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 Post subject: Portal Under the Stars (6/19 Louisville, KY)
PostPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2011 7:00 am 
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Far-Sighted Wanderer

Joined: Wed Apr 13, 2011 9:32 pm
Posts: 29
Location: Louisville, KY
Had four players over last night for Free RPG Day (homebrewed) and I let them roll up 3 0-levels each (for a total of 12 PCs). I was pretty generous with clues for the most part.

The lone dwarf in the party died from the searing flames of the first door. The Astrologer of the group chipped out the crystals from the door, so I let him basically deactivate the trap on that one. Then, they kicked in the next door (to the spear throwing statues). It was basically one guy (Thomas the Mercenary), but as soon as the door went flying off its hinges, the statues activated, all four of them scoring mega-hits and dealing 21 damage to Thomas' 5 or so hit points. Massive death.

2 down. 10 left.

At this point, Harold the Astrologer takes his crystals and flees the dungeon. "Screw that!"

2 down. 1 fled. 9 left.

The giant fire throwing statue in the third room nearly wiped out the entire party. After the first two PCs died (Paladin the Ostler and Eva the Elven Huntress), I thought they had figured it out. But, nope. They got one PC into the corridor that led to the throne room with the Demon Snake, and the other into the burial chamber with the general's skulls, but then the rest tried to "make a run for it". The statue's attack was brutal (+6??? vs. average ACs of 10, maybe 11...). Their only saving grace was the statue running out of fuel. It killed 4 PCs. And, hurt one more (I rolled lousy - only 3 hp. Most of the fire attacks did 5+, especially with the ongoing damage afterward).

5 down. 1 fled. 6 left.

They rallied in the corridor leading to the Demon Snake, and hearing hissing sounds ventured further. The snake was tough, and upon seeing it slither forward they charged. It was a decent battle with one scoring a critical (woot! +1d4 damage with a spear 1d8... for a total of TWO hit points! Yay!). Conrad the Con Artist tried to get in close and slice with his dagger, but the snake ripped his throat out. Then, Teresa the Baker with her +5 attack/+5 damage (17 Strength +2 and 18 Luck with a luck bonus to attack and damage rolls...) sliced the snake in half, turning it to ash and collecting its demon horn.

6 down. 1 fled. 4 left - one for each player.

At this point, the entire group wanted to leave. :)

I encouraged one of them to get some balls and move on. They avoided the burial chamber entirely.

They entered the gazing pool room, but did not dare mess with the crystals. Micah the Wizard's Apprentice dragged his brother Nimrod the Hunter (death by fire statue) into the room and with the crystalline figures there, asked them if the water would return his brother to life. No response. Stomp your foot if you don't want me to put him in the water. No response. Ok, dragging Nimrod into the water. No effect. But, as James the Farmer enters the room with his torch, the figures are strangely drawn to him. It's unsettling, but he doesn't attack them.

The PCs are terrified to interact with the expensive looking crystals at the bottom of the pool. So, luring the crystal guys out of that room and into the statue fire throwing room, they then head down the stairs to the general's planning station. A fairly mundane room. They loot the silver figurines and move on. In the next room, nearly a hundred clay figures spring to life.

Run!!!

The PCs run their ass off. I let them roll an Agility check to see if they make it out. They all succeed. They finally make it out of the portal and it shimmers away as the clay soldiers are charging toward the portal.

Harold the Astrologer outside with the mule decides he's not sharing the crystals he took from the first door. So, Micah the Wizard's Apprentice uses his brother's (Nimrod) bow to shoot him in the belly. He hits. For max damage (6). Harold dies a slow, painful death.

7 down. 4 left - one for each player.

The remaining PCs split up the loot (4 silver figurines worth 20 gp each, and some crystals...) and head back down the hill to Mud Gulch, where they decide to never adventure again (especially with the crappy characters who actually survived - well, outside of Teresa the Baker who was lovingly called "Conan the Baker").

----

I'd really wanted to get through Portal and level up the PCs to try out some of the class rules. We had a few players show up late, and character creation for 3 0-levels is surprisingly lengthy compared to what I imagined. So, we only got through Portal and they didn't even get the treasure at the end, being chased out of the place.

The 5d12 coppers for equipment was particularly ... "eh". In hindsight, I wish I'd just done trade goods + occupation weapon + 1 random piece of gear. We didn't have a d30 (despite me buying two sets of Zocchi dice for the game), so we used a d3 and d10 for the Luck roll.

The extreme danger of the first couple rooms really made them so wary of the pool room that them "figuring out the trick" to defeating the clay army was just way too much.

At the end, no one was really attached to their surviving character. I think it was a combination of lousy stats (with all but one exception, Conan (Teresa) the Baker who had two 17s, an 18 luck and a luck roll of "+to all attacks and damage" - WAY overpowered compared to the other PCs) and the extreme rate of death.

I expected them to get attached. based on the funnel description that people would cling to the survivors and become attached to them.

Instead, the opposite was true. The players were actually super attached to their characters at the beginning of the game, enjoying the simple occupations and lousy equipment, etc. But, Death was so common the players actually became detached from the PCs throughout the game, as if they had the instinct that if they grew fond of the PC, they would be the next to die.

At the end of the game, I gauged their interest in a possible follow up, without actually suggesting a follow up. There was some interest, but I don't think they were interested in playing those characters again. Which is odd, because two of the 4 players were B/X veterans.

Wealth by attrition was present, and was actually very humorous and amusing. Looting their fallen comrades was an enjoyable aspect of the game. And, gruesome. Describing Teresa the Baker donning Thomas the Merc's hide armor, punctured with spear holes and soaked in still-warm blood, slathering across and dripping down her face... Yuck.

We really didn't get to get into the meat and potatoes of the system. We used one fumble chart and one crit chart. I gave Micah the Wizard's Apprentice the Cantrip spell, but he didn't use it. I described how to burn Luck, but no one did.

All in all, I think everyone had an enjoyable time, but I don't think they were sold on the funnel.

My next beta test will probably start people out at 1st level. In hindsight, I wish I'd have done this for this game. Perhaps giving each player a 1st level character and two 0-level "henchmen" to use as fodder.

We recorded the session, so once I get the file, I'll listen to it and see if there's important bits I'm leaving out.


Last edited by Michael Pfaff on Mon Jun 20, 2011 9:15 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Portal Under the Stars
PostPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2011 7:52 am 
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Deft-Handed Cutpurse

Joined: Thu Jun 09, 2011 7:05 pm
Posts: 261
Location: Central Vermont
Interesting. On average about 1 in 36 characters rolled will have an 18 in a score, and less than 1 in 500 will have an 18 and another stat of 17 or higher. So, I'm a bit surprised that after all that the player isn't interested in running that character further.

It may be worth asking if they'd have any interest in trying those characters after advancing them to level 1. They at least have a history, and on average any new set of rolls won't be any better.


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 Post subject: Re: Portal Under the Stars
PostPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2011 7:56 am 
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Far-Sighted Wanderer

Joined: Wed Apr 13, 2011 9:32 pm
Posts: 29
Location: Louisville, KY
meinvt wrote:
Interesting. On average about 1 in 36 characters rolled will have an 18 in a score, and less than 1 in 500 will have an 18 and another stat of 17 or higher. So, I'm a bit surprised that after all that the player isn't interested in running that character further.


This particular player was a wife of a more experienced player and not a normal player. So, she didn't really express a desire either way. I don't think she felt more awesome by having the high stats or anything, and I don't think she even realized how impressive her stats were.

For the record, she had an 18 Luck, 17 Strength and 17 Stamina. :) I'm planning to scan in character sheets tomorrow.

meinvt wrote:
It may be worth asking if they'd have any interest in trying those characters after advancing them to level 1. They at least have a history, and on average any new set of rolls won't be any better.


I'm hanging onto the character sheets and if I do run another game with these players, that's probably what I'll suggest - or at least give them the option of retaining their 0-level characters or rolling up a new character (with the obvious benefit of getting the HP, gear and whatnot of their 0-level).


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 Post subject: Re: Portal Under the Stars
PostPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2011 8:18 am 
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Far-Sighted Wanderer

Joined: Wed Apr 13, 2011 9:32 pm
Posts: 29
Location: Louisville, KY
More thoughts:

I wish Portal Under the Stars had ramped up toward the deadlier traps vs. having the first three rooms be insanely deadly. This had the effect of putting the players on super-defensive to where they really missed the concept of interacting with their environment further than they absolutely needed to.

The fire throwing trap was particularly deadly with the high damage and attack bonus. Even using a door as a shield, it would have had a decent chance of killing them outright. +6 to attack was too much, and if I were to run it again, I'd reduce it down to +4 or even +2, so that using the door as a shield would give a large advantage against the deadly fire.


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 Post subject: Re: Portal Under the Stars (6/19 Louisville, KY)
PostPosted: Tue Jun 28, 2011 12:54 pm 
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Far-Sighted Wanderer

Joined: Wed Apr 13, 2011 9:32 pm
Posts: 29
Location: Louisville, KY
Here's the audio from our playtest.


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