Friday, March 22, 2019

Long Arm of the Hutt [Part 2]

Edge of the Empire: Mayhem, Inc.
*Last updated 3/22/2019*
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Episode IV

The crew have allied themselves with the Twi’lek miners to drive out offworld land developers fronting for the gangster, Teemo the Hutt.

Infiltrating the developer’s base, Modo Phloid holds their leader, Agnu Drombb at gunpoint, hoping to learn what Teemo is up to. But outside things are heating up between Drombb’s thugs and the rest of the crew...

- GameDoc

After an elaborate ruse by Phloid that sent half the thugs in the compound out into the desert, the group springs the trap and takes Droomb into custody.  The miners storm the compound, and turn Droomb over to the miners to do with as they will.

The group meet back at the mining camp and hash it out with Trex.  They are reluctant to kill him outright, and strike a deal that sees Trex reunited, alive, with his ship.  The group learns a lot about Teemo's operations from Trex afterward.

The group gets word that a bothan connection might have some work for them, and make plans to meet with the prospective client.  Ota, an operative for the mining collective, wants to make sure Teemo doesn't come back.  He's aware of a geonosian duke who backed out of a deal with Teemo and wants to know why.

Preparations are made for the group to go undercover and secure an arms deal at a gala hosted by the geonosian duke.  The real goal is to gather intel on Teemo's business deals, specifically, why the geonosian got cold feet.  Trex takes the group to Geonosis in the Krayt Fang.

At the gala, Rokka Reer wowed the crowd while Phloid and the gang caroused and got the intel. The group made contact with several interesting characters, including two Corellian smugglers in town for laughs.  It wasn't long before the duke got around to talking briefly with our group.  Turns out the geonosian sent an operative to see Teemo, and said operative was never seen again.

Episode V

While attending a party on Geonosis to secretly procure weapons for the Twi’lek resistance, the crew becomes acquainted with Duke Piddock, a Geonoshan arms supplier who reportedly had a falling out with Teemo the Hutt.

Now the crew works to discover the reason for the bad blood between Piddock and Teemo, hoping to find some leverage against the gangster that wants them dead.

- GameDoc

The group finally got a private talk with the geonosian duke, and secured a weapons shipment for the Rylothian miners.  Phloid attempted to pry more details out of the duke about his relationship with Teemo, but there wasn't much more.  Once the deal was done, the group contacted Trex with some questions about a certain cargo in the galley of the Krayt Fang.

Turns out, the geonosian met his end in Teemo's fighting pits.  The group lets the duke know what happened to his friend, and are given a sonic blaster as a reward.  Trex hits the comms, and warns of an approaching Imperial detachment he must evade.  The Imperials are almost certainly here to break up the arms deals, and declare a hyperspace lockdown.

The group finds passage with their new Corellian friends, who prove to be valuable allies.  Phloid fakes the ship's transponder signal to point to a random Imperial craft and they leave Geonosis to be anywhere else.  After some deliberation as to what the options truly were, the group decides to head back to Ryloth and complete the mission with Ota.

In order to get Teemo off their back, drastic action will have to be taken.  The group decides, of their options, going to Jabba with evidence of Teemo's treachery is the best way forward.  The group hitches a ride back to Tatooine with the full support of the miners.  Taking a 'gift' of raw spice to present to the Hutt, the group gains an audience with the mighty Jabba.

There, they explain their case and Jabba is impressed.  He decides to deal with Teemo directly, after seeing evidence and hearing the tale.  The group decides to hang around and settle into Mos Eisley.  Working for the Hutts is always profitable...and fun.

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Friday, March 8, 2019

Player Balance in D&D 5th Edition

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Inspirobot thinks you need double-check your surroundings.
Recently we finished a published 5th Edition campaign at 11th level or something.  Almost immediately after, we started an OSR game that has used a streamlined version of Swords & Wizardry but will be transitioning into a B/X Essentials game. The feel of the two games were markedly different, and we obviously had a preference.

While we were playing 5th Edition I had been stating flatly that throughout the published work, all the encounters were weighted heavily TOWARDS the pc group.  Everything favored the player party greatly.

It's worse than just the events and encounters in the module, however.  In play, it's easy to see that 5th Edition's basic rules give FAR too much to the players in terms of advantages.  A lot of you are NOT going to get what I am talking about, but it's sort of a shock coming from older iterations of the rules.  It's really more like a thousand tiny things rather than one giant problem, so it's hard to describe.

So many times during play, we had to double check rules to make sure we COULD legally perform some exploit.  I say 'exploit' because that's essentially what it is, compared to older editions.  There are very little restrictions on any kind of action given to the players, and 5th Edition has a lot of 'free' powers and abilities. 

Wizard types that can always do X damage?  Every round, without fail?  Interesting.  Oh, Rogues get Sneak Attack pretty much every round.  OK. Excuse me, Mr. Halfling Wizard but that spell does THAT (whatever that is) and is that low of a level??  I see.  And you can pretty much do it indefinitely, as far as this encounter goes?  Alright.

It's actually hard to articulate how many times we ran across something that just felt wrong.  I suppose I should have written them all down from the start, but honestly I didn't think there would be just THAT MANY overweighted advantages given to the PC's from the outset.  Rests, spells, and even an overwhelming amount of help and support in the published scenarios pretty much made it impossible to lose except to an excessive bout of stupidity.  We've had groups commit mass suicide before, and honestly this was a situation I feared may play out again simply because everything was so boring and there was nothing the players could not accomplish.

All of this, of course, RAW.  With official scenarios, run RAW.  Now, RAW usually means 'bloody', but the players barely felt their scratches before they were healed to full hp through one convention or another.  Even DEATH SAVES are best two out of three, with quite a good chance of making them.

Player balance is so wildly out of whack in 5e it will be interesting to fully devise adventures for the ruleset, but it's on the DM as well.  I could have chosen to change a lot about the encounters, but I ran the game exactly as it was presented in the adventures to get an idea of the design philosophy of the new game.  What I got was they now wanted D&D to be a JRPG sort of deal.  You play it for a long time, you don't really ever lose or die and it's all about the story.  Fine.  OK.

I don't know.  I want more tactical combat, or at least combat with repercussions.  Combat was an all-or-nothing sort of deal.  Either the group would be wiped out completely or they would destroy the enemies.  No middle ground, no resource marshaling.  There were very little encounters where they were challenged.  Perhaps if all the bonus help given in certain encounters were, oh, say, completely eliminated from the module, there would have been some losses.  Maybe even enough to make the situations and encounters more real.  There was never any real feeling of risk.

The story is just improv theater without the challenge of actually getting there through strategic planning, roleplaying, tactics, ingenuity and sheer luck.  As a DM presenting the game, it makes me feel a little like new players may see me as a prima-donna of sorts, talking and going on all the time in several different character voices to push along a contrived plot.  It's not the Dave Show - I'm just the referee.  I'd rather that players enjoy the game first before they get too much of my overcooked ham.

I will eventually run another 5th Edition campaign, but it will be much different.  I won't alter basic rules, but I will be creating my own scenarios.  I think this is the main issue - design philosophy differences.  I think you can get over it, but you have to IGNORE CR's as a DM and wing it like we used to back in my day - before we had things like Challenge Ratings and infinite cantrips that do 1d10 damage.  CR's don't work in 5e if you actually want a challenge - which is the only side my ham will go with.