Last Friday, as a "birthday party" of sorts, I invited some friends over to play a session of Old School Hack. I haven't been able to game very much lately, so this was exactly what I wanted to do on my birthday. My wife cooked us all dinner and made an awesome cheesecake. It was great, except for my cold which still lingers. . .
I'm still developing my own style for actual play reports, but what I'll try here is a brief recap of the plot of the session while interspersing some rules-talk, then drill down a little with two specific mechanics, giving my overall impression as I go.
Due to a last minute cancelation, we only had three players. We sat down at the table and they promptly went to work making characters, aided by my three year old daughter (who had been looking forward to having people over to game as much as I was, I think), and being fed fajitas by my awesome wife.
Brad rolled up a fighter, choosing the adventuring goal "You were mentioned in a portentious prophecy."
Matt chose a wizard, who apparently "owed a dangerous figure 5000 gold pieces."
Dawson made a dwarf. This dwarf was obsessed with finding his family's heirloom item -- a mystical shovel.
Character creation was farily simple, with everyone grasping the basics easily. I really liked the abstractness of the equipment system; that's what allowed the dwarf to say he was using a shovel as a weapon. It made no difference mechanically, but added some (humorous) flavor. I also told them I was going to make the adventure up as they made up their characters. I had a basic idea in mind, but not much else. As it turns out, I wish I had done a little more planning, simply to get some ideas down about cool arenas. More on those below.
We decided that the wizard owed his money to the 12th son of the Sultan due to an infortunate slapping incedent and was working off his debt by performing menial butler duties at the palace. Both the dwarf and the fighter had come to the palace for an audience about their respective adventuring goals. They waited in an antechamber with the wizard (who would inform them when it was time for their audience) and a bullette. Yes, a landshark. The bullette is my daughter's favorite miniature, probably because it is the biggest, so she plopped in on the table in front of her and we decided to work it in. It turns out the Sultan is fond of exotic pets! Thus, the three of them nervously waited while the chained landhark growled at them.
Then, explosions rocked the palace. The landshark was, of course, set free so the PC's had to subdue it. They weren't about to kill my daughter's favorite monster while she was sitting at the table! The palace was under attack by the Black Snake Cult and their airship. All the explosions were merely a pretense to kidnap the sultan's beautiful daughter. The PC's fought off cultists as they raced after the woman, who was being led to a flying carpet in the courtyard. The cultists plan was almost foiled when all of the cultists were killed but one. As everyone knows, Mognol's Flying Carpet will hold one person, or three, but not two. With some quick thinking by the cultist and some liberal application of Awesome Points by me, the cultist escaped by hauling his almost-dead buddy on the carpet and lying away.
Note on Awesome Points: The DM feeds them from his own Stack into the Bowl. PC's then award each other AP's from the bowl. The DM puts chips in the bowl whenever he needs to bend the plot a bit and whenever PC's do something cool, fun, or smart. More on this later.
Using an awesome point, the PC's then found a cultist who was not quite dead and willing to talk. He informed them the princess was going to be sacrficed to the snake god at an underground lair which could be convieniently reached by the city sewers. Down in the sludge the PC's went. They were attacked a by a crocodile, then later ambused by some cultists at a junction room. We were all finally catching on to the arena concept by this point, so there was lots of moving around and up and in tubes, firing bows from one arena to another, and cool uses of awesome points to toss cultists into drains.
Note about arenas: The "Arena" is how Old School Hack handles movement and all those other fiddly tactical bits. An arena can be big (a field) or small (a closet), with each being given a type (tight, open, hazardous, neutral, dense). Different types grant different bonuses to weapons. Arenas are flexible; a given scene can have a number of arenas, with more being added as the scene changes. Even players can add arenas as they describe what their character is doing and where they are going.
The final battle was at the sacrificial chamber, guarded by a portcullis and a large man with a large sword. Inside, the PC's found the princess, chained to a platform in the middle of a smoking pit. They fought some cultist minions while the high priest inched closer to the sacrifice. The wizard darted forward, leaping onto the platform between priest and victim. Unfortunately, he was then swatted into the pit. A liberal use of Awesome Points, plus some good die rolls, allowed him to grab a chain on the way down and use his momentum to not only swing back onto the platform, but to then wrap the chain around the neck of the cult leader and toss HIM into the pit. Victory was had!
In the next post, I'll reflect a bit more on the game itself, focusing on the idea of arenas and the use of awesome points.