The Moon and the Gray Maze

At the end of May I ran an adventure in a Fallen Moon setting using my Murderhobo Remix. You can see the prep for that here.

The adventure was a failure. I thought the setting would be evocative, but it felt flat and empty. The players were game to try, but could not engage. The combat felt like a boring series of easy math problems. I thought I had worked the system to be light and fast and fun, and the setting to be tripping the light fantastic, but damn… it crashed and burned.

I mean, it sounds good on paper. They went up to check out the UFO crashed in the mountain above, and first fought some bandits. Got in, messed around, figured some stuff out, got nailed by a repair bot (reinforcement with the same stats and name came in) and then saw a space giant hit by lightning and reanimated, and they ran with no desire to return.

So we did some arena fighting with monsters. No? We hunted some centipedes through the living area. Not a twitch? Ugh. We quit an hour and a half early and will not return to the setting or rules. Crunch.

One of my players backed “There’s a Game in This Book.” I find the title of the game to be annoying, so for my working purposes I shortened it to “Game in Book” or GiB. I don’t normally have players asking me if I’ll run a game they found elsewhere–this is the first time.

As I looked through it, the game is clearly someone taking a White Wolf premise, adapting it from dice pool to d12, and running some customizing tweaks until it’s a very different system. I spent some time with it and figured out how it worked. Since I was planning to run a one-shot, I gave the two players a list of options I’d be willing to do, and “picaresque Vornheim” won out.

I had no idea what characters my players would make. Imagine my surprise when they both make golems with magic casting ability! I’m not sure we all understand what “picaresque” means. Still, my basic plan called for them to be trusted bodyguards of an aristocrat, so fortunately it was easy enough to make it work. I had spent my time figuring out combat (and plugging some holes with house rules) and figuring out the skill/attribute interaction. “They won’t make wizards,” I told myself. “No need to brush up on the magic.”

Well… I crammed on it while they were finishing up the characters at the table, and ran it without a hitch. So an easy magic system is a big plus.

In preparing, I used the delightful aristocrat generator and relationship generator in Vornheim to make four interlinked aristocrats, then looked for the hooks in that pile that would drive my adventure. One was a vain woman, bedecked in jewels, rival to another who had an art collection. And she sneaks out to be a masked dancer in a tavern. Perfect. Also, I decided she’s trying to branch out into cat burglary.

I used an asylum breakout, a wizard’s son with control over big rats, a wizard who was old and decrepit but who had the object they were going to steal, fun with dwarves and summoned creatures and granary cats… It was very Vornheim, and my players had a great time! We ended early because we came to the end of what I had set up for a one-shot. But their response was VERY positive.

I will strip-mine GiB for a few useful notions, but I won’t play it again. Vornheim is another story. These two players want to go back, most likely in Fictive Hack. (We all miss spending Awesome Points.)

Let’s check the scorecard for setting and system for these two experiments.

  • Fallen Moon: D.
  • Murderhobo Remix: F.
  • There’s a Game in This Book: C-
  • Vornheim: A.
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