Saturday, June 4, 2011

Game Day Recap

I ran a Resolute: the Splintered Realm session for the middle school/high school group today. It was a blast! In short, 9 students (plus their teacher- shout out to Mrs. K for setting this up!) went on a dungeon crawl. Here are some things I learned:

- When you throw a puzzle based on a Fibonacci Sequence at a group, you’d better hope that one of them is not the class Valedictorian, or you have just wasted your time. He solved a puzzle in about 30 seconds that I expected to force them to at least struggle for a bit. This same student was able to bypass a major trap through his superior grasp of physics (compared to mine) and successfully argued (after diagramming it for me) that the fundamental design of my pendulum trap was flawed. He was a smart kid! Fortunately, another student had already walked into the trap, letting it grind him into so much raw meat, so it wasn’t a total waste…

- Trying to use a teleport spell to send a Skeletal Vanguard into the realm of elemental flame is a bad idea when you end up botching the action roll. The only thing left in Del Anon was the right hand of the magician that had been touching the vanguard… the rest of him was in elemental fire taking 30 wounds per second; he managed to use his last resolve point to get back before being totally immolated.

- Human shield (the resolve use) wasn’t intended to be used against your own team; of course, I never thought they’d talk about covering the team’s gnome fighter in peanut butter and lowering him into a cave to see if there’s anything down there, so what do I know? They were a quirky lot; which of course means that I liked hanging out with them quite a bit!

- The player of the disciple who pulsed the aura of healing liked that he could heal and also do something fun (like attack) on each of his turns. He was vital to the success of the team, but didn’t have to use every one of his turns to drop heals on the group.

- Defining resolve as an ability that ‘lets you try crazy things’ was an open invite to these kids to get as off the chain as they could. They got really into the cinematic mindset right away, trying to pull of all sorts of Legolas-inspired insanity involving backflips, drop kicks, and the like.

- The rules supported all sorts of wild things; one fighter decided to disarm a skull vanguard; he used a resolve point and pulled off the feat; then he used another to trump a turn and grab the vanguard’s blade… then he had to use a third to add his might an intuition resist roll to keep the berserker insanity that was part of the weapon’s curse from turning him against his team. In spite of the unorthodox approach to combat (and doing a lot of things I didn’t expect), I always felt like the rules gave me a firm idea on how to handle the situation. I never felt like I had to just wing it, even when things went way off the tracks. At one point, I turned to Mrs. K and said, ‘the craziest thing is that I actually have rules to cover this stuff!’

- Having each player develop a purpose for his hero was a great way to focus each character, and it created all sorts of genuine role-playing moments; each player really focused on making sure he’d get that +1 XP during the scene, making character-based rather than mechanical-based decisions… for example, the hero who wanted to collect a skull from every monster he fought kept pulling his punches, and encouraging others to do the same, whenever an attack could inadvertently crack the opponent’s noggin.

- The game balance issues I was concerned about came out just fine. It was about as smooth as you can get… the heroes won every encounter, although not without suffering at least some damage. The ultimate encounter (pitting 10 heroes each built on 30 CPs against an undead dragon built on 125 CPs), ended up with the each member of the team dropping below 10 wounds remaining at some point during the fight, and forced everyone at the table to burn all of their resolve. They beat the dragon in just about 2 full rounds, although this was only because the entire team trumped a turn simultaneously, just after a wizard’s turn in which she’d successfully put a hex on the dragon, forcing it to take a 2 on its next defensive roll; they argued (and I conceded) that if they all spent a resolve point and claimed simultaneously to be trumping a turn, that they could all take advantage of the momentary weakness. This was huge, and allowed them to lay out about 100 wounds in one time around the table. If they hadn’t come up with this solution, it may have been a longer day for them.

- Two things I didn’t particularly like, but didn’t see a way around, were that I had to modify some rules on the fly and I had to default to static 7 for all dice results on my part. As referee, I didn’t make a single roll all day. If I could do it over again, I’d replay the encounter with the dragon rolling all dice; this would have definitely increased the drama, and I suspect have caused some major changes in the way a few things played out. Similarly, I modified the sequence rules; the player who rolled the highest initial sequence result started the combat, and we went clockwise or counter-clockwise from that depending on the rolls of the people to the right and left of that player. It was a compromise that worked and made it easier to keep track of who was going when.

- That said, in four hours they were able to learn the basic rules and go through an adventure consisting of 5 different encounters. Remember here that this was 10 people involved in combat, many of whom got somewhat… distracted… during play, and had to be hyped up with cheese doodles and Dr. Pepper to get them on task. Maybe in retrospect those weren’t the best things to give them…