Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Doctor and Snake Head save the day!

Daughter having effectively bowed out of the Numenera game with Son, I wondered whether our campaign had any future.  Son answered that question by inviting three friends over to play an RPG, run by Yours Truly.  Two of the boys had to cancel, so only one came to play. He turned out to be a great role player, and we had a lot of fun.

For the adventure, I chose The Vortex, by Mote Cook.  (Spoiler Alert: If you plan to play in this adventure, I'm going to recount everything that happened so don't say I didn't warn you.)

This adventure is structured well, giving the GM lots of moving parts and a few hooks to get the players into the action.  The first part of the adventure introduces a disappearing structure called The Narthex that materializes and disappears around the Ninth World like a self-aware TARDIS with an agenda.  The players encounter a cult with a charismatic but loathsome leader based loosely on Alister Crowley.  I used the hooks from the adventure, and Son and Friend took the bait eagerly.

Friend's character was a Tough Nano who Bears a Sheath of Ice.  He said he liked to play "tank wizards" so I thought he made a good choice.  He made a sketch of his character, who had a weird snake thing sitting on his noggin.  It looked like the snake was trying to swallow the character's head.

Friend explained to me that the character was the snake thing, that he was some kind of psychic parasite snake, and that the human in the picture was just a host.  "Ooooohkaaay," thought I, but I quickly put aside misgivings and put on my "Yes, and" hat and said "sure."  I figured we would handle any issues that came up on the fly.

So the Doctor and Snake Head, on the way to a small town to investigate some disappearances, witnessed a group of oddly dressed weirdos doing a hand-wavy chanty ritual before disappearing into a building shaped like a football which also disappeared.  The weirdo cultists left behind a bag of groceries and a satchel with a pen (they were very excited about the pen) and a journal that predicted that the football would show up again in ten days not too far from where they were going.  They made haste to the town.

Friend and Son really enjoyed the role play with the cultists, and Friend said at one point that he "loved" what we were doing.  They both seemed to be enjoying the game.

Once the arrived at the town they visited the principle NPC;s, a headwoman and a glaive.  More fun RPing ensued.  At one point the headwoman said "Boy...you got a snake on your head!"  and he was Snake Head from that point onward.

The latest disappearances were two young boys who had last been seen at a lake.  The heroes went to investigate and discovered a Mesomeme, a kind of giant crab with long tentacles that protrude from it's back.  It sets the heads of it's victims on the tentacles; the heads repeat their last words over and over as a kind of haunting cacaphony.  Quote from Friend "That is so WEIRD!"

The duo decided to recruit help from the town and formulated a plan using a desiccating detonation which evaporated water within a certain radius, doing damage to the creatures therein.  They then went to the waters' edge with the Glaive from the town, three hunters with bows and clubs, their wits and a decent plan.

They found the creature and rolled for initiative.  The Doctor threw his detonation, which I decided did double damage because the creature was aquatic.  Snake Head and the hunters then tried to draw the creature out of the muck by shooting arrows at it and generally making it's life hard.  I was also playing a character named Jang, a Tough Glaive who Fights with Panache.  I decided to play a character to model for the boys how some of the rules work, especially Effort.  Jang attacked with his spear, used effort and rolled a 17 for extra damage.  I described the hit as Jang's spear going into the creature's eye.  Lots of great "Eww's" from the peanut gallery.

We went around a few more rounds.  The mesomeme missed it's attacks because of effort put into dodging it's attacks.  A GM intrusion had Snake Head's club bounce off the back of the creature and go flying into the lake.  The hunters and the Glaive together made a single level 6 creature, which was a good match to the Mesomeme.  At one point the Doctor attacked with his dagger and brought it down to one health.  Then it was Jang' turn.  I asked the boys what they would rater see happen: Jang do the killing blow or the Glaive.  They thought the Glaive had better do it so the town could feel safe and proud, which I thought was cool and insightful.  The Glaive smashed the creature's life out with a maul, and that was that.

The Doctor found a gas bomb in the mouth of a crow-goblin whose head was mounted on the back of the Mesomeme.  (I used a GMI to have it say "Follow the Yellow Robes!" meaning the cult members before it was put to rest.)  The party took the mesomeme meat (which they called "crab meat") back to the grateful town.  The townsfolk were grateful and told them that they would always be welcome at that place.

We stopped there.  It really could not have gone much better.  Numenera is easy to improvise with so far; the combat was fun and fluid and the role playing was facilitated by the excellent clues and prompts given in the adventure.

A final note: I use glass beads to represent XP.  Having a thing in front of me reminds me to use GMI's, which seems to be a problem for new Numenera GM's.  (Several years of Savage Worlds probably doesn't hurt either.)  XP are the players' currency of narrative control, so Game Master Intrusions are important just so that the players can advance or use their XP in other cool ways.