Friday, January 20, 2006

Recent Cold Iron play and thoughts

Just finished another session last night. The PCs tried to rest for a night in the swamp. They were attacked in the middle of the night by 5 swamp trolls. It wasn't until we were into the encounter that I remembered that their fighters were pretty wounded (when we had just been talking about that before...oops...what a brain fart...). Suddenly, I wondered if I had overdone the encounter. The mage went down almost immediately. He was in a tree, and a troll reached up and swiped him with claws, knocking him unconscious (and out of the tree). Because of the awful reach, the troll was at -8 attack (an adhoc penalty), but the mage was casting, and was -8 defense... The cleric much more easily fended off the troll attacking her. The two frontline fighters were caught sleeping, and went down pretty quick. The lizard woman ended up being the hero. Near the end of the battle, a troll got lucky and got the halfling into hand to hand (she was blurred, so had a 20 dodge, the troll rolled a 99 and got a 25 to tag her). Another 90+ roll resulted in a crit that rated to do 6x her hit points (twice the "head chop" quantity of 3x HP in a single blow). A halfling head went popping up into the sky. The troll tried to run off with his dinner, but was quickly taken down.

After doing what healing they could, the PCs headed into town to confront the innkeeper. The mage cast truth on the innkeeper, who refused to say anything about the guides, and called out a code word to alert the staff. He drew a greatsword from under the counter, while the bartender drew a seige crossbow. The fight quickly errupted. A couple patrons came to the aid of the staff. One patron was entranced, another was severely injured, and the innkeeper knocked out. As the party converged on the bartender, the constable arrived and called a halt. After some more truth spells and questioning (and the cleric healing up the patron and the innkeeper), the constable took the innkeeper away and thanked the party. The bartender and patrons were absolved. The bartender offered the PCs two nights stay for free. The constable mentioned that no one would notice if the the innkeeper's sword went missing so the PCs got a bit of treasure for their trouble.

I had intended to prepare for the fight in the inn, but had been so busy I just plain didn't get to it. But I was able to pull together some quick stats for the fight and run the fight in about an hour. A great demonstration of why I like Cold Iron so much. Of course in my haste, I used the wrong hit points for the innkeeper.

Some things I observed from this session:

Night time alertness checks need some work. I may be using too many stealthy encounters, but the PCs had little chance of detecting the troll encounter with warning. Also, the penalty to check alertness while asleep makes it almost meaningless to check.

I really need to define how the obscurity spell is useful to the party. I also have to define what the effect of large creatures is (it just states a cost per creature), and how tight the group has to be.

I need to define acrobatics and dexterity checks, though there weren't any problems (it basically amounted to me saying yes, though I might have called for a die roll).

I still need to decide exactly how Charisma works. I called for several Charisma checks, but they weren't really meaningful. I'm not supremely worried about Charisma because I've set it up as very cheap, and if it's mostly a color tag that allows certain characters to be the obvious face people, perhaps that's ok. This session was a nice application of talk/negotiation without bypassing fighting.

I have been giving out XP at a pretty good clip, and as a result, the PCs treasure probably is severely lagging where it would have been in past campaigns. The players haven't made huge use of charged items and potions. The fast rate of XP also means a significant percentage of session time is used for levelling up. I need to think about streamlining levelling up (while not eliminating strategic choices for the players). I'm also concerned about treasure division/shopping time. Back in college with our 8, 10, 12+ hour sessions, spending an hour or two every other session or so for a major treasure division/shopping wasn't too bad. And with a slower XP rate, levelling up didn't consume that much playtime. I should be able to get Cold Iron levelling up to be at least as quick as D20 (possibly faster since there aren't feats - or at least not so many - and skill points). Treasure division/shopping should be comparable. Part of the problem is the young couple needs a lot of help with this. Learning curve is probably also slowing down the other players.

Overall though, I'm very satisfied with how things are going. I'm not killing myself on prep. I can handle unexpected/unplanned for changes in direction. The players seem to be enjoying the system, and figuring out good tactics and such.

The bad news is that I am definitely losing the mage player until summer, and may be losing the young couple. If I lose them also, I think I'll cut off the campaign, and do some serious work on Trollslayer (as a working name), and look for playtesters in a few months.

Frank

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