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Hack For More

WEEK 3: 03/04/04

by Edward McEneely
Mar 23,2004


Hack For More

WEEK 3: 03/04/04

Once again, poor preparation teaches me a harsh lesson.

Part of the problem, I think, is that I grew up on other, less-structured games. I didn't really start playing until the mid-nineties, and by then it was the fashion for RPGs to be more freeform. Or something. Whatever the underlying causes might be, the fact is that I've always run games using systems where I could just have the ghost of a plot, a decent understanding of the system, and go from there. That doesn't really seem to work for me in HackMaster, (at least so far; maybe other GMs know of a way?) and I can't just throw random encounters at the party yet (I lack the hacklopedias, although I suppose if I were REALLY on the ball, I'd just convert AD&D monsters over), so I kind of blunder along.

Three players is really the minimum required for the sort of three-sheets-to-the-wind, laissez-faire campaign that I'm nominally running, since three players have an exponentially greater range of interaction within the party. With two players, you really need an exceptionally active and intelligent GM (I like to think I'm pretty smart, but nobody can deny that for all intents and purposes I've phoned-in the past few years of my life) to keep the ball rolling and everyone interested. With groups of three to five players, in my experience, the GM actually has less work to do than he might while running a game for only two PCs.

But I digress. We assembled for gaming late, first delayed by the atrocious Chicago weather in which everyone forgets how to drive and then by the forlorn hope that another gamer we knew might be coming to game with us. As a result, we sat staring glumly at each other and making aimless small talk before finally getting ready to begin.

Erich had decided that he wanted to play a new character (he'd spent hours rolling up a Knight Errant over the weekend), and so his old PC and poor Pete the Torchbearer were atomized in a freak explosion. (Fangaerie, to paraphrase Sealab 2021, is dangerously prone to explosions.) The excess baggage handily disposed of, the new PC was introduced to Laura's character, and with a bit of hand-waving, the two of them set off in search of the Fangaerian-Orcish peace talks, because they positively reeked of MacGuffinism.

Along the way, an injured Orc messenger threw a spear into Erich's horse, and Erich quickly beheaded him and found that the hapless beastie had carried a scroll, written in Orcish. Of course, neither PC could read or write Orcish, so they couldn't determine if it was of any significance, or if I was just sticking it in there to mess with them. Honestly, I'm not sure myself.

Erich got bored and had his character attack Laura, who decided not to retaliate. At about this point, Laura began to use the instant messenger on her phone to talk to some other people not present, and she became incommunicado for a bit. Erich decided not to press the attack, which was a good thing, because by now I could feel a distant pounding in the back of my skull, and a fierce desire to try a GURPS Wild West one-shot began to coalesce within me. Ah, GURPS! All is forgiven!

A party of Orcs soon showed up, and Erich---blinded by the incredible power of his brand-new character---immediately killed one, shortly thereafter becoming the first victim of my "dHandful" of damage. He survived, sans about twenty hitpoints (with only two PCs, killing one really slows the night down), and Laura entered into negotiations with her near-relatives. The scroll was handed over without a fight, although Erich did scuffle with the Orcs (killing another) over his crossbow, which one of them had both mistaken for a banjo and taken a fancy to. (The banjo has always seemed to be a particularly Orcish instrument to me.) The Orcs withdrew, dragging the corpse of Erich's steed with them, and that pretty much wrapped up the session, although I did spend a good ten minutes apologizing to the players and promising to have an actual dungeon for them next week.

I leave you with a few of our more memorable lines from the session:

Laura (experiencing an economic downturn): I'm saving for a crossbow; do you have a layaway plan?

Ed (Rationalizing seagulls in a landlocked city): Unfortunately, there's a bard in town, and birds suddenly appear every time he's near.

Erich (on the bard problem): And the song doesn't specify what type of bird...we've had a lot of problems with Rocs.

Ed (Defending his description of a spear's flight, and its eventual target): Maybe it's one of them trapezoidal horses.

Laura (watching Erich play the world's smallest ocarina): It's like you're doing intense things to your very tiny turtle.

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What do you think?

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