Thursday, May 22, 2008

In Which The Warlock Prepares for Brain Surgery...

I realize it's been a tick since I last talked about this, but it bears mentioning. The Friday night Dark Heresy game utterly rocks on toast.

The plot so far has been very close knit and claustrophobic. The PCs, en route to the Calixis sector, were placed into cryogenic stasis. However, as they traveled, an unknown force ripped the ship in half, leaving them adrift in a decaying orbit around the capital of the sector, Scintilla.

The players discovered the last bit of this in last session, as they found their way to the Astropathic Navigation Cathedral, and then to the Piloting Chamber. The only problem was who found the Piloting Chamber--Brandon's character, an Imperial World Assassin.

Typically, only Psykers (powerful psionic characters) ever even see the Astropath chamber, much less the Piloting Chamber. When the Piloting Chamber is entered, mindless servo-drones essential "jack" the character in, using various neural cybernetic interfaces. And, by neural cybernetic interfaces, I mean "Data Jacks wired straight into your medulla oblongata and spinal cord".

Brandon, as you can imagine, did not have the appropriate neural jack.
Now, he does...sort of.

So, the session tomorrow opens with the characters under arrest by the Adeptes Arbites troops, and are being taken to the High Inquisitor of Scintilla, after crash-landing the half-ship in a massive conflagration. And Brandon? Well, his character's unconscious, at at the tender mercy of the Scintilla Chiurgeons...who have a bedside manner not unlike a combination of a Terminator robot crossed with Hannibal Lector.

This, needless to say, is going to be fun, as a GM.

Now, this is to say nothing of Fred's character, who was injured by a Daemon several sessions ago, and has an infection steadily spreading up his left leg.

Yay for GM fun!

In other news, I've kind of kept my opinions down on D&D recently. I've felt more than a little burned out on D&D for a while, and I'm only now really coming out of it.

I guess my disillusionment with D&D came with the finale of Dungeon magazine. I really enjoyed Paizo's run on it, and while I hadn't played any of the Adventure Paths, the concept of them intregued me as a DM tool, and I was actually kicking around the idea of running Age of Worms for quite a while. That is, until the finale of The Savage Tide AP.

You see, the capstone in The Savage Tide (no spoiler tags here--deal with it) is a confrontation with DemoGorgon, the Prince of Demons, in his own layer on the Abyss. The concept is brilliant: the players spend 4+ sessions wrangling allies--other Demon Lords, Archon Angels, the Witch-Queen Iggwilv, the Stygian Boatman Charon--and basically invade DemoGorgon's stronghold in a massive plane-shaking war. Awesome, epic stuff.

Or, it would be.

DemoGorgon's stat block was no less than 4 pages long. There's so much text there, which will almost never be used, that the game becomes a bad Cold War analogy--whoever strikes first manages to avoid the Mutually Assured Destruction of bad gaming mathematics. So we're clear, this was not a once-in-an-adventure thing. The adventure needed its own specialized appendix for all of the character stats in the adventure, which made running game painful.

I ran an epic game during my time at Wittenberg. While the concept was engaging--a Celestial-driven planar crusade--the game bogged down in the details. Players did more book-keeping than they did role-playing, as they tried to keep track of all of the massive details inherent to the 3.5e system. Others were upset when the wealth system seemed out of sorts as to what was expeted to get. The game became more about "the game" than "the story"...and that pissed me off.

I guess I'm a sucker for rules-transparency. I love Call of Cthulhu because if you're doing it right, the rules fade into the background. Dark Heresy is much the same way. I like D&D at its best when I do not actually use a battlemat--I tend to feel like that mat takes up more of the focus than the story does, which makes the game more tactical and less "cool".

I like the "cool" stuff. Fights over lava, bridges made of ice, the mud pits of White Plume Mountain...I'm all about that.

So, when 4th Edition came out, I immediately latched onto it--the "cool stuff" seemed more apparent. Everyone gets powers! The Warlock is now a base class! Monsters have genuine roles!

But, there were reservations...4th Edition scraps the Great Wheel cosmology, which I've loved for a long while. Dragonborn replaced Orcs/Half-Orcs as a base race...ugh. A dark, pseudo-gothic setting (i.e. Ravenloft) seems almost impossible to pull off, with rules as written. Something of an increased reliance on minis/tactical combat?

So, I got a little skeptical.

But, in the end...this is still D&D! And, the more previews that are released, the more my grognard-ism drifts away...which is a glorious thing, since one of the biggest selling points of 4th is the ease of DMing, through unified, simple rules. Here's for hoping that this is the case, but we'll see. The 6th approaches, and my check card's already locked and loaded...

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