Friday, April 17, 2015

Abusing D&D 5th edition

There was a bit of debate about what to play after my gaming group finished The Lost Mines of Fandelver (or whatever it's called) a couple of weeks ago. One guy wanted to play Burning Wheel, but refused to play GURPS. I would have preferred to continue the Rise and Fall of Hydra or start some GURPS game, but I wasn't prepared for the first and there was too much resistance for the second. More or less by default, we ended up playing D&D 5e with the "Princes of the Apocalypse" adventure and new characters.

Lucky Rolls and What To Do

Our GM, +Will Scott, said we could roll for attributes, and I got unreasonably lucky: 17, 17, 16, 16, 14, and 14 (+Theodore Briggs can bear witness). We were already going for a party that could see in the dark, so ended up as a half-elf cleric with STR, WIS, and CHA of 18, CON of 16, and DEX and INT of 14 (my poor dump stats!).

In dividing the party rolls, my cleric ended up being the tank, the healbot, and the perception guy. Half-elves with WIS 18 can start with proficiency in Perception, so I have a +6 Perception and feel reasonably good about my chances of noticing stuff. Clerics are healbots, especially if they take the Life domain, but I had just finished playing the example dwarven Life cleric and wasn't really impressed with the domain and didn't feel I needed the extra juice, especially with a bard already in the party for backup healing (and potentially a druid coming from our 5th player).

The three domains that provide a cleric with heavy armor proficiency are Life, Tempest, and War. Between War and Tempest, the trade-off is a retributive attack versus a bonus action attack and slightly different domain spells. I went with Tempest for the retribution attack and the ability to cast Thunderwave, expecting that would synergize well with the wizard's Thunderwave and the bard's Thunderwave.

The Limitations of Tankiness

With Chain Mail armor and a Shield, my character is starting with a respectable AC 18 that will only go up as I improve to Splint and Plate armor and get magical enhancements. With a good AC, decent HPs, the retributive thunder strike, and Thunderwave, I feel pretty positive about my ability to wander into a mob of foes and come out on top. What I don't feel as good about is my ability to hold a mob's attention.

The problem is that my defenses are too good: monster attacks are less likely to hit me, and any monster that successfully hits me takes 4-9 points of damage. The rest of the party has AC 14 or so, less HP, and no retributive strikes, so it makes sense for monsters to attack everyone else instead. I only get 1 opportunity attack each turn, so I don't think I'm going to be very sticky. Since a large part of the tank role is to encourage monsters to attack me (since I can take their hits) instead of the squishy wizard (who can't), the lack of stickiness is a problem.

The Sentinel feat looks like the perfect solution to the problem, but I wouldn't get it until 4th level at the earliest. Based on my experience with Lost Mines, that means I'd have it for 1-2 play sessions before the end of the game. That's really unsatisfying.

I think I'm going to ask Will if I can sell of the half-elf +2 bonus to Charisma for a feat. In theory, this should be a fair swap, and it's not like my character is going to feel inadequately social with only CHA 16. If I can't do that, I'll have to try some clever positioning, I guess.

Does anyone else have good suggestions for how to turn a half-elf cleric into a good defensive tank?

You can read about the adventures of this character, Caius Flavius, and his elven compatriots under the Princes of the Apocalypse tag. Will let me swap +2 to Charisma for the Sentinel feat, and Caius has proved to be admirably sticky and good at damaging foes who are foolish enough to not attack him, or to attack him, as they chose.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Mecha Against the Giants Session 9

I originally proposed Mecha Against the Giants to my group because I wanted to play a tactical mecha game. One of the side benefits of the campaign was the possibility of having high tech heroes do a dungeon crawl. We started that dungeon crawl last session, and continued it this session, but with many more troglodytes.

Enter the Hordes

The pilots had entered the mine, shot up a couple of disorganized troglodytes, and fought their way past a couple of trolls. Now all they had to do was deal with any other troglodytes, find the metal stash, and deal with its defenders.

They moved cautiously through the tunnels, and encountered a small group of troglodytes: about a half dozen or so. Violence quickly ensued, but the troglodytes' primitive weapons and lack of armor meant they were quickly dispatched by ultra-tech melee weapons wielded by soldiers in a nigh-invulnerable armor. After a few seconds of watching the weapon master dismember their allies, the remaining troglodytes fled. A few that had started a great deal away managed to escape, but most were cut down or shot from behind.

The pilots regrouped and began cautiously advancing down another corridor. After a few minutes, they heard noise behind them and in front of them, and came around a corner to face a good sized group of troglodytes, with more coming down the corridor behind them. There was more violence, and it quickly became apparent that the troglodytes had reserves and were willing to use them. They also had a pair of 9' long, tentacled, caterpillar things that could run along the cave ceiling and attack foes on the group with their long tentatcles.

The caterpillars absorbed a number of rifle bullets and sword strikes, and the pilots began to realize that the situation was getting hairy. +Theodore Briggs opened up with a burst of rifle fire, dropping a half dozen of them, but more kept coming. +Kevin Smyth waded into the fray with reversed wakizashi and katana, and taught the troglodytes that you can't really grapple a weapon master with all-around vision.

Even though the pilots' armor was mostly invulnerable to stone-tipped javelins and crude axes, the number of attackers was daunting. Sooner or later, the troglodytes were going to overwhelm everyone but Kevin and beat them to death through their flexible armor. +Nathan Joy dropped his axe and shield in favor of an automatic weapon.

That's where we ended the session. The troglodyes are getting a stream of continuous reinforcements every second, ranging from 0 to a dozen or more, and the pilots are rapidly running out of maneuvering room. On the dubious bonus side, the piles of troglodyte bodies are beginning to create areas of bad footing.
Active troglodytes in orange, heroes in white, and dead and unconscious troglodytes as bodies on the floor. The odds are currently 24:4 in the troglodytes' favor.

Fighting Hordes

From the GM's perspective, this was an odd fight to manage. The individual troglodytes aren't very effective: low strength, low skill, terrible weapons, and an unfortunate tendency to get murdered by the PCs if they somehow manage to do something effective. So there's a fair bit of dice rolling, but in the end it doesn't come to much. There's also a lot of busywork in just moving the tokens forward, since after each turn, the troglodyte's previous front line is mostly dead.

Still, this is shaping up nicely in my view. The pilots are beginning to feel stressed, and while they have ways out of their situation, they're much less complacent about the troglodytes. I suspect any future waves of troglodytes are going to be meet mass ranged gunfire, which should give the "Colonial Marines gunning down alien hordes" feel I was going for.

Interrupt of Service

My group's regular GM, +Uhuk of the Guard, has mostly managed to unstress her life enough that she can run games again. In a way, I'm a little bummed, because I really do enjoy MAtG, and I want to run it more. But our regular game lets me playtest Shamans and College Ritual Book magic, and that's pretty useful too. It also has Kaz the Coleopteran Barbarian Wrestler, and there's worse ways to spend time then watching a giant beetle beat kobolds to death with other kobolds.

At any rate, MAtG will probably resume its normal irregular schedule, and I'll need to find something else to post about for a while.