Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Touched by the Hand of Fate

Yesterday I ran the Secret of Zir'an one-shot for the C-U Run Club.

We didn't quite have enough time to finish. I had a nice set-piece battle for the end that we never actually got to. Part of it was me not noticing the time (I would have rearranged things to speed the plot up), part of it was me drawing out investigation-time (possibly out of a nervousness about running combat), and part of it was that the players went to the top deck instead of the bottom one at an inconvenient time...

I think, overall, it went OK.

I recreated a simplified character sheet because the official character sheet, is - in my mind - an example of how not to create one. I tried to keep it intuitive, and stuck the skill packages up front to help the players get an idea of who their characters were.

I ran a somewhat altered version of the Cargo of Doom - a quickstart adventure that Paragon published. The big change? Instead of an ocean liner, I set the adventure on an enormous airplane, held aloft by the giant runic glyphs on its four wings. Also, I stuck some mind-controlling shadow snakes in there... because you can't have an adventure on a plane without snakes. It is a law.

My frustrations about the game system were largely borne out. The skill system worked decently, but it was tricky to figure out when a PC counted as stressed and needed to roll rather than relying on a finesse level. I am also even more convinced than I was before that the skill list could be streamlined significantly.

Combat was significantly faster than I expected (and was aided when Jeff brought out some tokens for tracking speed), but it was still a bit confusing given the number of things that went into each attack: allocating speed, rolling the attack dice, rolling the defense dice, buying finesse effects, determining hit location, calculating damage vs. armor, applying vitality damage, applying lethal wounds, and applying any status effects. Gah.

The mob/mook rules didn't really work, though. I had a mob combat, and I found it somewhat boring. It failed to take advantage of the strengths of the system (the finesse effects).

Overall, the game has some brilliant ideas, but it desperately needs streamlining. As it is, on my character sheet, I just had one number (precalculated stat+aptitude+practice) for each skill. I found the double-resource-allocation (speed + finesse effects) to be a bit much. I'd probably eliminate the resource-allocation aspect of speed. Similarly, I'd simplify the wound system (this would probably involve multiplying damage/wound by lethal wounds... and maybe making vitality equal to double the wounds you have in your head or chest or something).

As long as I'm dream-revising the game, I'd get rid of all the silly terms that serve to clutter and confuse more than they add flavor. The Hand of Fate is a GM. Valdeyr are Merits and Flaws or Quirks or something. Ianer, Zhalanti, and Dolonorri are Humans, Elves, and Dwarves.

All my complaints aside, I'm definitely glad that I ran the game. I've been a fan of the setting since it came out, and I've been intrigued by the rules since I read them. It is one of those games that would benefit incredibly from a revised edition, but will almost certainly never get one. I hope that my players enjoyed themselves.

Edit: Jeff just posted his thoughts as a player in the game.

2 comments:

Kathleen said...

I had a good time! It's too bad we didn't have time for the final battle, but I didn't feel the pacing dragged.

I agree that the system has good points and shaky points. I bet a lot could be done to smooth it out with house rules, but I'm not going to be the one to do it. There are too many systems I *don't* feel need poking.

As for the unneccessary layer of terms, I agree that humans, elves, and dwarves should be humans, elves, and dwarves unless there's something really radically different about them. Being a game other than D&D is not radically different. Silly terms for gamemaster just make me giggle.

szilard said...

I'm glad you have fun. I always worry about my pacing.