We played a game of AAIE last Saturday, which I touched on a bit in my last post. That previous post was all about the good vibes I got from the game today I’m going to talk about the game itself. Doing an “actual play” style retelling would be damn near impossible, the post would go on forever. Besides that the game was almost a week ago and details are bound to have escaped my brain to be forever lost to the ether. * What I am going to do is hit some things that I thought were highlights in the game and how they were handled mechanically.
First off for the sake of time everyone rolled up their charters before the game. In my mind AIEE is at its best, at the table, with everyone rolling up their characters step by step and grimacing at the results. However, we were playing on Roll20 with people spread over two continents. The whole optimal game set up was impossible. It was for the best, having everyone prepared with a character saved us a lump of time at the beginning.
Again for ease of play I hand waved the normal “you all met up scene” by designating that the characters already knew each other and were trying to escape the drudgery of their daily lives by striking it big as adventurers.
Before I introduce the characters let me take a few words to explain tone. AAIE is played generally for laughs. The characters are randomly generated and by design almost always flawed. Some character’s wind up being pretty strange.
Darwin Punchalot: A stout dwarf warrior, who had seen some scraps in his day.
Vale: A barbarian woman: incredibly strong and comely, armed with a short sword and a willingness to bash things.
Scully: A priest of time, who as fate would have it has a bit of a problem channeling his god’s immense power.
Conrad: A human thief, bold and ready.
Brudar Stealthhammer: A dwarf thief who was lucky enough to hold a job as a wizard's apprentice when he was younger. Unfortunately during that apprenticeship he was mutated and had grown to 8 feet in height.
Ichabuck Russlefoot: A rather odd looking halfling who just happens to be a talented spell caster.
This rag tag bunch arrived in a small village known as “Murder.” Murder is a boom town that has sprung up around the gains pulled out of dark places by adventurers just like our merry band of 6.
In town highlights:
“The town” system for AIEE is still in it’s infancy but boy has it paid dividends. Primarily I have a bunch of NPC’s that are already baked into the game. for example, Gren the girl who works at the inn was once hired by the players as a retainer. And while these current character's have no idea who she is, some of the players remember her as the feisty girl who never failed a morale check. The woman in the Apothecary already had a name and a stock of stuff on her shelves.
Small things like that are not only helpful and fun, but they serve an important function within the greater design of the game.
The character's are transient, impermanent and fragile. The town is not, it grows and changes and collects its own stories and personalities. The town functions as a touchstone holding the whole thing together even if the players are burning through characters. The town gives the game a campaign feel , even if the game is truly utter madness. Lastly it gives the players away to invest in their future character's indirectly. If they upgrade the blacksmith, then every character they ever make moving forward will have a shot at buying better equipment. Same goes for the apothecary, the school, and so on.
The party arrived in town and heads towards the inn.
Once inside I have the character's that are unusual roll reaction checks. This included Brudar because he is basically a giant Dwarf, Ichabuck because he is pretty ugly, and Vale because she is extremely attractive. Brudar and Ichabuck roll middling results, they get treated like any other character walking through the doors. Keep in mind this bar tender has been serving minotaurs and guys with tentacles on their backs for a few years now.
However, when Vale walked in she ( the player ) NAILED the roll. A critical success. The inn keeper was smitten!
I have to digress into design talk. The game does not give any real guidelines about what should be done with non combat critical successes. (I should fix that.) The GM needs to roll with it and make the result matter. I like to go big when a player gets a critical success. I over do it, because critical success don’t happen any more often than critical failures. Critical failures almost always result in some horrible death or dismemberment so logically the critical successes should always give the character some boon. Hand waving a critical anything in AAIE is a kiss of death to the system.
In an opposite example Ichabuck critically failed a non combat roll when trying to lead the party to a nearby keep using his local area lore skill. As soon as that roll came up I knew two things first there was going to be an encounter, and secondly Ichabuck was never going to lead them to the keep some one else was going to have to step up and figure that out. Is that 100% fair to Ichabuck, nope. In AAIE rolling a critical has to be BAD or it doesn't matter enough. The team handled the encounter (lashing Fungus) and then never did find the keep or the lost caravan guards.. next time.
The innkeeper basically fell all over Vale giving her (and unknowingly at first) her friends a free meal. and a place to stay. He was a bit unhappy when he realized she was with the giant dwarf, the ugly halfling and three other folks still out in the street.
During their huge meal I brought into the first story hook a caravan leader looking for locals to help him map a way through the nearby mountains.
As a side note the caravan masters caravan had been attacked and his guards driven away, he could also use some help retrieving both his surviving guards and the wagons they lost.
The players had those adventure strings to pull together plus a couple more they had heard around town.
(funny thing I had most of this post written and Google decided to eat it. Thank you google!)
Skipping forward a bit lets talk about some of the strange things that happened along the way and some rules adjustments that might need to be made.
I do need to work a bit on the magic system. My intention with Magic in AAIE is a that the system is simple and free form. I think it works that way for the most part. In this game Ichabuck the half-ling was just about the perfect wizard, except one short coming, his focus pool was extremely low. In effect he was great at casting spells on paper but in practice his concentration was a bit shaky. The player came up with a great work around, he would spend two rounds using spells to buff his focus attribute to the point where concentration would not be an issue. There is not rule to stop this sort of thing, and honestly I thought it was a great idea. If I were to talk about "balance" a concept I'm not that big a fan of any way, I think I could come up with a enough balancing factors to make Ichabuck's massive pool of focus seem legit. First off it took 2 rounds of casting to buff the characters stats for an effect that would only last 2 the next 2 rounds. So The player sacrificed his first 2 rounds of action for 2 rounds of functionally unlimited spell focus. Neat trick, but not game breaking. Also Ichabuck manages to stockpile a truly massive focus pool at one point, which on the surface sounded crazy, however considering the most powerful spell he could have cast would have coast him 1d6+7 focus, there was no functional way he could've ever used all the focus he had generated, it was in practice a moot bonus. So if I decide to plug that loop hole how would I? My first thought is say that a player can only effect attribute pools not the attributes directly. Or alternately that if a player wants to effect an attribute then the caster must have that attribute as a key word. Either option would work.
A second strange thing that came up was the strange story of Scully elf priest of time.
Scully was not a great character right out of the box, not much in on the order of combat prowess and worse yet a very low Myst score. Story wise he was a priest that was really bad at channeling his gods power safely. In AAIE when a character casts spells they spend myst, if they bring their pool into the negative they run the risk of mutating due to the magical feedback coursing through their frail mortal bodies. Scully's player knew this and embraced the concept fully by attempting to mutate poor Scully as much as he possibly could. By the end of the game the fair elf was reduced to a smoke belching, acne covered, blob with a tail, whose bones had literally disappeared. Scully spent part of the game flapping around like a fleshy amoeba or being carried by another player in her back pack. Don't get me wrong it was hilarious, but I'm not sure I want extreme mutation to be a viable character life path. If I decide to plug this loop hole I think I would add the rule that a character can only mutate a number of times equal to their brawn score, after that they die, or turn into something so "in-human" as to not be playable.
Also, I think I need to add a new class ability to the priest class. As it is they are not as interesting as the other classes at the start. I do think this changes after a few levels, but they need "something more."
For those curious, Scully has retired to a church in the town, to act as a priest and a representative of "a higher more evolved form of elf" he is truly horrible and insane.
Lastly and this is a good thing. Dave who was playing Darwin the dwarf had the brewing skill. When he was buying potions at the local apothecary he started asking about buying materials to brew with. Which was a great idea and he did get some stuff to work with. It did set me to thinking that I need to work in a system of recipes and foraging into the game, something simple and not too time consuming. I really like the idea of AAIE characters foraging for materials and potion components, working it into the game might be slightly more difficult.
Another good example came mid game when Scully cast detect evil on the wood surrounding the wrecked caravan. I jokingly said the only thing evil in the woods was a raccoon sitting in a nearby tree. Naturally the party killed the poor raccoon on the next around. One of the players (Angela?) said "Well at least we can eat it" and I allowed the part to mark it down as a ration. I have set down rules about resources, and rules for the GM taking those resources away. (mostly rations which allow characters to take long rests, and light sources.) I think it would be great to standardize foraging rules that facilitate the players finding supplemental rations out in the field.This would be another subsystem I could include in the "The Town" section of the game, but it is going to require a bit of thought.
Some words about AAIE Monsters.
This game ended up revolving around the party tracking down a creature that attacked a caravan, the creature turned out to be "The Amber Symbiant." When a gm creates random monsters for AAIE the game does nothing to hold the GM's hand. The game burps forth a stat block and a name that's it. When the game started I know I had a "boss type" monster Level 9 with 2 attacks and one special attack. When I rolled up the special attack I rolled "Necrotic Fist" which had the perk "Vorpral."
in other words I knew it was a nasty bugger with a very dangerous special attack but nothing else. It is very much up to the GM to breath life into the monsters.
I decided the Symbiotic part of the the monster was that a demi-litch had drawn all of this pine sap to it's self to create the physical form of a amber moth-man style monster with a scull embedded in it's chest. I also decide it would never attack unless the players messed with it(they did) I also decided that the skull was a weak point, (never taken advantage off until the end) and that as long as the characters were in it's lair they were in it's attack range. Put another way almost all of the interesting parts of the monster were GM caveat. I need to make sure I include more notes about how to "use" the random monster results in game, as I work on the final game text.
Well that's it, I think this was better the first time I typed out the post, but I hit all the same notes this time through.
Thanks for reading.