It seems like every 297 years it is the same thing: the closer it gets to the holidays, the end of the year, the end of the baktun, and hence the possible end of the world, it becomes more and more difficult to arrange a game night. So between halloween and January we are lucky to get in a few game nights, and this one was fated to be the last of the year. on the menu, in honor of the mayans, was a mexican fare, with at least 100 soft and hard, white, wheat and corn shells, four or more pounds of beef, vegetables red green and yellow, chips, beans, salsas of many hues, and more. It was a feast of feasts. our fridge is overflowing with plastic covered bowls and plates, even though a dozen or more people gorged on the succulent dishes.
the game was the november playtest release of d&d 5th edition, the characters were 3rd level, and the mission was to break up a tribe of cannibals threatening their good friends, the savages of the villages oogachaka and tanaroa.
Many years ago, a villager of oogachaka went mad and began stealing chickens. when his depravity led to him stealing another man’s cock, the man, called Randolphus, was exiled. he went across the bay from the secluded village to a rocky island which jutted from the sea. Into its steep cliff-face was carved a cathedral in bas relief, and a hundred foot tall statue of a warrior graced its entrance. On this island, the mad man attracted a group of canabalistic followers, and every full moon they would raid surrounding villages for babies to eat. forty years passed, and Randolphus became ever more depraved. He marked his body with tattoos and scars, and recreated the markings on the giant statue in the blood and dung of his victims. until last week.
A great storm swept up out of the sea, and at its height, it tore the centuries old statue from its foundation. ever since, their have been terrible sounds of violence and lamentation coming from the island. tomorrow night marks the first full moon since the storm, and it just so happens that Oogachaka is currently blessed with a surfeit of fat, babbling babes. needless to say, the cheiftaness is worried, and would the heroes care to bust up a cannibal party?
They were interested. I didnt even have to bribe them with vast rewards, or hint at heaps of loot waiting to be bagged up. apparently the holiday spirit was in full force: everyone wanted to bust cannibal skull. (This is coming from a party who once used burning babies as a DISTRACTION in a fight – it wasnt even the main event)
But I digress, tonight it was all about saving the babies (for later?) And so after some plans involving sneaking in, pretending to be cannibals, or possibly baby merchants, to yet another trojan horse, but after hearing the entrance was largely unguarded, they decided on the direct approach. They would row over the next morning, and start exacting some righteous justice.
They found the deserted entrance to be empty. a hundred foot section of the cliff face had been carved into an old cathedral inset into the wall. Two great feet, broken of at the ankle, stood within the enclave, with a doorway between them. a few marble pylons jutted from the water, to which bamboo and vine docks had been attached. a stairway carved into the rock of the cliff led up to the doorway between the feet.
The rogues crawled down the hallway, and found it to be partially blocked by a wall of rubble. they cold get past though, and heard heavy breathing from the other side. Three spear wielding guards were surprised and backstabbed by the rogues, as the dwarves worked furiously to smash through the rubble. the battle was short, but poppy the wood elf rogue was stabbed and deeply wounded by a spear before it was over.
after resting they heard grunting and groaning coming from the other side of a skin curtain (edged in tassels made of nipples) at the end of the hall. beyond it was a group of a dozen cannibals in various attitudes of rest. most were asleep, one was whittling a spear head and had stabbed his thumb – thus the majority of the grunting and groaning. the party tricked the cannibals into running down the hall, finding the slain compatriots, and taking off in their canoes to find them. only after they were out of sight did the wizard note to the others that the cannibals set out in the direction of oogachaka. whoops!
Some more hijinks ensued, and the night ended in the middle of a battle with Randolphus the werewolf summoning a Vrock demon, the outcome uncertain.
One amazing thing that happened tonight: usually on the last game session of the year, i hand out x-mas presents to the players, a thank you for putting up with me for the year. character folios, extendable forks, and dragon miniatures are a few of the gifts, but this year, I had nothing. it was for a host of reasons, all to drab to recount here, but my good friend Shannon, and the evilest one of the bunch, came through with TEEFURY shirts for all of us. it was an amazing thoughful gift, and every one of us got a sweet shirt based on the nerdy things we love. mine was an incredible Battlestar Galactica shirt “so say we all” to go with my faded FRAK OFF shirt. thanks to shannon, we all got a present this year, and they were the best presents imaginable.
Note: TEEFURY is agreat, addictive site that offers up a new original tee-shirt every day. buy it now or regret it later.
and so the evening came to a close with hopeful thoughts of the future. The new year will see a change of game focus, and we finished the evening with a short discussion of our options. one of the problems with playtesting the new edition before it is released is that continuity of campaign is difficult. many of the players lack the time to remake their character before each play session, and some classes come and go between revisions, to the point where a campaign becomes unworkable. The fifth edition option would entail having non-linear sets of adventures using pregenerated characters that I supplied. this would work but is not optimal.
Aside — I have more to write on the subject of playtesting in general, and this particular playtest, but a summery would be that I am happy to report that my hopes for the new edition align with many of the most vocal of playtesters, and tend to align with most of the trends in the polls. in that way I am happy that the input is going mostly my way. I am less confident however, that these particular playtests reflect that growing trend. in fact it sometimes seems that many elements are purposefully contrary to polls and player input, as if to either tweak the nose of the playtesters, or more likely, to test out how favorables alternatives are to the conservative base. in any case it makes for sometimes painful campaign play.
We discussed the other options for playing D&D, 1st, 3rd, 4th editions, and pathfinder. A couple people voted for 4th, but most everyone else voted for 3rd edition, even those who have never played it! No one voted for 1st edition, though my wife said she would be willing, but some of the arcane rules (hello THAC0) daunted her. one person voted pathfinder, but i assured the wizard (or future summoner probably — shudder) that pathfinder integrated seamlessly with 3rd edition.
Then i threw out the idea of Walking Dead. Modern times, we play ourselves, or a regular person living in our home town, getting together on a friday night to play games, when the zombie apocalypse occurs. we would use google street view and local knowledge, and an unknown game system to play out a zombie apocalypse campaign. I would probably use a hybrid d&d-like system using hit points, armor class, and the six ability scores, without classes, but having skills, background and equipment be the three main areas of character growth. of course, one bite from a zombie would kill, and the game would attempt to be as gritty and realistic as possible. everyone immediately voted for this idea.
Not sure how long it will last, but we are going to give the modern zombie rpg a shot. Following that, it looks like 3rd edition will be our game of choice for the forseeable future. oh what a long, strange trip it’s been.