Monday, August 16, 2010

New Campaign World and New Rules

Man, last night's session was a doozy.  It might take too long to explain exactly how this all transpired, but the PCs now find themselves on the dark surface of a planet that is entirely surrounded by a metal ball.  The surface of the planet itself is really the crumbling upper level of layer after layer of ruined cities that stretch uninterrupted across the world.  Occasional light oases (an oasis of light) exist where radiation spills from the underside of the metal shell that covers the planet; this is usually heat exhaust, but in at least one place a malfunctioning fusion reactor in the metal shell is shedding light comparable to the setting sun over a good swath of the land.

The group has sort of fallen in with a passive resistance movement called the Upward Thinking Gentle Beings, who pride themselves on still being aware of the galaxy of interstellar intrigue that exists on the other side of the metal shell that covers the world.  The Upward Thinking Gentle Beings split away from the Old Republic of Celestia because they found the brutal methods of the old government to be distasteful.  The mutant race of telepathic computer hackers that had been enslaved by the government escaped with the Upward Thinking Gentle Beings, making tracking down the runaways the number one priority for the Republic, because without the Hackers the death machines used by the Republic to keep order are beginning to go haywire.

Last night's session, in addition to being somewhat of a campaign reboot in a new location (much more of the world of Celestia to come in future posts), marked the first official playtest session of a supplement I am working on for Mutant Future.

Basically, I have come up with an entire new set of physical and mental mutations that I call "quirks", that enable anyone to roll a random character with powers similar to and compatible with Mutant Future's mutations and mutants.  The difference is that instead of being post-apocalyptic flavor, these characters taste like the particular strange version of the fantasy genre that exists in my imagination.

Players who have characters die and new players in the campaign are now making characters using these rules, and playing them alongside the regular Mutant Future characters.  So far so good - the new characters and quirks meshed seamlessly with the old mutants and mutations.  As soon as I finish getting the Open Gaming License and the Mutant Future License filled in correctly, I will post a free public Beta version of these rules if anyone else wants to get in on the playtesting fun!

I also introduced a new houserule into play that proved to be terribly exciting and an instant winner.

"Let it Ride" or "Double or Nothing"

Whenever a successful melee or ranged attack is made, the attacker can choose to let it ride - this involves throwing a second attack roll.  If this is also successful, the attack does double normal damage, but if it fails, the attack does no damage at all. This can be attempted a third time if the second roll is successful, for quadruple damage with a success but again, no damage at all with a failure.

In play, this made combat WAY more exciting, fast and deadly.  A guy with a sword or bow and arrow can now do some serious damage in a single round; it is just much harder to get the hit in.  When Dis, a vampire character made using the new rules, was making his escape in the back of a purloined jeep, a Republic soldier drew careful bead and BAM, I rolled a 19.  Solid hit with the rifle.  So I let it ride... 15.  Hit.  So I let it ride again... the party hangs in suspense... 19!  Dis takes a quadruple damage rifle shot and ends up with 3 HP.  Ouch!

Of course, what is good for the goose is good for the gander, and the party got some awesome super high damage shots in using this rule - and also wasted several hits by pressing their luck. The most dramatic moment was when Gar the dark elf (another fantasy quirk character, I combined race into the random quirk package so that both race and powers are determined randomly during the char gen process) decided that he was going to go for broke and double up an attack twice.  He rolled all three d20's at once, and the first two stopped rolling before the last one... 20!  20!  Two 20's sitting on the table (a 20 is a double damage attack in my game, which stacks with the doubling and quadrupling from the Let it Ride rule, so we were looking at a possible 16 or even 32 times damage attack if the last die ended up a hit or a 20 as well) and the last one finally stops rolling on a 4.  Wiff!

The group erupted in howls of laughter as poor Rorey (Gar's player) had to pick up his dice, knowing he just wasted double 20's without even landing a hit!

I personally loved the feel of the rule, combining the excitement and risk taking of gambling with the rolling of the dice.  Even though an individual attack round might take a little longer using this rule, the whole group was very into each roll and soon began chanting "Double It!  Double It!" when a party member landed a successful hit.  The overall effect was to actually speed up combat, because a few quadruple damage hits landed that dramatically changed the balance of power on the battlefield.

It also neatly solves a longstanding problem I have had with the Mutant Future rules, which is that the equipment table was lifted straight from Labyrinth Lord with its d8 damage for a longsword intact.  With HP being based solely on Constitution, I have a hard time buying the usual "HP do not represent physical damage" jazz, so I want a sword to be able to do some serious damage.  Maybe not as easily as a laser cannon or a rifle, but a 1st level character shouldn't be able to just stand there laughing while someone hacks at them round after round with a measly d6 damage shortsword.  Just for shits and giggles, the next time I roll a nat 20 on an attack roll, I am going to calmly say to the group...   "Let it ride..."


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