Sunday, April 01, 2012

In Which The Warlock Compares Two Posses...

As a wonderful reprieve, here at the end of my spring break, the PlatinumChick and I headed on up to Akron to spend some time with our good friends ChaoticLauryn and CincinNick, who live up yonder.  Previously, I'd offered to run a one-shot for them while up there, because they don't exactly get to game as much as we do down here.  I let them choose from my fairly-sizable game library and--surprise, surprise!--they picked Deadlands.

Not wanting to do too much prep for the one-off, I decided to download one of Pinnacle Entertainment's official adventures:  Night Train 2:  For Whom The Whistle Blows.  It's received fairly good reviews since its release, and it's the sequel to a Deadlands classic adventure, known for its lethality and creeping horror.

With that in mind, let's flash briefly back to WittCon IX.  As I'd mentioned in my WittCon wrap-up, my Hell on Earth game didn't exactly go as planned.  In light of this, I'm going to play a little game that I like to call Bad Posse, Good Posse!

Teamwork kills zombies!
That, and chainsaws!  And shotguns!
A Bad Posse struggles with basic foes, because they don't use teamwork.  The first combat encounter that my Hell on Earth posse faced was against ten basic Walking Dead, as well as one Living Faminite.  Three of the group didn't even get out of their armored car, leaving only three of the group to face off against the hordes.  Those three took significant wounds, which cost them heavily in Fate Chips.  Had the other three joined the melee, the undead would have split their targets more widely, resulting in less wounds overall (due to no gang-up bonuses) and a quicker elimination of targets.

A Good Posse prioritizes targets and takes out those priority targets in haste.  When ambushed by some nosferatu at the Pickman telegraph station, our Huckster realized almost instantaneously that one of their attackers was a different type of undead--recognizing him as a Harrowed (and a Voodoo shaman, at that!), he quickly sent a charged "Aces High" hex at his head.  Realizing that his undead allies were outmatched, the Harrowed beat a hasty retreat and the posse claimed a quick victory.

A Bad Posse ostracises NPCs and don't follow up on available leads from them.  When our post-apocalyptic posse rolled into Reno, the Reno locals had just been raided by the dreaded Rojo Bastardes gang, and many of their supplies had been stolen.  So, when a heavily armed group of adventurers rolled into their town, they reacted with a fair degree of hostility.  But, rather than try to prove their good intentions, the posse decided to intimidate Abe Ellison--the nominal Reno mayor.  Once cowed, he came clean about the Rojo Bastardes attack, but the posse left almost as soon as they could get directions to the Rojo Bastardes camp.  Had they stayed in town to gather information--or to help the poor Reno scavs--they would have gained valuable information about the coming Faminite horde!

to kill "nose-ferrets" for Union Blue!
A Good Posse gets every inch they can out of their NPC contacts.  As my group this weekend worked their way through Pickman, I was somewhat astounded at their tactics.  Basically, any NPC that they managed to save, they pressed into service against the nosferatu.  By the end of the adventure, the posse was leading nearly 10 heavily armed NPCs--townsfolk, mostly, but a few with reasonable stats!--against the undead horde!  As a semi-organized fighting force, they managed to wipe out the undead scourge pretty easily!

A Bad Posse is content to let the dice fall where they may.  Each of the Hell on Earth posse members has at least one relative weakness.   For Edward Castellan, the New Templar, that weakness is his Quickness.  And, as it turned out, the dice were not in the player's favor when rolling Initiative.  Despite having a sizable stack of Fate Chips, the player was unwilling to reroll or add to failed Initiative rolls.  As it happened, that player went for the ENTIRE NIGHT without getting a single turn in combat, despite three combat encounters and five separate Initiative deals.  He was content to let the dice speak for him, rather than work for a success.  Fortune favors the bold, not the complacent!

A Good Posse fights on their own terms.  When it became apparent that the train itself was a priority target for the nosferatu, the posse literally took it away from them!  Stealthing up to the train itself, the group decoupled the train and drove it nearly 20 miles out of town, then used it to rest until sunrise!  Flabbergasted--and denied one of their major goals--the Harrowed retreated out of town and the nosferatu hunkered down for the day, as the heavily armored survivors holed up in the church.  By denying resources to the adversary and establishing a base of operations, our posse really threw the bad guys for a loop!

Don't you forget it!

I'm not trying to say that either group is made of bad or good players.  Hell, some of them played in both games!  But, the fact remains that the tactics being used were paramount to the posses' success or failure.  While the Hell on Earth group fell beneath the Faminite horde, that's not representative of the players' skill or even the characters' effectiveness--just a matter of how the dice fell and how the players responded.  And, while the Deadlands group managed to totally annihilate the undead scourge, things could have easily turned against them in a single roll.  Some days, you just can't win...

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