Friday, December 3, 2010

Everhammer Revisited

I ran some "Everhammer" (Everway, using select mechanics ported over from Warhammer FRP 3rd Ed) over Thanksgiving while visiting friends in Portland, OR.  This time we got in 12 to 13 hours of actual play, split in two sessions. This slightly more than doubled the total amount of Everhammer I've run.

Overall, it went really smashingly well.

The session was mostly creepy, with a little bit of humor, and a heavy layer of impending doom. Apparently, I was doing something right, because the players kept deciding to put distance between themselves and the various creepy NPCs I'd made. (As I compose this, I'm reminded of a review I once read for the movie Lost Highway where the review put himself on a strict budget of no more than 10 uses of the word "creepy" in one review. I think I'll do the same.)

We picked up from last time with the PCs having just come through a gateway into an unidentified Realm. They knew that there was a pretty major villain (quite probably Alurax the dragon) just a few days behind them, so they didn't really want to stay near the gate. The nearest civilization was a huge barn or stable up on a ridge a few hours hike from their current position. As they approached, they had some encounters with ghosts, which revealed there were some real "wicked witch" types living at those stables. The witches were sort of Norn like, seers and prophetesses who delighted in giving out terrible omens, and sometimes chose to swindle and murder their potential clients.

So the PCs decided to sneak away from the creepy witches. From the high vantage point of the cliffs, they could see a small village not too far away, and what looked like a large military camp a few hours beyond it.

They head to the village, but find the locals paranoid, conservative, creepy and a little insane. These people are in to a little S&M apparently, and punish the smallest crimes with mutilation, piercing, and huge heavy chains. So the PCs slink away from the creepy rural locals, and head towards the military camp, which the rurals had referred to as the big city.

The big city turns out to be even more fundamentalist and creepy than the little village was, so the PCs decide to high-tail it back to the Witches, and see if they get the evil prophetesses to point them in the direction of the nearest gate away that doesn't have a ferocious dragon beyond it.

At this point, speaking as sadistic and awful GM, I was feeling pretty good. I'd made the PCs so stressed and nervous they'd fled a dragon to the witches, fled the witches (and ghosts) to a village, fled the village to a city, and fled the city back to the witches. It warmed my cold dark GM's heart. So, of course, after a creepy (and just plain wrong) couple of scenes interacting with the Witches, it seemed only appropriate to have them relate that the only other gate out of the realm was back in the creepy city.

Back to the city it is. There was a bit of a run-in with the TSA equivalents amidst the city watch. That didn't go so well, and the PCs ended up in a running battle all the way into the middle of town. After some pretty nasty fighting, they managed to get to the gate. Around the gate (on this side) the creepy repressive chain-wearing punishment-mongers had built The Museum of Human Suffering, so that anyone entering the gate from another world would immediately know that this place doesn't tolerate dissent.

On the other side of the gate, in whatever world it links to, was a cage and a watchdog. Basically, the folks there didn't want the creepy sadistic folks from the Suffering museum to invade/expand/visit, so they'd set up some barriers to stop it.

The PCs managed to finagle their way out of the cage around the gate, and we decided to leave off there. The storyline will resume the next time a 3-day weekend takes me and my wife down to Portland again.

Anyone looking to learn more about the witches should read my page on Crone Crater.
Anyone looking to learn more about the chain-covered folks should read my page on Restriction.
I can't fill in any more details in this post, because I've already used my allotted budget of "creepy".

Everhammer is basically the general character creation rules from Everway, with the dice from Warhammer 3rd added in. I blogged about it once a few months ago. Full write-up here.

To give you a feel for it, if a character with Fire 4, an Archery specialization, and a 0-point power called "Improbable Ricochet" (this is actually one of the PCs) were to fire in a bizarre bouncing arc at a villain with Fire 5 and no relevant defensive powers (which was one of her main targets during the battle in the city), the die pool would be 4 Blue, 1 Yellow, and 1 White vs 1 Purple and 4 Black dice.  That's a 58% chance of scoring a Wound, and a 53% chance of scoring one or more Boons. In the process, she has a 22% chance of taking a Fatigue for her efforts. I'm pleased with it. It's simple and intuitive, easy to improvise, and the math works well enough.

Fatigue flows pretty fast, but between my tweak that it only takes 1 Boon to remove a fatigue, and my port of the "Assess the Situation" action, it's pretty easy for PCs to manage it. There were high and low crests and troughs to the fatigue levels, which provided dramatic tension as needed, but in actuality, only one roll ever ended up penalized by pre-existing fatigue levels. It was just enough to keep the players wary, but never lead to a doom spiral. Success, if you ask me.

It was quick and easy to pick up, as well. My rules document is 2 pages long. I reread it just before we left to take the train down to Portland, and only had to reference it twice in 13 hours of play. The players needed about 5 minutes to look over their character sheets again, and be walked through one sample die roll, and then everybody was ready to go. Success again, all around.

The players had no complaints. I, however, found three rough edges I need to smooth over, two of which stemmed from the fact that I didn't do any prep work.
  • Everway NPCs are all about their weird powers. As GM, next time I need to spend a few minutes pre-game writing up weird powers. I had to improvise them as the game rolled on, and that wasn't always the best. However, the guy who could pierce your nose from a distance was pretty neat, mainly because it came up during combat.
  • Same thing about Boon & Bane effects. I could have used some terrain cards appropriate to the places my fight scenes were happening at, and some prepared effects for high Boon or Bane rolls or for the Comets and Chaos Stars. These dice symbols and effects are all really detailed and defined in default Warhammer FRP, and improvising them off the cuff was a little uneven. Sometimes I was on fire, other times I froze up.
  • Exactly how many Wounds or Fatigue does it take to knock out a PC? According to my 2-page rules summary, it takes Wounds = Earth +1. That rules summary doesn't mention how much Fatigue it takes to make a character pass out, but my original post here about the system says the answer for Fatigue is 10. One of my players had it written on her character sheet KO=8. That character's Earth score is 3. Somewhere, numerical wires got crossed several months ago. I can straighten it out easily enough, but it was annoying to discover the disparity (and lack of answer on my rules sheet) mid-session.
Having identified those three areas, I'll be ready with fixes for next time. Memo to my future self: do your prep work. It's a rules-light game, but will run much better if you're properly prepared.

Definitely looking forward with great anticipation to our next session in Portland.

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