Monday, April 02, 2007

Roleplaying Nationals 2007

Yes - it's that time of year again, the Student Nationals (though these days you'll be hard pushed to find a student there), this time in Edinburgh to prevent it from constantly going back and forth from Bradford and Sheffield. See how well that works out in a moment or two...

The journey up was pretty okay except for a major jam outside York - but eventually I was over the border to Jedburgh - which looked cool, epic and misty. About 2 hours later I was working with no directions to get myself booked in and registered, but by 8pm I was all set, and the Pollock Halls in Edinburgh are very, very spiffy. After much reunioning (is that a verb? It is now) I went to sleep, utterly shattered.

A really nice breakfast started off the day well, and I found my game where I was reunited with J... for the 3rd time in 4 years. The first game was run using the Hero system - a system so complicated the rulebook could foil presidential assassination attempts if worn under plain clothes and made Rolemaster seem like a simplistic and common sense rules system.

The premise of this game was that there was a great darkness rising in the north. A band of heroes were to be assembleed to kill it. We were all Greek heroes from myths and legend. Actually it's fairer to say the rest of the party were Greek heroes and I was playing a pathetic Greek tragedy. We went north, found a dark chimera, killed it and stopped the titans making more monsters.

The party consisted of Perseus, an immortal wrestler made of stone who takes his power from Mother Earth, the god Hermes in mortal form for a laugh and Aesipicles - an actor and healer so great he could raise the dead with sheer force of will and persuade titans to commit suicide by eating copious amounts of hemlock.

Then there was me, playing Daedalus of the Daedalus and Icarus double act. I was apparently a genius, having invented flying wings (not so good for Icarus as I'm sure you'll recall) and built the labyrinth for King Minas (something which apparently labelled me as a traitor to the rest of Greece, but hey-ho). Essentially from reading and rereading my superpowers they were:-

  1. Dig 4 inches per second through solid wall. And organise up to 8 people to dig at the same rate.

  2. Raise or lower the ambient temperature of the camp site by 4 degrees. This would turn out to be my greatest offensive power later on in the scenario.

  3. Fly if I had a long runway or cliff. My DM seriously said he thought he had actually removed this power from the sheet, given how overwhelmingly overpowered I clearly was with the other 2 powers.

I also had the Hammer of Haephestus, which given Haeph is the god-armourer I assumed would stack with my inventor abilities to let me build ridiculously fast cool invention things. Sadly it only served to boost my minor combaty abilities.

It's fair to say I was more than a little underwhelmed by the patheticness of my character, particularly as the rest of the party were capable of summoning Zeus, throwing lightning bolts from the sky, creating sacrificial white cows out of the ether and other silliness. I didn't understand the system but an additional couple of facts were slowly explained to me during the game by the DM:-

  1. As I had the lowest Dex score I always went last in combat, that is if there was still a combat after all the god-like heroes launched their powers etc. The DM frequently forgot to remember my character in initiative order so the low Dex was less of an issue at times.

  2. My character, with his amazing strength and god-forged hammer could not actually wound the 1 big creature in the game. We found this out when I spent £2 on rerolls to get 35 on 7 dice and still failed to do anything beyond minor bruising. I renamed the Hammer of Haephaestus "the rubber mallet of the gods" from that point on.

I could however console myself that with my god-given digging powers I would at least be able to dig a hasty grave for anyone who messed with the rest of the party and that nearly everyone in the party was strong enough to throw my character into the air, eliminating the need for a runway.

My most useful moment in the game pretty much went as follows:-

DM: "There are 3 monsters sneaking up on you. Roll to see if you spot them."
SK: "Me? Why, can't they find someone worthwhile to attack? Okay I'll roll." (rolls and fails, pretty much a constant throughout this game)
DM: "The camp suddenly seems to feel colder. What are you doing?"
SK (reading character sheet): "Hey, it says here I can raise the temperature around me by four degrees purely by will. Since I think the night is just getting cooler I walk up to the fire, mutter something and the fire leaps back to life, causing the temperature to go back to something comfortable."
DM: "Er..." (flips through his notes) "The monsters sneaking up on you are some sort of cooled misty air monsters so the temperature change actually damages them." (rolls some dice) "They all die, turning into steam and evaporating."
SK: "But I didn't see this so I probably hear the hissing of steam, turn round and shrug."
DM: "Right. But then 3 more identical monsters turn up and attack - it was the temperature changing that harmed them, not the actual temperature. And as you are completely unaware of killing the first 3 you will not know to change the temperature again. They attack. And go first."
SK: "I hate you and everything you stand for."

(actually I didn't say the last bit, but I was tempted to. It was a pretty funny incident in an utterly pathetic way)

It's pretty accurate to say Game 1 was not my cup of tea. Or even my ideal stool sample. It did however mean I no longer had to worry about ranking in my category, allowing me free to enjoy Sunday's game all the more. But more on that later.

The evening continued with a pretty cool geek pub quiz. I was disowned by DMU Games Soc for playing with DURPS (they only had 3 players at one point) as up until the last utterly random round we were in the lead despite the fact there was a wargames round and our only wargamer left to have dinner. It was a pretty impressive showing though given it was a 6 round pub quiz with 2 additional sheets of questions and we eventually ranked 3rd. Suffice it to say all those Mondays in the Marquis have paid off, as has my knowledge of Dragonlance and Bill Murray's career.

Add to that some drunken mirth until the wee hours of the morning, where I went to bed leaving Six Foot Hobbit more or less sober with Big Bad John from Vague only to find him looking so utterly forlorn and hungover that he thought my cheery cries of "Morning" were some sort of cutting insult.

Sunday's game was Pendragon and the guy running it knew his stuff. The scenario was slightly familiar though - there was a great darkness rising in the north. A band of heroes were to be assembleed to kill it. We were all young knights sent by King Arthur to investigate. I was actually a competent knight with no skill in digging. We went north, found a dark wyrm and killed it.

Way better than the first game despite the suspiciously similar plot. The interplay was better and my character was actually useful for more than carrying the torches. We even had a player versus player joust over the small matter of one of the knights killing peasants after I'd negotiated a truce with the peasants. Add to that an entourage of a possibly gay/disguised female squire, another that was a hypochondriac, a French knight with an outrageous accent, a sneaky git killing after the whistle was clearly blown and a holy relic that I'm convinced came out of Blackadder's "Sacred Appendage Compendium Party Pack" it was a very good game.

And so, after more socialising and Sheffield literally stealing first place in the beginning minutes of prize giving it was a good nationals. And next year it will be in Sheffield... again. Very convenient for me!

Overall good nationals. The only question is who do I play for next year - Dundee or DeMontfort Uni? Well DMU have a free minibus apparently. ;)


Will Ellwood said...

The not-DMU minibus was very comfortable and I managed to read most of what I bought before the sun set. Yeah they did't give us use of the minibus. Tean had to rent one.

Oh and service stations at two in the morning are only a little depressing.

SixFoot Hobbit said...

You could always play for us...