05 May 2012

Playtesting Stormdragon

So our gaming table finally met again. This time we went through a second iteration of the "Stormdragon" ruleset. Stormdragon is our home-brewed gaming ruleset that mixes Strombringer 1e magic and setting with Pendragon combat rules and Runequest skill rules. It worked fairly well. Here are some thoughts:

  • Referee Swapping - One player and I switched back and forth in the referee role, with me dominating about 90% of the time. It worked fairly well and I felt we  allowed each other plenty of free scope for improvisation. We each had our character as well, which made it easy to ebb and flow the role of narrator. No need to change anything here.
  • Player vs Player - The first half of the session focused on the new player characters to the campaign world. They got involved in a subplot, which eventually brought them in contact with the elder player characters. When they finally met, they were on opposite sides of the battlefield. It was a grand battle, ending in the new player character's fleeing the battle and later joining forces with the victorious elder player characters. I had a PC in the mix as well and he escaped with his life. Another one of these player vs player battle royales needs to be orchestrated some time.
  • Character Generation - It was a little slow still. We went with character builds instead of random rolls. I prefer random rolls as it really puts players in unexpected places and makes them think on their feet. One of the new characters was a priest of the second circle, meaning he could summon elementals and demons. Magic using characters take a long time to finish; but, I think its worth it in the end given how rich the magic system can be. The number of skills was too high and slowed down the process too much.
  • Skills - I think there's too many skills. I'll probably shrink the number of skills significantly. Perception skills and poison lore gotta go. Maybe up-level some skill descriptions to be more broad in scope and reduce the overall number.
  • Experience - If we reduce the number of skills and broaden each skill in scope, then I think experience is working out just fine.
  • Passions - Nobody used passions!!! That sucks, people! Get 'em out there.
  • Combat - Seemed to work pretty well. Everybody is playing a different character than they have in a long while, with the whole party being swordsmen knights in our previous Pendragon campaign. The stumbling we experienced during combat was probably more about learning curve in the new roles and lower power levels than we're used to.
  • Magic Use - So casting magic slowed down the game significantly. At this point I attribute it to lack of familiarity with the rules and will forge ahead. I like the creativity of this magic system very much.

The story also worked pretty well. It got off to a slow start; but, I expect it to pick up once we gain familiarity with the magic rules. Demons are important personalities in the milieu of this world and our stumbling with the rules definitely hurts the storyline. Also, the party wasn't really together until the last 1/3rd of the session - so there were some slow intervals for one character or another.


Unknown said...

Really enjoyed this week's gaming session.

The multi-referee thing worked out well for me, too. I expected the session to be mostly one of us, with the other adding in as appropriate and that's pretty much how it happened. Other nights, I expect you'll get a chance to be more player than referee, and overall I'm hoping that we even out.

I'm also a fan of the "no ref prep" concept. I'm hoping that having multiple refs will help make that reasonable for the players, too.

I didn't get a feeling that there were too many skills or that the number of skills interfered with the gameplay. That said, I wouldn't be overly upset with reducing the overall number of skills.

The lesson learned from the first playtest (Strormbringer rules) was how to properly use the magic system. That lesson carried over well into this session, as I thought we used magic much better.

The lesson learned from this session (Stormdragon) was USE YOUR FREAKING PASSIONS. Nowhere was this better exemplified than in the battle scene between the ship and the liferafts -- ok, they were better than liferafts, but they weren't battleships either. I mean, two characters with Hate Melnibonean passions failed to invoke them? That's wrong in so many ways, and it would have made such a difference in the outcome of that scene. On the other hand, the Bad Guys™ didn't tap their passions either. So, maybe it was a fair fight?

One thing that occurred to me in the middle of the session was that there were parts of my character that I had prepped out of session, presuming that Thule might be NPC if the game went differently. When he became PC, I realized that you were surprised at some of the prepped elements (e.g. Thule's pre-bound air elemental). I don't think that caused any problems, but it wasn't clear if the surprise caused you any issues with respect to how you were running the scene.

Although the magic worked well, we spent more time on some of the "uninteresting" parts of magic than I thought we needed. We can't just blow past the summoning rituals because they are sorta critical to the nature of the magic. However, there are parts of the summoning that we really must play out (e.g. what kind of demon are you summoning? what are you sacrificing?) and others that are more pedestrian and can just be flipped through (e.g. drawing the stars, triangles, circles, etc). Seems like we need more experience with the game system to get a better idea of what to breeze through and what to concentrate on.

Eric Wilde said...

Thanks for the input, Eric.

I was cool with your bound air elemental coming as a surprise. No worries there. As long as its reasonable for your character than go for it.

DrBargle said...

I saw your comment on Hill Cantons, and followed you back here to ask, will you be sharing your Stormdragon hack, at all?

Eric Wilde said...

Absolutely. I'll post a pointer here on this blog tonight when I get home from this BBQ.