So much gaming this weekend: E.V.E. 0, The Clay That Woke, and D&D 5e
tl;dr — E.V.E. 0 was frustrating, fun, and full of promise; The Clay That Woke was challenging and awesome, and I really need to read the book, assemble my tokens, and play it some more; my D&D 5e group continues to be awesome and D&D 5e is still maybe the best edition of the game I’ve played yet.
Not only did Chicago Gameday 44 happen this weekend, but since MadJay Brown was in town, I also got in a session of our sporadic D&D 5e campaign. Other than a good night’s sleep, I was gaming pretty much from 9:30 a.m. Saturday to 3:00 p.m. Sunday. I.e., my wife is awesome.
First up was E.V.E. 0, a game in early development from Dave Michalak that I played with him, Willow Palecek and Tim, a newcomer to Gameday. The basic is premise is that all the characters are from a clutch of bioengineered explorers — cloned sisters — dropped in crechecraft on some random planet. The game starts as you are “born” and have to figure out what equipment survived the landing and what’s the nature of your mission. Play starts with the group making up possible enhancements/mutations, tossing them into a hat (as it were) and randomly drawing a few for each PC. We collectively decided that our baseline form was a blue-skinned, mohawked Scarlett Jonhanson. My sister ended up with fur, telepathy, and web-spinners. We became aware of a mission beacon beckoning us across the landscape, and then I diverted in order to rescue a lost sister who’d awoken before the rest of us and was subsequently captured by natives.
The game was definitely rough, and we did a healthy de-brief at the end of the session. The big takeaway was that Dave had this cool loyalty chart that plotted a given PCs allegiance along a mission/sister axis and… some other axis that I forget. We all agreed that that chart should be the core resolution system, rather than a task/ability system Dave used for most of the game. Accomplishing physical tasks proved less interesting to us than questions like: “What does it mean that we just ate one of the sisters who failed to hatch?”
In all, I loved the core concept of the game and hope to see Dave either develop it into the loyalty chart game, or else embrace the “mutants explore a planet” task-y angle and adapt it to an existing system.
Next I got chance to play The Clay That Woke with Tim Koppang, Tim from above, Matt, and Nikita. The initial setup had two of us working for a master that used his harem of wives to birth a horde of children that he abused and sacrificed for his own spiritual needs, and so, within the first five minutes of the game I was joyously deep in Heavy Shit™ and was looking at the tenets of Silence thinking, “So… this is a list of rules I am going to violate almost immediately”. By mid-point in the session I had murdered the master and was running berserk into the jungle — and Tim being Tim, of course — accidentally goring a child en route.
My counterpart in the master’s house, Nikita, took the opposite track and did his utmost to adhere to Silence no matter what. What’s great is that this had part of me angry at him — “How can you stand by and do nothing about this?” — and part of me filled with deep respect — “Dude, you are hardcore.”
We had some difficulties with the Krater of Lots. At first it was really confusing that the icons on the tokens were different from the icons on the result sheet; it took some time for us to translate them, and even then sometimes they were — to my old eyes — similar enough that I had to study them for a bit to tell one from another. I think since we also didn’t really grok the strategy, a lot of our results were either one of the last options on the list, or else no result and we defaulted to foreshadowing. I feel like actually reading the dang book and having handled the tokens for one play-through will solve a lot of this, though. It was mostly that all of us save Tim were flying blind, totally new to the game.
Overall, though, the session completely renewed my interest in TCTW. I would really like to get a run of 3-6 sessions of this under my belt. Tim adeptly primed the session for one-shot-ness, but I could see how a lot of the issues addressed by the game would fare better given time to develop, not to mention the characters gaining some of the tokens that can only be earned through play.
And thus endeth Gameday on Saturday.
Sunday started bright and early with pancakes at home and then D&D 5e at 10:00 a.m. with my Sunday crew: Jenn Martin, Julianna Aldredge, Geoff Raye, Dave Michalak, newcomer Tamora, and our DM MadJay Brown. We played for about five hours, though a good chunk of the beginning was spent catching up everyone and figuring out a plan of action. There was much talky-talk at first, and I made use of my paladin’s noble background and their bond to establish that my mother, a baroness, had essentially been charged by the duke to take possession of the lands in which we currently found ourselves, and thus not only was I high-ranked in the local temple, but I was also essentially the ranking political figure in the area. I threw my mother’s influence around in an attempt to buy a mercenary company away from one of our enemies, to limited success.
And then we went into a dungeon and fought a death knight summoned by a Deck of Many Things. Good times!
There were definitely moments when I was flashing back to my 3e days, as the battle with the death knight involved a certain amount of standing toe-to-toe and whittling down hit points, not to mentioned players stalled on their turns figuring out rules and bonuses, but I attribute both of these phenomena to our general rustiness with the system. After the game I realized that I could stand to compile a personal combat sheet for my paladin, one that outlines all his possible options in a combat round, as it’s staggering the amount of choice available to him despite being just 5th level and owning no magic items.
And to Jay’s credit, the fight both involved multiple objectives and could have been avoided depending on how our initial scouting of the scene had gone, which to me is good D&D. The religious and fighting types in the group got to be valorous, the sneaky types to be sneaky, and the arcane types to be inscrutable.
5e continues to impress me. There’s definitely still the tactical/resource bits at which 3e excelled, but the backgrounds/bonds/flaws add a dimension of mechanical support to the talky-talk that I think the game has always been sorely lacking, yet in implementation is remarkably unobtrusive. I only wish that alignment had the same kind of teeth. If only the XP mechanics were better, I’d say that — at least as a player — 5e is the best D&D.
So, lots of gaming this weekend. Which is good, since it’ll likely be months before I game face-to-face again. And the fact that I played, rather than ran, has me feeling recharged rather than drained, which is a nice change for me. I could really get used to this whole thing where you let other people do the heavy lifting and just show up to play with pencil and dice in hand.
#claytalk #chicagogameday #chicagogameday44 #dnd #5e