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

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]]>

Played some #dnd 5e yesterday with Jenn Martin, Dave Michalak, Geoff Raye, and our inestimable DM MadJay Brown! Half our intrepid band were tasked with recovering the person and/or remains of the Archon of Istus, the other half searching for the Dark Mirror of Summoning Bad Things (and loot). Luckily, both missions involve delving into the same volcanic ruins!

The big highlight for me was managing to totally avoid a fight with a salamander via judicious use of parley; Geoff’s warloc’sk ability to basically know all languages saved us lots of trouble!

Later I got be the meatiest of meat shields by soaking up most of the attacks from a group of fire mephitis.

Gotta say, still really liking this edition. Sure, Jay is kicking ass and taking names as a DM, and this group is awesome in general, but things just seem to work in 5e.

#TheSundayCrew

D&D 5e and The Sunday Crew in “Assault on the Seclusium of Istus”

Yesterday, I played D&D 5e for the first time. MadJay Brown was the DM, Jenn Martin played an elf rogue (thief), Julianna Aldredge an elf rogue (assassin), Dave Michalak a dragonborn monk, Geoff Raye a human warlock, and I was a human paladin. Jay started us all at 3rd level.

Jay began the session by choosing cards from some sort of Deck of Many Things set (where did those come from, Jay?) and laying them out on the table like a Tarot reading. He asked us to choose from three fortunes: a death foretold, greed leading to ruin, and power usurped (or something similar). I believe that the fortune we each chose determined where we would start and what situations would be in play. Very cool!

The setting was the “Seclusium of Istus” (Istus being the monk’s and paladin’s patron deity), a holy palace carved into the face of a volcano. It was the eve of the new moon, new year celebration in the palace, in which the Luminary of Istus would reveal her prophecies for the coming year. The choice of fortunes put Jenn’s thief in the catacombs pulling a heist with a small crew from the Thieves’ Guild, Dave’s monk and Geoff’s warlock in the library admiring a scared scroll of “Tenser’s Disseration on Fate,” Juli’s assassin in disguise amongst the celebration crowd in the main hall, and my paladin patrolling said hall with a small force of guards.

The action quickly escalated: a team of assassins (not including Juli’s) made attempts on the three archons of Istus in main hall, Jenn’s crew encountered some kind of one-eyed humanoid with necrotic powers in the catacombs trying to steal the same stuff as Jenn’s crew, and Dave and Geoff battled thieves making a play for the Dissertation. All the while there are serious tremors shaking the palace, and a planar gate (!) opened somewhere within. Eventually we wrapped up our individual threats and joined forces to help evacuate the palace, battling a platoon of gnolls(!) who’re preventing guests from crossing the mountain bridge back to safety; looks like a cambion(?) brought them in through the gate.

Obviously, someone has it in for the cult of Istus.

One of my favorite moments from my slice of the game was when, having captured one of the would-be assassins, I asked my paladin-commander to cast Zone of Truth so that we could question them (it’s 2nd level, which I can’t cast yet). The assassin makes their save (Jay rolls everything in the open, thank heavens), but Jay makes it clear that the commander is acting like they failed. Aha! An inside job! But of course my character doesn’t know that and would follow his commander to the ends of the earth. Hot! (This is how you handle lies in RPGs, folks.)

I really liked that we did not start the game as a “party”, but rather as individuals who all had our own jobs. Circumstance brought us together eventually, but it never felt contrived. Jay did a great job of running concurrent encounters, so that all of the action was happening at once, even though we were in separate groups.

In all, I had a great time, and this session hit all of my preferences for D&D-style play: we all got to be competent without feeling like it was a cakewalk, were badass without it being just a show-off-your-awesomeness stroke-fest, our decisions mattered, we engaged the system, and the game moved at a good pace.

Personally, it also felt really good to be gaming again, especially with this group of people. Other than Chicago Gameday back in March, I haven’t gamed at all since GenCon ’14, and I haven’t seen this group since before that. We’re drama-free, have great communication, and even when a game goes south, we all seem to be on the same page about what caused the southward journey and can talk freely about correcting course. The whole ride home I kept thinking how lucky I am to have all of them to game with.

It was also nice to just show up and be a player. My only prep was taking some time Saturday to print up a cool 1e-looking sheet from Dyson Logos and roll my PC by hand (i.e., with a pencil and paper instead of software), something I haven’t done in years. I came home feeling like my batteries had been recharged.

The session also got me excited about 5e again. It’s hard to judge based on one session — NTM one in which Jay wasn’t pushing us too hard, I think — but the system feels very clean and polished, like it’s taking ideas form 3e (and a little 4e) and implementing them in easier-to-use ways. I really like that a crit is a crit and not a crit threat, that you determine whether a foe is dead or subdued at 0hp, and that pretty much everything is an ability check. We got a little exposure to how Inspiration and backgrounds/bonds/etc. work, and they feel like just enough “indie” spice to improve the game without changing it’s fundamental “D&D” nature. And, man, advantage/disadvantage is a great idea; so simple. I came away from the game feeling some of the giddiness I had when I got back into gaming with 3e; this is a D&D I can get behind, I think. (Heck, I’ve been thinking up campaign ideas ever since I left Jay’s hotel.)

Jay handled combat “theater of the mind” style, and it worked really well. I’m not sure I’m 100% sold on it, though. I became a die-hard minis user during my tenure with 3e, so in hindsight I am a little conflicted about having to ask Jay things like, “Get I get to the gnoll with one move?” and “Is the assassin within 60 feet?” I totally had fun the whole time, no doubt, but there are mixed feels.

It looks like Jay will be in town three more times before the year’s end, so hopefully we’ll be able to continue this mini-campaign when he’s here, or else play some via Hangouts.

Thanks to Jay for running and everyone for playing. You guys totally made my Sunday.

#TheSundayCrew   #dnd   #5e   #rpg

D&D 5e and The Sunday Crew in “Assault on the Seclusium of Istus” Yesterday, I played D&D 5e for the first time. MadJay Brown was the DM, Jenn Martin played an elf rogue (thief), Julianna Aldredge an elf rogue (assassin), Dave Michalak a dragonborn monk, Geoff Raye a human warlock, and I was a human paladin. Jay started us all at 3rd level. Jay began the session by choosing cards from some sort of Deck of Many Things set (where did those come from, Jay?) and laying them out on the table like a Tarot reading. He asked us to choose from three fortunes: a death foretold, greed leading to ruin, and power usurped (or something similar). I believe that the fortune we each chose determined where we would start and what situations would be in play. Very cool! The setting was the “Seclusium of Istus” (Istus being the monk’s and paladin’s patron deity), a holy palace carved into the face of a volcano. It was the eve of the new moon, new year celebration in the palace, in which the Luminary of Istus would reveal her prophecies for the coming year. The choice of fortunes put Jenn’s thief in the catacombs pulling a heist with a small crew from the Thieves’ Guild, Dave’s monk and Geoff’s warlock in the library admiring a scared scroll of “Tenser’s Disseration on Fate,” Juli’s assassin in disguise amongst the celebration crowd in the main hall, and my paladin patrolling said hall with a small force of guards. The action quickly escalated: a team of assassins (not including Juli’s) made attempts on the three archons of Istus in main hall, Jenn’s crew encountered some kind of one-eyed humanoid with necrotic powers in the catacombs trying to steal the same stuff as Jenn’s crew, and Dave and Geoff battled thieves making a play for the Dissertation. All the while there are serious tremors shaking the palace, and a planar gate (!) opened somewhere within. Eventually we wrapped up our individual threats and joined forces to help evacuate the palace, battling a platoon of gnolls(!) who’re preventing guests from crossing the mountain bridge back to safety; looks like a cambion(?) brought them in through the gate. Obviously, someone has it in for the cult of Istus. One of my favorite moments from my slice of the game was when, having captured one of the would-be assassins, I asked my paladin-commander to cast Zone of Truth so that we could question them (it’s 2nd level, which I can’t cast yet). The assassin makes their save (Jay rolls everything in the open, thank heavens), but Jay makes it clear that the commander is acting like they failed. Aha! An inside job! But of course my character doesn’t know that and would follow his commander to the ends of the earth. Hot! (This is how you handle lies in RPGs, folks.) I really liked that we did not start the game as a “party”, but rather as individuals who all had our own jobs. Circumstance brought us together eventually, but it never felt contrived. Jay did a great job of running concurrent encounters, so that all of the action was happening at once, even though we were in separate groups. In all, I had a great time, and this session hit all of my preferences for D&D-style play: we all got to be competent without feeling like it was a cakewalk, were badass without it being just a show-off-your-awesomeness stroke-fest, our decisions mattered, we engaged the system, and the game moved at a good pace. Personally, it also felt really good to be gaming again, especially with this group of people. Other than Chicago Gameday back in March, I haven’t gamed at all since GenCon ’14, and I haven’t seen this group since before that. We’re drama-free, have great communication, and even when a game goes south, we all seem to be on the same page about what caused the southward journey and can talk freely about correcting course. The whole ride home I kept thinking how lucky I am to have all of them to game with. It was also nice to just show up and be a player. My only prep was taking some time Saturday to print up a cool 1e-looking sheet from Dyson Logos and roll my PC by hand (i.e., with a pencil and paper instead of software), something I haven’t done in years. I came home feeling like my batteries had been recharged. The session also got me excited about 5e again. It’s hard to judge based on one session — NTM one in which Jay wasn’t pushing us too hard, I think — but the system feels very clean and polished, like it’s taking ideas form 3e (and a little 4e) and implementing them in easier-to-use ways. I really like that a crit is a crit and not a crit threat, that you determine whether a foe is dead or subdued at 0hp, and that pretty much everything is an ability check. We got a little exposure to how Inspiration and backgrounds/bonds/etc. work, and they feel like just enough “indie” spice to improve the game without changing it’s fundamental “D&D” nature. And, man, advantage/disadvantage is a great idea; so simple. I came away from the game feeling some of the giddiness I had when I got back into gaming with 3e; this is a D&D I can get behind, I think. (Heck, I’ve been thinking up campaign ideas ever since I left Jay’s hotel.) Jay handled combat “theater of the mind” style, and it worked really well. I’m not sure I’m 100% sold on it, though. I became a die-hard minis user during my tenure with 3e, so in hindsight I am a little conflicted about having to ask Jay things like, “Get I get to the gnoll with one move?” and “Is the assassin within 60 feet?” I totally had fun the whole time, no doubt, but there are mixed feels. It looks like Jay will be in town three more times before the year’s end, so hopefully we’ll be able to continue this mini-campaign when he’s here, or else play some via Hangouts. Thanks to Jay for running and everyone for playing. You guys totally made my Sunday. #TheSundayCrew   #dnd   #5e   #rpg]]>