4Ward/FrankenFourth: Keep on the Shadowfell, Part 2

  • Embra (1st-level dwarf wizard)
  • Ivanna (1st-level elf ranger)
  • Maria's Warlord-Whose-Name-I-Didn't-Get (1st-level tarchon warlord)
  • Thirur (1st-level dwarf fighter)

Maria was jonesing for a game last Sunday, and as luck would have it we were going to play(test) some more 4Ward/FrankenFourth.

We invited her to join in, warning her that our kids—who are currently more interested in rolling dice and looting treasure than dealing with complex plots—would also be playing, and it is a testament to her fortitude that she agreed anyway.

When we'd last left off, the party had just entered the catacombs underneath Shadowfell Keep, in search of the source of the walking dead that were plaguing the Winterhaven region. Since this wasn't exactly conducive to a new character joining in, we just dropped her in then and there.

The first room was filled with a group of would-be cultists. The party tried sneaking past, but were spotted almost immediately since two of the characters were tromping around in heavy armor. Luckily the squatters weren't particularly smart; Ivanna was able to trick them into providing directions to their leader (she rolled something like a 15 on a Bluff check, they rolled a nat 1 trying to see through the crude ruse).

The party followed their instructions, and after smashing a small group of skeletal sentries came across an unmarked wooden door. It was barred, and after some brief deliberation as to whether they should knock or bash opted on the latter, as their stats were more conducive to success that way.

The room was rectangular. What they assumed was a sacrificial alter rested at one end, and a swirling black portal stood at the other. A pair of black pillars flanked the portal, and they could see distorted, wispy faces pressing against them from within, as if trying to escape. A figure was standing before the portal. He was robed in black, and a pair of ram-like horns curled away from his bone-white helmet.

Ivanna broke the silence by saying something along the lines of, "Death comes for you", which to the high priest of a death cult seemed obvious, and also not necessarily a bad thing. He responded by gesturing wildly at the portal, causing icy mist and skeletons to pour forth into the chamber. The skeletons clattered towards the party, forming a mob between them and the priest.

Maria's warlord and Thirur slowly hacked their way towards the priest, while Ivanna and Embra hung back, loosing arrows and blasts of scorching fire. Skeletons continued to emerge from the portal until Ivanna pegged the priest with an arrow; he dropped the wand, which also seemed to stem the skeletal tide, giving her cat and Thirur an opportunity to close in and finish him off.

I'd intended for the priest to surround himself with the scattered bones, forming a kind of bone giant to serve as a climactic finale the to fight, but thanks to a pair of critical hits (which currently inflict maximum damage) padded with some regular blows, he went down before he had the chance. Oh well, that's just the way the dice roll.

Stress Test
After dinner we kept going without Maria, to do a small, plot-bereft "stress test". We started back at the entrance, and this time they decided to fight the initiates. Dealing only 1d4+1 damage, they were a danger to pretty much everyone but the fighter, thanks to his scale armor.

I started to think that scale armor giving you an Armor of 4 was too much, but then I thought, no, these are fucking peasants with knives going up against a heavily armored and well armored dwarf: if I'd give them longswords, or even shortswords, I think things would have gone much more differently.

Even so I think a kind of "mob" attack, as we've done in Dungeons & Delvers, is in order, but instead of dealing the same amount of damage, it could also scale (probably something like +1 per additional attacker, meaning that if you're surrounded they could deal +7 damage). This way, a mob could feasibly drag an armored character down and deal some damage.

The next encounter was against an owlbear skeleton. Again, I was just going off of my 5th Edition Keep on the Shadowfell notes, which had an owlbear skeleton in a random room (I think the original idea was that the cult animated it to help defend them when do-gooder adventurers invariably came knocking). I used the skeletal horse stats, but bumped up its Strength by 1 point. This, combined with its double-attack, allowed it to almost take out Thirur in one action.

Good to know!

They still won, but at least the fighter wasn't topped off when they started the third encounter, which ended up being against a group of eight skeletons. These were able to nearly drop Thurir, though it took more than one attack, and did succeed in taking out Ivanna's cat and Embra before they were all finally destroyed. I think I'm getting a better handle on "encounter guidelines".

Design Stuff
Melissa has been running a pirate game using her own pirate thingy that she wants to make for Dungeon World, though we're trying out the actual content using this game. We've been using half damage on a miss for magical attacks, which is nice given that they cost health to use. I've also been trying out a cleric of Dagon, or maybe Cthulhu. The important thing is that I don't have any healing abilities, instead stirring everyone into a fighting frenzy and shooting bolts of lightning

I'll post a play report on that soon, as well as showing some cleric stuff.

Something that I think will need to be done, is to have Wounds increase as you level up. As it currently stands they're static, based on your class and Constitution: only Vitality accumulates. The problem is that at higher levels characters with lots of Vitality won't be affected by most fights, as they'll never run out of Vitality. The idea is that I want characters to slowly have their Wounds chipped away over the course of adventuring. For this, I think I'll also need to reign in Vitality a bit.

We're also considering changing weapons into rough categories, similar to how they work in Gamma World: you'd choose whether the weapon is one- or two-handed, and depending on whether it is light, medium, or heavy, would determine if you can use Strength and/or Dexterity to attack with it, as well as how much damage it deals. This way, you don't have to worry about whether this sword or that axe is the "best" weapon: you can better choose what you want, and just fucking play.

Image Dump

We're currently holding the third Trick-or-Treat sale: until the 23rd you can pick up The Witch at 31% off!

The Monk is now available. It's a very flexible class, crammed with nearly thirty advanced moves (plus all the other extra content that we're known for), so we made another tweak to our character sheet layout in order to make it easier to remember what stance is active, and what it does.

Grave Goods is the latest magic item compilation in our 10+ Treasures line. If you want nearly 30 undead-themed magic items, some monsters, and advice on how to make your own, pick it up!

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World, now's your chance! Finally, we've updated If These Stones Could Scream.

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