I’m in the “wind down and reflect” portion that follows my Monday game. Episode 5 of “The Killing” is on the other monitor and I’m in that mellow/exhausted state that sometimes, but not always, bestows the gift of clarity.
This blurry little gem was the second combat of the evening. The characters have the phylactery of a lich that has managed to fuse itself with an iron golem (the phylactery itself was hidden in a pretty scary place) and are delving into his crypt below an ancient ziggurat in the Feywild (if you were able to follow all that on first blush, you’re a better man than I). It’s supposed to have a throwback Tomb of Horror feel and it’s been really successful. The guys (and girl) have been having a lot of fun with it.
Earlier on in the dungeon, the characters had to pass through one of six colored portals and defeat the creature on the other side to open the seventh portal, which led deeper into the crypt. Upon doing so, they were imbued with a strange aura matching the portal (they’re thankful now that they didn’t screw up and go through multiple portals. That would have been bad). For this section, the party had to split up in halves and defeat all of the guardians. Both the guardians and the traps were triggered by characters of that color. I had to print out the map sections because they could rotate or shift.
Early on, the sorceress got separated from her team and cornered by the yellow bug. She didn’t go unconscious (no one did), but she came very close on a couple of occasions. It got to be a running joke and she started keeping a stream-of-consciousness log (warning mild NSFW) of her character’s feelings. I find “They come in other colors?!?” especially amusing.
Three out of the last four encounters have included mechanics where it was difficult, if not impossible, for the characters to control the battlefield, so I wanted to catch feedback on how the players felt about this fight while it was still fresh. Interestingly enough, to a person they said that they found the terrain mildly frustrating, but that the encounter was a whole lot of fun. This illustrates some ideas that I have about roleplaying:
- The mechanical portion of the game has to be about more than numbers. You have to present the players with interesting and meaningful choices. Tonight’s encounter was filled with moments where the players had to consider positioning and risk. That’s a lot more exciting than “did I hit?”
- You can mess with terrain, but there’s a limit to how much you can make the environment favor the PCs. More than six months ago the party was racing to the inner chambers of a fortress that had fallen, trying to stop the bad guys from getting away through a portal. On the way there, they were ambushed by archers firing from an elevated position. It was an ugly fight because the characters had to spend time getting up to the archers. I still catch flak about that fight, despite the fact that no character licked floor and no action points/dailies were used.
- Along those same lines, getting ambushed, no matter how minor the advantage, gets old quickly. While it can make sense, sometimes it’s best to just forgo the pleasure.
I want to continue, but it’s late and I’m tired. Have fun.