Sunday, 14 August 2016

Grim Tales, Playtest 1

We had our first playtest of Grim Tales (well, more like a proof of concept session), this dark fantasy thing I have been thinking about lately. It has been on my mind for quite some time, but reading Blood & Bronze (a fantastic sword & sorcery game) was the catalyst I needed to start fleshing out my ideas.

The basic concept behind Grim Tales was to give players certain unique tools, abilities that don't just enhance something they can already do but provide them opportunities they otherwise wouldn't have (possibly mitigating risks in some endeavours, thus rewarding pro-activity). This was done by introducing a list of unique backgrounds (a sampling of which can be found here).

Characters present:
  • Melvina Shabriri, a Cambion Witch
  • Wolfgang Tranquility, a Shadowtorn Warrior
  • N/A, a Nameless Scoundrel
  • Balthasar Corvus, a Skinthief Scoundrel
Highlights and stuff I've taken away from this session:
  • I didn't prep a proper adventure, just a bunch of loosely connected personalities, their goals, and the general environment, much like with my previous Vikings & Valkyries campaign. We started the session with a bogus mission of sorts (find the lost brother of some mayor), but ultimately the players found enough toys to play with instead of completing the quest.
  • The resolution system works fine (roll [Attribute] six-siders; count 5s and 6s; the more the better), although I'm not sure if it adds to the game (I might end up playtesting certain things used as an overlay onto B/X).
  • The players really liked their special abilities, although now I think the Backgrounds might be too exciting compared to the Classes. I think I want to keep the mostly mundane aspect of Classes, though, so I might just add more varied and flavourful items to their equipment lists.
  • The players got themselves involved in a religious conflict going on in the shadows. The village's priest had an artefact (a grail that grants sacrifical wine ale special properties) that he had hidden, and apparently some people (the priest's right hand man included) were conspiring to acquire it.
  • There was another artefact in the village: a small scythe's blade that when attached to the sacred (and, as it turns out, purely ornamental) scythe's handle, became a magical object (its capabilities yet unknown to the players).
  • The players, as they were trying to figure out who is against whom, switched sides a couple of times, basically ending up with most major participants dead. Except they know the priest tried to contact allies in the nearby town.
  • They went deep in the forest and witnessed a horrific ritual that bore demons into the world. Despite the session's generally jovial nature (and that's a huge understatement), this scene managed to invoke feelings of uneasiness, so not all was lost.
  • As it stands now, the Skinthief poses as the former under-priest. They claimed the forest people killed the priest, so they basically run the village now (although some elders might not like what they are doing).
  • The Nameless, although really flavourful as a concept, probably shouldn't work in a party if we take the ability to its logical conclusions. I think I can sacrifice immersion for the party's sake for now.
  • The Skinthief is really fun to watch in the hands of a creative and proactive player. Need to turn up the ability's cast time, though. Regardless, his ability alone can make so many shenanigans possible, it definitely stays.
  • The Shadowtorn is pretty sweet as is, but I'll keep a close eye on him to make sure its restrictions are clear but not overly limiting.
  • The Cambion mostly shined in providing moral dilemmas for the player (whether they should give in their darker self; it helped that as a witch she had opportunities to gain power in exchange for terrible things). It is certainly something the player was happy to play with, and had she chosen otherwise, the Background wouldn't have provided much in terms of gameplay, so I might need to rectify that.

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