Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Trial of Jason Shaw, Part 1

   Hmm... looks like my last update was almost exactly a year ago, about how rad Guild Wars 2 is. I wonder what could have possibly eaten up all my nerd time since then.  *ahem*
   So when last we left our tale, Jason Shaw found himself imprisoned for the attempted murder of a kid (just go read two episodes ago).  The followup was played a couple of months ago, so this is largely from foggy memory, but I wanna keep this up.

   Part one was the email I sent his player, to clue him in that something especially unpleasant was going on.  It reads thus:

   Your first awareness is a searing red glow hammering on your eyelids.  The ache of that glow travels along your consciousness into your head, which feels like John Henry is inside, making bets again.  A cough refocuses everything in your chest, where you’re quite certain most of your ribs are broken, and one of your lungs is exhaling more blood than air.  With effort, you manage to spit a thick clot past your lips.  Thank God for little victories.  Weary with the exertion, you begin to slip back into sweet oblivion.
     "Ah knows yer in there, Shaw.  Open yer fuckin’ eyes.”  The voice rasps into your ears.  As you decipher the words, you can’t help but wonder how a crow could live to be seventy years old after a life working in the coal mines and chain smoking cigars.  Slowly your eyes peel slightly open, and the red glow becomes a lantern, painfully bright in the darkness.  In its illumination, you can make out several men, tied to posts on the dirt floor of the barn.  The slightest attempt at movement reveals you to be similarly restrained, as well as sending a fresh wave of agony over you.  The rhythm of John Henry’s Hammer continues, as excruciating as ever, but also sounding suspiciously like the tap-tap of rain on the barn roof.
     “Atta boy,” cackles the crow again, from somewhere near the lantern.  Something about that voice is familiar, but you’re unable to place it. “Ya better have more fight in ya than that.”    You call to mind the feeling of frostbitten fingers and toes.  The wet pain in your lungs becomes the stabbing of frigid breath as you suck desperately for one more icy breath.
     A second, smaller light pulls itself from the lantern, growing slightly, slowly, revealing a small white candle, held by long pale fingers, the nails cracked and blackened.   Unseen feet shuffle through the dirt and straw as the candle bobs closer, and whispered words come unbidden from your lips.
     "He lights his way with the candlestick.”
     The shuffling stops.  “That’s right.  Very good.  You know, Shaw, I was beginning to think that after all this time, you wouldn’t remember me.”  The candle drops lower, and into its glow a face appears.  Pale and sickly, framed by uneven, greasy black hair and beard.  A thin, crooked nose perches above thin lips, which peel back into a grin of yellow and black broken teeth.  The face cocks an eyebrow of wire brush, and you look into those eyes.  Blackness.  The pupil fills those orbs, with but a tiny glimpse of yellowish white at the corners.  Staring up into that face, those eyes, your mind reels.  You’ve seen him before, but it’s as though you’re trying to grasp a forgotten dream, or a nightmare you thought you had locked away.  The smile fades.
     "Still not gettin’ it?  Ah know, ah know.  An awful lot has happened.  An’ look at you, so big and tough.  Thought you din’t need me no more, din’t ya?  Well, Jason, ah don’t hold a grudge.  We found each other again, and we can put everythin’ right.”  The man scowls. “But ya gotta remember!  You know who ah am but ya forgot!”
     He looks up, listening.  Outside you can hear the pounding of hooves, the rattle of a wagon.  That foul face turns back to you.  “You ain’t got much time, boy!  They gonna string you up!  Iffen yer lucky they give you a trial first.  You better set yer mind to rememberin’, or ah can’t help ya.”
     Voices and footsteps draw nearer to the barn.
     "Time for me to go, Shaw.”  With a quick breath, the candle is out, and for a brief moment only the distant lantern shines in the dark barn.  Then the light of early morning breaks in as the large door is pulled open and several armed men enter.  The man with the crow’s voice is gone, his still smoking candle lying at your feet.
     “That’s the one that tried to shoot my boy, Sheriff,” you hear a woman call out. 
     A stern man with a large mustache hunkers down in front of you, inspecting your wounds and countenance.   “Boy.  You’re in a whole heap o’ trouble.”

That oughta wrap up part one.  Part 2 will follow soon.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend Event Impressions


This one ain't about tabletop gaming.  Sorry for that.
Anyway, I've been looking forward to Guild Wars 2 for a long time.  Like a lot of folks, I like MMOs, but I also hate MMOs.  There were plenty of times when I had an absolute blast playing World of Warcraft with this chica and her husband, but trying to actually make those moments happen was a royal bitch, and not usually successful.  Fortune forbid we actually try and get one more person in on the action, or maybe check the Auction House on another character while waiting for someone a thousand miles away to coordinate their day with ours.  Couple that with travel times, pre-adventure prep work, clearing out your inventory, and outleveling your friends, and you spend much more time trying to play than you do playing.
Guild Wars 2 aims to fix all that, and after playing the beta this weekend, I think they may have succeeded.  Not 100%, but they've cut out a lot of the barriers.

Okay, the good news (and I guess I better bullet-point it, since there's a lot of good news):

The game is solid and good.  Aside from any other details, arguments about what should be which way, that statement stands.  It's fun, it's attractive, it's humorous (not overly), and it's not riddled with bugs.
·         No monthly fee, which is good for more reasons than me being a cheapskate.  The most important reason is that removing that $15/month eliminates most of the need for a grind.  It's still going to take a while to hit that level cap, but you're not going to, say, queue up your crafting panel to make 100 steel ingots, go have lunch, and come back before it finishes.
·         Combat is faster, and positioning makes a difference.  You still have a skill bar, but your attacks are just 1-5.  6 is your self-heal, 7 and up are utility skills.  F1 is often a special skill that you want to have readily available, but that's pretty much it.  No more of this.  You know what that is, and that is bullshit.  You can dodge, and use your fellow players for cover (suck it up, Guardian!).  In action, it still plays more like an MMO than a first-person shooter, but it doesn't have that same sort of automated feeling.  Also, there are a lot of push/pull effects, which are sadly lacking in MMOs.  I think one of my favorite combos with Earl of Preston, my human warrior (I'll be making him again for the full game, if anyone wants to be Duke of Ted) was thus:  Kick the enemy, pushing him away and knocking him over.  Then I throw my offhand sword at him, impaling him for a Bleed effect.  Then I Leap at him with my axe, closing the distance and spending my adrenaline for lots of damage.  Then I rip my sword out of him, ending the Bleed but dealing a great deal of extra pain.  FUN!
·         Travel is almost instant.  Do you REALLY need to run back to town and stash some crap in the bank before taking on the next instance?  Fine, pay your 15 copper, teleport anywhere you've been before, stash your crap, then teleport back.  You will have to sit through a loading screen, but as long as you know where you're going, you then have maybe a 10 second walk to a bank or whatever you need, then you're done.  This makes it a lot easier for groups to get together.
·         You don't have to be on the same server as your friends.  I'm told WoW has something like this now, but this was the biggest killer for me back in the day.  My friends and I were scattered across multiple servers, and... gods, you all know what that means.  It means starting over any time you realize that a friend plays the same game you do.  In GW2 you have a friends list, and you can go join them on their server as a guest, and it's just that simple.
·         Speaking of servers, there's a Server Overflow.  When the area you're in is just too crowded (as the starting areas were all weekend) you're bumped into a little side server.  Your friends can come, too.  There are still plenty of folks about, so you hang out here, playing the game, until some room opens up.  No more sitting in a queue.
·         Short-term grouping is easy.  You just stay near each other.  No more having to decide whether to work with or against someone you meet in a dungeon in the middle of nowhere.  You don't have to party up, and you don't have to share.  He hits the zombie, you hit the zombie, you both get full credit and full loot.  This approach to grouping comes in handy when scores of angry centaurs start charging a watch tower, and a dozen people rally to drive them off, reviving those who fall (did I mention that anyone can revive the fallen?)  So start spamming those AoE powers, people!
·         Level adjustment.  Let's say I'm hells of slow at leveling ('cause I am).  Let's say Robbie is hells of fast ('cause he is).  He sees I'm on and decides to come help me with kicking ass.  When he comes to my area, his effective level drops.  He still has all of his sweet powers, but he's not going to one-shot everything we see.  Also, he's earning loot and experience to match his real level.  Nice.
·         Asura.  None of the races are lame, but the Asura are awesome.  Think Dragonlance Gnomes with their weird genius and inventions, give them more magical power, ridiculous arrogance, a slightly sinister streak, and then make them that weird combination of hideous/adorable.  Kinda like Yoda in his younger days.  I found myself giggling with glee the whole time I played Gonff Mausrauber, my notorious gunslinger.  Bonus:  While playing an Asura, a key NPC in your personal story is voiced by Felicia Day.
·         No FedEx quests, and escort quests aren't BS.  I had a quest where I was helping my buddy escape from an evil Asura prison.  He was defeated on the way out.  No problem.  I walked over and revived him, and he ran out the door with me.  Go back and read that.  He died, and I didn't have to start over.  He FUCKING RAN!  Following me!  Not the plod of an old man with bad knees through quicksand that they have in every goddamn MMO I've seen!

The Not As Good News:

·         It's still an MMO.  If you just don't like MMOs at all, it's probably not for you.  If you like MMOs, but don't like a lot of the baggage, it might be for you.
·         It's a little confusing in some places.  There's still a month to go before release, and a lot of this could be solved with some tooltips or something, so hopefully this won't be as much of an issue.  But there it is.  You can start crafting right off the bat, but it's complicated and weird, and they don't really explain it to you.  That's the biggest "how does this work?" sort of issue, as the rest is introduced pretty slowly.  Hil managed alright with the opening scenario, but felt like they threw her into the deep end before she could really get a handle on her powers.
·         The big fights lead to lag.  Each opening scenario (I wouldn't call it a tutorial, see above) has a climax against a big bad mofo of a monster.  This is pretty rad, but you're often side by side with a dozen or so allies, so a lot of powers and nifty effects are flying about, and things can chug a bit.  This might just be my issue, since I'm barely hitting those system requirements.  For those interested, here's what I'm running:
AMD Athlon XP Dual Core, 2.1 GHz
3 Gigs RAM
nVidia GeForce 8600 GT, 256 megs RAM
Windows 7
·         PC only.  Luc, stop playing with your daddy's fruit box and get a real computer.
·         No World PvP.  So Luc can't stab people in the back while they're questing to ruin their day.  Maybe this should be in the "Good" heading, but I know at least one A-hole for whom this is a major selling point.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Deadlands Father's Day Special

I should probably post up the previous adventures of the Carrot Stick Heroes, as I call them, but I have enough trouble getting up the will to write this much.  Someday... someday.


Anyway, I like running holiday games.  We've had A Very Deadlands Christmas, where the posse fought the Granch at the top of mount Crumpet, and a Mexican Day of the Dead, where they took a trip to Teotehuacan and pushed an Aztec mummy down about a million stairs.  Fun stuff.  Fathers' Day being all about what I wanna do, I called in some folks and had a heartwarming family game.


Deadlands Father’s Day Special

In the previous adventure, the posse recovered the Amulet of Rahashimir from the Wailing Pit after defeating the earthen guardian and the Half-ogre, Ox.  It was in this pit that they discovered a strange glyph on the wall, though they remain unclear as to its purpose.  With night falling quickly and a storm coming in, the posse sought shelter at a nearby farmhouse.  They were met by Sherilyn Conway and her 10-year-old son, Jamie, who eyed the newcomers suspiciously.  Stella Moreau (played by my wife, Hil), being of the gentler sex and not requiring much space, was offered a bed in the house, while Father Fergus (Played by Matt), Dr. Schlear (Dagon), Jason Shaw (Luc), and Samuel Kraeger (Kiah, standing in for Brian) took the hayloft in the barn.  That is, the barn that was standing.  Another stood not far off, the roof falling in.

Late that night, Stella was awakened by footfalls outside her door.  She and some of the menfolk then heard the front door of the house shutting, and watched young Jamie sneaking out through the drizzling rain with a lantern, to the collapsing barn.  Jason Shaw slipped from the loft and followed, silent as a shadow.  He could hear the boy within the barn, speaking quietly, but could hear no response other than occasional clanks of metal.  Retrieving the other men, they knocked on the barn door, then entered.  Inside they found a nervous Jamie Conway and a great deal of rubble.  Remnants of letters, scraped away, could be seen scratched into the dirt floor.  The posse, familiar with all manner of devilry, suspected witchcraft.  Their confidence was not helped by the nervous child refusing to speak.  Father Fergus stepped forward, his staff flaring with holy light, and a large shape in the rubble lurched forward threateningly.  The whirr of a steam gatling began its ominous whistle, and Jason Shaw made a terrible blunder.

Assuming the child was directly controlling the automaton, he pointed his gun at Jamie and fired, to the horror of his companions (If I haven't pointed it out already, Luc is an asshole).  Two gunshots rang out as Jamie scrambled frantically among the rubble, then the mighty machine charged.  Its large steel claw ripped into his shoulder, bringing him low.  In a moment of panic, Sam fired his pistol at the metal man, the bullets bouncing off uselessly.  Dr. Schlear felt he had a clever idea when he grabbed the lantern from the peg on the wall, hurling it at the machine.  He failed to account for the fact that he only had one eye, and it wasn’t very good.  Nor had he spent much time throwing objects at other objects.  The lantern hit a post, and flaming oil splashed everywhere, igniting the old straw strewn everywhere.  Jamie Conway bolted from the barn, while Father Fergus called a great windstorm into the barn.  The wind whipped up the flames and the entire barn began to go up.  Everyone fled, though the automaton kept right on top of Jason, slashing away with its clawed hand.  Stella stepped from the house, carrying her “Inverted Lighting Rod.”  Seeing her companion on the ground being attacked by a metal monster, she aimed at the machine and fired.  Again, the thing’s armor proved too resilient, and the shot was ineffective.  Young Jamie, running to the house, grabbed at her weapon, screaming, “Don’t kill him!  He’s my Pa!”

Of course, in all the hubbub, little attention had been paid to the horses and wagon that had just come up the drive.  That attention was seized when the leader of the wagon team called, “There it is, boys!  Take it down!  No witnesses!”  The newcomers drew their gatling pistols and opened fire on the automaton.  The night erupted in gunfire, but the barrage did little more than pockmark the metal man’s thick plating.  Jason Shaw, however, was not so lucky.  Lacerated by the claws and taking several bullets, he collapsed in the mud.  Despite their impressive automatic pistols and their “Leave no Witnesses” attitude, the gunmen were quickly dispached, the last of them pinned to the ground under the automaton’s claw.  As the posse approached, holding up their hands peacefully to appease the furious golem, Stella Moreau noticed a great deal of fluid leaking  from the automaton.  Opening a panel on its back, the group discovered a number of guages and dials, all indicating one thing.  The Ghost Rock boiler on this machine was about to blow.  Working frantically, Dr Schlear and Stella Moreau put their scientific skills together and prevented the whole thing from going up in a fireball.
Five of the six gunmen survived the fight, and were taken captive, while an unconscious Jason Shaw was given similar treatment.  He had always been a loose cannon, but it seems the posse felt he had gone too far this time, attempting to shoot an unarmed child (yeah, ya think?).

So that’s where the group stands right now.  Five thugs from a Hellstromme Industries cleanup crew and one half-dead companion.  The tentative plan at the moment is to turn the lot of them in to the authorities on charges of attempted murder.  There are a lot of complications, though, since the automaton is legally the property of Hellstromme Industries, a rich corporation, and Jason Shaw has been part and parcel to a lot of quasi-legal activities of the group.

This should be fun.  I get to run a legal drama!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

GM Sheet Follow-Up

There have been a few folks interested in modifications to the GM sheet, including one for Rippers. I've uploaded the Word documents to Google Docs, you can get the links here and here. Hack away at 'em, folks.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cheat Sheets are a GM's Best Friend

I have a hard time spreading the love when I'm running a game. About three-quarters of the way through, I realize one player has dominated most of the spotlight, several others have had some neat moments, and one has just been quiet, making rolls when called for and little else. It also seems that quite often, the bad stuff all happens to one person. This is usually a result of bad luck, but since I think I need to get a little meaner as a GM, I need to spread the hurt around as well.

Now, add to this my desire to encourage certain types of behavior, and that's a lot of tiny little things to keep track of in my head. My head is not good at that. Usually when I run a game, I jot down some notes about the PCs. I've taken that idea a step further, added stuff I think will be helpful, and cleaned it all up into a handy GM's Character Sheet. If you just want the sheet, you can get it here. If you'd like some explanation, here's the breakdown:
The vital stats are pretty self-explanatory. The key is at the bottom. Spotlight and Ire are reminders to myself to get everyone in on the action. When someone gets a decent bit of spotlight, I'll mark it off. As the game goes on, I pay attention to who hasn't had it yet, and try to give them a moment to shine. I don't mind if some people have a bit more spotlight than others, as long as everyone gets to feel important. Ire is the same way, but it's bad news. When a character gets mauled by zombies, blows up their Weird Science device, or has some other lousy luck, I'll check that box off. Later, when I have some nasty thing to spring, and I don't know who to spring it on, I can just see who hasn't had any GM Ire.
Note that if I spring something bad on a character, and they survive unscathed, I'm still going to check off the box. Sometimes the dice hate you, but that doesn't mean the lucky guy always has to get jumped by the ghouls skulking in the shadows.

Below Spotlight and Ire are a couple more checkboxes. These are reminders of Benny awards. I want to encourage Roleplaying, Heroism, Teamwork, and Panache (that is to say, badassery). Leaping from a train onto a steam wagon to take out the banditos on it is pretty rad, and deserves a benny (before the attempt is made, so that it's more likely to succeed). Each only has one checkbox, but there's plenty of room for more checks underneath. Now I just need to remember to mention these boxes to the players, so we all know what will get bennies.

That's pretty much it. If you like it, hate it, or have ideas, there's a comment section down below. If you'd like to tweak it, make a note of that and I can post the Word document or a Google Doc, and you can go nuts. Plagiarize at will. I doubt this is where I'm gonna make my first million.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Trying to Flesh Out Characters from both sides of the Screen

GMs and players both like to have a group of realistic, well-thought-out characters. For a lot of people, all the numbers on the character sheet are pretty much meaningless next to the person they've created and the stories that person will be involved in. Some folks, of course, are all about the stats and the kicking of the most ass, but for most, the sweet spot is somewhere in between. Like many GMs, I want to encourage my players to flesh out their characters. Their doing so gives me hooks for stories that revolve around the players, can give the group cohesion, and creates an emotional attachment between player and character.

I GM games a lot more than I get to play in them, so when I do play, I still sorta have my GM hat on. It's just cocked to the side. I try to create meaningful characters, but to have it actually work, the ideas behind them have to be communicated to the GM, and also a bit to the other players. I'm trying to come up with things that will help the people on both sides of the screen, to help players play the characters they want, and to help GMs incorporate player ideas into their games. Most importantly, these ideas need to be easy to use. No "Character Backstory" essays, no exhaustive lists of questions.

I suppose the best way to illustrate this is to just post the thinking points, and dig into them as we go.

Aspirations - What does your character want for himself? What do you as the player want for him?
These two things can be different. My buddy Matt ran a World of Darkness game in which we all played graduate students at some ivy league university. I decided my character was a neo-pagan who really, REALLY wanted to be a sorcerer or wizard or something. Matt nodded and said, "Okay, so like maybe he could start out as like a Hedge Mage and maybe Awaken later on?"
"No, he really has no power, and will probably never get any. He can learn a lot of occult knowledge, but he doesn't have the spark, and I'm okay if he never does."
I can be a dick to my own characters.

Spotlight Scenes - Describe a possible scene in the game in which your character would play a critical role.
Obviously the player shouldn't get too specific, but I think a lot of us have heroic scenes in our minds when we create characters, and everyone wins if we can actually have those scenes. As another example, Luc is soon to begin a Weird War 2 game, and I'm hoping for two scenes: The first is a rousing "St. Crispin's Day" style speech that my character can deliver to a bunch of Résistance fighters before a major battle. The second is a speedboat chase on the Seine, right through Paris, my character manning the wheel while my wife's character opens up on our Nazi pursuers with his assault rifle.

Inter-Character Relations - Describe a positive relationship or interaction you have with another Player-Character. Describe a negative one. Consider a few others you might have outside the group.
I like to have the party be a group that already exists, rather than, "You all meet in a tavern." This point sort of pushes a little harder for specifics than I like in the beginning of a campaign, but it at least makes the players think about the other members of the group. The interactions don't have to be anything profound. Perhaps Stuart the Strong really likes going down to the gambling hall and playing dice with Errol the Quick, except when Errol drinks too much, cheats, and starts a fight.
What's important is that the characters already have a place in the world.

These are rough ideas at the moment. I'm always open for critiques and verbal abuse (and other sorts of abuse, but we should work that out ahead of time). Contribute your thoughts! This also goes for those of you who aren't gamers, but are following this because, "Oh, Conor started a blog! How cute, let's all give him some support!" Just think of it as collaborating on a novel. That will never be read.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The One Ring, pt. 2

Despite the best efforts of our, ahem, "heroes," they are offered the privilege of seeking the lost dwarves. They set off in a boat down the Long Lake, reaching the falls as the sun begins to set. The standard practice of travelers here is to portage from the lake to the river below the falls, and a village stands at the edge of the lake, apparently for the sole purpose of carrying boats for the very few travelers that come this way. Like once a month or so. Hey, gotta make a living somehow.

The fellowship stayed with these villagers for the night, dining and drinking with them in the common mead hall. I noticed several of the players seemed impatient that I would even make mention of their characters' last comfortable night for some time to come. There was a general sense of "Let's get on with the asskicking." Robbie, however, was keen to interact with these folk, and had his character regale them with songs of the Shire. Succeeding nicely on his Song roll, he made fast friends with the lake-villagers, and was introduced to one of the elders. This old fellow spoke mostly in gibberish, only becoming lucid long enough to offer warning of something in the swamps called "gallows-weed." The group took note of his warning, and in the morning, continued down the river.

It is here that The One Ring diverges in "intended playstyle" from most RPGs. In most games, the Journey is generally treated as "what we do between encounters." There are usually rules for distance traveled per day, a roll or two to avoid getting lost or exhausted in particularly difficult areas, but it's often waved aside by the GM. In The One Ring, the Journey is really a large encounter itself, and this is a clear part of the game's design. Each character takes a role, such as Guide, Lookout, Hunter, and so on. During the journey, they will be making a lot of rolls to avoid fatigue and hazards, and it seems to be these failed rolls that cause interesting things to happen.

The trouble is in pacing, I think, and giving your players the impression that something is actually happening. Even when trying to be descriptive, it is very easy to lay it out all at once, and then call for a half dozen rolls for each player. This is boring. I tried to break it up a little, which helped a tiny bit, but I think if I have another chance it will be more structured. Figure out how many days the journey will take, and more importantly how many Fatigue rolls (it's something like 1 roll every 4 days). Before every roll, have some kind of scene, or "camera shot." Think back to the films by Peter Jackson. Long stretches of time and travel would have a camera flying over the Fellowship, and often a focus on some interesting bit of scenery, or discussion between the Fellowship. Consider just The Fellowship of the Ring. As Sam and Frodo set out across the Shire, Sam mentions that this is the farthest he's ever been from home. Later, as Aragorn leads the group through the Midgewater Marshes, we have more brief dialogue about "second breakfast." Setting out from Rivendell, the group argues about the best path, with Gimli urging the Mines of Moria while Boromir gives Merry and Pippin a lesson in swordsmanship. These are all brief snippets from days-long legs of the trek, and feature little action, but they break up the monotony and give us a sense of time, as well as the relationship between the characters.

In game, this would be a prime place to encourage roleplay, but the GM should provide some manner of catalyst between each fatigue roll. Perhaps the group passes a crumbling ruin on the shore, with Dwarven runes carved into the arches, and a broken statue covered in lichen. If the players are not inclined to expand upon this, it simply serves as a scene between fatigue rolls. However, perhaps a Dwarf character wants to stop and investigate. Another character may want to push on, and it could become an issue. Perhaps, after investigating the small ruin, the Dwarf could regain a point of Hope, kindled by the craftwork of his ancestors. Any sort of reward should be granted based on character actions, and the initiative of the players.

Ok, digression over. The characters made it through their Fatigue checks unscathed, though less entertained than possible, I suppose. As they paddled their boat through the swamps of Mirkwood, Kiah's character noticed they were being followed (ok, besides actually seeing someone following you, how do I justify, "You sense you're being followed?"). A couple more perception checks, and they determined their pursuers were elves. They called out, and the elves approached cautiously. It seems these same elves had followed the missing dwarves along the same route, until the dwarves disappeared one night. The elves assumed they dwarves sensed their presence and slipped away in the middle of the night. They showed the Fellowship to the abandoned camp, then left.

The group searched the camp, and Bulbar the Dwarf found a rune carved into a hollow stump marking a Spell of Secrecy. Inside was found a small chest, containing a jeweled golden necklace, with a letter presenting it from King Dain to the King of the Eagles. At this point, the adventure calls for Wisdom checks for each character. Those who fail gain a point of Shadow, as they are filled with greed for the necklace. My players, of course, feel no internal conflict. Even before the check, Luc calls out, "I wanna take it!"

*Sigh*

The group then followed the trail left by the dwarves... and whatever carried them off.

That night, after making camp, flickering lights in the swamp caught their attention. Of course, the adventure makes a foolish assumption that someone will go investigate. Who the hell does that? Come on, is there a clearer setup for an ambush or trap? Robbie's hobbit fired an arrow into the cluster of lights, and something stirred in the darkness. Moments later, a scrawny, emaciated troll came tearing through the trees. The three Men took a forward stance, harrying the troll. Luc and Kiah beat their weapons on their shields, making Awe rolls to intimidate the troll. Scoring a series of successes between them, they drained off every point of Hate the troll had. Hate is a resource enemies get. It fuels their special abilities, and when they're out, they're Wearied. That is to say, their rolls suck. The troll managed to clobber the Dwarf a little, before being hacked to pieces in two rounds.

It was here that we concluded the session. Then holidays started happening, so even the hiatus has to take a hiatus. When next we play, I'll pop another one of these things up, and offer my thoughts on The One Ring as a whole. So far I'm pretty impressed. There are a few things I would tweak, but it's solid. In the meantime, I'll drop in with random ramblings about gaming in general.