Thursday, September 17, 2009

To fight or not to fight?

Quite a few of our recent sessions have involved either no combat at all or very minimal combat. Despite this fact, many things have happened and I have had no trouble keeping the players' interest. For a number of sessions the party was exploring a ruined military complex buried deep under the swamp. After defeating the robot guardians and hacking into the defense network, several sessions were mostly exploratory and focused on trying to figure out what was going on in the extensive research laboratories. This involved finding the appropriate key cards to gain access to different areas, so a number of the private chambers of high ranking scientists were ransacked and many interesting discoveries were made. A robot dog with a real dog's mind (the brilliant scientist Julius Corple's grad school dissertation in advanced robotics, this dog represented the first successful transference of a brain into a robot) was overjoyed to have company after long lonely centuries, and is faithfully following the party to this day.

However, the sessions of exploration ended violently when the party encountered the descendants of an experimental genetic engineering project that sought to create super commandos by manipulating the genome of chimpanzees and orangutans. The super-apes had began confined to a single level of the complex for six hundred years because of the poisonous gasses that filled the rest of the facility. When the party closed the portal to the Oozyxphgian home world through which the poisonous atmosphere was pouring, the gasses began to dissipate and the apes took their ancient inter-species warfare to the rest of the complex, and the party soon began to get caught in the crossfire. The end result of this, after one near total party kill at the hands of some orangutans wielding plasma rifles and one truly terrifying alpha-male with a light saber, was that the party fled the complex through an underground passage.

Fleeing down this tunnel brought the party into contact with the badders and another session of pure role playing ensued as the party (after being thoroughly scared and confused at the carefully stacked piles of scrap metal they encountered in a tunnel hundreds of feet below the surface) became quite intrigued with the worship of Glargorion and helped the badders haul a number of ruined vehicles out of the hangar level of the complex into the tunnel to help lure the great worm (see my previous post about Glargorion). In turn, the badders were quite impressed that the party had somehow managed to clear the ruined complex of the poisonous gasses that had kept the badders from accessing all that scrap metal before. The badders explained that the thick blast shielding that surrounded the complex had kept Glargorion from smelling the metal before, but now that it was dragged out into the tunnel the shaman was able to summon Glargorion and the party was given a heroes welcome in the main badder warrens. A whole session was spent learning about Glargorion, helping the badders summon him, and negotiating with the badder smiths to create weapons and armor for the party out of the glarg-ore pellet that was awarded the party for their efforts. One of my players was so enamored with the cult of Glargorion that he spent a week learning everything the shamans would teach him about the worm, and he has been spreading the word of Glargorion everywhere that he has gone since then.

Currently, the players are about to embark on the third session in a row of tricky diplomacy, attempting to prevent the Knights of Genetic Purity from accessing nuclear weapons that are stored in a desert missile silo. The missile silo happens to be a sacred religious site for three warring desert tribes that come together once a year for a month long festival culminating in the priesthood of the three tribes simultaneously speaking the pass phrase to the voice activated security systems, and entering the silo to ask questions of the great god Intur Netz. During the festival, all hostilities are outlawed and the party has been trying to play off of the tensions between the three tribes (a tribe of mutant turkey vultures recognizable to D&D heads as Aarokocra, the pure human Snake and Rabbit clans, and the Feylar, a four-armed mutant gorilla race lifted from the 2e Dark Sun setting) to gain access to the silo, while simultaneously attempting to thwart the efforts of the Knights to do the same. There are still three days of the festival left, so I would not be surprised if this general scenario does not continue for several more sessions, and the players are loving it. There is intrigue aplenty, there is the great gladiatorial games that end the festival (and which it seems increasingly likely some or all of the players will have to participate in to honor the various deals they have been brokering), some human looking party members (one mutant human, one robot) are attempting to infiltrate the Knights of Genetic purity, one female party member has become an honored guest of the Mother of the Obsidian Tent of the Snake Clan (the Snake and Rabbit clans are a strongly matriarchal society where all important positions are held by women and the men are mostly status symbols for the women; the men spend their time oiling their bodies and competing for the affections of the powerful Tent Mothers), there are multiple contingency plans in the works, and two sessions have passed without a single die roll.

One thing that has come of all these combat-less sessions is that I have completely abandoned the experience tables in the Mutant Future rulebook and have gone to free form experience awarding. I wouldn't feel right to not award experience for all these sessions of brilliant role playing. The party could easily have been killing things left and right but that would have accomplished very little and I want to reward role playing, not discourage it. I now evaluate what the party accomplished last session and give out a reward that I feel is in keeping with what happened, whether or not any monsters were killed or any treasure was found.

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