Actual Play – Hunt for the Sleeping Scorpion Idol (10/25/2012)

GM: Noam Rosen
Players: Mark E, Ben Hartzell, Shaun Hayworth, and Sean Nittner
System: World of Dungeons

I’m so impressed these days with how easy it has been to pick up an old game, thought lost to the dregs of time, dust it off and start playing again.

In yee olde days o’ gaming we never did this. If we stopped playing a campaign for more than a few weeks it was usually dead. If we started up something new, it was for sure dead. But that was when I played with the model of having a fixed game group. I gamed with the same people all the time, so once we were on to game B, game A was forgotten about.

These days I’m a gaming whore. I’ll game with any group of people for any duration. One shot Fiasco game at with my girlfriend and friends: Done. Year long Burning Wheel campaign: Done. Of and on again games with people all over the internet: Done, done and done!

I think that makes all the difference. Not having a fixed group, but instead gaming with any combination of people under any context leaves open tons of possibilities. Including grabbing an old game I thought I’d never see again and playing it some more. How cool is that!

Filling in the blanks

Noam actually remembered some of the feedback form the last game (back in July) and brought it up. There were some things we were going to do.

  • Define how Pollux and Jurek knew each other (closing the relationship loop)
  • Figure out why Vin and Jurek were going into this dungeon (Pollux and Gaspar had recruited them, but they had reasons of their own, no?)
  • Define the moves (or their consequences) in advance so we were all clear on what a 10+, 7-9, and 6- would accomplish.

The first two we did before play started.

  • Jurrek had saved Pollux from being trampled by a stampede of desert horses. It wasn’t to save him, but to prevent a curse. “Once a horse has tasted the blood of man, the god of horses becomes savage and bloodthirsty until the horse lord dies.”
  • Vin and Jurek were entering the tomb to see out the Sleeping Scorpion Idol, which Jurek believed would allow him to hear the whispers of time and become the oracle for the Scorpion Tribe. Vin had been feeding him these promises to get him to come along.

The play is the thing

We didn’t explore a whole lot of the dungeon, but we did so some very cool things! Noam in particular was very thoughtful about making sure that every roll we made did something. We never had a “you hit. now roll damage”. Every roll had a goal associated with it and the standard resolution mechanics applied. I was very, very happy with this.

Random Color: Wind Scorpions. Myth and legend speak of gigantic ones that warriors could ride. The horse god thundered his might hooves at this. Today, however, the are living hurricanes, instead of a could of dust, it is a swarm of scorpions. BAD ASS!!!

Traps, traps and more traps

Okay, just three traps. But still, THREE TRAPS!

The first was a blade at chest height. Pollux found the trip wire, but it was so worn and fine that even brushing up against it triggered the trap. A blade nearly missed all of us and ended at the hallway with a loud thud as it slammed into the door frame. Most of us were fine, but Vin fell on the clay pot that held his scorpions (his holy symbol). The pot broke and all but one (who stayed behind to sting Vin) escaped, scuttling off into the corners of the dungeon.

The second trap was a poisoned door, which when Vin ingested the poison willingly, and then tried to have a vision of his god (and failed that roll too) entered a communion with some abyssal demon and then landed in a coma, for what might have been ten years (see below).

The third was triggered by the goblin chieftain (his obligatory act of betrayal) that dropped us all down a huge chute into the darkness below. There was a lot of getting banged around on the way down and Vin was once again knocked out. Man, Vin is the only one among us who ever gets any rest!

Fucking Spirits

So Gaspar has two spirits. Lot, the spirit of Ice and Time, and Mallos, the spirit of Wind and Confusion. This is what they did:

Lot – When asked to encase Vin in a cocoon that would accelerate his aging till he was ready to wake did so but kept him in there for 10 years! He went from priest of the scorpions god to ZZZ Top. Jurek noted that his beard would be a good place for scorpions to nest.

Mallos – When we were trapped in a room with a batch of goblins on the other side of the door, Gaspar blew his spirit of wind and confusion under the door, and instructed it to show the goblins the back of their minds. We opened the door and outside found a bunch of goblins losing their minds, running around like crazy, and Mallos wasn’t done, he was just getting started. When Gaspar commanded him to cease, he said he wanted at least one of them to consume. The wizard acquiesced; more invested in keeping his spirit happy than the life of a goblin, and let it devour the mind and sanity of a creature. It was nasty.

Super-Superstitious

I really started getting into Jurek as a tribal warrior who couldn’t commune with the gods but felt their presence in everything. He said that he wasn’t a priest, so the gods couldn’t talk to him directly, so instead he had to read their omens. Which he saw EVERYWHERE:

Goblins – The cursed green skin creatures? They have an affliction. Mummy rot, which makes them leprous and deformed. Jurek didn’t hate goblins, he had pity on them. He killed them when necessary, but otherwise did not want to harm (or really even soil himself) with these cursed creatures.

Leaders – A leader must either command his tribe, or be killed so that another can take command. When we captured the goblin chieftain and had him corroborating with us under knife-point, Jurek was disgusted. Vin twisted this a bit in the way of the scorpion, that you do not want help form someone who is secretly planning to stab you in the back the moment you look away. Vin convinced the others to let Bonebreaker (the goblin leader) “free”, which also meant not looting his chamber (which just made it that much more exciting for Pollux to do just that).

Visions – A powerful vision is a blessing. But that doesn’t mean a man can stay sane in the face of the gods. When Vin communed with the abyss, and it was clear that he was not well, Jurek broke his vision by feeding him the rare and valuable poppy seed. He still however considered the wisdom of Vin’s visions as holy. When Vin said that Gaspar would betray us (what he heard in his vision), Jurek took it to heart, and when Gaspar could talk to the cursed (he spoke a smattering of goblin) that just made Jurek that much more convinced that Gaspar was in league with evil forces.

Custom moves we created:

Aid – When you help someone with a task that can obviously benefit from two people working on it (i.e. knocking down a door wide enough for two people to slam into) you can give someone +1 on their roll, bit you also suffer any consequences they do on the roll.

Surreptitiousness Looting – When you try to look a treasure laden room quickly and without notice roll +Dex.
10+ You gain valuable treasure and are un-noticed.
7-9 – You gain valuable treasure but someone (DMCs choice) notices
6- You gain treasure of negligible value and you’re caught in the act.

Read a person – Just like Read a person from AW, except there are no define questions.

Intimidate – When you threaten someone’s life (and clearly have the ability to take it) to get them to do something roll + Cha.
10+ They follow your orders so long as you are still a viable threat to them.
7-9 The follow your orders but plan one act of betrayal.
6- The refuse and suffer the consequences you deliver.

Join forces under duress – when you’ve just broken the morale of a group and try to convince another their leader that your goals are in line and that you should work together, roll + Cha.
10+ The leader agrees and aids you of their own volition.
7-9 The leader agrees but is all bitter and full of grudges.
6- The leader turns his forces against you.

Annex monsters into your party– When you defeat a goblin cheiftan and his warriors through a mixture of magic, physical force and coercion, such that they add their forces to your own, gain 100 xp.

Deep Dark

We ended the game falling down the last of the traps. Down, down, down, into the darkness. Bioluminscent mushrooms. Dank, heavy, moldy smells. A penetrating darkness that even magical light had a hard time dispelling. And no way back up!

Yay Underdark <shhh, we’ll get sued>

Thoughts on the game

It was a lot of work for Noam to constantly be thinking up what the 10+, 7-9, and 6- results were. 10+ was easy, but the others not always so much. We talked about this after the game, about how the 6- rolls could have been a lot meaner and we would have taken it, also 6- rolls can lead to things developing off screen as well (witnessed as the tomb shaking, a howl from below, a dark omen, a run away spirit, etc) so that he could advance his own “fronts” as we make mistakes. So a miss doesn’t always have to mean “the goblin stabs you”.

Skills are awesome. Specifically survival! I got to use it to identify how many creatures slept in hay stacks, and to know which herb to feed Vin to get him out of his fevered visions.

I forgot that 12+ (critical success) existed in this game. I rolled it twice in the game and although I didn’t know, I can see now that Noam interpreted it and did cool things (like blowing a door right off it’s hinges) with it!

Instinct, the ability to re-roll Dex rolls in dangerous situations is crazy powerful. I think being able to re-roll any kind of any roll as long as the conditions are limited is probably still fair, but very powerful. Making the condition be “dangerous” gives a really wide latitude. In this case it was to keep his footing in a trap, which seems very appropriate, but still very powerful.

I really like that this game doesn’t highlight stats, or give XP for killing monsters. I really, really like that. Highlights seem like they should be cool, and often they are, but I also see them create cheap ass rolls that players make just to get the XP. We made all kinds of rolls, and every time we did it was to advance a goal we cared about, not to get XP. This was really rewarding for me, as I can slip into that power gamer mode sometimes, and I’m really glad that it never happened in this game.

As special thanks to John Harper for his feedback on the last game that helped improve this one.

Loots. Where the hell do we put it all? (what we’ve accumulated so far):

2 suits of small scale mail (incomplete) – 100s
Assorted small weapons (poor quality) – 70s
coins – 2s
assorted greenskin trinkers – 1s
a key
5 Wineskins – 10s
2 small hammers, spear, longsword – 120s
small weapons – 60s
5 adventuring gear trinkets – 10s

Pollux only:

2 gems – 40s
1 swallowed gem 30s
Ornamental Dagger – 60s
Small mirror – 40s

Jurek started, stats-wise a very mediocre character. Three +1s and three 0s. Not the worse you could roll, but certainly not the best. I thought he was going to be a throw away character that I wouldn’t care if he died. Now I’m loving the guy. I think it may be all the TNG that I’m watching, but he’s totally become Worf in my mind. He’s not dumb. He’s not violent without reason. He just has really different values and spirituality than people outside his tribe (or even inside his tribe).

Say what we would about the “fucking thief” he’s getting us all XP by being a greedy bastard. That he keeps the material wealth is well, immaterial.