AP: In the Dark of the New Moon

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AP: In the Dark of the New Moon
« on: June 10, 2012, 11:21:01 PM »
Got to finally run a game of Dungeon World.  Sorry for the length and the multiple posts. I think best by writing, and there are a lot of thoughts and a lot to recount.

First up, background.  I run a bi-weekly 4e game. Two of the players were from that game.  Been gaming with one of them for ~15 years (all sorts of stuff), the other for ~1 (4e only). Third player was briefly in my 4e game, but left due to scheduling conflicts.  All of us have experience with different versions of D&D. None of us have played AW (etc.) before.

Me, I'm an avid devourer of indie games but rarely have a chance to play them.  Half-designed a few games, never got to the point of publishing any of them. 

Two of the players had looked over the Beta 3.2 (?) rules that J. Kim posted as a web doc. I printed off the artless character sheets (found a link on these forums), which appear to be Beta 3.3 (no cleric spell tags; updated fighter racial moves). 



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Re: AP: In the Dark of the New Moon
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2012, 11:21:30 PM »
I put together this Dungeon Starter for myself, "Under the Dark of the New Moon."  Reading it might put a lot of the rest of this post in context.


I've got mixed feelings about the amount of prep I did.  It took maybe 4 hours to put that together.  The parts that were most useful during the game were the questions and the list of names. The monster moves & stats were definitely helpful to have written down, but I feel like I over-planned there a bit. 

The impressions were useful for me putting my thoughts together, but it was very tempting to let my 4e instincts take over and plan the possible courses of action.  You pretty much *must* do that in 4e, because of the focus on balanced set-piece encounters. 

Anyhow, I think the impressions were useful for clarifying my ideas and making them accessible to other potential GMs.  But if I were doing it again, I'd have left them all fuzzy and in my head. 

In retrospect, the very urban setup made some of the player choices during character creation irrelevant (rations and adventuring gear, in particular).  Also, I think the questions could have set up a more "snowbally" tense situation. As it was, the questions put them in a seedy tavern, expecting to find Valleois (the macguffin), with an irate half-orc.  That wasn't quite "grabby" enough to propel the action past a couple of actions.  If I ran it again, I'd questions two more questions:  "What does Valleois look like again?" and "Isn't that him walking in the tavern right now?"  Get a setup with more potential energy: irate half-orc about to cause trouble and the mark right there!

Another potential pitfall in my prep: the monthly horror of the new moon, with its kidnapped sacrifices, whistle-blowing cultists, and the Eaters of Light swarming about… it pretty much required that none of the PCs know about it (or at least, know much about it). Which meant for some pretty intentionally questioning and outright limitations on my part ("no,  what I've got in mind requires that none of you really be from here").  Which worked ok, but put a bit of a damper on the communal world-building.  Anything I do in the future, I'd try to avoid prepping any mysteries with concrete answers.



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Re: AP: In the Dark of the New Moon
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2012, 11:22:16 PM »
Character Creation
Two of the players had read over the rules prior to play.  Said A: "Yeah, I think I memorized them, actually."  Same guy: "I think this game will be the cure for my min/maxing tendencies."  (And he *is* a min/maxer.)

I explained the high-level details of the game (standard GM/player roles, adventurers, fantasy world) and had them pick classes.  I told them that they probably wanted someone in the party who could heal (cleric or bard, maybe paladin) but otherwise just let them pick.

The player who hadn't read up on the game at all just grabbed one, the fighter, and said "this looks like it doesn't suck."  He was pretty real-world drained coming in, so he wasn't keen on making many decisions--especially not hard or difficult ones. Looking over the sheet, he was pleased to see that the none of the choices struck him as "traps."  He ended up being a halfling because one of the names caught his eye (Finnigan).

Next player went more-or-less straight for the bard.  P2 has posted about the "Charming and Open" move not being to his liking, but I think it's what actually drew this player to the class.  The move makes it clear that this is a *social* character, and this is one of the most engaging, spontaneous social RPers I've encountered.  Perfect fit.

The third player went back and forth between thief and cleric.  He was turned off by how the thief's bonds and alignment choices implied that he was (at best) a shady character, but he ended up going with that because it had fewer choices and required him to create less of the world (he's the least spontaneously creative of the group and actually expressed his concern about that before agreeing to play).

Once playbooks were chosen, character creation went quickly and easily.  The character sheets are great, the choices are great, all stuff that everyone else has said in other AP reports.   

So, we ended up with:
  • Finnegan, the halfling fighter, wielding a human-sized longsword in one hand. He's pretty much always tells the truth (strictly speaking), and hates bullies.  Asking questions came quite naturally: where did you get your sword (left by his uncle, who was secretly an adventurer), how did you learn to fight (not formally, just against bullies, etc.), etc.
  • Dagoliir, the finely dressed elven bard, carrying a fine lute that was "gifted" to him by a noble of Shadizar. The "gift" coming during a card game during which said noble was too drunk to remember the details.  Since he was well-travelled, I asked him what else Shadizar was known for aside from wickedness. He gave the detail that it was surrounded by deep, foul mines and the city served as a weapons manufacturer for the Empire.  Cool, so there's an Empire.  He hails from a distant city on the Empire's edge, but has travelled far and wide.
  • Jack, the human thief, a procurer and purveyor of fine poisons, newly arrived in Shadizar to establish himself as a business man.  Hooded, dark clothes, and shifty eyes, but conducts himself professionally (y'know, by the standards of the poisoner trade).

I started asking some of my questions in the process of introductions. I ended up asking Jack "after last night, which of the thieves' guilds is howling for your blood" but actually told him not to answer until after bonds were established.  It felt like a mistake on my part, though that outstanding, unanswered question inspired the bond between Finnegan and the other two. So I'm glad it played out that way.

When we got to bonds, Dagoliir jumped in that he had long sung the tales of "Black Jack," who turned out to be none other than this Jack (though the stories had been rather embellished). They hit it off, and Jack involved Dagoliir in a little ploy to secure decent lodgings at the White Stag Inn. Their story? Jack was a visiting minor noble, far from the other end of the empire, and Dagoliir his valet.  They were there on family business, and staying at the inn on (entirely false) credit and forged documents.

Finnegan got the question of "what is Valleios trying to cell here, and why is important that he be stopped?" He incorporated the detail of the nearby mines, saying that Valleios had stolen his village's decanter of endless water, the town's only source of clean, non-mine-polluted water.  He'd followed the thief's trail to the city. 

We hadn't answered the question of which thieves' guild Jack had ticked off, but it was hanging out there. So Finnegan established that he came upon Jack and Dagoliir while they were being accosted by a pack of said thieves, and helped them out.  Hence a bond of "Jack owes me his life." Finnegan being short on funds and having no plans on where to stay, he agreed to provide protection to this crew if they agreed to help him track down Valleois. Both agreed, with Jack taking the bond that "Finnegan has my back" and Dagoliir deciding to write a ballad about the little bruiser.

We went back and filled in some of the details: Jack had caught a member of the Black Dogs trying to pick his pocket, and sent the whelp packing. They didn't take kindly to another pro in their turf; hence the jumping that Finnegan interrupted.  A stranger had approached Finnegan out the blue, and told him that Valleois had been seen frequenting the Two Coppers tavern, and asked for nothing in exchange for the info.  Dagoliir found himself flirting with the serving wench Arbella, who seemed entirely too well-bred and trained for the sleazy dive, and Jack had just insulted a half-orc by legitimately attempting to compliment his haircut.



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Re: AP: In the Dark of the New Moon
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2012, 11:24:24 PM »
The half-orc rose and menaced Jack.  "What do you do?" led Jack to hastily apologize and assure him he meant no harm (Defy Danger +Cha, 7-9). That lead to Jack back into another table, spilling ale all over a grim-looking gladiator in black leathers.  The half-orc laughed at this, his anger sated, but then the gladiator was quite miffed.  As he started to rise, Finnegan put a firm grip on the gladiator's shoulder and said "I'm sure it was just an accident. Let me buy you two more to make up for it."

Now, we were all pretty sure this was a move, probably Defy Danger. But with Cha (most likely) or Str (for the firm grip on the gladiator's hand)?  I know the player was fictionally positioning to use Str, but as this wasn't "powering through." Someone suggested that he was actually Aiding Jack, which I agreed to.  Finnegan got a 10+, prompting Jack to then apologize to the gladiator (Defy Danger with Cha, 10+).  Situation defused.

This whole exchange made me a little uncomfortable.  The principle of "be a fan of the PCs" would lead me to allow him using +Str on Defy Danger, but the move description made it pretty clear that this was +Cha.  And while I could definitely see it as Aiding, even that's a bit odd. Jack hadn't taken any fictional action, so Finnegan was aiding an action that hadn't happened yet. That sort of steamrolled Jack's player into acting a certain way and making a certain move, which I'm not entirely comfortable with.  In retrospect, I probably should have stuck with Defy Danger with +Cha and let Finnegan back out if he wanted.

Finnegan called for Arbella (busily flirting with Dagoliir) to bring the promised drinks. A little exchange between the pretty bard and the pretty waitress, and she was on her way to fill their order.  The action was slowing a bit, so I looked to my GM moves and gave an opportunity with a cost.  I tell Finnegan that the door to the tavern opens and he sees  Valleois about to walk in. But the crowd parts at an inopportune moment, and Valleois sees the fiery-eyed halfling as well.  "Does he know me?" asks Finnegan.  I probably should have turned the question around, but instead I just said "maybe, but halflings aren't that common in the city and he's a cagey devil.  He bolts! What do you do?"

Finnegan decided to bolt after him (running right by Arbella and making her spin with the drinks), and I invoked a custom move I'd made up in advance (not for this game particularly, just in tinkering):

When you chase someone through the crowded streets, roll +Dex. On a 10+ you corner your prey or catch it in the open. On a 7-9, the GM picks one:
- You're still in pursuit, but there's an intervening obstacle or challenge.
-They've gone to ground; you know where they are but it's a challenge to get them.
-They turn unexpectedly and attack

I opted to tell the player he was triggering a custom move, basically reading him the first sentence and the 10+ clause. I didn't bother describing the 7-9; I felt that was like naming your move.  We discussed whether his Halfling bonus to Defy Danger would apply.  It certainly seemed in the spirit, but since it was a custom move I ruled that it didn't (but that it might very well come up on a 7-9 result).  Didn't matter, because he rolled a 3 (+1 Dex) for a solid miss.  (I am curious, though, what other GMs would do.)

I looked at my moves list and figured that "separate them" was the move I wanted, so I told the other two (Dagoliir and Jack) that Finnegan just bolted out into the streets before they could do anything.  What did they do?  The both headed out the door, a but Dagoliir ran right into a pair of red-robed (and veiled) followers of the Night God who were coming in the door.  We'd established through questions earlier that Jack and Dagoliir had seen these guys about town, collecting "tithes" from different businesses, but that they didn't think much of it because it just seemed like another guild of thieves. Anyhow, the two red-robes staggered back, but got a good luck at the (rather attractive) elf and shared a knowing look with each other. Dagoliir apologized, tried to get a read on them, but they apologized themselves and headed away from the tavern.  I pointed out (showing signs of doom) that they had been coming in the door. Dagoliir asked if the look they exchanged was that of recognition, or what.  I explained it was more like two friends nodding at an opportunity, y'know?  (Unwelcome truth.)

Anyhow, there was no sign of Finnegan as they looked about in the streets.  Jack asked if there was any sign of his passing, or a chase.  Overturned carts, people looking indignant. We played off the halfling's small stature and I said nope, not a trace.  And used that as a transition back to Finnegan. 

Finnegan had lost any sign of Valleois after a few blocks chase, and found himself in an unfamiliar part of the city. He decided to head back toward the Two Coppers.  I dropped another opportunity on him, saying he overheard two men at a roast chestnut cart talking about the theft of a Bowl of Marduk, and good luck to the thief who stole it, he'd never unload it. A third man in the shadows boasted that his fence could move it, and first two men laughed at him and wandered off.  Finnegan approached the rat-faced man, asked him about the fence, and got the brush off.  So, Finnegan called after him, shouting about "thanks for the info on that Fence of Fences!"  I don't remember if I called for Parlay roll; I probably should have since he was manipulating him and did have leverage (people thinking this rat-faced guy had talked).  I think I just went with it, though, and had the guy say "not here, not now; meet me in the Square of the Bear in 15 minutes."  Finnegan headed back to the Two Coppers to get the others.

Meanwhile, I ask Jack and Dagoliir what they've been up to in the meantime.  They say they've been waiting in the street, drinks in hand, for Finnegan to come back.  I make up a custom move on the spot:

When you stand idly about in the bustling streets of Shadizar, roll +Wis. On a 10+, you catch the pickpocket in the act or see him coming. On a 7-9, they only got away with trifles: 1d4 rations, uses of adventuring gear, or coin. On a 6-, you'll miss whatever's gone.

In retrospect, the 7-9 result is pretty harsh, but the move led to some interesting stuff.

Dagoliir ended up short a couple uses of adventuring gear (not that it mattered in the long run) but Jack nailed it and (once again) snagged his pickpocket by the wrist.  The two of them briefly interrogated the boy, Aras (not that they ever asked his name). A well-done Parlay (10+) from Dagoliir gets Aras saying that, yeah, he knows who this Valleois guy is and thinks he's staying in the neighborhood, and yeah, he'd be willing to track him down and find him for some coin.  They tell him to come by the White Stag inn (where the PCs are staying) when he learns something. 

About that time, the pair find themselves surrounded by members of the Black Dogs thieves' guild (though "guild" is maybe too generous). I remember Dagoliir speaking frankly with them (looking for Valleois, has something of value), and I remember Charming and Open being triggered, but not what he asked. I know I misread the move and didn't ask a question back.  Anyhow, they ended up getting the Black Dogs leader, Maldiz, to back off of Jack and help them find Valleois, with the promise that they could keep anything on Valleois that they found except the artifact (Parley 7-9). Dagoliir had said something like "look, do you think a finely dressed fellow like me needs Valleois's pocket change?" So for the promise, Maldiz looked admiringly at Dagoliir's feet.  "Yeah, OK, but I want your boots."  None of us were sure if Dagoliir would take the offer, but he did (trading Maldiz for his stinky footware).  Maldiz strutted around proudly in his new finery, and laughs were had. Dagoliir's horrid new footware became a running joke for the rest of the night.

Until Finnegan showed up.  Some of these Black Dogs were the same ones he'd bested the night before.  There was some fun role-playing, but no moves triggered, and the Dogs slinked off to look for Valleois.

Finnegan filled Jack and Dagoliir in on the shady character who knew a "Fence of Fences," and that they needed to go see him.  Off they went.  The Square of the Bear turned out to be a perfect ambush point, and Jack was cautious. He went for a Discern Realities and got a 6, prompting Finnegan to try and aid him.  "How do you do that?" He said he was literally watching backward behind him, covering his back.  Sure enough, he sticks the aid roll with a 10+.  Jack (now at 7-9) asks "what is about to happen?"

Since Finnegan was aiding (by walking backwards behind Jack), I said that Finnegan spotted Raaq in a nook they had just past, watching them, and that he alerted Jack. Jack, though, put together that Raaq wasn't setting them up for an ambush now, he was getting a read on how competent and alert these guys were.

This didn't flow comfortably to me. The Aid roll probably should have come before the Discern roll. But even so, how do you aid someone as they keep their eyes peeled?  I think I handled it ok, but it felt funny, like a stretch.  Also, I didn't end up actually answering Jack's question. I guess I answered it (nothing was about to happen) but gave him more info than he'd asked about.  I'm not sure that's a problem, but it still felt awkward.

They then discussed things. Raaq assumed they had stuff they wanted fenced, or that they would shortly. When they said that no, they just wanted to talk to this fence (Oshur) about Valleois or the artifact he was peddling, Raaq said no way.  Dagoliir speaks frankly (Charming & Open) and asks what it would take for him to introduce them to Oshur the Fence. I answer that he'd need to be more afraid of you (the PCs) than he is of Oshur. Dagoliir's player than tells me I can  ask a question back (hadn't realized that about Charming & Open).  I should probably have asked "what do you desire most," but instead asked "what would it take for you to tell me what the artifact is that you're looking for."  Dagoliir's player said "just play us straight and tell us how to get to Oshur."  I didn't really have a chance to act on that, as Dagoliir then not-so-subtly threatened Raaq (having Finnegan show of his martial prowess, nailing another Aid roll). Dagoliir's Parlay hit 10+, so Raaq said that he'd arrange a meeting, but it would take time lest Oshur just turn them away out of hand (or kill them). 

That's when I showed my sign of doom: "We can't meet tomorrow night. New moon. So, two nights hence then?" They of course asked about the new moon, and got a brief gist: no one goes out, lights are covered, shutters are closed.  It's the Night God's night, and things are about in the darkness.  "Stay thee indoors."  So, yeah, they said they'd meet up with Raaq back at the Two Coppers two nights hence.

They headed back to the Two Coppers for the rest of the night. Arbella (the comely bar maid) continued flirting with our handsome Dagoliir, and Finnegan and Jack finally had that round of drinks with the gladiator (Taurus). They asked for more about the night of the new moon, and found that the red-robed cutlists of the Night God demanded "tithes" from business and the wealthy to keep them safe from the Eaters of Light that flew through town. And that every month, man or woman went missing. Everyone sort of just knew that the victim was taken to the open-faced minaret at the top of the Tower of the Night God, and given in sacrifice to the Night God itself.

So, yeah… the PCs planned on staying home that night.  Of course, Dagoliir took the bait and went home with Arbella while the other two went back to the White Stag (no messages yet). 



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Re: AP: In the Dark of the New Moon
« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2012, 11:25:45 PM »
The Next Day
Dagoliir wakes up in Arbella's bed, hearing sounds at the door to her rented room. (Everyone at the table assumed she was dead, or a traitor, but no… she was just asleep.)  Dagoliir tries to wake her, but she's still groggy (and he's still unarmed) when two red-robed cultists burst in with cudgel's held high.  They're both clearly heading for Dagoliir.  He grabs the sheet and throws it at them (Defy Danger with Int, for thinking quickly… my first instinct was Dex but I could easily see Int). Scores a 7-9, so I say the sheet stops one of them (can't see, flailing to get it off) but (worse outcome) the other one keeps coming. I don't remember if I just inflicted harm right there, or if there was a second Defy Danger with Dex to try and dodge. Regardless, Dagoliir takes a blow to the leg, and gets a miss on his next move. I go wit the cultist's move to "beat senseless over the head" and tell Dagoliir that everything goes dark.

After session, Dagoliir's player expressed some frustration about this scene, saying that he didn't see any way out of the situation and he would have felt better if I'd just had them creep in abduct him in the night. I found that odd, because I honestly didn't know what would happen.  In a stand-up fight, yeah, he was probably overmatched. But more importantly, I had plenty of things to do even if he didn't get nabbed.  What's interesting to me is that the player assumed it was poorly disguised railroad.

Meanwhile, Jack and Finnegan are up and getting nervous and Dagoliir's absence. They go to check things out, getting directions to Arbella's from the Two Coppers.  They go to her place, find her leaving and nursing a blow to the head. She tells them what happened--red robed cutlists barge in, beat them unconscious, and she wakes up with Dagoliir gone.  She pleads with them not to intervene, that Dagoliir is good as dead, but they're Big Fing Heroes and won't have any of that.

Dagoliir wakes up tied to an altar, open to the elements at the top of the Night God's tower. He's got a white robe on, a gag in his mouth, and none of his gear.  He looks about and sees an elaborate set of pipes and whistle s built into the wall.  Asks if he can make anything of them (Spout Lore 7-9), and I say he recalls folks mentioning not just "things" in the dark of the new moon but also far off, strange shrill whistling or squeaking noises. Could be coming from those pipes.

Bardic lore proved a bit of a letdown here.  He'd picked "Legends of Heroes Past," but couldn't find a way to make it relevant. I feel like the one specialty is too limiting.  Maybe if the bard got to pick an extra one every level? Or let the bard not pick at character creation and pick the first time it might be useful in game?

Dagoliir then hears footsteps coming up from below, and ends up chatting with the hot-but-crazy high priestess Hajii.  She soliloquies a bit, about the honor he has of being an offering to the Night God. Dagoliir's player then proceeds down a daring series of bluffs and lies, pointing to the fine lute they took from him as evidence that he is a skilled musician and fellow devotee of the Night God, and that the pipes above him are out of tune, if she'd just set him loose he'd show her.  It was a series of 7-9 results on Defy Danger with +Cha, each one adding a twist.  Her skepticism cracked a little, and she called up another cultist.  That cultist didn't buy any of it, but Hajii had the cultist untie one of Dagoliir's hands and give over a small bronze whistle. A 7-9 Spout Lore revealed that it wasn't so much a musical instrument as an animal call, maybe bats.  He then Defy Dangered (+Cha) to play a bat-like trill.  His 7-9 result got them convinced that, yes, he knew what he was talking about. Hajii released him, but said "You will remain here and attend to the pipes.  And it is you who will play the summons tonight.  Tell Naram Seen that we have need of another sacrifice."

There were, I think, three or four 7-9 Defy Danger rolls during all of this bluffing and shenanigans. While the *spirit* of the Defy Danger results (success but with complications or consequences) made for interesting play, the *letter* of the move didn't help very much. When Dagoliir was trying to convince folks that their pipes were out of tune and that only he could fix them, the "worse outcome, hard bargain, or ugly choice" wording wasn't helpful AT ALL.  I think these results could be more effectively and evocatively worded.

Meanwhile, Finnegan and Jack and trying to figure out how to get into the Tower of the Night God and save their friend. Folks they talk to are tight-lipped, as everyone's scared of the cult. It's not clear how many cultists there are (they all wear veils). So, the two opt for a direct approach: they follow a couple of them on their "tithe" rounds, and waylay them in the broad daylight in the middle of the city.  I considered having folks intervene, but we'd already established that the city watch was corrupt and that these guys were shaking down everyone in town.  So, yeah, they went unmolested.

Finnegan hustled to get in front of them in the market, and approached them directly and openly.  While they were distracted, Jack came up and coldcocked one of them with the basket of his rapier. Finn rolled to Aid, getting a 7-9 (exposed to danger). That gave Jack a 7-9 on backstab, and he choose to give Finnegan +1 forward. So as Finn distracts them, Jack strikes. The other one realizes it's a trap and lunges at Finn, trying to grab him. Jack's takes about half of his cultist's HP, but sends him stumbling into Finn's attacker.  Meanwhile, Finn responds to the lunging grab with a vicious head butt (hack and slash 7-9), knocking his cultist out but ending up pinned under the limp, red-robed form.  The other cultist recovers, grabs his cudgel, and swings at Jack. Jack ducked (Defy Danger 10+) then once again basket-punched the guy in the temple (H&S 10+, doing enough damage to drop him).

I felt totally fine letting Finn roll Hack & Slash when he head butted an equally unarmed attacker. We talked about the rules, and how by default you do 1 damage unarmed.  Since they were trying to subdue rather than kill, and since both Finn and the cultist were unarmed, it seemed fine to let him do full damage (though without his signature weapon bonuses).

Related: the rules on monsters are that when the drop to 0 HP they're dead. We used the 4e rule that you can choose to knock them out instead. We didn't explicitly *say* so, but we all just sort of assumed that. We did make sure the attacks were fictionally described as non-lethal.  Anyhow, many there's a place for knocking out foes in the actual rules?

Final observation here: Jack attempted to duck his attacker's blow, triggering a Defy Danger (+Dex). He got a 10+, and then described attacking him. Whereas Finnegan just described a vicious counter-attack and got Hack & Slash. Mechanically, responding to an incoming attack with Hack & Slash is always better than Defying Danger. Now, you won't always be fictionally positioned to Hack & Slash, but in retrospect I feel a little bad for Jack's player. If he'd narrated his action as "I duck under the cudgel and come up with a backhanded bell-punch like so" then he'd probably have gotten to H&S instead of Defy Danger and *then* H&S.  Maybe that's the DW equivalent of 4e-style "rules mastery;" if you can quickly spin the fiction to trigger the move you want, you're mechanically better off than someone who's more reactive.

So Jack and Finnegan knock out two red-robed cultists in the main bazaar.  Finnegan heaves up, lifting his cultist over him, and stares about defiantly.  Folks have noticed, sure, but no one's making eye contact.  Except for a portly, middle-aged, balding merchant who makes eye-contact, smiles.  I've got an idea who this guy is, but right now it's not important.

They drag the two unconscious cultists into a nearby tent  of a fabric merchant, who scuttles out under the side flap of the tent. They tie one of them up (the one with a broken nose) and shove him out of sight. Jack uncorks his Goldenroot, mixes it with some water, and hides. Finnegan feeds the water to the other cultist, who's unbound and leaning against the centerpost. Some rather brilliant role-playing follows, with the cultist treating Finnegan as "a trusted ally, until proven otherwise."  The cultist is confused by Finnegan's questions about the Cult of the Night God, but Finnegan never does anything even really shady… he's just friendly and asks a lot of questions. 

Anyhow, they get the intel bomb they needed: all about the monthly sacrifice at the top of the tower, that the bronze whistles summon or repel the Eaters of Light, that all the cultists (about two dozen of them) gather in the dark of the new moon, that they douse the braziers and play the big pipes to summon the Night God to take its offering, that the Night God hates and shuns the light but that his children devour it.  They learn the name of the cult leader, Hajii, and her right hand, the scary Naram Seen.  Finnegan gets the cultist to show him how to play the trills on the whistle.  He also learns about the mad beggars, who they've seen about town but who are allowed to congregate in the open, ground-level foyer of the Night God's Tower when darkness falls.

I don't remember when exactly, but at some point the guy was running dry or getting suspicious and Finn motioned for Jack to club him.  Bam, out.  So they dress up like beggars, stash their armor, roll their weapons up in prayer mats, and head off for the Tower of the Night God.  (In retrospect, I don' t know that I ever asked what they did with the two unconscious cultists. I don't think they would have killed them, but… yeah.)  On, and they nabbed 100 coin from the two guys.

As they approach the tower, they see a grim, determined-looking cultist exit. He's veiled like the others, but this is the first one they've seen solo. Anyhow, off he goes (Naram Seen), in search of a new victim.  Whatever, Jack and Finn enter the foyer and mill about with a bunch of mad, hookah-smoking beggars.

The beggars were a detail I cribbed straight from the old Conan comics that inspired much of this scenario.  I hadn't included them in my write-up, but I wish I had. Some sort of custom move for hanging out with crazy, intoxicated beggars would be awesome.

Meanwhile, at the top of the tower, Dagoliir (still being watched by a couple cultists) has been futzing about with the pipes, pretending to tune them while in reality jerry rigging them to come crashing down with a tug (Defy Danger +Int, 7-9).  I tell him that the best he can do is get them loose, that it'll still take a solid tug to bring them down.  Meanwhile, he's distracted by more footsteps coming up the stairs.  Sure enough, Arbella (the pretty barmaid from the Two Coppers) is being hauled up and strapped to the altar.  She's gagged (thankfully for Dagoliir) but shooting daggers with her eyes.  Meanwhile, Naram Seen (who I've now made out to be a scary sumnabitch in the previous scene) gets all menacing and "I've got my eye on you" with Dagoliir.

More time passes.  The sun sets, the sky grows dark.  The bazaar and the streets grow swiftly and eerily quiet.  Pairs of cultists are seen returning to the Tower, their money-purses bulging.  As the last light fades from the sky, and a final pair of cultists enters the foyer and ascends the 7-8 stories of circular stairs.  Jack and Finnegan make way to follow.  It's almost pitch black, but for some flickering firelight at the very top of the staircase. The find some unlit candles about, and have them at the ready.  Sneaky sneaky up the stairs.

At the top of the stairs, the cult has assembled. Four braziers (like floor lamps) are lit and placed around the altar.  Hajii intones the sacred rights, extolling the might of the almighty Night God and offering their sacrifice to it.  There's chanting galore, but as the final light dies in the sky, she turns to Dagoliir and motions for him to play on the great pipes.

So, Dagoliir gives it a shot. And after a string of 7-9s all night, he wiffs it!  He plays a strange trill on the things, and looks up to find all of the cultists staring at him, glaring, tense.  "GET HIM!" howls Hajii and chaos erupts.



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Re: AP: In the Dark of the New Moon
« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2012, 11:26:46 PM »
At this point, I draw out a quick map of the tower: an altar on a dias at the center, with four braziers burning around it. A wide circular platform around the altar, where most of the cutlists stand. Another, narrow level beyond that, completely open on two sides to an 8-story fall.  Stairs coming up near one of the walls, the pipes affixed to the others.  Because there's so much going on, we grab some minis (I've got tons) and go. 

Finnegan rushes up the stairs to see a horde of cultists rushing Dagoliir.  Dagoliir yanks on the pipes, trying to bring them down on the onrushing crowd (Defy Danger, +Str I think, 7-9). I tell him he can do it, but it'll mean throwing himself to the ground perilously close to the platform's edge.  He goes for it.  About a half-dozen cultists are scattered by the by falling pipes, and the others lose their momentum and stagger back. 

Finn takes advantage of the chaos to bolt out of the stairwell and head for the altar, knocking over one of the braziers into the backs of some of the cultists.  It felt like a move was called for, but looking at the description none of them really fit.  Defy danger was the closest, but based on the layout on the map he really wasn't in any immediate danger as he did this.  So I just went with it and said that the group of four cultists were now in ever more disarray, a couple of them on fire and the others trying to help them put it out. 

Naram Seen, off course, had been holding back near the wall and remaining calm.  He saw Finnegan at the altar and strode toward him. But Jack had crept up the stairs and flung a throwing dagger at Naram (Volley 10+). The damage roll was crap, though, and Naram jerked back and took just 1 damage.  Well enough, though.  He turned his attention toward and Jack.

Dagoliir grabbed a fallen pipe, then tried to get to his feet and rush through the disarrayed cultists to get to Arbella, but missed his Defy Danger roll. So another cultist came out of nowhere and tackled him, pinning him half over the ledge of the tower.  That was when he heard the rushing sound, like hundreds of wings moving in the darkness.

Finnegan sliced through Arbella's ropes and told to run for the stairs, just as a couple of the cultists took notice of him and attacked.  Finnegan attacked back (H&S 7-9+), decapitating one and pushing the other back but after taking a little damage (the roll Xd best is a great way of handling multiple attackers).  Arbella started freeing herself from the rest of her bindings just as Hajii threw herself over it at Finnegan.  Finn met her attack sword-point first (H&S 7-9), running her through but taking a blow and getting pinned (again) under her lifeless, bleeding form. 

Naram Seen dove (literally) at Jack as he tried to roll out of the stairwell (Defy Danger 7-9). I gave Jack the choice: take a hit from him and get out onto the platform, or duck back down the stairs and avoid the blow. He chose to take the hit, but was a little said when I described the burning wound and the weakness spreading out from it.  Poison!

I remember feeling a little weird about both inflicting damage and using the assassin's "poison someone" move. No one seemed to blink an eye at it, especially since this guy had been built up in advance. But it felt weird to have a 7-9 result in both full damage and a monster move with an additional effect. The rules seem to back me up on this, and I *did* give Jack's player the choice, but it still felt odd.

Back to Dagoliir, pinned under a cultist and half-off the ledge, with bat-things rushing to meet them. He swings the pipe he was holding in his hand (H&S 10+) and sends the cultist reeling (though not quite off the ledge). He then gets up and yells "EVERYONE GET YOUR WHISTLES OUT!"  Another cultist comes rushing him. He ducks under it (Defy Danger 10+) and the cultist goes flying off the ledge--only to be devoured by Eaters of Light. 

They're everywhere! The cultists stop fighting, fending the fiends off. Two of the remaining braziers go out as the Eaters start chomping away at the coals, devouring them. 

Finn shoves Hajii's body off him, yanks Arbella off the altar and tells her and Dagoliir (now at the altar as well) to head for the stairs.  He then puts himself between them to fend off any attackers.  (Defend 7-9, holds 1.)

Jack, meanwhile, is weak from the poison.  Naram Seen scrambles to his feet and lunges at him again, and Jack twists and kicks, trying to knock Naram Seen's legs out and send him tumbling down the stairs.  There's some discussion whether this is H&S or Defy Danger, and if Defy Danger whether it's +Str or +Dex.  We rule out H&S since damage isn't the desired outcome and that's all the move really allows for as written. But go with +Dex Defy Danger (7-9), and once again I give Jack the choice: take the hit and do it (knock him down the stairs) or just get out of the way.  He takes the hit (more poison!) and Naram Seen goes a-tumbling.  Jack then tries to stand and see down the stair, but the poison makes that a Defy Danger +Con (7-9), and he elects to stand but not get too close the stairs lest he fall in.

Dagoliir has now pulled out the bronze whistle he got earlier and plays the trill he figured out earlier. The custom move was written with just a roll, +nothing, but since he'd had a chance to fiddle with these things all day I let him roll +Cha.  A hit!  I told him his options: the Eaters flee, you summon Eaters, you send Eaters into a frenzy. No surprise, he had them flee.  The rooftop got a moment's respite.

Many of the cultists were dead or wounded past fighting (from the fire, the falling pipes, or the bat-things chewing on them), but a handful remained and boy were they pissed.  Two of them screamed and charged, one each at Arbella and Dagoliir. Finn spends his hold to intercept the attacker on Arbella, stepping between them and meeting the onrushing cultist with a sword-swing (H&S 10+).  Dead cultist.  I believe  Dagoliier also swung at his attacker with his pipe, but got a miss and took a clubbing to the head.  No matter, as Finn easily killed the cultist on Dagoliir. 

In retrospect, Finn's use of Defend + Hack & Slash was pretty damn powerful.  It seems very fitting to me, but is that the intention of Defend? That he can intercept the attack and use his own move--Hack & Slash--on thing that's attacking?

The remaining cultists (only two or three of them), realizing they were outmatched, pulled out their whistles and once again summoned the Eaters of Light!  "Everyone down the stairs!" yelled Dagoliir (or Finn?).  Jack went down first, Defying Danger to keep his feat through the poison (10+) and found himself face-to-face with the shadowy form of Naram-Seen.  Naram came after him with that poisoned blade. Jack wanted to counterattack, but we both agreed the quarters were too tight for him to get his rapier out in time. But he did have a number of daggers; so I said he could draw one of those and attack with it.  Sure enough, he gets a 10+ on his H&S, rolls high on damage and slices open Naram-Seen's throat.

We then had some head-scratching over the fact that a rapier had the precise tag but that a dagger did not. Which meant that if he wanted to attack with his dagger, he'd be rolling H&S with +Str. I considered house-ruling that daggers were precise, because *c'mon,* but it seemed like such an intentional design decision that we played it RAW. Jack's player got really lucky, as his +Str was -1.

Dagoliir got a 10+ to get to the stairs with Arbella, but Finn missed his roll and was set upon by Eaters of Light (roll 4 damage, take best!). The last brazier went dark as Finn tried to hack his way clear. I told Finn's player we'd use "cleave" rules and that extra damage would spill over to other foes, and that each had only 3 HP, which made happy--but then he missed the roll.  So he takes another round of damage from scratching and biting.  (The cultists who summoned these things back?  They're dead dead dead.)

Dagoliir sees that Finn is stuck, so he tries the pipes again.  This time he gets a 7-9, so we both choose something.  He chooses to send the Eaters packing (of course). I choose to summon more!  But instead of more eaters, I note that the braziers are all out. And I tell Finnegan that the as the bat-things disperse he seems some large shape blot out the stars!

Finn runs for the stairs (Defy Danger +Dex, with halfling bonus, still gets a 7-9). The wording of Defy Danger's 7-9 outcomes once again leaves me flumoxed, when there's an obvious complication that Finn's player points out: he's running headlong towards a stairway, in the dark, to avoid an attack.  So yeah, he comes tumbling down, taking a d4 damage and knocking the others around.  The Night God is then hovering just outside the stairs, screeching painfully at them and snapping with its grotesque claws. 

Finn had to back away from it, Defying Danger to get safely down the stairway. Dagoliir tried to Aid him and rolled a miss, so the thing Night God grabbed Dagoliir in its claw instead and threatened to fly off with him.  Finnegan would have none of that and slashed at the claw, trying cut his friend free.  We played it as H&S, but with only 1/2 damage along with the effect of freeing Dagoliir.

I'm really not sure what move was right for this. I know Defy Danger is the catch-all, but I really think there's a place for moves representing using force to get what you want.  Or just more fiction-based results of a H&S hit. I've posted on that before, but this makes me feel more strongly about it.   http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?topic=2731.0

At this point, everyone was reasonably safe from immediate harm and things were very, very late in realtime.  We wrapped up with them retreating to one of the shuttered (but doorless) rooms below to tend to wounds and whatnot.



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Re: AP: In the Dark of the New Moon
« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2012, 11:27:50 PM »
After Action Report
I had a blast.  There were definitely some rough spots (mostly with 7-9 results on Defy Danger), but everyone reported enjoying themselves.  Multiple folks commented on how much it felt like gaming back in high school or college, where we'd do a lot exploration or interaction and then bust out a hastily-scrawled map for the fights.  For me, that was the huge difference between this and 4e D&D.  In 4e, even if your players don't all admit it, you're there for the set-piece fights.  The exploration and interaction feel like filler or a distraction.  Here, the big fight scene felt like a distraction.

There was some concern about just how long the big rooftop fight took in realtime, and the fact that we naturally sort of fell into "turns" like we would in a more traditional game.  That might very well be bad habits carried over from 4e, but I think part of it was just the nature of the fight. There was a mess of cultists (4-5 distinct "sub groups" of them), their leader, and assassin, and swarms of bat-things!  I think the fight took us about 90-100 minutes of real time play, which seems like a lot. But it was pretty epic. 

The other comment (not even sure it was a concern, really) was the "switch" between the world-building and exploration and interaction that we did together at the beginning and the "RPG Fight!" that we had at the end. The players all said (in different ways) that at the beginning it felt like we were making up a story together, and at the end it felt like an RPG.  I don't know if that's an entirely accurate statement, but it was the feeling they all shared.  Quite a bit of that is probably my doing, too.  Once we got to the fight, I had a pretty clear sense in my head of what things looked like and how things were happening. I probably imposed that vision more than I did when we were just exploring the city and the NPCs.

Anyhow, as much as I might nitpick, I really enjoyed this game.  I felt empowered to do things that I haven't felt comfortable doing in pretty much my entire 4e career: splitting the party, attacking a PC in his skivvies, taking a PC prisoner, scene cutting for dramatic effect, relying on dramatic irony to communicate stuff to the players. 

If it were my game to design, I'd play with the Basic Moves quite a bit, specifically the Defy Danger 7-9 wording and the possible fictional triggers and outcomes of Hack & Slash.  But it's a winning combo, and I'm glad we got to play it.  I hope we get to play again.  (Thinking about going back to my regular 4e game is a bit draining.)

If we do play again, I've got plenty of material to work with and plenty of stakes questions to resolve. What happens now that the Night God's cult isn't making sacrifices to it anymore?  What happened to Valleois during the night of the new moon?  Who was the portly gent who smiled at Finnegan as he hoisted a crumpled cultist?  Where is the Decanter of Endless Water?  Will Arbella forgive Dagoliir for getting her involved in this?  What secrets and loot with the party find in the Tower of the Night God?

Re: AP: In the Dark of the New Moon
« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2012, 06:33:36 AM »
Nice write up!

We had a problem getting used to the fictional based order of action compared to the initiative turns we were used to. Got over it over time. And I wouldn't go back.



  • 130
Re: AP: In the Dark of the New Moon
« Reply #8 on: June 11, 2012, 10:40:38 AM »
Yikes long writeup.  Excellent though.

In particular I like your custom moves.  The chase one is in particular very good.  I might have to yoink that >_>

As for grabbing/breaking grabs I use DD+Str.  Seems to work great.  Basically if there's no actual Danger of anything I usually just let the PC's succeed, but if there is a physical overpowerment I go with a Str roll.

There was a post here (i have to dig it up) that broke down the defy danger 7-9 set I really liked.  I don't know if I'd rewrite it (although for first time games it'd be nice for a clarification) so much as I keep that onhand to sort of clarify and keep me on point.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2012, 11:06:41 AM by stras »

Re: AP: In the Dark of the New Moon
« Reply #9 on: June 11, 2012, 06:21:59 PM »
As he started to rise, Finnegan put a firm grip on the gladiator's shoulder and said "I'm sure it was just an accident. Let me buy you two more to make up for it."

Sounds like Parley to me. Leverage: Two beers and implied violence.



  • 130
Re: AP: In the Dark of the New Moon
« Reply #10 on: June 11, 2012, 07:42:22 PM »
Aha! Found it:

For what it's worth, this is the general go-to list I use for Defy Danger weak hits:

Worse Outcome: You're out of the danger, but now in a new one.
Hard Bargain: You're out of the danger, but it costs you something, right now.
Ugly Choice: You're out of the danger, but now you have to make a choice with no particularly good options.

The key thing is that they do what they set out to do, but... Also, I've noticed that if the danger itself is not well defined and the fiction going on at the moment not detailed and engaging, weak hit results on DD will be harder to arrive at. In pinch like this, I'll turn it back on the players. Someone will have a good idea if I don't.

I enjoyed this breakdown, gives me a good structure to keep an eye out for and a way to think about it.  Sometimes I just go with the in-book phrasing, but this is a good starter meaning for my brain to chew on.

Re: AP: In the Dark of the New Moon
« Reply #11 on: June 11, 2012, 08:40:09 PM »
I loved your Under the Dark of the New Moon adventure starter and this AP is equally excellent. I particularly liked all the details about decision points and dicing rolling; they gave me a good sense of how you were running the game, a valuable gift when I've never played in someone else's DW game.

When Dagoliir was trying to convince folks that their pipes were out of tune and that only he could fix them, the "worse outcome, hard bargain, or ugly choice" wording wasn't helpful AT ALL.  I think these results could be more effectively and evocatively worded.
Again, you could have used Parley here, even if the leverage is false (whistles out-of-tune and only Finn can fix 'em.) Indeed, the angle you ended up taking was basically the Parley 7-9 anyway: the cultists making Finn show them he could play the whistle sounds just like asking for concrete assurance of Finn's promise, right now!

Re: AP: In the Dark of the New Moon
« Reply #12 on: August 01, 2012, 11:07:37 AM »
The beggars were a detail I cribbed straight from the old Conan comics that inspired much of this scenario.  I hadn't included them in my write-up, but I wish I had. Some sort of custom move for hanging out with crazy, intoxicated beggars would be awesome.

A modified (or not) Carouse roll? Pick out of Useful Info On The Cult, A Secret Way In, Not Stoned Out Of Your Gourd, etc.