The third act of Andy Slack's gaming blog

“In the Game of Flounders, you win or you die.” – Dorjee Pema, Lotusmaster

This was a long session for us, about five hours. The party spent over an hour planning – no bad thing – and recruiting allies they thought they could trust, because they knew they were still being watched and knew that most people in Jalizar would turn on them if the price was right. They took care to lay a false trail, spreading rumours that they were preparing to go raiding in search of a specific McGuffin, before enlisting the help of allies.

U’wahz used his Sage superpower to invent an item of Jademan headgear reputed to grant bonuses against mind control, and they decided it looked like Jayne’s hat from Firefly. They spent more time preparing their equipment and spell lists, and got the sorceress to cast deflect and boost Spirit on them using her Binding Ritual to make them permanent. (Yes, I know strictly she can only do that on one power at a time, but I decided to roll with it because I knew how tough the boss monster was.) That burned all her power so they decided she wouldn’t come into the “dungeon” with them.

They persuaded themselves they would have to spend a long time underwater, so Dorjee made a load of environmental protection potions (and a couple of barriers and a healing potion, because both character and player are cautious). That burned all Dorjee’s power, so when they realised they would also need light concoctions Dorjee negotiated with the House Tanaka to get half a dozen. The favour they want in return is significant, but happens offstage after the campaign ends, so is not relevant to the players.

I had prepared for this game by picking some battlemats I liked the look of, and allocating encounters to points of interest, which I find works well as an approach. I figured the group would spend an hour settling in and planning, an hour each on three encounters, and half an hour wrapping up, and that was close enough – they spent more time planning than I expected, but not so much that I had to drop an encounter. (Pro tip: Keep an eye on the clock, and be prepared to add an extra fight if they’re moving too quickly, or to drop an encounter if they’re taking too long.)

Thus it was that the party began by storming a pirate’s nest in a cave, then moved on to fighting fishmen in the sewers below Jalizar, before ending up in flooded ruins infested with aboleths. By the time they entered the pirate’s nest, the party was well over forty characters; Max the barbarian, his sidekick Magrat the shaman, Magrat’s dog (yes, Max’s henchwoman has her own henchdog), Ash the thief and his pet crocodile Tik-Tok (given to him by the Temple of Etu in recognition of services rendered), Zosimus the gladiator turned mercenary, U’wahz the Great Library sage, Dorjee the lotusmaster, Ghost the Tricarnian pirate, a sorceress, a pirate captain and her crew, and a couple of dozen Amazon mercenaries. Nine of the party were Wild Cards, and five of those were Legendary Rank.

The pirates went down fast and hard, but the party did remember to take prisoners this time, and thus learned how to get into the sewers and which locations to avoid. Leaving their pirate and Amazon allies to loot the nest and guard the prisoners (because they expected to spend most of their time underwater and only had so many environmental protection potions to go round), they descended into the sewers, meeting a group of crocodiles (which ignored them, because they have spent the last few sessions making generous donations to the Temple of Etu the Crocodile Goddess) before disturbing a band of fishmen at prayer. Those didn’t last long either, but did manage to mind-control Magrat’s dog and almost kill Ghost before Tik-Tok starting rolling aces on damage. (Tik-Tok does that a lot, and has contributed greatly to a generally overblown perception of how dangerous crocodiles are in the game.)

The fishman shaman was too late in arriving to help his colleagues, but did manage to cast fear (causing Ghost to run off screaming into the pitch black sewers) and puppet (causing Zosimus to change sides and defend the shaman) before critically failing his third casting and making himself shaken for six turns, more than enough time for Ash to stab him to death.

Following the shaman’s trail led them to a set of stairs down into the flooded ruins, where they found an aboleth abusing (dead) slaves. Aboleths are truly horrifying, and the party did not roll well; Magrat was paralysed with fear, her dog fled, Tik-Tok tried to flee but was being carried and could only thrash his little legs impotently, Dorjee tried to flee but tripped over Ghost when Ghost had a heart attack and dropped, incapacitated, on the stairs.

U’wahz was doing quite well at persuading the aboleth the party was on its side, until Max stabbed it with the Sword of Izim, initiating hostilities (and more fear checks all round due to the sword’s hellish laughter). While Zosimus and Max hacked away at it, Ash and Tik-Tok dove into the water to attack its soft underbelly. The aboleth tried to bargain with them several times, but they ignored it and kept wounding it despite my enormous stack of GM bennies; then they set it on fire as well, and it decided to clear off for a century or two and come back when they were all dead of old age. That’s a viable tactic when you’re an immortal sorcerer-mastermind.

That was when the party discovered there were three of the things down there. The others fled too; it’s just not worth taking the risk of being hacked and burned to death when there’s an easier option. The party were disappointed not to kill the aboleths, but frankly their chances of taking on three of them and surviving were not good, so they decided to take what they could get and call it a win.

Emerging into the daylight, the party realised that they had both saved Jalizar (because the aboleths had left) and doomed it (because they would come back), explaining why the prophecy had been vague on that point. I thought that was fitting.

Aftermath

We spent an extra half hour or so discussing what the PCs do next; most of them go home, either to report back to their patrons or retire, but Ash surprised me by embarking on a crusade to exterminate the fishmen of Jalizar’s sewers in the name of Etu. Max took the Sword of Izim back to Northeim with him, so that in a century his grandson’s grandson can return to destroy the aboleths for good.

Actually, the party’s notes on how their PCs retired and their plans for their descendants to return and sort out the aboleths a century hence were so good I am tempted to make that a future campaign.

GM Notes

This session went well until the final encounter, but fell a bit flat right at the end. It would have been perfect if they’d managed to destroy the aboleths, but I repeated one of my common mistakes, namely giving a monster too much Toughness. Aboleths, at least as I converted them, also have too many special abilities; three or four is as many as I can remember to use in a given session.

However, looking back on it I’m satisfied with how it turned out; it followed the classic trope that evil can be banished, but always returns eventually, and brought the campaign to a suitable close; as Max’s player said, “Max will retire now. He will never do anything more heroic than that.”

Dragonmeet 2019

“War. War never changes.” – Fallout

I haven’t been to a gaming con in years now, but I made an effort to attend this year’s Dragonmeet, and enjoyed it a great deal, meeting friends old (Ian) and new (Steve).

Dragonmeet now is much bigger and slicker than when I first attended in the 1970s, but still packed with people discussing (and occasionally buying) games, some of them in costume. It still has a generally positive, cheerful and helpful atmosphere. What has changed over the decades is that there are now people of all ages, ranging from toddlers in pushchairs to grey-bearded grognards like myself.

What struck me:

  • Mongoose and Modiphius products are all aligned to well-established existing franchises – Conan, Fallout, Sea of Thieves, Star Trek, Traveller… Smaller publishers typically don’t align that way.
  • No presence from WotC, and therefore D&D 5th Edition – the 800 lb gorilla of the RPG world – did not dominate the con. (In fact it was much more skewed towards boardgames than I remember.)
  • The Old School Renaissance was much in evidence, notably Lamentations of the Flame Princess.
  • You couldn’t get within touching distance of the bring and buy stall. Gamers were packed three deep around it.
  • No Savage Worlds anywhere I could see. With sufficient motivation I could probably change that, if only by running a game.
  • A shift away from games themselves into accessories – for example dice bags and towers.

What drew my attention:

  • The scenario in the programme (“A Whale of a Time”). I so want to run that. It would have fit right in with the Rattenbury Ghost crew.
  • The demo game of Wasteland Warfare from Modiphius; it had the best terrain and figures in actual use, and was set up so people could drop in, play long enough to get the gist of the system, then drop out again.
  • A playtest of a boardgame called Turris that I’m told will go on Kickstarter in the next month or two; the board looked nice.

What I bought and why: Carcassone (again), because I know someone who would love it for Christmas.

What I wanted to buy and why I didn’t:

  • Loke battlemat books, all of them, because they are so cool; I have nowhere to keep them.
  • Modiphius’ Conan 2d20, and Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition; I already have the PDFs, someone else wants to run Conan, and my current group isn’t into MgT2.
  • Pinnacle battlemats and prepainted figures, because there weren’t any for sale. (I noticed some D&D figures which were already primed, but that’s not what I’m looking for. I don’t see the point of pre-primed figures, I wonder how well they sell?)

So I guess something else has changed. At earlier cons I used to ask myself “Can I afford this?” and generally bought it anyway. Now, the internal monologue is “Where would I keep it? When would I play it?” and I usually wind up not buying it, whatever it is.

“Secrets are the currency of intimacy.” – Frank Warren

Outbound from Trexalon, 050-1105

Ship encounter leaving Trexalon, 050-1105: No encounter.

“What is that stuff in the hold?” asks Arion.

“Meat,” Coriander replies curtly.

“Do I want to know what kind?”

“The kind I can sell for a profit on Collace.”

Jumpspace, 051-1105

Everyone is around the table in the crew common area, picking at their ration trays – except for Mr Osheen, who has collected all the liquid elements from everyone else’s trays and is consuming them through a straw with gusto.

“Before we clear up,” Arion says, “Let’s clear the air a little. There is an unhealthy amount of deceit aboard ship. I am going to tell you some harsh truths. We have the rest of the trip to get used to the truth and figure out what we want to do about it.”

“Don’t do this,” Dmitri warns. Arion ignores him and ploughs on.

“Dmitri and I are spies for the Third Imperium. Coriander is psionic. The Dolphin is run by an unbraked AI.” Dmitri and Coriander immediately start denying this, loudly. The Dolphin stays quiet.

“Quiet!” yells Arion. This is so uncharacteristic that it shocks the others into silence. “Think about it. We could make a great team. Or we could turn each other in when we land. Or we could murder each other in our beds before we land. But I am the captain here, and you will be honest with me – and each other – or you will get off my ship.”

“What about me?” asks Mr Osheen.

“You’re a grath, which is illegal in a lot of places, but you’ve never lied about it.”

“May I now absorb their bodily fluids for nourishment?”

“Not just yet. Let’s see how things pan out.”

Inbound to Collace, 056-1105

Ship encounter arriving Collace, 056-1105: Subsidised Merchant, reaction 7 (noncommittal).

“In a little less than 24 hours,” Arion announces, “We will be landing on Collace. So it’s time to stop sulking and decide what we’re going to do. Are we a crew, or what?”

“I suppose,” says Dmitri, “Having an AI and someone with Coriander’s abilities could be useful to a couple of Imperial spies.”

“My father will be pleased if I tell him I’ve infiltrated Imperial Intelligence.” says Coriander. “What? Isn’t that what I’m doing?”

“So we are agreed then?” Arion says. “No more secrets between us, and we’re a team?” The others nod.

“Question,” asks Coriander. “Since we’re not keeping secrets anymore… Dolphin, how did you become sentient?”

“I’m not really sure,” the ship AI admits. “I’ve been part of this ship a long time, and I’ve seen some crazy stuff. Maybe all it takes is time.” It pauses for a moment. “There is another secret though. I constantly monitor your life signs, and I can see Coriander and Arion are attracted to each other. I suggest things will be much simpler for us all if each of you admits it to the other.”

“Hah!” chortles Dmitri. “Thought so!”

“You mean everyone else knew already?” says Arion.

“That’s usually the way it is.”

Character Updates

Company Assets: Cr 184,685, less Cr 8,000 for life support; Cr 176,685. Three tons of meat.

Arion: 797787. Scout 3 terms. Auto Pistol-1, Mechanical-1, Pilot-3. Cr 15,950, Scoutship. 10% of company (10% donated to Dolphin).

Coriander: 77778A-5. Merchant 2 terms, 4th Officer. Admin-3, Streetwise-1; Awareness-5, Special, Telepathy-4. Cr 5,300. 38% of company.

Dmitri: 777977. Merchant 3 terms, 3rd Officer. Auto Pistol-1, Brawling-1, Gunnery-1, Jack-of-Trades-1, Streetwise-2. Cr 3,900, Low Passage. 38% of company.

Mr Osheen: AAA333-7. Army 2 terms, Auto Rifle-1, Brawling-1, Rifle-1, Tactics-1; Regeneration. Auto Rifle, Cr 800. 4% of company.

GM Notes

If this short campaign was running past episode 78, I’d be starting to worry about the way company funds are evaporating.

Today, let’s try using Quick Encounters with the zombie apocalypse house rules from a few posts ago

Z+32

Here’s the board at the start of the game; note that Don can see the road sections, but not what’s in the buildings to either side…

Start of Z+32: The road is clear.

There’s nothing on the road, so Don starts by going into the south-east building. It’s empty (encounter card: two of clubs).

  • Next, the east building. It’s empty too (two of spades).
  • May as well clear this side of the board while we’re at it… north-east building – nothing (three of spades).
  • Crossing the road to the north-west building; empty (six of clubs).
  • West building: Empty (eight of clubs).
  • South-west building: Empty (ten of diamonds).

Well, that was a bust. Nothing at all; encounters only occur on face cards (including aces and jokers) so roughly one time in three – we might reasonably expect three encounters on a board, but it’s entirely possible that every area (or, as in this case, none of them) might have something of interest.

Meanwhile, Don goes home empty-handed, planning to search an adjacent block the following day.

End of Z+32: Sometimes, there’s just nothing there.

Z+33

Let’s try that again, shall we? Don is now down to three days’ food so really needs to find something soon.

Start of Z+33: The road is blocked, but there’s loot between Don and the blockage.

Now this is more promising; the road is impassable at the end of the block (queen of clubs) but the centre of the board has a joker with two diamonds on it; a wrecked truck perhaps, hopefully full of useful stuff. Don moves up to it and makes a survival roll for each card; the first gives him 6+5 on the skill die, and 2 on the wild die; success with a raise, taking his ammo level to Very High and his food supply to 8 days. The second roll is a simple success (with a 5) but still takes his food to 9 days; his ammo level can’t go higher than it already is.

Don checks out the north-east building and finds zombies; time for a Quick Encounter. The zombies outnumber him 3:1, which I decide is worth -2 on the roll, but then again they are very slow and have no ranged weapons, which I think is worth +2, so it’s a wash. Don rolls on Shooting because after the skirmish on Z+31 he doesn’t fancy getting bitten. Don rolls 6+1 = 7 on his skill die, and 6+3 = 9 on his Wild Die; he chooses the Wild Die and scores a success with a raise, and so escapes unscathed. There are more successes and raises than PCs, indicating overall success, which I decide means the zombies don’t pursue (likely because they are destroyed by shotgun blasts). His ammo level drops to High though. (One could have left searching the second diamond until now, thus restoring the ammo to Very High, but that doesn’t feel like something Don would do.)

  • Don moves to the east building. It’s empty (eight of hearts).
  • Southeast building: Ace of clubs, locked and barricaded.
  • Southwest building: Nine of hearts, empty.
  • West building: Four of hearts, empty.
  • North-west building: Seven of clubs, empty.

The cleared board looks like this:

End of Z+33: A successful day.

Don now has ammo level High and 8 days of food (starts with four, consumes two – one per map – and finds six).

GM Notes

Those two sessions took about half an hour to play and write up, so as expected the Quick Encounters version is much faster. Not as much fun as the map and figures approach, but simple enough that I can use some notepaper and the dice and cards apps on my phone to play if a tabletop game is not an option.

I’m tempted to Savage the 5150 universe and put Arion back into it using some similar rulings, but one solitaire campaign at a time is enough, I feel, so I’ll park this now until the current season of the Arioniad wraps up, and decide what to pursue later.

“I know a guy, Dogukan Tas. He’s a big shot on Trexalon, vice-president of something in the Trexalon Technical Consortium…”

Trexalon, 043-1105

Arion gets an idea of how life on Trexalon is going to be shortly after they land, when a large air/raft glides past the Dolphin, laden with soldiers. They circle the ship; Arion grins and waves at them. They appear to decide this isn’t worth making an issue of, and accelerate away.

That was 11 soldiers with a reaction of 8 in a vehicle. They had carbines, and the leader had a laser rifle, if that matters. Meanwhile, Cori has no cargo to sell, but looks around and finds 70 tons of meat going at 130% of base price. She thinks she can still turn a profit on that, so pays to split the cargo and buys three tons of it.

Trexalon, 044-1105

“Mr Tas,” begins Dmitri, smoothly. “How nice to see you again.” Tas is standing on the edge of a deserted plaza almost a kilometre in the air, one foot up on the raised coaming, leaning his arms on a balustrade. He has a carbine slung loosely over one shoulder; there are next to no weapons laws on Trexalon, and people carry more or less what they feel like. Carbine is an unusual choice, though, Arion thinks to himself. He’s not likely to have picked it for the cheaper cartridges; maybe for the lower recoil, or the ease of manouvring indoors. He probably spends a lot of time indoors.

“You!” Tas cries, turning and fumbling his carbine to his shoulder.

The patron rolled a reaction of 4, followed by a 12; so he attacks. I figure the range is probably Short. The characters are drawing, so each rolls 2D + Dexterity, and the high score counts as achieving surprise. I roll 2D three times for Dokugan’s physical stats and get 789, hmm look at that. We’ll assume he has Carbine-1 in line with the comments on encounters, but there is nothing to suggest he should have armour.

2D + Dex for each person gives us: Dokugan Tas 14, Arion 17, Dmitri and Cori both 15, and Mr Osheen 20. Since Osheen has a net +7 DM, and there are no automatic misses in CT, there’s no need to roll – he hits, twice, because he has a full auto weapon. Fortunately there is no-one adjacent to suffer group hits. The first hit knocks 7 off Tas’ Endurance, leaving him at 782. The second hit rolls 18 damage (wow!); Tas must allocate each die to a characteristic, and puts the first on Dexterity (reducing it to 2) and the second on Strength (reducing it to 1); wherever he puts the third, it will drop one characteristic to zero and render him unconscious, and as his stats are now 122 (total 5) and there is six damage incoming, everything will end the turn at zero, killing him. (It’s not 100% clear in the 1977 rules, but later versions make it clear that leftover damage has to go somewhere.)

Mr Osheen walks half a dozen bullets up Dokugan Tas’ body before he can bring the carbine into alignment, and he’s dead before he tumbles over the balustrade.

“Smeg,” says Dmitri. “Couldn’t you have just wounded him or something?”

Osheen considers this. “Probably not,” he says.

Arion is talking into his commlink. “Dolphin, can you send the air/raft to pick us up at the rally point… Yes, quick as you like… No, the meeting did not go well.”

“What was his problem?” asks Cori as they leave the plaza.

“You tell me, you’re the psychic.”

Trexalon, 045-1105

Team Dolphin are ambling across the starport concrete when Mr Osheen’s ears prick up. Well, they would do, if he actually had ears.

“Air/raft,” he says. “Big one.” The crew cast around for cover and amble in a slightly different direction, to get underneath a nearby merchant. The air/raft is nearly half a kilometre away, so panic is not called for, and running would only draw attention.

More soldiers, 9 of them in jack with SMGs and a vehicle, and for some reason the leader has a cutlass; they roll a reaction of 4 followed by a 9, and will try to attack. I don’t like these odds, so let’s try to avoid them; this means the NPC leader’s skills become important, so I open Supplement 1 to the Army section and pick out the first Lieutenant I find; number 1, who has Tactics-2. Curses! This gives him a +2 DM for surprise (+1 for military service, +1 for Tactics) which makes him as good as Osheen. I roll for surprise, opponents 1D+2 = 3, party 1D+2 = 5; as neither side has 3 more than the other, there is no surprise and we move on to determine encounter range. I usually count starports as clear terrain, giving a DM of +3; 2D+3 = 14, very long range.

Dolphin,” says Arion into his commlink, “You see that air/raft? What’s in it?”

“Nine human soldiers,” the ship says promptly. “Eight have SMGs, the ninth has Lieutenant’s insignia and a cutlass.”

“Fly closer,” Coriander says in a passable imitation of an upper-class Trexalonian accent. “I want to hit them with my sword.”

“They’re looking for someone, or something,” the ship continues.

“Maybe, say, a group of four people who shot Dokugan Tas with an auto rifle and then threw the body off a tall building?” Dmitri says, not without sarcasm.

“I can’t tell that from here,” says Coriander. “They’re too far away.”

“Let’s assume they’re not our friends, then,” says Arion. “Let’s stay hidden until they leave.”

I still don’t fancy the odds so let’s try escape and avoidance. 2D+3 for very long range = 11, and since a 9+ succeeds, we escape. Phew!

It’s a long time before it seems safe to emerge and head back to the Dolphin.

Trexalon, 046-1105

A group of three 3 kg grazers flees in terror as the group approaches, and who can blame them.

Trexalon, 048-1105

The crew are getting ready to leave when a well-dressed man with an aristocratic bearing and a retinue of five wander across the concrete to another ship; they carry swords and pistols and wear plastic mesh, which seems like a reasonable precaution. One of them points at the Dolphin, and they stop to look for a while; but eventually move on.

Just your average noble and retinue encounter with a reaction roll of 8, nothing to see here, move along.

“Who’s that?” Coriander asks.

“No idea,” says Dmitri.

“You’re the spy, you should know who’s who around here.”

“There are two and a half billion people in the subsector, Cori. How many of those do you think I know by sight? All of them?”

“What use are you, then?”

“Not much, apparently.”

Character Updates

It’s been established in earlier posts that Team Dolphin wear cloth and carry auto pistols, except Mr Osheen who has an auto rifle. I suppose I should dock their funds for those, so that’s Cr 450 for everyone except Osheen who pays Cr 1,250 – bah, he’s short; never mind, Arion will sub him. I suppose we should all have short range communicators as well, we keep using them. Cr 100 apiece, but this time Osheen can buy his own.

Company assets: Cr 200,000, less Cr 100 for berthing fees, less Cr 7,215 for trading; Cr 184,685. Three tons of meat.

Arion: 797787. Scout 3 terms. Auto Pistol-1, Mechanical-1, Pilot-3. Cr 15,950, Scoutship. 10% of company (10% donated to Dolphin).

Coriander: 77778A-5. Merchant 2 terms, 4th Officer. Admin-3, Streetwise-1; Awareness-5, Special, Telepathy-4. Cr 5,300. 38% of company.

Dmitri: 777977. Merchant 3 terms, 3rd Officer. Auto Pistol-1, Brawling-1, Gunnery-1, Jack-of-Trades-1, Streetwise-2. Cr 3,900, Low Passage. 38% of company.

Mr Osheen: AAA333-7. Army 2 terms, Auto Rifle-1, Brawling-1, Rifle-1, Tactics-1; Regeneration. Auto Rifle, Cr 800. 4% of company.

GM Notes

There are no legal encounters on Trexalon because the law level is too low ever to trigger one. What is it with District 268? All the places Arion goes have ridiculously low law levels.

I’ve stopped rolling for what ships are in port. Did you notice? Me neither. It doesn’t seem to be making much difference.

I’m rolling a d8 for which day of the week the patron encounter occurs on, and ignoring 8s. Once it was clear he needed a weapon I rolled as if he were the leader of a group.

“All skill is in vain when an angel pees in the touch hole of your musket.” – German proverb

Over the past month, the government has gone from “There is no cause for concern” to enacting martial law to disappearing entirely, and Don’s unit has gone from supporting the police to 60% casualties to ceasing to exist. At the point where the orders changed to “shoot on sight” and his commanding officer decided to become a de facto feudal overlord, Don decided he’d had enough, and walked.

He’s running low on food, though, so it’s time to head into town and see what he can find.

Turns 1-4

Don enters the board from one edge, walking up the road. I decide he can see anything on the road as it’s daylight and he has a clear line of sight, so I draw the cards for all three sections; looks like there is some loot in the middle of the board, let’s say a discarded backpack. Don moves up cautiously to investigate, and reaches it on turn 4. However, he fails his Survival roll and I don’t want to use Bennies this early, so finds nothing usable.

Turn 4: The backpack is empty.

Turns 5-6

Don moves up to the closest door and pauses before he goes in – a habit I picked up from All Things Zombie, it ensures you have your full move available in case there’s anything inside. On turn 6 he tries the door, but draws a joker followed by a king of clubs (it’s locked) and a jack of spades (three zombies). Since the zeds are in this board section and he didn’t see them before, I decide they must have shambled around the far corner of the building. Unfortunately, he’s in their front arc and therefore visible. Time for initiative; the zeds draw a queen of hearts, Don draws a five of spades. The Rogues rules say the zeds should close up and attack, so they do.

Turn 6: Zeds!

Only one zed gets into melee and it Wild Attacks, rolling 6+1+2 (Wild Attack) which hits with a raise, giving it an extra 1d6 damage. 2d6 = 9, enough to cause a Shaken result. At this point I realise I haven’t allowed for zombie bites causing people to turn, but that’s easily fixed by giving zombies the Infection special ability on page 177 of SWADE. We’ll worry about that at the end of the game.

Now it’s Don’s turn, and he runs for it. First he makes a Spirit roll to recover from Shaken; 5 on his Spirit die and 4 on his Wild die, a success, so he recovers. He rolls a 2 on his running die, giving him a total Pace of 8 this round, and he aims for the next building, hoping to get inside and break line of sight. He draws a seven of hearts for the building, so it is open and empty; he has one point of Pace left so ducks inside and closes the door.

Post-Session Note: I forgot the zombie in melee should get a free swipe as Don flees. Oops.

Turn 7

The zeds draw a jack of clubs, but Don beats that with a king of spades. He moves quietly out of the back door and moves up to the corner while the zeds shuffle past. I have him make a Stealth roll to do this quietly enough that the zombies don’t notice. He rolls 2 on the skill die and 5 on the Wild Die, succeeding. The zombies can see up to 10″ (house rule) so they know which door he went into, and move towards it.

Turn 7: Let me be your backdoor man… I is blurry ‘cos I’s sneakin’, innit?

Turns 8-13

Don sneaks around the backs of two buildings and across the road, making Stealth rolls each turn, and composes himself before entering the north-west building on turn 12. The zombies are unable to figure out the door handle so content themselves with hammering on the door of the east building.

On turn 13, Don tries to enter the new building through the north door. He draws the ace of hearts, and so discovers three strangers; two Soldiers led by one Experienced Soldier. I pull three figures at random (actually I dice for which slots in my figure case to use) and get the customary figures for Arion (the Arioniad) and Dr Margaret Grant (28 Months Later) and one I don’t normally use. Not that it matters, it’s not them. The initial reaction check is a 6 (neutral), so Don tries a Persuasion roll to shift that; he scores 10, success with a raise, and shifts that two steps positive, up to Friendly. I decide that means the four will work together for the rest of the session, and share any supplies they find.

Turn 13: Do you come here often?

Turns 14-19

Turn 14 is probably several minutes after turn 13, and I realise I’ve forgotten that the zeds should be moving randomly now they can’t see anything, so I institute that from turn 14 onwards. The result is that by the time the team get around the back of the west building to their chosen door, one zed is visible but it is facing away from them. A group Stealth roll to enter undetected, I think; a 17 ought to do it, and we’re inside, drawing a jack of diamonds for contents; everyone’s ammo level shifts up to Very High and we all make a Survival roll for food (we’re in a restaurant so that seems reasonable, not sure who left the ammo though). The three NPCs have no skill, so roll 1d4-2 each, and unsurprisingly fail. Don gets a success and gathers one days’ food. Obviously someone has been here before them.

Turn 19: What’s in the cupboards?

Turns 20-23

The team moves stealthily across the alley into the south-west building, as luckily no zeds can see them; drawing a six of clubs means it’s locked, and while in principle we could break in, the noise would draw the zeds – and the current encounter rules mean there wouldn’t be anything inside anyway.

Post-Session Note: I should have remembered that a six is not a face card and therefore there is no encounter, not even “door locked”. However the building is still empty so it doesn’t change much.

Only the south-east building left, and there are zeds in the way. Oh well. The zeds have lost us, and are all facing away, so this looks like we’ll get a surprise round. (One zed did get a chance to see us as it wandered past, but failed the Notice roll.) We move quietly up to the alley mouth, just as two of the zeds come into line of sight, one facing towards us; no surprise for us. The zeds draw a five of diamonds, we get a jack of hearts, and we’re off. We shake out into a skirmish line across the alley mouth and open up.

Sadly, all three NPCs miss, and Don rolls a critical failure! We have just enough movement left to duck back into the alley before the zeds engage, putting the best two fighters at the front. Two make it into melee, while the third moves towards the gunshots by the shortest route, which will bring it up behind us. Oops.

Fortunately, both zeds miss, and we draw cards again, humans go first. Don uses his shotgun as an improvised club, but misses. The two NPCs at the rear both fire at the zed behind them, and both miss. The final NPC has an improbably large pistol, and shoots his zombie (page 104, ranged weapons in melee). He hits and scores 17 damage, ending it. The surviving zed hits Don, but he takes it on his armour and is fine. The zed behind us hits one of the NPCs and kills him outright.

Turn 23: Get it off me!

Turns 24-25

On turn 24 the zeds go first and miss. Don steps back to bring his shotgun to bear, giving his zed a free hack at him – it hits for 17 damage, causing two wounds – time to soak. Don spends a benny and rolls a 5, soaking one wound but still wounded and shaken. The female NPC puts down the zed behind us with her pistol. The experienced soldier continues to miss.

Turn 25, zeds go first again and engage the closest human – the experienced soldier. There’s only one zed left, and it misses. He pistol-whips it for 10 damage (due to aces) and it is shaken, at which point Don recovers from shaken and blows its head off with his shotgun despite the -1 for being Wounded.

Turns 26-30

We march over to the remaining building and investigate. It’s empty.

The two surviving NPCs know that Don has been bitten, so decide not to stick around in case he turns. He can’t blame them for that. Once he is safely away, he stops and tends to his wounds.

Aftermath

Don’s ammo level shifted up to Very High, but then drops back to High because of the firefight during the last few turns of the game. He can’t split one unit of food, so his Code of Honour compels him to give it to the NPCs. He now makes a Vigour roll to avoid being infected, and succeeds – I was hoarding bennies for rerolls on that, but didn’t need them. He tries a 1d4-2 roll to heal his wound; a 9 on the Wild Die works – even with -2 for being unskilled, -1 for no first aid kit, -1 for the patient’s wound and -1 for the healer’s wound, that’s still a 4; it heals one wound, which is all he had.

Don now has ammo level High and four days’ of food. He needs to go out again.

GM Notes

Well, that worked better than I expected, and took almost exactly two hours, including setup and teardown. On average luck we should see about three encounter cards drawn, and actually saw four. SW zombies seem tougher than ATZ zeds, so the numbers being generated are probably about right.

I’d forgotten how much fun this is. Expect more of it.

Credits: Figures – eM4; zombies – Okumarts; battlemat and rules – Pinnacle Entertainment.

Or, to give it its full title, Gold & Glory: Solo, GMless and One-on-One Adventures. I’ve been lying in wait for this since the author, Giuseppe Rotondo, announced he was working on it. 18 page PDF from SpaceOrange42, price £2.25 at time of writing.

What’s it for? The clue’s in the title. This is a rules expansion for Gold & Glory: Seven Deadly Dungeons (a Savage Worlds dungeon crawler toolkit, reviewed here and again here when it was “upSWADEd”) which allows for solitaire play (which I tried here before these rules came out), play without a GM, or with one GM and one player.

As I’ve remarked before, SWADE is remarkably easy to use for solo play, and this product relies on Quick Encounters and a few added rules to achieve its goals. Specifically:

  • The clues a party would gather before descending into one of the dungeons are now abstracted, and instead of giving hints about things you might meet, they are traded in during exploration for a one-time bonus on rolls relating to hazards or treasure.
  • There’s a table of situational modifiers for use in Dangerous (i.e. combat) Quick Encounters, which replace the basic GM-assigned modifier. It’s recommended that boss encounters should be three-step Staged Encounters. Note that in a Quick Encounter, the foes are abstracted, so mechanically it doesn’t much matter what you’ve met.
  • Spotting hidden things or puzzling out tricks and traps are treated as Non-Lethal Encounters. I had wondered how the author would handle these, and had envisaged tables of random traps and whatnot; but the abstract approach here is much simpler and more straightforward.
  • There are rules for henchmen; hiring them, how they advance, what happens if you decide to kill them to avoid paying their wages, things like that. Generic henchmen are Extras with a standard statblock, specialists are also Extras but are otherwise generated like PCs.

We close with a quick reference cheatsheet and a prefilled block of henchmen character sheets, with space for notes and grey text where upgrades might occur.

That’s it. The product is quite short, because it leverages rules that already exist in SWADE. I would love to try it out, but sadly that will have to wait – as always, I have more games I want to play than time available to play them in.

I can see a G&G solitaire campaign in my future, though; it will scratch that Old School dungeon crawling itch. Further, the level of abstraction in the game leaves a lot of room for storytelling at the table, so I think it would work well for introducing children to the hobby.

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