Sunday, November 29, 2020

That One Time I Expected my PC to Die


That One Time I Expected my PC to Die
I've mentioned that my favorite game was 4th Edition HackMaster, which is definitely a crunchy game and arguably the very 1st OSR retro-clone. I especially liked how the game had a big fan base that allowed for an organized play group where you could bring your home character to a convention and play an adventure with said character with a new group/new table.

Of course there has to be all sorts of rules and conditions to make this possible and fair to the whole group of players. One of those rules had to do with rationing magic items. Magic items had an experience point value and PCs had magic item value caps based on level. You generally needed to be at your level cap so you had the stuff you'd need to survive a tournament adventure.

Actually this is all just a little backstory 'cause I was thinking about what was probably the most fun/exciting tournament game I ever had......

Get Out of PC Story, Free Card

Ok, at this point I'm thinking there is at least one eye roll and "OMG, he's going to tell us another fricken PC story!" At this point you're probably wondering if you have access to one of those Get out of PC Story, Free cards. For your trouble, you can print one of these off....

I made these up as business cards for me and my ex-wife, based on the "originals" that the KenzerCo crew had. Our contact info was on the flip side, along with our pictures done up in similar fashion....

Listen to my PC Story
.....but there was a catch, which you've clearly noticed by now. Assuming you had the Get out of PC Story, Free card I could counter with my card, which was the lesser-seen Listen to my PC Story.

So now we've virtually swapped cards, even though I provided both cards, and now you're going to listen to my PC story, but don't sweat it because I'm not going to get anally-specific and droning on about the fine details (like at my age I can remember the fine details anyway...).  A story, at least one worth listening to, has some point and I'll not bury the lead....

The absolute best games are those where you are expecting to lose your PC but manage to survive to continue playing....

The party was hired to investigate some strange goings-on in part of a neighboring kingdom that the ruler was unable to get details on. Armed scouts, scrying, spying....nothing worked. The party was to be stripped of anything magic and sold as slaves to a group none to provide slaves to the area where the trouble was brewing......basically that was the extent of the knowledge. Now, for a group of 5th to 7th level PCs....well we have a LOT of magic stuff and going into an adventure blind and unarmed, is not a promising proposition.

My 7th level Double-Specialist Invoker is already Paranoid and having to forgo all his stuff, including having his Gold Tooth of Purify Beverage, was painful. At least I was able to tweak my memorized spells to take advantage of spell components I could be expected to find. HackMaster is crunchy, so keeping track of actual spell components is a thing.

The first round of the tournament adventure was basically just gaining our freedom and trying to bust out, re-arm, and start investigating. What we discover in the first round was that a Red Dragon, along with some allies, had taken a Gold Dragon hostage and was forcing her to lay eggs and then was using magic to alter the eggs and create some humanoid-dragon monstrosities (think the Draconians from Dragonlance). We get in to the second round and we get most of the way through the second adventure, just shy of freeing the Gold Dragon and taking on the Red Dragon.

Now another thing to know about HackMaster tournaments is that they are limited to a four hour time limit. This is kind of a good thing because if you're on the losing side of the Big Boss Battle and time runs out, instead of your PC dying you get to go home. It's not a win, but it's not a loss/death either.

So what we have is a bunch of players who ran out of time with that Big Boss Battle still looming. We've been beaten & battered and the players are pretty certain it's a toss-up if any of us could survive the final battle. Facing a likely TPK (Total Party Kill) with characters we've all spent years playing & building up, not fun...

.....but it WAS FUN. We all wanted to finish the adventure. Luckily the convention gave us our own HackMaster room for the weekend, so if we could convince the GM to continue..... which we did. After taking a quick break we were able to spend a good hour fighting the good fight. One of our party, a BattleMage, was tapped out spell-wise, so we made him the Designated Survivor and even though we could use his help, somebody needed to let the King know what was going on in case we failed. Since we had discovered a Teleportation scroll, we were able to send him off immediately. At least our impending deaths won't be in vain. As a group, the remaining party members took on the Red Dragon and during the battle we managed to secure the magical key that would allow us to free the Gold Dragon, which ultimately is what kept us from a TPK. We did lose one guy and the thief lost an arm, but the rest of us made it through with single-digit HP.

The entire battle, we all stood around the game table. Nobody could sit still for this epic clash. I think if we went one more round without the Gold Dragon's help that would have TPK'd us. During the lead up to this BBG Battle we did manage to acquired a lot of magical items, but we had to use almost everything for the fight. Still, loot wasn't lacking, but probably not nearly as much as expected for the level of difficulty of the adventure.

I think I ended up getting a couple of spells out of the deal and a new staff. As a reward from the Gold Dragon I was allowed to make a request as far as my reward and I asked for one of the Red Dragon's bones to fashion into a new staff. Even though it came from an evil Dragon, a Dragon-bone weapon probably wouldn't be seen favorably by a good-aligned Dragon, and my PC was smart enough to realize this. As part of my boon I was able to get in inscribed in multiple languages to denote not only where this bone came from, but who gifted it, which allegedly would give my PC a pass of sorts.

Urddas Nerthol, DS Invoker

I've had a couple of my PC's immortalized by commissioning a portrait by the wonderful Fraim Brothers, who have done a lot of art for KenzerCo/Knights of the Dinner Table/HackMaster. I try not to be too specific in what I'm looking for in a Character Portrait and just briefly describe the character. In this case I mentioned he was a magic-user who carried a crossbow, spellbook, and had a Dragon-bone staff with runes on it. I know I mentioned he kept a mask on and I think I added the amulet around his neck. Whatever the Bros. come up with I knew I was going to like....and I did.

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