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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Holly Daye Special - Actual Play


Gonna try to do this solo play under a format I've used once, but it seemed to help me back then. I'll be writing down things as a mock up dialogue between a GM and the characters, with the PCs being self-aware  (kinda as if the characters were playing as themselves in the RPG). I know it's somewhat schizoweirdo and meta... but bear with me.

The characters are all premade Sentinels but it's assumed they don't know each other yet, though some might have made the news already. Here are the characters used, with a link to their free PDF sheet.

 * Princess (checking out shops for gifts to offer, as Jessica)
 * Kid Robot (with his guardian, Natalie Hallemier, at a Xmas event)
 * The Rook (keeping an eye out for trouble from the roofs of the city)

Check the previous post for the villain write-up.

GM: The story starts a few days before Christmas proper. It is late evening and, considering the time of year the sky is dark already but the streets are anything but. A myriad of lights, neon signs and shiny things can be found everywhere, along with many people wandering about. There's this indescribable festive feel in the air. It is, definitely, Christmas time!
Princess, you are in your civilian identity, going from shop to shop in the hope of finding something for your friends and family.

Princess: Gotcha.

GM: Kid Robot, you are in a big mall where a Christmas event is taking place. Dr Natalie Hallemier is with you. In fact, she was the one who brought you here, you're not exactly sure why. That said, she also insisted on you wearing a rather conceiling jacket with a hoodie.

Kid: But I'm not cold!

GM: She says she knows, but it's meant to protect you anyway.

Kid: Mm'kay. Odd. So where am I at again?

GM: There are a lot of other kids around, with adults, just like you. Everyone seems to be waiting impatiently for something to happen, though you don't know what. You see what looks like a pile of boxes covered by a large white sheet. All the children seem to be looking very intently at it.

Kid: Um, I don't understand. What are we waiting for Nat?

GM: "It's a surprise! You need to be patient and discover it for yourself, it shouldn't be too long now."

Kid: Guess I'll wait then.

GM: All right. In the meantime, Rook, I suppose you're observing the city?

Rook: Of course. I go from roof to roof, looking out for anything suspicious. Not everyone is respectful of these festive times.

GM: OK. So far, you see nothing strange but you keep going. Princess, in your search, you end up at the mall and there's this big crowd gathered here. Lots of children. It seems like they're going to unveil something very soon.

Princess: Is this the same mall as Kid?

GM: Well... not that you'd know, but yeah.

Princess: Eh, guess I can take a second or two and see what this is all about.

GM: Rook, something catches your eye. From above, you spot a large black van driving a bit too fast and parking hapharzardly near a large mall. The back doors open and you see a group of men coming out.

Rook: How many?

GM: Um... Six of them. What's really strange about them is their getup: they dressed in green with little pointy hats and shoes.

Rook: Err... like little elves?

GM: Well, yeah, except they're anything but little. Full human size, some of them possibly even burly. They also seem to be carrying something large... looks like rifles or something.

Rook: Can I try to get a better look? I do have my Cowl's Extended Vision

GM: Ah, good point. In that case, you're easily able to tell that they're not rifles, but still look like some type of gun weapon. Not something you've ever seen.

Rook: OK... I don't like the looks of that. I'm going to glide down to a backstreet as near them as possible.

GM: You do so and they do not notice you one bit. As you fly by, you notice one more of these men coming out of the driver's side, and a woman, in a similar getup, coming out of the other side.

Rook: Do I recognize her?

GM: Um... You do have Well-Informed. What's your Investigation?

Rook: +6

Here I'm going to go with a Routine check to simplify things (and avoid too much randomness). We're looking at rumors, so it's a DC 10 Gather Information check using Investigation, according to p.71. He gets a routine 16, so he makes it.

GM: You remember hearing about someone who fits her description. Ever since the beginning of the month there have been a few cases of assault and property damage in and around various shops. A woman dressed as a Santa elf is said to have smashed down Christmas setups and gotten into fights with some fake Santas advertising for products.

Rook: Were they the same product? Or shops with a specific theme?

GM: Not that you remember. The one theme they had in common was the Christmas one.

Rook: All right. In any case, she might be dangerous... and these visibly armed men don't make me think otherwise. I'm jumping down into the alley and will try to catch one of them to know more.

GM: Mh... OK. The group is heading towards the mall and you're going for a silent grab. Give me an attack check, unless you have something specific for grabbing?

Rook: Uh... I don't think I do. Just an attack roll then. d20 (8) +15 = 23.

GM: Yeah... you're pretty good at that kind of stuff aren't you? Let me roll their resistance check. d20 (7) +2 = 9. Yeah, no surprise there, you catch the guy. You beat him by quite more than 5, so that's at least 2 degrees of success. He's utterly bound. What do you do with him?

Rook: I'll firmly ask him what the hell his litttle group plans on doing here. Intimidation of course.

Again Routine Check to simplify things. He has +8, so a 18 routine. The thug has no Will bonus, nor the Insight skill, so it's an easy one.

GM: He seems too scared to even thrash about and stutters that they're here to fix Christmas.

Rook: "Fix" Christmas?... Are you mocking me? I say that with enough anger so that he understands he should not, if he is.

GM: He shakes his head frantically. "No no no! Too much commercialization! Gifts given to anyone, even the unworthy! It's got to stop!" As for whether he's lying or not... what's your Insight?

Rook: Um, I don't have Insight... so, Awareness?

GM: Yes, please.

Rook: d20 (18) +2 = 20

GM: Good roll. d20 (19) -1 = 18. You think he's telling the truth, as strange as it might sound.

Rook: OK... What are you planning to do exactly then? What's this? I point at his weapon-like device.

GM: Strangely enough, you don't get the answer from him. Instead, a loud noise followed by gasps and some panicked shrieks tell you you might find out yourself. It came from inside the mall. And going back to Kid and Princess. You were waiting for the unveiling when some nice red curtains were pulled apart to reveal none other than... Santa! Well... a Santa at least. The white sheet was pulled up also, revealing a mountain of gift boxes, obviously intended for the gathered kids. How's that, Kid Robot?

Kid: Uhhh... I'm not sure I understand. Who's the fat man in red?

GM: Are you asking the doctor?

Kid: Yeah.

GM: She has a slight pause, a bit taken aback, but then showing a compassionate smile. "I guess I should have briefed you up a bit, uh?"

Kid: Is this a mission?

GM: "Haha, oh dear, no. This -- she point at the man in red -- is Santa Claus. Every year, around this time, he comes to listen to the children's wishes so they may have something they want for the day of Christmas. Do you... understand?"

Kid: Wishes?

GM: "Yes, like... maybe you want a firefighter truck, or a toy robo-- err... toys... things to play with and have fun. On Christmas he'll come on his magical sleigh pulled by his faithful reindeers and bring what you wished for under the Christmas tree."

Kid: Can we ask for anything?

GM: "Well, uh... it's..."

Kid: I'm going to see the man in red.

GM: You tell her that?

Kid: No, I'm going there.

GM: Oh... She tries to catch you but you're already out of the crowd and nearing the man sporting a great white beard and a consequent belly.

Kid: Mister Claus?

GM: The big man looks down at you with a jolly smile. "Ho ho ho! Good evening to you, child."

Kid: I was told I should tell you my wish for Christmas.

GM: He looks a bit embarassed. "Ho ho ho! Well, well, we actually have a pile of gifts for you here." He gestures towards the pile of gift boxes which the other kids are already gathering around and shredding open with squeals of delight. "I'm sure you will find something you'll like in there, go take a look!" He gently pushes you towards it.

Kid: I look back at the doctor with a confused look but don't resist.

GM: She kind of gives a shrug with an unsure smile and gestures you to the pile. You see many children opening boxes with many colors and designs and pulling out miniature trains, cars, dolls... one of the items kinda looks like you. There's also a kid trying to reach one of the higher boxes.

Kid: I look at him and ask him "Do you want the one up there?"

GM: He looks up at you, a bit unsure at first, but then nods bashfully.

Kid: "I got it." I fly up there to get the box.

GM: Oh dear... OK. You activate your force boosters and rise in the air with a woomph, scattering wrappings about and creating a bit of a commotion. Some of the parents are pulling their kids back while others seem to wonder if that's part of the show. When you get back down, the kid who asked for the box is looking at you with wide open eyes and mouth agape. All he manages to say is "Woah..."

Kid: "Um... there you go." I say as I hand him the box.

GM: He takes it but still stares at you in awe. You realize your hood has fallen back when you flew and you see Natalie coming to you with a worried look on her face. She's not the only one: other parents now seem to shield their kid and look at you with what you interpret as something from confusion to fear.

Kid: "I, uh..."

GM: The kid seems to snap out of it and turns to his mother saying "Mommy, I want this one!!", pointing at you excitedly. Princess, you have followed that scene from afar. What's your take on it so far?

Princess: Well... I'm still unsure whether it's a skit or something. Christmas robot maybe? People don't seem to be taking it the right way though.

GM: He did fly in the air...

Princess: Yeah... that might be a bit too advanced for a skit, eh? I'm on my guards in case I need to intervene.

GM: Kid, you notice a strange bunch entering the building. They're dressed in strange red and green costumes with pointy hats and jingling bells attached to their tips. The one in front is a woman and the others are men carrying some strange contraption. It makes you think of those strange energy cannons you've seen in the movies the Doctor showed you.

Kid: Not sure what to make of this. Is this also part of this Christmas thing?

GM: You don't really know I guess. The doctor comes next to you, puts your hood back on and, an arm around your shoulders, pulls you away. "I... think we're done here. I'm sorry about this... I thought you would... I don't know what I was thinking."

Kid: Uh? What? What's going on?

GM: "We should leave..." she tells you. She seems upset, you're not sure why. Before you can think about it too much, you hear a scream. A child is wailing. People turn towards the source of the commotion. Princess, you also see that of course and you notice the bunch that entered the building dressed up as Santa's elves or something, except with big weapon-like contraptions, which is rather jarring.
The wailing comes from a child. It seems like the dressed-up woman has taken his gift box. "Nuh-uh, you have not been nice to your parents this year, no way you're gonna get a gift! That's not how it works!"
From behind, you all can see a few security guards approaching. "Ma'am, you are disturbing the Christmas event, we will ask you to follow us without a fuss now please."
The woman lets out a laugh. "HA! Christmas?! You fools have no idea what Christmas truly is! This is a joke!"
"Ma'am... we're asking nicely..." says one of the guards grabbing her shoulder.
"Unhand me! I'm here to fix Christmas and you won't stop me. Boys!"
Her group reacts to her call, raising their weapons and firing at the guards. Bright blue beams come out of them and hit the guards, covering them in a thick coat of ice. Soon enough they're stuck in place and encased in the frozen matter.

Time for all of you to roll initiative. You too Rook.

Round 1

Princess: d20 (16) +9 = 25
Kid: d20 (1) +8 = 9
Rook: d20 (14) +5 = 19

GM: Holly:  d20 (7) +10 = 17
Not So Little Elves: d20 (9) +1 = 10

We end up with Princess, Rook, Holly, Elves, Kid

GM: Well, Kid, you seem confused by all this.

Kid: Right, I thought this might also be part of that Christmas thing. I guess not after all.

GM: First to act is Princess. What do you do?

Princess: Well, clearly things have turned sour here. Fixing Christmas eh? Maybe I'll fix her nose for making those poor kids scared and... freezing the guards. But I'm a bit concerned by the ones with those... freezing rays. She seems unarmed so far.

GM: Actually I forgot to mention, though not exactly a weapon, she is carrying a giant candy cane as tall as she is, even if she's a bit smallish.

Princess: She's not a kid is she?

GM: No, no, she's a woman, just smaller than average. And as such much smaller than you.

Princess: Hm... I'll still focus on the armed goons I think. I run up to the closest and try to knock him out.

GM: OK, since they are Minions, you can simply do a Routine attack if it's enough to hit. What's your attack bonus?

Princess: +8. That's 18 routine?

GM: Mh... Yeah, that would hit.
They have a Parry of 2, thus DC 12
So he needs to resist your damage... Your attack has a DC of... 27. Yeah, he has no way of resisting that, so he's down, dropping his weapon in the process.

Princess: How many are there again?

GM: Uh... seven, well six now, plus the girl. Rook, you're up.

Rook: I'm still outside?

GM: Ah, yes, you still have the guy in your chokehold. You have just heard some commotion in the mall, what are you doing?

Rook: Can't quite leave him here unattended... and I'm pretty sure he's up to no good. Uh... is there any way for me to knock him out instantly?

GM: Mhh... your grab put him in a pretty bad situation, let me see... He is Defenseless from your Grab, and obviously at close range, so that's supposedly all you need to make a Finishing Attack. Do you want to roll it to try to get a crit?

Rook: Let's try that. I want to make sure he's out in one move. d20 (16) +15 = 31.

GM: Yyyyeah... quite so. Being a crit, this gives you a +5 bonus to your damage DC. Let's see his toughness resistance. d20 (16) +3 = 19 VS DC 18+5... 23. He made a good roll, but that crit definitely helped you. You knock him out. What next?

Rook: Are there many people from here to the entrance of the mall? Can I use my wings to get there quickly?

GM: I'm going to say it's clear enough. And the doors are still open from the group entering.

Rook: OK, I spread my wings and burst forward, zigzagging between people if necessary until I'm inside.

GM: You get there without too much trouble. You see that the rest of the group is here and they have started using their weapons. You see a few guards encased in ice with looks of surprise on their faces. The woman of the group is near a group of children and she's holding a gift box away from a crying child. She has a giant candy cane in her other hand. I totally forgot about this but I guess you would have seen her take it out of the van earlier, too.
Anyway, that's the end of your turn. Let's get to... ah, that peculiar lady!

She's seen one of her allies go down, attacked by a tall girl with a pink shirt with "Princess" on it. And she doesn't look too happy. "Agh! Who dares lay a hand on Saint Nick's elves?!" Without any visible means of propulsion she takes to the air and swoops down on you, Princess. She wields her huge candy cane like a bat and swings it at you.
d20 (8) +12 = 20. What's your Parry?

Princess: Parry is 8

GM: so DC 18. You take the curved part of the cane in the head. Roll your Toughness save.

Princess: I do have Impervious Toughness 8. Does this get through it?

GM: Unfortunately for you, yes. She gave you a pretty strong hit, totally unexpected considering her petite size.

Princess: Darn. d20 (6) +12 = 18. Is that enough?

GM: Unfortunately no, you take a -1 penalty.

Princess: Ouch... but I can take it. I think... I might redirect my attention to that crazy lady next turn...

GM: Sounds fair. For now, it's the turn of the elves. They all turn to you, raising their weapons and they fire.
Elf 1: d20 (12) +1 = 13
Elf 2: d20 (14) +1 = 15
Elf 3: d20 (12) +1 = 13
Elf 4: d20 (8) +1 = 9
Elf 5: d20 (10) +1 = 11

Your Dodge DC is... 18, so none of them actually manages to hit you. How does that go?

Princess: I'm just too fast on my legs and too nimble compared to the time it takes for them to aim and shoot these bulky things. They're not sticking me to the floor anytime soon.

GM: All right! Kid, it's your turn. What do you do? There's quite a battle in progress in front of your eyes and you're pretty sure this is not normal. The face on the good doctor is quite enough to tell you so. She's obviously trying to find a safe way out and still holding you by the shoulders.

Kid: I drop that silly cloak thing and put my hand on hers, gently removing it from my shoulder. "Do not worry. I'll protect you." I activate my force field. Well, make sure it's active, since I probably have it on most of the time. And I step forward, computing everyone's position and starting the charge of my Force Bolts. Those armed people look dangerous. "Everyone get down!" Aim, shoot! I'm using Multiattack to try to get them all.

GM: That's five of them, so a -5 penalty. Do your roll.

Kid: d20 (3) +12 -5 = 10. Err... oops?

GM: Oops indeed. Your shots are rather wild and end up hitting various walls and decorations instead of your intended targets.

Kid: Attack result: failure... Increase attack precision for next attempt.

GM: Sounds like a good idea! You can still move, do you want to?

Kid: Mhh... I'll fly up, this way they shouldn't hit innocents if they target me. And it'll give me a better view of the situation.

Round 2

GM: OK. Next is... Princess!

Princess: Hm... I think I'm gonna try and grab that candy can off her hands. Who knows, maybe it's the source of her power. It ticks me off anyway.

GM: Disarming uh? OK, let's see... that's a regular attack but at -2.

Princess: Here we go. d20 (8) +8-2 = 14

GM: Not even close. She nimbly moves out of the way keeping that cane out of reach.

Princess: Urh... Well I keep after her anyway. At worst I'm keeping her busy.

GM: Works for me. Oh, by the way, can you give me an Investigation roll? or Intelligence if you don't have it.

Princess: Sure. d20 (13) +2 = 15

GM: All right. During that fight, you end up realizing how much she looks like that crazy woman who has made the news this month. Just like The Rook you remember how it's happened all around town, in various stores. Santas were often targeted, but also events such as this one.

Princess: Trying to ruin Christmas for others is she?

GM: Who knows! Anyway, Rook can act now. What does he do?

Rook: It seems it's urgent to take care of those armed goons. I don't know who that kid is (... is he made of metal?!) but he's going to destroy the building instead of helping if keep going like this! Anyway, I was thinking of using one of my Flash Bombs but the radius seems to large.

GM: 30ft radius, yeah... But most people have cleared the area, so I'd say it's possible. Since Princess pursued the crazy lady, she's also moved away. Go ahead with the Flash Bomb if you want.

Rook: Good, I'll throw one in their midst then. They need to resist a DC 13 with Fortitude.

GM: Let's see how that goes.

Goon 1: d20 (9) + 4 = 13
Goon 2: d20 (19) +4 = 23
Goon 3: d20 (6) +4 = 10
Goon 4: d20 (1) +4 = 5
Goon 5: d20 (15) +4 = 19

In retrospect, I totally missed the fact a Dodge roll should have been made before the Fortitude save. Success would have halved the Affliction effect.

GM: Two of them are affected. One of them has two degrees of failure.

Rook: Then one is Vision Impaired and the worst one Vision Disabled.

GM: -2 and -5 on anything requiring vision, got it.

Rook: I'm also going to take to the air and call that flying kid. "Be careful with those shots! Are you here to help or not?"

Kid: I... I am! I'm sorry, I'll be careful!

GM: It's Holly's turn. Yeah, she's called Holly. Can't find a way to give out her name without it being a very corny moment, oh well. She calls out to Princess as she's being pursued: "Why are you interfering? Don't see you what they're doing? They're ruining Christmas! They're ruining Mister Nick's work!" and then she tries to find an opening to make use of her cane. d20 (2) +12 = 14.

Princess: I got a Dodge DC of ... no wait, Parry DC of 18. She misses! I also reply to her. "The only one I see ruining Christmas here is you! What have those poor kids even done to you?!"

GM: She frowns, as if it should have been obvious. "Not all of them have been nice. Bad kids do NOT get presents! That's how it's supposed to be!"

Princess: The hell...

GM: Also, she takes to the air again, getting out of your reach.

Princess: Hmm...

GM: The elves go now. Mhh... They have quite a few possible targets. I think they're going to split -- oh, uh... and I just realized Minions are supposed to take full effect from any attack, so... what's the biggest effect from those Flash Bombs?

Rook: Vision Unaware?

GM: OK, well, I guess that makes those two out of the fight since they can't even recover from that without help or some rest. So yeah, each of the three remaining goons is going to fire at each of you guys.

Goon 1: d20 (1)
Goon 2: d20 (17) +1 = 18
Goon 3: d20 (8) +1 = 9

Oh, um, I should probably define who's attacking who... Let's go by initiative order: Princess, Rook and Kid, respectively. So Princess is off the hook since her goon auto misses. Rook... What's your Dodge?

Rook: The DC is 24

GM: OK, missed. And with a 9 I'm pretty sure Kid's safe.

Kid: DC 18, yes.

GM: Those poor goons won't even touch you at all. Well, Kid, it's your turn.

Kid: I think I'll use my Force Blast, it's the most precise I have for this situation. d20 (1) ... Oh... gaah!

GM: You are not lucky today.

Kid: So ah... I just keep floating in the air then I suppose. Or wait, wait, I'm going to use a Hero Point on this.

GM: OK, go ahead.

Kid: d20 (13) +10 = 23. Haaha! That's better!

GM: Quite so! You totally hit one of the goons. Let's see his resistance. d20 (7) +3 = 10... versus DC 25, yeah, he's toast.

Kid: Whoo! He's pushed in the air and crashes through one of the windows, ending up outside, knocked out.

GM: Still destroying the place uh?

Kid: Meh!

Round 3

GM: Princess, Holly is now flying above you, what do you do?

Princess: Hmm... She seems pretty agile and strong... I'm not even sure I can hit her.

GM: Mmmm... Are you losing your confidence by any chance?

Princess: Uh?... Oh...... my Complication eh? I guess I might be. Though maybe not just yet. One more try and then we'll see. For now, I'll leap in the air to reach her and then place a well aimed punched using Accurate Attack at +2.

GM: Reducing damage effect for accuracy, right. And using your Leaping to get to her. I'm not sure that's exactly how it works, but it sounds fun. Roll it.

Princess: d20 (16) +8+2 = 26! How's that?

GM: Hey, whaddya know, you actually manage to hit her! How well is she going to take it? d20 (5) +6 = 11. What's the damage DC for this? Don't forget the -2.

Princess: Base is 12, so make that 10... and the DC becomes 25.

GM: Ouch... She's got... three degrees of failure! She gets Staggered and a -1 penalty to toughness. Staggered means Dazed and Hindered, so only one standard action per turn for her, and at half speed (-1 rank). I suppose it applies to ground and flight speed, not that it'll matter too much for her Flight I suppose. Very, very nice hit there Princess. Guess you're not losing confidence any time soon after all.

Princess: I rock! Eheh!

GM: I'm even going to say you managed to knock her back down to the ground. She staggers to her feet, visibly shaken by that last hit. Rook, what's your next action?

Rook: "Hey, um... Princess!" I assume I've heard of her, plus her shirt says that, so... "Try using your mean punch of these guys", pointing at the goons. "We fliers will take care of that annoying imp!" I activate the wings with the anti-grav device to rise up to Kid's and Holly's level.

GM: Anything else?

Rook: Gonna use my Taser Talons to hopefully take her out. d20 (18) +13 = 31. Looking good.

GM: No kidding :). Quite above her Dodge so she's hit. Next step is Fortitude?

Rook: Yes, against DC 14.

GM: d20 (18) +6 = 24. She also gets a very good roll and seems surprised but no more affected than before (though she is still dazed).

Rook: Grr...

GM: Her time to act. So, she's dazed... and hindered from her Staggered status. Compared to just being Dazed, this will remain until she gets time to recover. She seems confused and unsure of what to do next. "Get them! Freeze them up! We can't let Christmas... be ruined... urh..." She holds her head for a second, visibly in pain, but focuses again on the Rook, flying to you and trying to get you with her blunt weapon of joy.
d20 (17) +12 = 29

Rook: My Parry DC is 24. I'm hit, right?

GM: Yup, you need to make a Toughness save against 23.

Rook: d20 (3) +6 = 9

GM: Oh my... Wanna use a Hero Point?

Rook: I think I will. d20 (7) . Thats a 17 + 6 = 23. Just saved this time! Phew.

GM: Good, you managed to soften the blow by moving with the flow at the last second. A split second later and you know you would have felt it real bad. Onto the elves now. Three of them left, and they know Princess is gonna come for them, so they all aim at her.

Goon 1: d20 (20) +1 = 21
Goon 2: d20 (14) +1 = 15
Goon 3: d20 (9) +1

Since Minions can't crit non-minions, that first one just gets an auto-hit.

Princess: Which would have hit me anyway...

GM: The two others seem to have missed though. Now to see how well the ray gets you. You resist with Dodge initially, versus DC 13.

Princess: Doesn't look too bad considering I have 8. d20 (20) +8= 28. As I said...

GM: Yeah, there was little chance to begin with, not mentioning a natural 20. While you get bathed in the ray a bit, you're moving too fast for it to hold. It feels rather cold though and the parts end up covered in a thin coat of snow. Kid?

Kid: To that flying elf lady: "I don't really know who you are, but I can't let you do... whatever you're doing." Um... I'll need to work on some catchphrases.

GM: She replies "I'm Holly Daye! Agent of Saint Nick and savior of the Christmas tradition! You seem like a good kid, so stay out of this!"

Kid: "Don't think I can ma'am, sorry!" and I blast her with my force. d20 (5) +10 = 15.

GM: Missed. She's incredibly fast and nimble.

Kid: Gosh... I might have to use my Force Bolts then... and an Accurate Attack I guess. Maybe next round.

Round 4

GM: Princess. Are you going for the goons as The Rook suggested?

Princess: Myeah. I have a beef with that loony but I'm afraid she's a bit too fast for me. And I can't fly like the others. So yeah, gonna try to clear those guys out. Rush in and knock out! d20 (15) +8 = 23. Ha!

GM: Actually could have used a Routine check, but yes, it hits! Considering your damage level and the fact they're minions, there's no point in rolling their Toughness. One of them goes down, wham!

Princess: Cool. I might consider using a Hero Point for Takedown next round.

GM: Rook, what's your move?

Rook: I was thinking of using some Affliction-type attacks but I have the strange feeling it won't do much. She's already staggered after all. I think I'll just fly to her and smack her with my fighting staff. d20 (12) +15 = 27.

GM: Yup, that hits. d20 (2) +6-1 = 7. That's against your staff's DC of 20. Once again, that's a 3rd degree failure for her. Since she already had reached 3rd degree, she's in for the 4th one, that is, Incapacitated! That last hit is just too much for her and she falls to the floor, unconscious. Congrats!

Rook: A good thing done. I'm going back to the floor, joining with Princess. We still have a couple of mooks to deal with.

GM: Speaking of which... They seem to switch something on their weapons and attack again. Being the last two, they seem inclined on being a bit more clever. They wait for the right moment and both shoot their beam at the same time! I'll be using a Team Attack.
Goon 1: d20 (14) +1 = 15
Goon 2: d20 (2) +1 = 3

Nope, none hit DC 18. Team Attack is nice for damage but I forgot their issue was hitting Princess to begin with, eh. That leaves us with Kid for this round.

Kid: I guess I'm going to use those Force Bolts after all, with Multiattack. d20 (12) +12-2 = 22.

GM: They're hit. Let's see their resistance.
Goon 1: d20 (18) +3 = 21
Goon 2: d20 (10) +3 = 13

Nope, none of them makes it. You've cleared the whole group! How do you go about the cleanup?

Kid: First I'll go back to Natalie and make sure she's okay.

GM: She looks shocked but she's not hurt. "I... This is not what I wanted this evening to be like Kid, I'm sorry."

Kid: "I do not believe you are at fault here. I'm just glad you're fine."

GM: She gives a slight smile and hugs you. You can feel she's still shaking but slowly relaxes.

Princess: What about the guards who were frozen?

GM: The ice slowly melts under the many ceiling lights. They're soon freed, but obviously shaken and shaking. It was pretty cold! You do hear the sirens from ambulances and the police in the distance though, so everyone should be taken care of.

Rook: I suppose that's my cue to leave. I'll give a silent nod of appreciation to Princess and Kid and fly out of here. I'll keep an eye out on the scene from a nearby building to make sure everything's wrapped up properly. Might also want to check up on those two.

GM: OK. A few minutes later a lot of new cars have arrived. The guards are being sent to the hospital with some cold burns and the goons arrested. Holly Daye is taken into custody by the meta-department. Everything seems to be going back to normal. Well, except for the property damage and the interrupted events. Some of the kids are still there with their parents, obviously upset, what with the pile of gifts still left inside and not all of it in one piece. Though some of them apparently thought that whole fight was just as cool, if not more!
As people are lamenting the destruction, a strange jingling is heard. People notice some strange glittery snow falling over the scene and soon enough bits of glass and debris fly back to their original position, restoring the place as if nothing had happened to it. All the gift boxes are back to normal and even the guards seem to relax, as if warmed up by some strange energy.
One of the kids points in the air excitedly: "Santa! Santa!". A sleigh pulled by reindeers is seen flying above the buildings and a familiar gentle laugh is heard. Holly Daye can be heard gasping admiratively: "Ohh, Saint Nick!"
And that's when a bunch of TV News vans invade the street.

Princess: Well, time to go!

Kid: Yeah, I'll grab the doctor by the waist securely, wave at the kids and fly ourselves out of here.

Princess: I'll just leave the scene. I'm not Princess anymore so it shouldn't be a problem.

GM: Right, from the moment you stop thinking of yourself as Princess, you're back to being a regular student to everyone. Well, that wraps up this scenario!


Overall this was pretty fun, though it took longer than I expected (multiple hours over two days). I even planned a two-part scenario but ended up kind of mixing all the ideas in a one-scene thing once I realized how slowly it was moving. It was, of course, not easy to play every character and the GM, but I'm still glad with the results. Makes for a nice playtest of the rules if anything.

I really like Holly Daye as a villain, though I wasn't always sure how to play her. She isn't thoroughly evil, just... extreme and "purist" in her ways, so I didn't want her to come off as an utterly horrible woman. That was the intention. In play, I'm not sure I managed to show off her interesting facets that much.
The M&M conversion itself was a first for me when working from something so abstract. I tried to "get" the feel of the character and transcribe it in M&M. And for my own preference, I went with a more agile than strong/tough character. I pictured her flying about like Tinkerbell, very hard to catch. I totally got that feel during the playthrough considering how hard it got to hit her. Of course, once you do hit her, she's rather fragile.
I don't think I got to use all her mechanical aspects either, whether because they did not come up (Instant Up) or because I forgot. It's sad because it seems like I missed most of the interesting bits: her ability to know if you're lying (and how bad it is) as well as her naughty/nice radar for children (well, OK, she did use that last one in her intro).
Also not too sure on making her a PL 10 and maxing out her attack/defense stats. I still have a hard time picturing what PL is really about.

As for her helpers, I didn't expect them to last that long. They might even have lasted longer if I hadn't botched the Rook's flash bomb. Their freezing gun though? Gosh... I wanted it to put the heroes in a bind (more or less literally) and spice things up, but they couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with 'em... And when they did, it had no effect. Since I built those, I have the feeling I should have gone more crazy with the numbers. They might have been Minions, but they might have deserved higher stats.

When it comes to the M&M ruleset itself, all I can say is that I'm satisfied overall. There were a few cases where I thought the characters could do something but the rules, apparently, did not allow it or I couldn't figure out how to do it (I thought of some sort of Interpose with Kid at one point, using his Deflect, but... eh). Most of the time, though, it felt pretty cool. Moving about was barely an issue considering the very short distances in this setup... and flying about was incredibly easy to deal with.
One thing I was disappointed in, but again it might just be my misunderstanding the rules, was how most attempts at Affliction yielded nothing. Maybe I misused the attacks, or misread the rules. But overall it felt somewhat weak and barely worth using up an action to do it. I'm not a power gamer, but I still don't like giving up efficiency.

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Holly Daye Special - Write-ups

 The following villain comes from a Capes, Cowls and Villains Foul freebie by Spectrum Games called Christmas Comes But Once a Year. Given the very free-form nature of CCVF (and the fact I do not have the rules) made it a bit hard to come up with something appropriate. In any case, here's my Mutants & Masterminds 3e version of the villain.

Holly Daye (PL 10)

STR: 6, STA: 6, AGL:10, DEX: 3, FGT: 8, INT: 2, AWE: 2, PRE: 4

Dodge: 14 (+4), Parry: 14 (+4), Will: 4 (+2), Fort: 6, Tough: 6

Initiative : +10

Holly Daye, Saint Nick's little helperOffense
Candy Cane  +12     Dmg 8
Unarmed       +10      Dmg 6
Throwing        +3      Dmg 6

Lifting capacity : 3-6 tons     (lifting Str of 8)
Land speed : 30ft
Flight speed : 900ft/round, 300m/round, 150ft/s, 50m/s


Close Combat 2
Defensive Attack
Instant Up
Agile Feint (feint using Acrobatics or movement speed)


Acrobatics +14       (10 +4r)
Athletics +8            (6 +2r)
Close Combat - Candy Cane +14   (8+2 +4r)
Close Combat - Unarmed +12          (8+2 +2r)
Expertise - Legends of Christmas (Limited)   +8     (2 +6r)
Insight +8      (2 +6r from power)
Perception (Lies & Naughtiness only) +18      (2 +16r from power)
Persuasion +8       (4 +4r)


Naughty / Nice Radar :
    Senses 5
        Detect Lies, hearing, ranged (+1 rank), acute (+1 rank)
            Acute : can tell white lies from rotten lies
        Detect Naughtiness, hearing, ranged (+1 rank)
        Limited to people before puberty (-1/r)

    Enhanced Insight 6
    Enhanced Perception 16, Limited to Detect Lies & Detect Naughtiness

Flight 5
Candy Cane of Joy (Device) :
    Strength-based Damage 2
    Easily Removable

Super Strength
    Enhanced Strength 2, Limited to Lifting

Equipment - Pouch full of Coal
Equipment - Satchel full of Goodies


Offense : Init +10, Candy Cane +12 (Dmg 8;23), Unarmed +10 (Dmg 6;21), Throwing +3 (Dmg 6;21)
Defense : Dodge 14, Parry 14, Tough 6, Fort 6, Will 4
                      DC 24      DC 24               DC 16   DC 14

  • Crazed Imagination
  • Delusional
  • Explosive Temper

Note: the candy cane is a personal addition. I liked the visual of her using such a thing as a weapon.

Saint Nick's Not So Little Elves  (PL 3)

I thought just having one villain would be a bit sad and too straightforward. So even though the original PDF does not mention her having allies, I figured I'd give her like-minded people as goons. And to make them more than just regular Thugs, I gave them a Freezing Gun. In retrospect, I should have made the Affliction rank much higher... and maybe made the Thugs a bit better at shooting. Oh well...

Regular Thug template plus...

Freezing Gun
    Ranged Damage 5
    Snare (Affliction) (3/r) 3
        Effect : vulnerable + hindered, defenseless + immobile
        Extra Condition
        Limited Degree
        Alternate Resistance : Resisted by Dodge, then by Damage or Sleight of Hand
Offense : Init +1, Unarmed +2 (Dmg 2;17), Freezing Gun +1 (Dmg 5;20 or Affliction DC 13)
Defense : Dodge 2, Parry 2, Fort 4, Tough 3/2, Will 0

Note: the second number for Damage is the actual resistance DC (damage rank+15).

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Seraphine the Night Cat - Mutants & Masterminds 3rd ed.

I recently bought Mutants & Masterminds 3rd edition (gosh, what a dreary page to introduce this RPG...)

It's funny in a way because I had peeked at the 2nd ed. PDF a long time ago and was all "bleh, d20". I had a weird relationship to the d20 system back then since I had discovered FATE and other more narrative-based games. Since then, though, after quite a few sessions of Pathfinder with a friend, I've learned to appreciate what d20 offers (more on that later maybe).

So maybe it's because of this... or because I just found myself in a superheroic mood at the time (was reading Spinerette quite a bit), but looking into the 3rd edition yielded much enthusiasm. I was surprised. It was d20 all right, but it didn't feel like it. It really felt like a cool superhero simulation system. And maybe most important of all, it seemed to get everything right. Utterly customizable powers? Check. In-genre action rules? Check. Lots of freedom and a focus on reproducing the "rules" of superhero stories? Check!
I spent some time reading up reviews online and forum threads as well as listening to an actual play podcast... then grabbed the PDF to confirm my suspicion... and then finally bought the book.

Admittedly I haven't yet played the game, so I might still be in for a huge disappointment, but I doubt it. There's even some stuff I might bring into Pathfinder, because it fits exactly what I've missed there.

For now, I have tried to create my very own first superhero character. Nothing too original, but hey :)


(Felicie Amise)


(more detailed version follows stats)

Felicie, a brilliant but rather unlucky scientist, was working on a molecular manipulator of her making when her cat, Seraphine, climbed onto the machine. An accident later, Seraphine is nowhere to be found and Felicie realizes she's changing day by day, gaining new abilities and... new feline body parts!
At first distressed by such a development, she then realizes, during a nocturnal stroll, that she's now skilled enough to face bandits. Maybe she can help people this way, under the new identity of...

... Seraphine, the Night Cat!



  • Strength : 4
  • Stamina : 4
  • Agility : 6/2 (when tail and whiskers are "nullified")
  • Dexterity : 1
  • Fighting : 5/3 (when tail and whiskers are "nullified")
  • Intellect : 5
  • Awareness : 4/2 (when cat ears are "nullified")
  • Presence : 1

Cost : 4+4+6+1+5+5+4+1 = 30x2 = 60


  • Dodge : Agility + 4 = 6 + 4 = 10
  • Parry : Fighting + 3 = 4 + 3 = 7
  • Fortitude : Stamina + 0 = 4
  • Toughness : Stamina + Def Roll = 4 + 4 = 8/4
  • Will : Awareness + 0 = 4

4+3 = 7

  • Initiative : Agility + Improved Init = 6 + 4 = 10

Offenses :
  • Claws : +11 (FGT+Close Attack+CC Claws = 5+2+4)
    • DC 15+3+4 = 22 (Penetrating 3, Crit 19-20)
  • Unarmed : +10 (FGT+Close Attack + CC Unarmed = 5+2+3)
    • DC 15+4 = 19
  • Melee weapon : +7 (FGT + Close Attack = 5+2)
    • DC 15+4(str)+? = 19 + wpn dmg


  • Agile Feint
  • Animal Empathy (Limited to cats -- no buy back possible)
  • Close Attack - 2
  • Defensive Roll - 4
  • Evasion I
  • Improved Disarm
  • Improved Initiative - 1
  • Improved Trip
  • Instant Up
  • Luck - 3
  • Move-by Action
  • Second Chance - Acrobatics
  • Skill Mastery - Acrobatics
  • Uncanny Dodge

1+1+2+4+1+1+1+1+1+3+1+1+1+1 = 20

Linked to...
Balancing Tail : Defensive Roll, Evasion, Instant Up, Skill Mastery Acrobatics
Whiskers : Defensive Roll, Evasion, Uncanny Dodge
Cat Ears : Uncanny Dodge

If one of the parts is "nullified", the corresponding Advantages disappear, even if another part linked to them is still "active" (this is meant to simplify things...)

  • Acrobatics - 6/2 + AGL = 6+6 = 12/8
  • Athletics - 5 + STR = 5+4 = 9
  • Close Combat - Claws - 4 + FGT + Close Attack = 4+5+2 = 11
  • Close Combat - Unarmed - 3 + FGT + Close Attack = 3+5+2 = 10
  • Expertise - Medecine - 4 + INT = 4+5 = 9
  • Expertise - Science - 4 + INT = 4+5 = 9
  • Insight - 2 +AWE = 2+4 = 6
  • Perception - 6/2 + AWE = 6+4 = 10/6
  • Persuasion - 2 + PRE = 2+1 = 3
  • Sleight of Hand - 2 + DEX = 2+1 = 3
  • Stealth - 6 + AGL = 6+6 = 12
  • Technology - 2 + INT = 2+5 = 7

6+5+4+3+4+4+2+6+2+2+6+2 = 46/2 = 23


Feline Speed: (=4)
   Speed 4 (30mph / 64kmh)

Claws : (=7)
   Damage 3, Penetrating 3, Strength-Based, Improved Critical I (3+3+0+1)

Balancing tail : (=21)
  Movement - Safe Fall, Limited to Distance rank 6 (1) (subtle??)
  Movement - Sure-Footed 1 (2) (subtle??)
  Leaping 5 (5) (subtle??)
    Running Long : Rank 4 (125m, 500ft)
    Standing Long : Rank 3 (65m, 250ft) (base)
    Running High : Rank 2 (30m, 120ft)
    Standing High : Rank 1 (15m, 60ft)

10+3+1+2+5 = 21

Source of : (ability boosts linked to the body part, becomes penalties if the part is "nullified")
Agility +4
Fighting +1
Acrobatics +4

Cat ears : (=2)
    Extended Hearing (1) (-1 / 100ft)
    Ultra-Hearing (1)

Source of :
Awareness +2

Whiskers : (=1)
    Ranged Touch (1) (Accurate and Radius by default) (-1 / 10ft)
    Limited to Moving objects displacing air (would give back 1 rank but I have nothing else to use it on)

Source of :
Fighting +1

Cat's Eyes : (=2)
    Extended Vision (1)
    Low-Light Vision (1)

Cat Scent : (=3)
    Extended Scent (1) (-1/10ft, considered "close range" for regular smells)
    Acute Scent (1) (identifies)
    Tracking Scent (1)

4+7+21+2+1+2+3 = 40


None for now, but in the future she might acquire/make a special yarn ball, a set of extremely strong wire to entangle foes and bind them.

Total Cost

Abilities : 60
Defenses : 7
Skills : 23
Advantages : 20
Powers : 40

Total : 60+7+23+20+40 = 150


  • Power Loss : Seraphine get all her powers only if her cat ears, whiskers and tail are unimpaired. As such, she is weakened in her civil status (parts squished in disguise) and if an opponent restrains any of these parts.
  • Secret Identity : No one knows Felicie is Seraphine the Night Cat, nor that she had the accident and the results it had. Her new feline parts are hard to camouflage and could be discovered if she's not careful.
  • Motivation - Doing Good
  • Quirk : Cat-like behavior


Felicie is a young scientist woman working on a machine design capable of changing molecules, for medical purpose. One day that her female cat, Seraphine, was around (reason TBD -- she either brought her at work, or she lives in the lab), she ran a test on the machine and realized the cat was sitting on the pad, intrigued by the food sample Felicie had put there. The test procedure is somehow impossible to stop now, so Felicie runs to the pad to get the cat out of there, but it's too late, and they're both struck by rays of energy.

When the young woman wakes up, she sees no hint of her pet. She looks for her everywhere, in vain. Did she flee or...? In any case, Felicie is devastated by this loss.

She's also worried for herself and what the rays might have done to her body. Worse! The machine seems to have short-circuited during the test and will need thorough repais. The exact calibration from the test might be lost forever.

In the following days, the young woman slowly notices changes. She does not need to turn on the lights at night and her pupils are dilated, her nails have become especially sharp and long (and soon retractible)... and the worst is when a new pair of feline ears pop up on her head, as well as a cat tail sprouting from above her butt. Her perception and agility have reached inhuman levels in a few days, too, but Felicie is mostly concerned with hiding her unusual looks.

To do so, she takes a few days off to adapt. Everyone thinks it's to mourn her cat, whom she loved very much.

Felicie gets that something happened the day of the accident. Her molecules, or her DNA have been modified somehow, and she's turning into a cat person!
Moreover, she's started dreaming things from a strange point of view. She *is* Seraphine. She recognizes events she's lived with her, but sees them as the cat did. Could... Seraphine and herself have... fused together?
Her mind does seem to be acquiring strange new feline traits: new food tastes, a need to sleep durnig the day and walk around at night, being easily distracted by flies and bouncing balls...

At first panicked, the young woman ends up convinced that her cat did not disappear, but lives through... in her. Woman and animal are now one. As such, her idea to try and reverse the experiment slowly disappears as she fears she might definitely lose Seraphine this time (and herself maybe).

Though this is not easy to live, the scientist accepts her condition. Taken by this new need for nocturnal strolls, she makes a simple disguise with hood and a simple mask, just to be on the safe side, but otherwise relishes at the opportunity to let her cat parts free. She feels like she's fully herself at these times.

One night, she randomly stumbles upon a gangster dealing on the roofs. Immediately being chased after, she's surprised to not only survive the ordeal, but end up with a bunch of knocked out bad guys! Looks like she got some amazing huntress instincts.

That's when she realizes that the accident may be a boon. She's always wanted to help people, which is why she tried to make a machine capable of healing them. But now she could help people while fulfilling her new instincts. Thus, inspired by all the superheroes popping up in the news lately, she decides she'll become one too! And to honor the source of her new powers, she becomes the nocturnal feline...

... Seraphine !


  • Her hair slowly took a coloring similar to Seraphine's beige fur, along with cat markings. She hides it under a wig.
  • She has a cat tail which she twirls around her leg to keep it hidden.
  • She has cat ears in addition to her regular human ears. She hides them under a hat or head scarf, or simply her wig.
  • She has whiskers. This was the most annoying for her to hide. Initially she tried cutting them off, but not only do they grow back, it also makes her feel diminished and dizzy at times. She found a way to keep them stuck on her face under a layer of skin-like silicone. It's rather uncomfortable though.
  • Her pupils strongly dilate at night and reflect light at some angles. They are also almond shaped, which Felicie hides with special lenses.

She's otherwise of average height or build, though her new powers (and activities) have made her more fit.


As usual for me, this part is the least clear so far. I picture her as helpful, though probably introvert, maybe a little naive. She definitely has a heart of gold.


  • Sharp and retractable claws (looks like regular nails when retracted)
  • Night vision (requires a modicum of light)
  • Great agilty and balance
  • Super jumps
  • Almost always falls back on her legs
  • Improved hearing (wider frequencies and better range)
  • Air movement detection thanks to her whiskers
  • Improved sense of smell
  • Great running speed, usually in sprints

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

HeroQuest 2 with mom

It has been a while. A long while. But I'm still out there! I just haven't played solo or used Mythic *that* much lately. I have been involved in quite a few RP sessions with a friend though (using Pathfinder mostly), and it might lead to new posts.

For now, I wanted to mention a new attempt at playing with parents, my mom in this case.

During my last vacation, I thought it'd be fun trying a game again, and since I don't see my mom often, it's also a way to "have done something together". I had the Mutants & Masterminds 3rd edition with me, as well as HeroQuest 2. Superheroes definitely NOT being her cup of tea, HQ was the only plausible solution... and it's generic enough that I would be able to do mostly anything with it, right?

So I tried to find something that she could actually enjoy and approve. She does not like violence, nor much of fantastic stuff. The last time I managed to make her play through a pulpish adventure and I'll suppose that's the most she'd accept in that regard (and only if it barely has anything weird and not too much combat, gosh ^^;). After a while of discussing it, I suddenly came up with something: hikers!

The Hikers

Simple enough: we would both play as guides for a group of hikers. This definitely makes us PCs, with responsibility and, no doubt, a heap of trouble ahead :). And yes, we would play. That is, I also decided I wanted to play along rather than GM for one person. In retrospect, it might be better to fully GM a game once when one doesn't know the system, but eh ^^;... So this means we used Mythic to ask questions, and a on-the-fly made up system with tables to generate trouble.

As such, I also hoped she could contribute to the content by providing ideas for the tables. She did, but I realized at that point she had trouble just coming up with things. I insisted a bit and we did manage to fill out tables appropriately. I also decided it would be fun to create two hikers each, in the simplest way possible: an occupation/archetype and two personality traits. Here's what we ended up with.

The four tourists:
  • Judith, the pessimistic but helpful student
  • Marianne, the young ecology-oriented idealist
  • Ronald, the fat and disrespectful American tourist (ahh, clichés...)
  • Charles-Edouard, the whiny but physically fit bourgeois

They were actually randomly generated out of a list of archetypes and traits we had provided. And yes, the lists were meant to give up trouble-prone people, of course.

The guides

They were created using the on-the-fly method HQ2 provides. It seemed the best option to avoid bogging down things from the start. And I knew mom would have trouble creating a complete character beforehand. Actually, I would have too, since it's not my usual setting.

Of note for HQ connoisseurs, I mark Masteries as "+" instead of the weird W. That symbol is just something I never managed to grok. I actually dislike the whole "12W2" notation, but eh ^^;

Nicolas "Nico" Bourget

(played by me)

32yo, short brown hair, not well shaven, wearing sandals and sporting a generally relaxed outfit and attitude.

  • Hiking guide 13+3 = 16
  • Diplomacy 17+7 = 4+
  • Motivation: Regain confidence after "the Incident" 13+5 = 18
  • First Aid 13+2 = 15
  • Flaw: Weak against trouble 4+
  • English Language 13+3 = 16

I admit I don't remember if he got any of these along the way or if I just came up with them as we established the first scene (HQ2 on-the-fly mode requires only 2 traits and 1 flaw I believe). Also, English because we were playing French guides.

Motivation and Flaw explained: Nico was a regular guide until a recent incident where his group got lost and injured in the process of getting back home. This made him lose confidence in his abilities and he had to stop for months. Just now, he's about to go back into the fray with his first group since that Incident. He really wants... needs this to succeed. But as such, he's also afraid something will go wrong and bring the trauma back up.

Ninon "Ninette" Charette

(played by mom)

40yo, light brown hair, hiking shoes, shorts, hat, shirt. Definitely a more "pro" look than Nico.

  • Hiking guide 13+5 = 18
  • Survival 17+5 = 2+
  • Flaw: Bad direction sense 2+  (yeah, I know, isn't that great for a guide? XD)
  • NOT a pushover 13
  • Cheery 13+5 = 18

I'm pretty sure she had no specific backstory and I was not going to force it on mom, so...

The Game

Admittedly it's a bit blurry since this took place a few weeks ago, but I'll try to remember and not any HQ-related comments along the way.

We started with an intro scene which I deemed necessary to bring to life our characters and the hikers. This didn't use any of our tables. I remember we were not terribly inspired and I was already feeling that "blank page" feeling Mythic gives me at times.

Scene 1

From there, we had planned to have three random scenes before the epilogue and we went and generated the first one: Stream, Fall(ing), Fog. The group had come upon a clearing with a stream gently flowing among the trees. What a quiet little place! Oh but some fog had come up as we went.
I generated who would be "falling" since it was to become the main trouble for the scene. It fell (ha!) to Charles-Edouard to trip on a rock as he crossed the stream. Slip, splash, oh dear. C-E is NOT happy. This is NOT a good hike. We are NOT good guides! Why bring us here? Wasn't there a safer way? Couldn't you warn me about the dangers of this stream?!

That's when we switched to HQ2 for the first time. HQ works by establishing the scene (done), reaching a conflict (done) and defining goals for each party. Charles-Edouard, our antagonist, is out to discredit the guides to shift the shame off himself. Nicolas wants to keep the fuss to a minimum as not to spoil the mood. We then define the difficulty of this obstacle in a very abstract and narrative fashion: based on previous events and the current "feel" of the story. Since we've just started, we're on neutral ground and pick the average difficulty which is 14.

Now how this works is that Charles-Edouard, the obstacle, rolls against 14. It is as if he suddenly gained a "Being an Annoying Jerk" ability at that rating, for the purpose of the scene. You could also say The Plot itself gained an "Obstacle" ability at that rating. Again, it's very abstract: the system doesn't care to explain what "14" truly entails, nor whether an opponent is truly skilled or whatever... it's really just "plot power". Moreover, the roll isn't made against Nicolas for now. It's d20 VS 14 (rolling low is better).

On the other side, Nicolas will be rolling d20 VS his most appropriate ability. I picked Diplomacy. It's at 4+, meaning he's rolling against 4, and will bump the result up later thanks to his Mastery (+). If the opposition rating had had a Mastery, they would have cancelled each other out.

I don't have the exact rolls but Nico failed the overall conflict. This could, for example, mean he rolled 10, over his 4, making his attempt a success (failure, bumped to success by Mastery) and that The Plot rolled 5, making it a success too. If you compare both results, success VS success has the lowest roll win. The Plot has 5, so it gets the upper hand and earns a Marginal Victory.

This also means it's a Marginal Defeat for Nico, and it means he gets some lingering penalty. I decided that C-E's rant, while supposedly uncalled for, manages to raise a few good points about the hike so far and cracks the group's confidence overall. Trust in Nico as a guide is weakened and he takes a -3 penalty to any future roll where trust is important.

Scene 2

After more walking and a slightly heavy mood, we find ourselves stepping careful along a mountain path, next to a dangerous drop. We randomly got "Storm" as color for the scene but forgot to use it, oops. As for our trouble this time, it's "Lost Object", meaning one of the tourists loses something. We randomly generate who, and... it's Charles-Edouard again, joy!

This time, he managed to have his cellphone fall out of his chest pocket as he was tying up his shoes. And since luck is on our side, it's fallen off the path, down to a flat chunk of rock jutting out from the cliff side below. Once again he gets all pissy and wants to blame us for this. We get into a very similar conflict as before except this time Ninon is getting fed up with his attitude and joins Nico in trying to shut him up. I believe we managed to get a Marginal Victory out of this, finally making a point. As in other systems, I like to treat "near successes" as "yes, but..." situations. For this, I imagined the whiner did not succeed in blaming us for his own carelessness, but managed to have us help him get the cellphone back. We were very insistent that he got down there. We would be holding him with ropes.

I thought this would make another nice opportunity for trouble and turned it into a challenge. This time, C-E is not our opponent anymore (he wants this to succeed), and so it's The Plot against us, clearly this time :). The Plot wants something bad to happen / us not to get the cellphone back.

Thankfully, this resulted in a Marginal Victory for us, but since it was a group challenge (Nico & Ninon), we could each get different results. Ninon failed her own roll badly and ended up with a lingering penalty of -3. It was decided that she hurt her arm as she was pulling C-E back up. This would impact any physical actions using that arm.

Scene 3

Since we had forgotten about the storm, we decided to have it in this scene, saying it had been building up across the previous scene. This time, we find ourselves in a pine forest, following a trail. But... the path is blocked! And... someone's phobia comes into play!

How we interpreted this is that the storm had gotten quite bad and lightning hit a tree which fell across the path. Also, our (randomly rolled) American friend happens to be scared shitless by storms. Woop!

At that point we had two separate challenges going: Nico was gonna try to reason with the tourist while Ninon was going to try and find an alternate path for us to keep going. Also, I don't remember when exactly, but I tried to use First Aid to reduce Ninon's hurt arm penalty. I failed thoroughly and added to her penalty. SWEET...

So, reasoning the tourist does not go well, even using English to reassure him in his native language: he's so scared he does not listen to me (lalalala!) and even reflex-punches me in the face as I try to hold his shoulder. Nico ends up shaken, with a -6 penalty. Things are just going down the pooper too much for him now and he's losing hope fast.

What about Ninon? Not doing much better! She searches around but rain and lack of light make it very difficult. She ends up giving up and coming back to the group, also starting to lose it (-3 penalty).

At that point, things are looking pretty grim. Will our guides find a way out? Narratively, HQ2 was doing its job: we started with average difficulty and got failures and successes. Suddenly though, we kept getting bad stuff happening (possibly also because of penalties). HQ2 variable difficulty system meant that at this point, things were going to get easier so we could possibly get out of it, coming out of hell in time for the climax.

And that's what happened: Ninon tried her hand at cheering up the American and it did work out! Then one of us (can't remember) also managed to find a path we had missed up till now and we were able to lead the group out of the forest.


Admittedly I don't quite remember what we had for the epilogue. It was getting late and I wanted to stop things at that point I think, so we might have made it very short: we reached the rendez-vous point and left our tourists. Things could have gone better, but we had soldiered through.

The System

So, HeroQuest 2 uh? Well, it was... special. I had been eyeing the game for a long while because it looked really original and not bogged down in specific contextual rules àla d20. Also loved what I saw of character creation: absolute freedom. I like absolute freedom. I was a bit scared of the abstract level, though.

Now that's I've gone through, I can say it's not bad, but I don't know if it's good either. It definitely has flaws. It feels like a very good idea only somewhat well executed. Of course, part of it might come from me not knowing the system, doing mistakes and so on. Since it's such an "alien" among RPGs, I'm pretty sure I missed stuff or misused concepts.

One big thing I realized as I wrote this is that I don't remember using the penalties that much, even though we had plenty of them. I don't know if lingering penalties are to be used everytime one fails a challenge, or only if "it makes sense". In this game, I had them every time. This does mean our characters were technically bogged down by them. And yet, I have this memory of ignoring most of them because our chances of success were already pretty low. It felt like we were losing more than winning a lot of time. I actually made the "up/down" chart they have in the rules and we went down quite a bit towards the end (scene 3 mostly).

On the other hand, I appreciate how the system gives you an abstract result (marginal victory, complete defeat, etc...) and lets you interpret the how of it. Penalties are also free form: you decide its representation based on what you failed at and what makes sense... and then you apply them to tasks where it would make sense that they impede your progress. Since you pick things that make sense, it remains logical. And it's also very adaptable to various settings and tones. What makes sense in an epic space opera might not in a gritty noir investigation.

I did not use the Extended Contest rules here, partly because I wanted things to go quick (it had to be a one-shot) and because the example they give in the book is....... underwhelming. It takes a LOT of time, and yet looks boring as hell. I've read similar opinions on the web, so it seems something might be wrong with these. It's sad too, because it looks like it has potential.

I believe Augments were used a few times (you make a sub-challenge to help your main ability with another ability). It's an interesting mechanic, but I barely touched it so I don't have strong feelings about it.

Overall conclusion then? I don't know if the system is really for me. Parts of it is. The philosophy itself might grow on me, but it's difficulty to get into (I love narrative systems, and yet I keep having simulationist reflexes -- mostly I want things to make sense). While narrative, it still has quite a few rules to keep in mind and, a pet peeve of mine, lots of tables. Thankfully a few of these can be memorized easily.

I think the biggest issue with HQ2 is that it relies on the GM to know precisely what's best for the game at any time and which sub-systems to use to make the most out of it (simple challenge? group challenge? extended contest?). If the GM makes the wrong choice, I have the feeling it can be catastrophic. It's a system that would deserve a LOT of examples. Long actual play examples with mechanics and choices explained. Though I'm scared the extended contest example is just that... I really hope they failed at it and the system can actually do much better than that.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Mythic Chartless

I keep mentioning how I don't use Mythic by-the-book and most of my hacks are about adding or removing 10%. So here's an explanation of how I do Mythic rolls.

At first, I used the Fate Chart as provided, but it quickly dawned on me that I was annoyed by needing such a thing just to ask Mythic questions. So far, the good points of the chart I see in the long run are:
  • It gives you the extreme results numbers
  • It uses a curve that makes wide rank differences less potent
But I don't see these as incentive enough to keep using the Chart.

How I do it now:
  • I start at 50% (or a 50/50 rank if you will)
  • I add or remove 10% per rank difference between a skill and the difficulty (or another skill if it's a resisted question), giving a Target Number
  • I roll the d100 and look if I'm below or equal the Target Number (if so, it's a Yes, otherwise No)
  • I quickly check if I'm below 10 or above 90 (easily noticeable) and unless the Target Number was quite far from the average 50%, I consider it an Extreme Yes/No
  • If the TN is like 80 or 90%, it's a matter of adding +2% for each 10% shift from the average to know if I have an Extreme answer or not. It's not instant, but the case rarely comes up for me anyway... and I'm not too sad if I've missed a few Extreme answers here or there. Most of the time I eyeball it anyway.

What I like with this method is that as long as I have a d100, I can ask Mythic questions. Here's an example:

Does the archer shoot the apple in the tree?
We start at 50%
It's a small object and a bit of a distance away. Let's remove 20% because of difficulty. We're at 30%.
Our archer has the Bow skill at rank 3, which is +30%. We're at 60%.
There, we can roll our d100 : 25. Below 60, so it's a Yes, he does hit the apple. Woop!

If I had rolled 6, being obviously below 10, I would have known it was an Extreme Yes. Maybe he shoots three apples with that single arrow. If it had been 95, above 90, it would have been an Extreme No, and our archer would not be able to sit for a few days.
Finally, if he had been right next to the apple, it might have been a chance rating of 90%, in which case I might have been more careful with rolls below 20 and rolls near 100 (eyeballing it, 98 and above would be an Extreme No in that case?)

So there! That's how I do it. I have the nagging feeling I'm missing something cool about the Chart given how everyone seems to love it. If anyone could tell me what it is :)


Sunday, January 3, 2010

GMing with Mythic - Player Emulation

Today I tried something new I've been meaning to try for a while: emulating players with Mythic.

The concept is rather simple. You act as the GM and you host an adventure for X characters whose decisions won't be made by you, but by Mythic. The good thing is that it allows one to use premade modules, which is a nice change from having to imagine everything based on Mythic's answers. The "bad" thing is that it's just as tiring, if not more (for some reason), and it's a bit sad to see your characters escape your control (after all, you still have to create them, yet not control them).


Even worse is that I decided to try yet another system hack. I made a mix of PDQ# and Mythic. PDQ# is great in that a character ends up looking something like this:

Gruff, dwarf
Past: Senior Mechanics of his clan +2
Race: Dwarf +2 (techniques: stone cunning) (note: this is an addition of mine, races as a trait)
Motivation: Become a legendary dwarf +2
Main Forte: Warrior +4 (techniques: warhammer, brutal, charge, shield, thrown axes)
Prosthesis +2

Foibles: Overconfident, Mechanical prosthesis

Bam, that's it, you're done. No need for detailed equipment (obviously this one has a warhammer, a shield, probably some armor and some mechanical tools...), no need for detailed skills or feats or strengths or whatever (dwarves have darkvision, resist poisons and so on? that's all assumed under the "Dwarf +2" forte)
Techniques are (usually) linked to a forte and give a bonus if an action includes them somehow.

I've oversimplified things for my own hack, so it ends up going something like this:
Base chances are always 50%, modified by task difficulty. Any applicable forte gives a bonus rank (+10%). Any applicable technique also gives a bonus rank.

Mythic note: this is another of my hacks to Mythic. I don't use the Fate Chart. I just add or subtract 10% per rank. I'm pretty sure it messes up stuff here or there, but it's still fun.

Say Gruff wants to bash a door with his warhammer with brutal strikes. The door is somewhat strong, so I give a penalty of 2 ranks (-20%). He can use his Warrior forte for a bonus of 2 ranks (+20%) (I know, it says +4 but to fit Mythic I had to divide every PDQ value by 2). Since he's using his warhammer, his technique is valid (+10%). He's also doing it like a madman, so brutal goes too (+10%). He ends up at 50(base)-20+20+10+10 = 70% chances of making good damage to the door. With goblins, who are admittedly less sturdy than a door, it's more like 90%... Yeah, Gruff is a basher :)

What's great is that it's easy to create characters based on a concept... and it's easy to define bonuses to any action. As PDQ does it, you also get easy bonuses as long as you describe things the right way. The brutal technique will almost always give a bonus here, unless Gruff is trying to bash things silently (*chuckles*). It's not for powergamers, for sure :)

The Adventure

I ran a bit of the Dungeon of Akban, found in the free Quickstart for Sword and Wizardry. If you plan to play this adventure, stop reading now...

It was pretty difficult at first to switch from player to GM while still using Mythic. I had to think of what I would describe to these virtual players/characters... or in other words, what the characters themselves would see. Admittedly, this is only difficult because I've never GMed any D&D :).
Then, instead of deciding what the characters would do, I had to see what actions they might do and weight them for a question. I used 50/50, 33/33/33 and 25/25/25/25 when there were multiple possibilities. Sometimes, I had 50/40/10 because some options seemed much more logical than others (adventurers explore the room they're in before running to the new doors, right?)

The group of four (the dwarven warrior, a human pirate-adventurer, a gnomish alchemist and an elven swamp witch) started by exploring the first room. They happened upon a strange statue with magical flames. Here again, I had to ask if they were intrigued by the statue or not... They were. Were they intrigued by the flames? No... So they looked for some secrets hidden by the statue... and found none (I rolled the dice for them, as a GM would probably ask for rolls to keep some mystery as to wether there *is* something there or not... assuming clearly failed rolls would mean they were none the wiser).
At times, I had no idea what they might do, so I used Complex Questions (using a dictionary). It gave me some contradictory actions at times... They seemed uninterested by the flames... and a complex question just led them back to them... oh well! So they examined the flames some more... tried a stick in them... which burned... and then they got bored with it and tried the doors.

The door was chosen randomly, of course... Further directions too. They ended up in a room with giant ants which had digged tunnels from below. That's where Mythic did interesting things. As player, coming face to face with three giant ants, I might have not insisted much... or just attacked with simple tactics.
I asked if the group fleed, waited or attacked. They waited. They saw the ants didn't seem to mind them from where they were, but they had been clearly spotted. I asked if they fleed or attacked and, despite a low chance, they decided to attack. But next, the group closed the door (one of these contradictory Complex Questions). I asked if they now went back or had an attack plan instead, since they *were* about to attack... They had a plan indeed. But what?
I supposed they were going to boost themselves before the attack (among other things)... and asked which of the alchemist or the witch would do something. The alchemist apparently had an idea. Since I didn't describe any equipment linked to her skill (I went for a very freeform game àla FATE v3) she could come up with anything from acids to sleepy pills. Another Complex Question later, I had the answer: she would try to recreate the chemical scents used by ants to recognize each other, danger zones and such... Wow!

I assume most GMs, especially in a regular D&D game would just say "no way!". But hey, it seemed fun. I made the roll difficult but it succeeded anyway... and our gnome ended up with a vial of ant scent which everyone promptly spread on their bodies. I decided, as the GM, that it would only make the ants neutral.
The group went back in, searched the room without being bothered by the ants and ended up with gold pieces and a magic scroll (generated by my newly acquired D&D DM Guide :D). Lucky! I asked what they did then. I assumed players would usually be intrigued by the tunnels, so I included this in the possibilities. They were indeed... but thankfully not too much (I might have rigged that :P... didn't want to stray too far from the module... eh, railroading virtual players).

But what happened next was yet another surprise: apparently, they were not finished with chemicals. The gnome wanted to perfect her scent to make the ants friendly! I made it way more difficult but she still succeeded (really lucky roll...) so... she ended up with two friendly giant ant workers as bodyguards. I limited it by saying it was only for her, and would only last 6 minutes (1d10 mins). But wow...

The adventure went on with the discovery of a room full of goblins, their easy dispatching by the dwarf and the human pirate (no ants were used because of a very narrow corridor). Admittedly, it was 1) too easy, 2) rather boring because of this, 3) I had issues with my hack and went back to something closer to Mythic for the combat... which made this part quite frustrating. I was also getting quite tired by that point, which didn't help...


It was an interesting experience. I don't know if I really want to resume it later or if I will go back to what I did for Hollow's Last Hope. I mean, it's *really* fun to come up with strange plans thanks to Mythic inspiration, and it does feel like you have players with crazy ideas, but it's definitely not as fun as being in there and discovering things as you go or, at least, reacting to some rare Mythic surprises when playing through a premade module.

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RP with Parents - UP, Part 2

Contrary to my belief, we did end up playing the second session. Sadly, my mom was actually pretty tired and she had trouble focusing. She was also trying to think up a follow-up to the story bit she made up during the first session and, I think, lost a lot of energy/concentration on this. Once I knew, I told her she didn't *have* to... Mythic would help us build upon her seed. She just felt obliged to finish what she had started alone :|

Note: I haven't given details on what has actually happened in the story so far (nor even who the characters are), to avoid spoiling the movie "UP". I'll continue this way for now, but I might make a summary of the whole adventure in a clearly spoiler-marked post.

After some random obstacle from Mythic, the heroes actually reached their destination! And yet, things didn't seem finished. A bit of thinking revealed a new goal for my mom's character... but my dad's was pretty much done with his adventure and I was scared he would have nothing to do for the rest of the session.
Thankfully, that's when Mythic threw us a bone to gnaw at: a new character! It ended up being mine, meaning I would finally leave my GM seat for a player seat, leaving the obstacles fully to Mythic. My character gave an opportunity for my mom's to reach his goal... but they would have to stick together first. We used the occasion to bring my dad's character back in, too, and the adventure went on.

Not that much happened after that and we didn't have much time left. Obviously, we wouldn't be able to finish the new goals in a single session, so we just stopped at a quiet point. I seriously doubt we will ever finish this adventure either (it's hard to resume months after...) but it was quite fun while it lasted.

I also notice it's near impossible to describe anything interesting without giving details, so... I'll make a spoilery post later where I explain exactly what happened during the adventure.

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