Play Report: The Siege of Pale

The group playing the custom Malazan rules I’m working on with /u/prerus met and played through the first scenario, the Siege of Pale. They all seemed happy with how it went.

I’ve decided to go ahead and put details into these play reports, because I’m not planning to run this again or for other people concurrently.

Dramatis Personae:

2nd Army, 11th Mage Cadre:

  • Svea – Fenn Shaman (Ranger)
  • Caitriona – Human Healer (Wizard – Denul)
  • Boris – Human Mage (Wizard – Serc)

2nd Army, 10th Infantry Squad:

  • Kint – Barghast Heavy Infantry (Fighter)
  • S’ki’ps – Human Sapper (Rogue)

The Session started out with the PCs being escorted through the Imperial Warren, to finally arrive in camp outside of Pale. They are quickly whipped up into the ongoing combat when an injured soldier rushes them to defend some sappers working on the wall.

While guarding the sappers, they were attacked by 8 guards of Pale and a Demon. The Demon had damage resistance to everything physical, so the limited spellcasting definitely had an affect on how tough it was for them. The guards themselves were not an issue. Two NPCs were killed by the guards, and the Serc mage was rendered unconscious by the Demon, but the healer brought him back. I modified Spare the Dying to give 1 hit point, rather than only stabilize. That seemed to help. The healer was also the first to invent her own spell. We haven’t typed up and finalized Ranger yet so nobody outside of that table has seen it, but Svea was given a war dog (a mastiff she named Euphemius) as an animal companion at 1st level instead of 3rd, and will not be getting a fighting style at 2nd level, or Foe Slayer at 20th. Euphemius helped a good deal with the guards.

As the party and the sappers were preparing to move back from the wall, a chunk of Moon’s Spawn fell onto the wall, detonating the charges. The sappers were all killed in the blast. The PCs looked for survivors in the rubble. Svea found an 11th Mage Cadre corporal and took a necklace invested with Telas from his body. S’ki’ps found a dying sapper who explained the mission to him, and gave him munitions for the job.

The party was now charged with sneaking through the hole in the wall and into the tunnels under Pale, in order to strategically place charges to punch a hole in the wall of the inner keep. They would know the place under the keep walls by the otataral dust in the mortar.

The party proceeded through the hole in the wall, and into the tunnels under Pale, successfully evading notice of any guards. They moved a ways forward and then started resting. Rest was interrupted by the sound of approaching footsteps, so Svea and Kint, who were uninjured, moved forward and allowed the rest of the party to finish their rest. They encountered a single mage on patrol and Svea shot her through the throat before they were seen, killing her silently. They brought the body back to the crossing the others were resting at and left it there.

They continued again together, and ended up in front of another patrol. They decided to hide on either side of another crossing, and wait for the unsuspecting guards to stumble into their trap. The first guard was nearly liquified by their combined assault, and the other two made fairly short order with as well.

The party found a place under the wall and S’ki’ps placed the charges. They decided to proceed back the way they came before lighting the fuse. All but S’ki’ps proceeded to the landing point under the grate they entered the tunnels through. S’ki’ps waited until he could no longer see the burning fuse and climbed up to the surface with the rest of the party in time to see the Malazan forces pushing their way through rows of Pale’s defenders at the hole in the wall left by Moon’s Spawn and the explosives. One guard heard the players behind him just in time to turn and see the detonation underground shake the keep and bring part of the wall down. The players joined the rest of the 2nd Army and successfully overcame the guards and took the keep. Moon’s Spawn fled, presumably with the Governor of Pale who was never found. The Moranth were given their terrible Hour of Retribution. Another city belongs to the Malazan Empire.

All players received 175xp and a reward card noting that they can increase the level of a character they choose to use in any given session if their level is lower than the next lowest character selected.

Gaudium et Utilis: On Adventurer’s League, and Organized Play in General.

This is a short post that I’m writing now instead of prepping for today because I read something unfortunately early this morning that I’ve been spending a lot of cycles on.

What happened was a question was posed on one of the Adventurer’s League Facebook groups, the question was answered, someone didn’t like the rule, and then the thread spiraled out of control. By the end a player who was not getting the point had driven one of the regional organizers to I’m-ready-to-step-down-from-this-position levels of frustration.

I have a decent amount of experience with organized play in general, and some experience with the new Adventurer’s League. The problem in this particular case was that the player was not understanding the point of organized play at all, but just in general, if you think AL’s rules are overbearing, maybe organized play isn’t for you. AL is very light on rules, and it’s very generous with what options are available to both DMs and players. The AL Player’s Guide is 21 fluffy pages. The Living Greyhawk Campaign Sourcebook was 78 rather dense pages. Pretty much all the AL rules do is try to level the playing field enough that nobody feels like their character is objectively inferior to anyone else’s, and establish the house rules so everyone gets to experience the campaign the same way. If you can’t live with that, maybe you should find a different medium for play.

Nobody out there is saying you can’t or shouldn’t buy the adventure books and run the D&D Encounters games at home with your own home rules. If that sounds like fun to you, definitely do it, but don’t feel like you have the right to bring your home brew characters into AL games at conventions just because it’s the same plot line. This is one of those “your right to swing your fist ends at the other person’s nose” situations. You can come up with your own rules, that’s the point of the game, but it’s just rude to show up at someone else’s table and insist on using your own rules when everyone else has already agreed on different ones.

Who I Am as a DM

I have actually done a lot in the world of gaming lately that I haven’t had a chance to post about yet. I have a handwritten draft of one about my experiences with the new Adventurer’s League, and I’ve been generating a lot of content lately for a MalazanĀ  Book of the Fallen themed D&D 5th Edition game.

It is for that game that I am writing this post. When I did my first 5e game, one of my players was a long time friend of mine with whom I have collaborated on a Malazan themed game before. Last time we settled on Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying, and we managed one session and it just didn’t take off for all the reasons I’ve discussed games not taking off. After that 5e game we all went out for dinner and talked about 5e and gaming in general, and initially discussed playing something using Google Hangouts on weeknights with other friends we don’t get to see anymore. Malazan may or may not have come up. Fast forward some time, that friend comes to me with a party, some close to him, most close to me, interested in playing. All new people to me. I start the conversation with basics, and it comes that he and I are the only ones interested in DMing. So this is starting to look familiar, and we agree to revisit the Malazan idea. We will be alternating as DMs and hosts and are working together on the custom rules and some of the adventures.

So that’s all great, and I do intend to share some of our Malazan rules we’re working on when they’re better fleshed out, but where I am now is preparing to DM for a group of people I don’t know, and it occurred to me that they may want to know what I’m like as a DM so they have an idea of what to expect.

So this is for you, soldiers. (You’re gonna be soldiers. You’ll see soon, primer is coming along nicely.)

I went ahead and filled out my RPG Person Profile, and that may give you some idea, so take a look there to start.

My goal, as a DM, is for you to have fun. I’m generating something that I think is cool, yes, so it is tailored to me, but I am going to try my best to use it so that you have fun. To that end I try not to say ‘no,’ I try to keep things moving, and I try to make sure you feel heroic. The more of my design something is the more gritty it tends to lean, but I don’t feel like gritty is actually opposed to heroic, and we are using 5e as the base so you’re going to be looking at more you-punch-it-and-it-explodes heroics, but you aren’t going to be killing dragons and swimming in treasure. This is a war, so there are going to be humans dying all around you, and most of them are lucky if they got to eat that morning.

I have a history of liking a lot of freedom in my games. As I’ve grown as a DM I’ve turned away from that somewhat because there’s a point where a sandbox isn’t fun anymore because you can’t tell where the story is. Where I have held on to that is I try to let my players find solutions creatively, and I don’t necessarily have a single path laid out. I actually try not to prepare much beyond a one page outline and the necessary stat blocks to not make you sit there while I flip through books. I might indulge myself with the occasional text block because it makes it feel like D&D for me.

I like my adventures to be very self-contained and as modular as possible. When you’re working with a long story like we will things do need to go in order, but I want to end on end points, and start at starting points. I don’t like ending in the middle of the dungeon. To take a phrase from German longsword study, I like to run adventures in complete sentences.

I really like to both invent and try out new and different systems. Mechanics don’t concern me that much beyond the tone they set for the game, but simultaneously I see a definite value in a good system. It should be streamlined and it should make sense in the context of what you’re trying to do. Small, light, and easy is nice, but it is possible to have lots of charts and still have a “streamlined” feel. Similarly, it’s possible to have a very light system and still have it feel clunky if everyone is always confused about how the rules dictate a situation should be resolved. I mostly don’t want the rules to get in the way of the fun. I’m most likely to tweak magic rules because I think it should be weird, and alien, impossible to predict, hard to wield, and most of all, rare. If it’s common, easy, and repetitive, it’s technology, not magic, and it’s not this big huge thing anymore. In addition, I especially detest the “Vancian” magic system most of the d20 games used because I don’t like looking at my list of prepared spells for the day and thinking “this isn’t magical at all.” To that end, don’t expect me to actually reference the combat rules that often, unless one of you is concerned with a particular detail. You do come first, after all.

Finally, I always am open to feedback and I will endeavour to really consider it. I encourage discussion of any given session after it’s over. I always think I can grow as a DM.

Looking forward to playing with you all.