently, Ganesha published BattleSworn supplement Knights and Knaves that included solo rules for the game, so I rushed to buy both books.

After reading the solo rules, I had to say that idea behind them is good, and it really seemed to me that I will add BattleSworn to the list of my favorite rules.

 So, I took out my orcs, made a human warband to serve as enemy, and started playing.
Unfortunately, I soon understood that solo rules for BattleSworn will not be my cup of tea. I found myself battling not against imaginary opponent, but against statistical odds. My formal education in this field didn't help. Actually, if one plays statistically correct, one can almost always predict AI moves. This gave me slow, but steady advantage, and after 10 bids (something that should represent a length of typical battle)  I managed to keep AI almost unable to move, kill two of his soldiers while keeping my forces out of harm's way.
It was obvious to me that even if I played 20 or 30 bids nothing much would change. I would kill enemies one by one, while AI would not be able to move rest of his forces from the starting line. So, I ended the game there.

So, the verdict: BattleSworn seems like the really good game. Against live opponent, able to make some surprising decisions, it should be a fun experience. But it is just not meant to be played solo. It is not even question of better solo rules - the ones presented in Knights and Knives are as good as they can get. ButtleSworn simply isn't solo friendly.

I do hope to play it against some of my friends these days.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Father and Son

Well, beginning of 2016 seems to be rather quiet for solo gaming community.
And somehow, I was caught into that wind, so instead of playing alone, I spent lots of time playing with my five and a half years old son.

While he loves playing My First Carcassonne (and probably would love it even more if his 2 years old sister would not insist on playing it also), he has become a true expert in Dixit, and uses every possibility to lure me and at least one other adult (be it his mother or some of his grandparents) into the game. He even presented Dixit in his kindergarten as part of the "my favorite toy" project.

Another thing he likes very much are storytelling RPGs. I adjusted Fate Accelerated for that purpose, leaving only Main concept and trouble aspects, and  4 approaches (Cleaver, Forceful, Quick and Sneaky).
Fate Accelerated for kids character sheet

Inspired by TMNT 1987, he plays Boy ninja master who is unfortunately Too young to be able to read (he selected both aspects himself).

Our first game started as earthquake hit the town while Boy Ninja was going to the kindergarten. He tried to find the reason of the earthquake at the same time escaping falling debris, and soon he found huge sauropod dinosaur stomping through town and making earth shake.
Boy ninja stepped under the dinosaur belly, to try to detect if this is real animal or maybe a robot. Indeed there was a plate under dinosaurs belly, and on that plate it was written if this is real sauropod or not, but unfortunately he was unable to read it.
I decided not to go easy on him, so we ended the first session there.
It took my boy several hours of thoughts cooking within his brain, until the moment he run to me all thrilled with discovery - he finally understood that it must be a robot since the real dinosaurs do not have plates on their bellies. 
So we continued the game. Boy Ninja found the batteries containment on the sauropod and removed his power source, saving the city.
Next, he went to the Natural History Museum (we visited i recently, so he knew where to look), and noticed that sauropod model is missing. So he decided to make an ambush, expecting that thieves will come for a new toy, after he deactivated the previous one. He located himself near the T-Rex model, the logic of which I could not dispute. 
At midnight, an evil scientist and one of his muscle man appeared and tried to steal the Tyrannosaurus. Boy ninja approached them and used his ninja skills (and one fate point) to beat them in honorable combat.
He then waited for the morning and police to appear.
At the end, police officer thanked Boy Ninja for catching evil scientist, but had to fine him for trespassing  through Natural History Museum at night.

It was a good game, and my kid is constantly asking for more. The second adventure (featuring mad ice cream man turning people to ice) also went rather well, but then I had to postpone next session until I  think of some good adventure hook for 5 years old super hero. Suggestions are welcome :)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Cave of the Grail - ALONe playtest part 4 (final)

Continued from here.

After several sessions, I have finally defined the way that Game Master's Apprentice cards / ALONe system gives the bast game for me.
As it is already visible in earlier sessions, while original ALONe game starts from 0 and then tries to beat difficulty generator by building positive modifiers, better solution for me is to start the counter with 5, and then add or remove narrative elements or Descriptors as needed. Then, I am comparing the result with the Difficulty Generator.
When it comes to the usage of Fragments, I also prefer to use them differently than described in ALONe. My way is much closer to the use of FATE points. Sometimes I will use descriptors to add +1 or -1 to the total, and this does not affect Fragment pool. But sometimes I want to increase the result, using Fragments. All descriptors can be used in positive and negative way for this. 
If I am deciding to use descriptor in negative way, I will not use Difficulty Generator, but I will automatically use Bad odds for outcome. Qualified answers are not used in this case. If I do this, I am also entitled to add one fragment to the pool.
Positive use of descriptors is done after the Difficult generator number is drawn, and in case when the result is bad for the character. If there is a descriptor that can influence the result, and it was not used to affect the total, I am paying one fragment from the pool and adjusting the total by +2 or -2 to get the result I want (usually Yes result). Here is how it looks in-game:

Tension set to 4. Since this is end game part, I would say that Fragment pool is 0.
After settling the affair with Actors from the Circle of the grail, Balthazar collected the assets needed to reach the mountain top where the Grail was said to be located.
He got the air zeppelin from RSSPE, but can he get a good pilot to take him to the top?
I will take the bad odds due to the "Better equipped then average Agent" descriptor that claims that some agents from RSSPE are angry at Balthazar and will not participate in his projects. This will gain me a Fragment. No - no good pilots want to come, so I will have -1 to all piloting tests.

Zeppelin approached the snow peak and tried to land. Can the bad pilot make the feat?
5-1 for bed pilot = 4. Difficulty generator is 6, so bad odds - No.  But even odds on this card give Yes answer, so I am using my "Better equipped than average agent" descriptor to say that Balthazar got the best zeppelin available, and that the ship can land on autopilot, thus moving my total from 4 to 6 into the even odds zone. I am paying the Fragment, and my pool is back to 0.

What's on the mountain's top?
Cave mouth was visible near the top of the mountain. The wind blowing through it created some strange kind of music, and as back beat, there was a sound of a running feet inside the cave.
Can Balthazar find some clues (footprints, animal remains, etc) that can direct him to the nature of the creature running inside the cave?
Odds bad, due to the "Specialization in social sciences" descriptor that acts as negative for nature tests. Gain a Fragment. Result: No (-1 to all tests against reason for running feet sound).
Balthazar entered the cave, his revolver ready.

Chamber 1: Water (knowledge) - heart, skull, moon.
The walls of the first chamber in the cave were obviously painted by some intelligent being. The paintings seemed to be centuries old, but once Balthazar approached them, he could recognize the faces represented. One picture showed his father being shot in his office in RSSPE by an unknown assassin. Other depicted his mother dying alone in an empty back street of the capital, covered by heavy rain, with no one near to help her.
Can Balthazar concentrate on his mission after seeing his parents  deaths? Yes, IF he does not get further info confirming that images on the wall tell the truth that can not be reversed.

Chamber 2: Earth (Unchanging) - heart, skull, sun.
This is a kind of library, holding newspapers from the future.On special stand, there were issues proclaiming death of his parents.
IF from previous chamber happened, so Balthazar will have -1 to all further tests in the cave. 

Chamber 3: Air (Movement) - skull, sword, target.
Rune: Algiz - guardian. Vice: Lust. Belongings: Keys.
Igraine Zooma, Succubus once banished by Balthazar's hand, now stands in this cave holding the key tot he chamber with the Grail.
Balthazar was surprised. He had not expected succubus to guard the holly grail!
The only thing he could do was to pray to Saint Audrey to bless his bullet.
5-1 disturbed -1 against footsteps owner +1 for praying upon saint's tarot deck = 4. Difficulty generator 6, odds bad. Still Yes. Element is Water - AND saint's spirit blessed the bullet and wrapped itself around him, allowing Balthazar to use his "connected to other side" descriptor in next test.
Balthazar shoots his gun. Will this affect the succubus?
5 - 1 against demons from "Selected lesser evil" descriptor -1 disturbed -1 against footsteps owner +1 blessed bullet = 3. Difficulty generator 4 - odds even, Yes BUT - I use Fragment and "connected to other side" descriptor to delete BUT part.
Damage on succubus: hearth, target, moon.
And so, Igraine Zooma was banished again. It was one banish too many for her, and she will not be able to influence world of mortals for 100 years, so she will never cross the path with Balthazar again.
Our hero picked the keys and unlocked the door to final chamber.

Chamber 4: Earth (Unchanging) - skull, shield, target.

The chalice was there. As he took the Grail in his hands, he knew that his life will never be the same again. The rest of his time on earth will have to be dedicated to protection of this relic....


Friday, February 19, 2016

Old School THW

Recently, on TMP forums, user Brigadier General asked community which solo wargaming mechanics they prefer, and my instant response was Song of Blades and Heroes by Ganesha Games.

But then I understood that SBH was not even designed to be played solo, and that there are rules built with solo play in mind out there - namely Two Hours Wargames (and I have almost complete collection from Ed) .

So how it happened that today I prefer to play SBH over THW? Especially when I remember that 5 or 6 years ago I had a real blast playing THW Swordplay rules?

Then, I understood  that THW is here for so long, that there is the Old School THW and the New School THW.

For example, what is In Sight test in Swordplay 2016, in the old CR3: Swordplay from 2009 is a Threat - enemy within 6" taken only by inactive group. As a result of this test, inactive group members reacted to incoming enemy by charging them, firing missile weapons, staying where they are, running for cover or even running away from the battlefield (all possible results based on  character's class and dice rolls). Old rules also had more classes (knight, missile, mounted missile, soldier and warrior), more weapons, and were, all in all, definitely more complicated to play.

So, in order to test my assumptions, I found PDF of 2009 rules, and give them a test run.
My Orcs approaching the human enemy

And before I knew it, I was playing a second game, and then a third in a row!
For the later games I added PEFs mechanics from the other editions, since i like this kind of uncertainty, but I kept everything else as per 2009 book.

The old edition is definitely more difficult, but are also much more fun to play. In this case, at least for me, the simple is not the better.

Now I am certain - as far as THW is considered, I am an old school player.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Demon storm - ALONe game part 3

Continued form here.

Balthazar took the deck and put it on the table. What makes these cards different from thousands other tarot decks, he asked himself.
Rune: Hagalaz - uncontrollable force.
Additional symbols: hearth / sword / shield
Suddenly, Balthazar felt that tarot deck is trying to posses him. "The Grail will be yours", whispered the deck to Balthazar. "It will be your prize possession, love of your life, item you will defend from others, by force if need arises...."
Balthazar used all his mental strength to resist  the voice from the cards (-1 since this is attack from the other side, even odds, yes, earth - no change), and soon the voice felt silent. Balthazar guessed that this possibility to resist a voice from the cards was a reason why St. Audrey selected him in the first place.
Then, our hero started deciphering from the cards the location of the Grail. Can he do it? (Odds good, yes but it is location difficult to access. Where - Rory's story cubes)

After couple hours of work, Balthazar found out that grail is located on mountain top that can be accessed only by air. The small zeppelin needs to land on the top very precisely, feet that can be done only by the best of the pilots.
Random event also needs to be resolved.
But Balthazar had no time to look for the pilot that day. Strange, acid rain started falling all through the city, as if some kind of curse has been set upon it.
Tension set to 5.
The complete RSSPE team was dedicated to finding responsible for this strange weather. That is when Balthazar remembered Actors from the Circle of the Grail. Maybe they are behind all of this?
Are they Ser Arthur's customers? Yes and they did not payed the crime boss for the last delivery, so he is more than happy to show Balthazar in their direction.
Location/catalyst: Traveling Players in Arena
Possession: Party masks
Sensory snippets: motionless figures.
Actors from the Circle of the Grail stood in the ancient roman Arena. Their faces were masked, and they stood under the poisonous rain, motionless as statues. Balthazar found a place protected from the rain from where he could take watch over arena. It was not the best location, as he could see just one of the figures. One hour passed, but the actor didn't move even a muscle. The weather was getting worst, so Balthazar decided to get out of his hiding place and approach the human statue. As he did that, he noticed that the storm is centering in the arena, and that in the eye of the storm something is taking form, summoned from some hellish dimension.
Desperate, Balthazar run through the rain and slam his body into the human statue. Was he able to get it to the ground? YES! - once the first actor fell, all others fell also, as if they were connected with some magical link.
How did this affected the spell?
Rune: Wunjo - Harmony, comfort.
The rain momentarily stopped, and summoned being dissapeared to where it was coming from. Balthazar was soon joined by other members of RSSPE and Actors of the Circle of the Grail were taken into custody. They put no resistance (wand / hearth / sword ). They knew that they are unable to repeat the ceremony, and their spirits dropped. Also, almost all of them were hurt, limbs broken from the fall, their skin pealing from their bodies as effect of prolonged exposition to the poisons from the rain. They needed medical treatment before they could be interrogated.

To be continued....