Sunday 9 October 2011

Gamist Fighter, Narrativist Wizard

I MC'd Apocalypse World and I really liked it. And I like D&D. I like mixing things. Cereal, sandwich filling, everything really.

But I'm not the first person to have that idea. Seems that almost everyone who has played Apocalypse World has immediately felt like taking it apart and putting it together as something else. It's a beautiful thing that comes apart in your hands like Lego.

I want to know what happens when each player in a game occupies the same imaginative space but relates to the GM in a different way.

So this is my idea. The fighter is gamist, they act under total player control and move through the Gm created space like a D&D character. Everything is already there, the player just has to decide how to interact with it.

The wizard is narrativist. The makers of the AW hack Dungeon World decided on a spell list. I found this a bit uninteresting. There is no reason to regiment and organise magic in something derived from a story game. With the right set of questions the risks of magic could always be equivalent to the rewards.

This is my suggested replacement for every D&D spell list ever.

You cast a spell. Name it, describe it and give your intended effect. Roll 2D6 plus your intelligence bonus. On a 10+ chose 3 on 7-9 choose 2.

  • There is very little blow-back.
  • It has roughly the intended effect.
  • Nothing unbelievably weird happens.
  • There is no damage to your memory.

There are no spell books. There are no lists of spells. The effects of magic are chaotic and the effects of a narrativist choice system impinging on a D&D game are the effects of the strange otherness of magic slipping into an ordered world.

Changing levels wouldn't result in spells of higher power since the power level is effectively infinite, if you are willing to risk the consequences. Instead, other levels give access to a different character of choice.

The players are in a different kind of conversation with the DM. The magic user is in a constant river of mutual contest and co-operation, a bit like Apocalypse World, the fighter is more challenge-and-response, like a game of D&D. The magic user appears to have more power, but they also have to surrender, or exchange, control of their character in ways the fighter doesn't. I imagine the fighter forming a kind of island of narrative stability, with less apparent power to shape events, but more self-contained and affecting the story persistently over the long-term.

I really want to see how these two kinds of system interact, or if they can interact.

I'm also considering some kind of intermediate class like the LOTFP specialist, using the Burning Wheel skill system and resolution method.

Wednesday 5 October 2011

A Review of 'Quest of the Mist Golem, Module QMG1, Mist Hold'

Zack S requested reviews for free adventures here.

So I have reviewed 'Quest of the Mist Golem from the Delvers Dungeon 

A Review of 'Quest of the Mist Golem, Module QMG1, Mist Hold'

  1. 1. What kind of adventure is it? (Location based? Dungeon? Town? Etc.)
It's a standard break-and-entry on an abandoned wizards tower.

So there's a lot of political bullshit at the beginning. Then the good stuff, a guy who guards his home with evil mists, kidnaps children and turns them into little demonic Frankenstein dopplegangers. An evil guy who is being evil mainly because he's a prick, and not for any other reasons.

He wants to create a Golem that's intelligent and 'utterly loyal'? Presumably because he's never seen an episode of 'The Outer Limits'. He also traded with an Ice Demon for the ability to make Doll Golems and intends to create a city-destroying Golem of Mist. I like that he is using the most impractical methods possible to fuck with peoples shit.

People found out he was up to bad stuff when he sent back children he'd stolen from the city after turning them into possessed doll-golems and they ended up killing their parents and doing surgery on pets.

The city sent some guys to investigate. They found a doll thing that killed some of them and told them the boss was gone. The tower was locked, they couldn’t get in. Considering the matter closed, they went home.

It's now 'many years later.' There's some magnificent DM bullshit where the heads of the city under threat have received 'prophetic dreams' from their god Rao telling them exactly what the threat is and who is behind it but forbidding them to leave the city to do anything about it. Which is an elegant touch of divine perversity. They send the PC's to find the evil wizard.

2. How long is it?

Not very long at all is you just count the interesting stuff. If you want to drag through all the finding-the-key, searching for traps, oh-look-another-abandoned-room stuff then its about a session long. Possibly two.

3. Were there any particularly noteworthy things in it? (Monsters, traps, plot ideas, mechanics, etc.)

There is a mini hex map with nothing on it. For a journey which we've already been told only takes a day and which will be 'uneventful'.

Every night mist rises from the ground near the tower and kills everything in it. So you can only gain access during the day. You are also safe from the mist in the tower, so no time limit there.

There is some rather boring treasure, except that some of it is black coral. I would just dump the rest and have the evil wizard paying his Gnolls in Black Coral. It's vaguely poetic.

Almost every door is warded. The wizards wards stop you going anywhere the designer doesn't want you to go until you get the key. But the game doesn't tell you there is a key. On the plus side, they also act as a magical fire extinguisher, which is pleasingly practical and common sense-like. Don't want your tower burning down after all.

The Evil wizard had a visitors book to sign if you came to his tower. What the fucking fuck? Who visits Murq of the Mists the child killer with the Gnoll army and signs their name? He uses the signatures for evil scrying. I am keeping this as it is mental.

Examining the book will not reveal any names of note.” Why not? That would be incredibly cool.

Names of all the books, some nice paintings of very particular bogs, a nature or knowledge check tells you exactly which bogs they are, which sounds boring now I come to write it down but which was vaguely thrilling when I read it. “Wait! I know that bog!” Adventure gives you exact details of each bog and the time of day the painting represents. For no apparent reason. I like that. One named book has a GP value given if sold to 'a Sage'.

Correspondence with other evil wizards! But no details given, still useful though. Module tells you exactly how many sheets of parchment, paper, vellum and papyrus the wizard left behind?

He also left his diary in which he explains his entire motivation and describes his plans. So there goes any sense of mystery.

A shelf of random dungeon maps!

An ever-full inkwell that never empties is worth 400 XP for picking it up off a desk? Take it home and set up an ink business?

A quill that magically transcribes any voice in 30 feet? Even if you can't hear it?

The wizard also left a memo on his desk detailing his future plans and possible new security systems. Can't really blame him for that one. I carry my banking login number in my wallet with my card, where else are you going to keep it?

Chest in the Wizards bedroom is a DM's fuck-you trap, try to take his stuff and rust-gas ruins your stuff. Strongbox in the chest is full of fools gold, also ruins your gold if you place it inside. (Why would you?) Wizard also left lots of magic items for killing trolls. Trolls are his guards. This is a bit less forgiveable. Like hiding your key under the mat.

There are two kitchens in this tower BUT NO TOILET ANYWHERE. Upper kitchen has a waste disposal chute, 'ah-ha' I think, time for some innovative lateral thinking, and sure enough, it comes out in an area below and can be climbed by “any creature of Dwarf or Halfling size” but then I read “however, they will find it too slippery to maintain a grip and will slide the length of it to land in the water four levels belowfor 2d6 damage." So that was totally, totally pointless.

There are some more paintings of bogs and an awesome painting of the Temple of Elemental Evil. Smart players will simply cut these out and sell them. No values are given.

The best things aout this are the child-golems that twitch and slur. When they attack they scream things like 'I don't want to hurt you!' and 'I'm a good boy!' When you kill them they turn back into children. If they bite you then you laugh yourself to death.

The top floor makes it all worth it. A huge, ruined magical lab. An innocent doll-golem locked in a trunk, a trunk full of miniturised monsters that wake up and grow if you touch them. A bell jar with a crazy, violent time-frozen doll golem in it. The bones of the Wizards girlfriend (he dissolved her!) Her ghost can info-dump about the rest of the stuff in the tower. A scrying pool with some wierd rules. Some crazy rancid potions with fun and unpredictable side effects. A summoning circle that doesnt work. Why not?

The miniturised monsters can regenerate. If given a moment to think, they will simply jump out of the tower, smash onto the ground below, wait to regenerate, and run off into the woods. I like that, tactical thinking.

The advenure says to treat each corner of the room seperately and take it all slowly. No way am I doing that. All at once!

Finally, at the very end of the adventure you come to the part you have to do first. This is stupid. It should be at the beginning.

In the basement there are rats. The rats have stats. The rats won't fight unless cornered and there is no reason to corner them. So why do they have stats?

The wizard fed his Gnolls renewable meat. There is a slab of troll steak on a table. Remove it and the troll grows back! If you ignore or forget about it then the troll slowly regenerates, eats the rats in the room and silently hunts you through the tower. That is nice work.

There is a basement room with deadly (giant) spiders and a message and a flooded room with deadly (giant) water beetles and the key you need to access the rest of the tower. Deadly water beetles sound much more fun. They swin on bubbles of air. Can you pop the bubbles? I hope so.

"The trip back to Veluna City should be uneventful." Why?

"The more complete a report given to the High Priest of Veluna, the faster he will be able to divine Murq’s exact present location on Oerth." Why can't the players figure it out themselves?

"As a final point, the empty premises of Murq’s forest tower, Mist Hold, could become a DM’s nightmare if handled improperly. Allowing mid-level players permanent access to a mage’s warded stronghold as a base can take much of the danger (and fun) out of later, high-level play."

And make it MORE AWESOME, you have a WIZARDS TOWER

4. What sort of vibe is going on in it? (Creepy? Gonzo? Sword and sorcery? Chivalry? Etc.)

The vibe is pure standard D&D with a bit of child-killing horror thrown in. You could play the empty rooms of the wizards tower for slow-burn stress-horror if you played it right.

5. Would you run it? Why or why not?

If I were running this I would strongly infer that the rulers of the city were corrupt cowards, too scared to deal with it themselves.

The adventure begins with the party waiting two minutes to speak to a High Priest. Why begin in a fucking waiting room? In fact, since the interaction is totally scripted, why not just info dump the players and drop them straight in?

My mistake, there is one paragraph about what happens if the PC's refuse the mission. They hear about the city falling three months later.

I would throw out the overarching plot points. Just have it as a random tower. The paintings, letters, books, random dungeon maps and visitors ledger in the tower make it very good for connecting to any other adventure. You can run information both too and from the encounter if you wish.

The tower is meant to be partially ruined, you can dig in through the rubble. But it starts re-building itself once the PC's enter, trapping them inside? Kind of boring and illogical. I wouldn't bother with that, or with most of the warded doors and simply have them enter through the caverns in the basement. Actually, you could link the whole thing up to a dungeon or megadungeon that way.

There is an invisible chef in the kitchen that does nothing but clean and cook food. I would probably have it get violent if the PC's leave a mess.

If the PC's take over the tower, the nightly death-mist is meant to disperse. I would leave it as it makes the whole thing a bit more interesting. You are safe (but trapped) during the night and unsafe (but free) during the day.

6. Does it resemble anything we might've seen before?

I suspect it closely resembles every single wizards-tower adventure anyone has ever seen. Traps, locks, a few monsters, hastily written notes a convenient diary and a ghost.


The Mist Golem is meant to turn up later on when you track the guy down in his all-new bog fortress with the Trolls. I really wanted there to be one.