Tuesday, 9 June 2015

VIKINGS: Actually Play Report feat. Actual Play

Brother, the Other Dunk, was in my city a few days ago, so we spent time talking hot noise about the procedural generation of narrative and, obviously, played some DnD. It seemed like a good opportunity to test out my new Adventure Point system, so we each grabbed a friend, I drew a shit map, and we all went wild.

This is a photo I took of us going wild.

I feel like the system did a good ground-level of work simply because character gen took about four seconds. One person came up with their character in a 10 minute conversation the night before, one did all their character gen in the car on the way in, and one came up with theirs in the time it took to listen to the first two describe theirs. This was really, really nice to have work. The characters they built seemed really well rounded just by having a set of slightly comedic powers based around a central theme in a way I've never quite seen click in a game system before.

Part of the reason the generation was so quick is that I didn't really fuck with stats. My big thoughtspiel on the stat system of VIKINGS is yet to be dropped like a cursed sword, so I decided to run this game completely without stats of any kind. It was alright in the sense that things went a little faster. People were imaging the fighter-style character as tougher than the seahag without a solid basis for that assumption, so that worked, but it turns out that rpg's definitely demand that your players have health totals if you want to keep the final battle - or any battle, really - properly nail-biting.

But enough of me going 'Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm' onto a page. Fun things that happened:

Actual Play??

The session starts with the PC's on a boat, crossing the great inland sea around and on which most of the world's vikings live. They're a disparate bunch: a ghost-sniffing fighter with a sea-urchin flail; a shriveled seahag with a pet crow and an obsession with toads; a shapechanger that quickly establishes that the only form she knows is 'big angry crab'.

After the mild railroading of a prologue in which the party spots a cursed white whalefish on the horizon and promptly has their ship trashed by it, they wash up on a deserted island and have three days to make a new boat and hunt down the injured whalefish before the curse takes them all.

They did a bunch of stuff:
  • They break into a run-down wizard's tower, ransacked a dozen times over. They get past his booby-trap/practical jokes and steal the only things that haven't already been stolen; a scroll of summon treacle and some hand-drawn pornography.
  • The wizard's bedroom is entered, his NeverStain sheets pilfered from beneath his rotting bones. They won't be particularly 'viking' sails, but one has to make do.
  • An old ent, the last tree on the island, is tracked down. I gear up for a fight and then the party asks him if he's ever considered being a mast. Apparently that sounds like fun.
  • The northern beach is explored. A whale corpse lies swarming with crabs. One shape-shift and a bit of scroll-reading later and the beach is now littered with dead crabs, drowned in a sexy treacle orgy. The shapeshifter is pregnant.
  • An old shipwreck is reached. The figurehead has been deliberately torn off, but the armory is in reasonable stead. The party walks (and scuttles) away with a dozen harpoons and some choice bits of the giant squid they found.
  • The boneyard in the center of the island offers up an old, rusted anchor. It also offers ghoooooooosts! But news of the wizard's death appeases the spirits, and the boneyard is now a fine source of decking materials.
  • Not wanting to leave the island before ticking off every box, the party wanders down to the small fresh-water lagoon on this surprisingly spacious island. They horribly poisoned the juvenile lake drake that lives there, and before it can even get an attack in the seahag summons a rain of frogs into a hole cut in its side. It dies the death of an awful pinata. The figurehead at the bottom of its lake is swiftly stolen.
Happily skimming over the time it actually takes to construct a working longboat, the players soon find themselves crewing a ship forged from the bones of a hundred dead mean, armored with the shells of a thousand dead crabs. Drake wings sweep back from a twice-stolen figurehead. The mast itself is alive, a venerable ent draped with, uh, stars-and-moons bedsheets.

They set out after the whalefish, tracking a trail of black blood and dead fish over the waves. After a dramatic encounter with some of the whalefish's intestinal parasites (tapeworm hydra is an idea I'm using again) they track down the great white beast itself.

Sighting the whalefish on the horizon they steady themselves for a fight. A white fin cuts the waves, and the ship lurches as the whalefish rams them. Stingray-like pilot fish slam into the deck, start thrashing at the crew. The shapeshifter transforms and engages in dramatic sea-creature battle. The other PC's sprint to the prow and start peppering the whalefish with parasite-poisoned harpoons as it beats itself against the longboat. A few rounds of bludgeoning later, the whalefish shudders and throws a spray of quills toward the sailors. A dramatic set of natural 20s hits the gametable and one of the stingrays is nailed to the deck by a redirected quill, the other quickly flattened by the mast/ent.

Just as the crew starts to get stuck into the whalefish, it shudders again. Four fat tongues burst from its mouth and land on the deck. Halfway between a slug and a praying mantis, the tongues begin their attempts to invade the shapeshifter's crabby mouth. Despite the best effort of the crew (and a friendly whale ghost!) two tongues are still alive when one reduces the friendcrab to 0hp and slips into her face.

Two rounds later the seahag's pet crow dies a hero, flying a vial of parasite poison into the fray and getting swallowed by the face-hugging tongue. As the shapeshifter, now unconscious, slips back to human proportions, the seahag pours her only health potion down her friends throat. The shapeshifter's eyes flicker open and she lunges forward, splitting the last tongue in twain as it cuts down the seahag.

The whalefish, badly bloodied, attempts to flee. Harpoons and a well-thrown net drag it back to the ship. The injured crew leaps onto the body. Three fish spears rise and fall in tandem. The beast is slain. The day is won.

So yeah, five hours of fun. Good job everyone.

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