Saturday, February 21, 2015

Kingmaker: Rivers Run Red Session Two

I am continuing to enjoy Kingmaker.

Rivers Run Red continues a bit of the wilderness exploration, continuing in the same region as the first book.

This allows the players a home base of operations and a sense of what the River Kingdoms are like. I've tended to play it more 'southern' and 'country' in that the folk tend to speak simple and direct and while most are honest to a fault, there are those whose enjoyment of solitude turns them away from the intruders that the players represent.

Several players have decided to dedicate some effort to the running of the kingdom but have still yet to decide how best to advance. That's okay as outside of 'kingdom management' there are still numerous areas to explore, quests to complete and monsters to slay.

In many ways, these first two books of Kingmaker cleave close to how I often ran in the past. Some encounters with various NPCs to learn the lay of the land, what news from which country, the creation of rivalries and ending of such.

In this case, that would be Akiros Ismort, formerly of the Stag Lord, who turned his efforts to procuring the character's patronage. He wished to be awarded rank and title general but was not awarded such so he continues to toss jibes at the current general and who knows what that former bandit leader does when the players are not there?

After such meetings though, the players sharpen blades and onto slaughter! Just hopefully not their own.

One of my friends joked it was a PC version of Spartacus. "Yeah, we get together, find out some stuff, party a bit in the town, and then unsheath blade and spell and let monster burn or bleed!"

It brings me to worry about what happens when the campaign elements in the background take more center tone. The 'strength' for me is that despite my appreciation of mega-dungeons and dungeon crawls in general, the open nature of exploration, the small locations, such as an outpost or a barrow mound, allow for the illusion of some type of crawl that are more like connected encounters as opposed to say, The World's Largest Dungeon or a standard Dungeon Crawl where whole sessions can pass in dark passages.

This allows me to change things up a bit more quickly and change tone or goal between expeditions whereas a full out dungeon crawl merely requires eager foot to step into waiting maw.

I also find myself doing a lot of on the fly conversions. While I've shared my attempts at bringing the troll hounds and hodag to life, there were many more that needed such a touch that I failed to do.

For example, the classic two headed troll or the not quite as classic, stone troll. Or a troll with a few fighter levels on him. I looked at the ettin and snagged its base damage and gave higher point point totals to it, while giving the stone troll higher armor class and hit points and no bite attack. The 'king' with the fighter levels i just increased his hit point total to reflect him being 'tough'.

This is a 'problem' with using older adventures on a system that has almost as many years of history as I've been alive. The sheer variety of opposition is enough to make head swim if plans are not taken far ahead of time or if you're not comfortable doing some conversion work on the fly.

What's worse is there is no 'easy' solution for this problem. While I haven't reviewed the Monster Manual in it's latest version, I have not found one of its weaknesses to be a lack of variety.  Again, it's the history of the game providing such richness and capturing so many classic monsters including modrons, that prevent every monster possible from being updated.

It may sound strange, but as I'm of firm mind that 5th edition is the last print edition of Dungeons and Dragons we'll see, I would hope that at some point they'll do an Encyclopedia of sorts of the monsters. When 2nd edition was long in tooth, there came compendiums of wizard spells, priest spells, and my favorite, magic items in faux leather. Great stuff that I still draw inspiration from today. Very handy.

If 5th edition is the last print edition, I'd dearly love to see such a collection of monsters. If WoTC intention is to provide tools and get out of the way, monsters are such tools that I would enjoy.

Failing that, some form of license? Some form of official conversion material to take older monsters from one edition to another?

But in terms of the adventure itself? It continues well. The players managed to overcome the trolls without retreat although they had used up almost every healing potion that they'd hoarded both from previous adventure and the Mines bit that I included. They also used up a Necklace of Fireballs that they had found earlier. I was pleased to see the item in use as it lends some firepower to the ground in short term form.

Giving characters such temporary ammunition tends to be one of the 'tricks' of allowing potential TPK's to hit as the party may feel cocksure enough to fight things that may be outside their ability.

Still, the group seemed to enjoy themselves so...

How are your own adventures going? Has your group experienced any TPK's? Any switches of character in mid stream to test out different character mechanics? Any weird magic items or monsters that you're Dungeon Master has thrown into the mix?