Thursday, 18 August 2011

The Dangerous Path

Last week, while I was still busy finishing off a few more miniatures (pictures to follow), I was approached by my girlfriend who suggested we could have a game on the board (!). Like a famous rapper once said, these opportunities only come once in a lifetime (hopefully not), so I decided to take it without even hesitating.

I quickly prepared a wilderness game on the board, spreading woods, lichens, fences and markers and quickly thought of which type of game to play. Since the rules for Forge Quest are still far from being finished (although Tim has been very helpful in providing me with ideas, especially from his Necropolis game), I thought of making this game simple by using the basic structure of the Fighting Fantasy books that I love so much ever since I was a kid.

Before getting into the rules, I gave a number of characters for my girlfriend to choose from and she decided to play with a female ranger, who she named Emi. To make things more interesting - and since she likes dogs so much - I lined her up with a canine companion, called Ludo.

As far as the stats were concerned, we went for the Fighting Fantasy points system: skill, stamina and luck. She was entitled to have two actions per round and I scattered several scenic pieces on the board to be used as markers, so every time her character would get near one of those, she would have to roll a D20 and check on the Encounters Table which creature she would have to face. Sometimes she would stumble upon an enemy, others a potential ally and so on. We agreed that if it was a neutral character, she would have to test her luck to reach a result (e.g. encountering a wizard, sorcerer, warrior, etc.). In the case of encountering an ally, she had the option to take the ally with her (up to 4 allies in the course of a game).

After agreeing on the generic rules, I came up with the scenario:
The rangers of Naull Falla, the southern watchtower needed some extra reinforcements after their lost battle against the Orcs (I also need to make a report for this epic game too...) so they asked for the experienced and highly skilled Emi to step forwards and help them in fighting the menacing orcs. So, after a week crossing the vast forest of Wildeor Moore, Emi and her loyal companion, Ludo, reached the borders of the woods with the watchtower almost in sight. The last time she had met someone on her journey, they told her to watch out for the forest dwellers, as these creatures are extremely territorial and can sense the presence of intruders for miles.

Game report
The first character Emi met was Yhedra, the witch and her dog Boner (a bit rude, I know...). A luck roll ended well, as Yhedra proved to be a potential ally. Although Emi didn't take the witch on her journey, she got a very useful advice from the old woman: whatever you do, do not enter the abandoned house in the woods... Emi thanked her for the warning and moved on.

By then, three forest dwellers had started tracking down Emi and Ludo. Aware of this, the ranger made sure she would not waste time before reaching the watchtower.

On her way, she approached an abandoned mine, possibly belonging to some dwarf miners. After a few moments though, Emi felt the floor moving without apparent reason and all of sudden she saw a huge creature rising from the ground: a mudman! Her first combat was going to be a tough one, not only because of the formidable mudman's strength but also because it is quite an epic task to actually being able to strike it! Using all her forces and her invaluable help from Ludo the dog, Emi fought the mudman relentlessly until the monster disappeared for good.

Still regaining forces from the strenuous fight with the mudman, Emi and Ludo sensed something foul in the air. And soon they saw what it was: two goblins who were lurking behind a fence near the abandoned house prepared to attack the fearless ranger and her dog. One of the goblins in particular was extremely dangerous, wielding his giant mushroom and releasing poisonous gases from its pores. Emi was taking huge risks here, as she knows how fast goblins attack and how there is always the chance of more goblins joining the party! Arrows flew and then close combat was inevitable. Emi prevailed again, but her stamina had been severely affected.

Some hours later, still on her way to the watchtower, she found a fountain in a little meadow. Intrigued, Emi approached it not knowing that someone was watching. Luckily, the person in question was Benvon, the old wizard from the South.

He too had been travelling in the woods for a few days and was quite happy to see someone. Emi saw this as a great opportunity to make an strong ally, so she asked Benvon to join her and Ludo in their quest towards the watchtower.
And so they walked together, occasionally asking themselves who they would find in the bastion.
Before that, though, they saw the abandoned house Yhedra had warned against, so Emi said to Benvon to not enter it and instead go round the building. Little did they know that behind one of the walls was a hideous river troll awaiting for its next meal. This time Emi made the most of her new ally as they both fought together, eventually overcoming the giant beast. "River trolls in these parts? Very strange...", said Benvon as he cleaned his pipe.
A few meters away, there was yet another encounter for our adventurers, as they stumbled upon a faun. A luck roll was also successful, which meant the faun wouldn't harm Emi and her partners. And how can a faun harm someone you may ask? Well, if there is an unsuccessful luck roll when facing a faun, he will play a hypnotic tune with his magic flute and send the affected characters to the starting point of the game!

Saying goodbye to the faun, Emi, Benvon and Ludo rushed towards their final destination, especially after Ludo had sensed that the forest dwellers were getting closer.
Fortunately, the watchtower was only a few meters away. They passed the main gate and were surprised that the tower looked abandoned. "Something is terribly wrong", said Emi. And she was right.

Jumping from behind the walls, four orcs waved their massive weapons and savagely attacked the ranger and the wizard. Even though the orcs' weapons looked a bit primitive, they were nonetheless lethal enough for the mightiest of warriors. Attack after attack, Emi and Benvon fought their toughest opponents with all their strength until only one orc was left. Mighty magic from the wizard and a supreme dexterity from Emi finished off the last monster.

"We do a good team, don't we?", smiled Benvon, as he picked up the broken pieces of what was left of his pipe. "That's alright; I got that pipe as a cheap deal in a dwarf's shop, near Medgrim." the wizard joked.
But all of a sudden, they heard a cracking noise behind the bushes and immediately thought it was the forest dwellers. "Here we go again", murmured Emi. But then Ludo started wagging his tail and approached the bushes: the rangers were here! Emi and Benvon sighed with relief and put down their weapons as they greeted their allies. Apparently, the rangers had been tracking down those orcs since they saw them escaping the bogs, months ago. Now, thanks to Emi and her companions, the watchtower was a safe place again.
But for how long?...

Quick review:
Well, the game went on for a good one hour and a half and there was never a dull moment in it. My girlfriend played with the main character and her allies and I played with the forest dwellers, tracking her down during the game and any enemy that she confronted in her adventure.
For a fast-paced game, the simple rules from Fighting Fantasy were the best option. It also helped the fact that this was a quest game with just one, two characters as opposed to a skirmish game involving five or six different characters.
As for the random encounters, we had quite a lot of fun. I had written down a list of twenty possible encounters but they were only decided by a die roll, which meant that the result was always a surprise for both of us. Among other things, we decided that Emi could be used in the following game with the wizard as her ally, which adds more to the overall narrative.
The other interesting thing was the fact that we came up with a lot of rules while playing the game. Just comes to show that the best way to brush up the rules and stats is to actually play the game instead of sitting down and thinking things through without the empirical knowledge of gaming and seeing how things actually happen.
This game, simple as it was, brought me very good memories from those days I would play Legend of Zelda for hours, living those endless quests of the main character, through woods, towns and temples meeting all kinds of creatures, monsters and allies. I know a tabletop game is very different from a video game, but somehow this experience felt very much like the thrills I got from my favourite video game ever.
To be continued...

Note: the miniatures and terrain used here are from GW, Alkemy, Freebooter, Thomarillion, Mirliton, Sphere Wars, Enigma and Warlord Games.

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