Advanced Wizards & Wizards - asking Matt questions

edited August 2014 in Story Games
I've heard you mention this a few times, Matt, aka @Deliverator.

What is it?

What are some high points in the game so far? Who are the characters?

What is the setting? How are you prepping for sessions?

Is everyone playing the same magic-using class or are they Wizards, Arcanists, Sorcerers, and such?

You said something about personality mechanics - I'd love to hear more about that.

If you want to talk about the transition to 5th edition, that'd be keen too.

Thanks!

Comments

  • -It's a troupe-based ongoing campaign that I've been running since July 2013, and for the last while, co-running with @Lula. I originally debuted it with a series of one-shots to test out the mechanics. I had the idea a few years ago here on S-G. The concept is simply to have a D&D game with all Wizards. The design takes a Pathfinder base and modifies it (heavily) to make a party of all Wizards viable. The core rules are here.

    -High points generally result from the PCs doing some weird and/or heroic stuff. Both Lula and I try to run in a pretty old-school sort of style, where we prep a dungeon (on which, see more below) but don't really put our hand on the tiller as far as what's going to happen when the PCs interact with it. A good recent example was my character, wearing a ring of invisibility, sneaking up on a deadly archer and simply taking all her arrows out of the quiver. (Mendez [Lula] piling silverware into my hands to see how many I could plausibly hold was hilarious.) Last session a summoned monster ended up being essentially the MVP as it happened to be optimized to hold off some Ghosts the PCs were having issues with. It also featured 4 Wizards all failing a relatively easy Will save and panicking as a result, an amusing statistical fluke that had amazing consequences, including two of the Wizards falling from huge heights in their fright.

    -Characters are all Wizards, but of different Specialties. Fortunately PF has rules for Elemental schools as well, which has enabled us to have more than eight characters. Currently active characters are: (1) Prabhu the Human Abjurer, a devout Sarenrite whose older sister is a Paladin; (2) Tupelo the Ent (!) Diviner; she has trouble understanding the culture and biology of her non-Plant companions, but is very level-headed and insightful; (3) Aviaja the Half-Orc Enchanter, an exile from her tribe who grew up in the town (see setting info, below) but only recently discovered her magical aptitude, after the first Enchanter disappeared in a puff of brimstone (he sold his soul to the Devil...); (4) Filge the Half-Orc Evoker, who has spent a lot of time dealing with Orcish politics and rescuing her parents; her uncle Fernand was the Master Evoker though she only found out recently that he was her uncle; (5) Goban the Gnome GNecromancer, the only Gnome in the world who can't cast any Illusion spells (I made them roll randomly for prohibited schools), a sneaky and amoral sort; (6) Grudin the Dwarf Transmuter, pragmatic, reliable, and stoic; (7) Gingelyr the Elven Wood-Mage, an emissary from an Elf-Kingdom whose monarch was romantically involved with one of the departed PCs; he's a strange bird, an Elf who likes caves but not trees so much; (8) Cyriace the Strix Nihilmancer (Void Mage), a failed evil villain who has a (one-sided?) crush on Filge; (9) Marvo, my character, a Halfling Wood Mage whose grandfather is the janitor for the Wizard's tower; cheerful and adorable until pressed, when he becomes murderous and desperate.

    -The setting is the town of Corona and its environs. It was set up by the Master wizards as a place where they could study and retreat from the pressures of governments, cities, etc, while still maintaing creature comforts. The opening session we each took turns adding a feature to the geography of the area near Corona on the map, with the constraint that there were no other "civilized" settlements nearby, and many early sessions featured excursions to these places. A bit further East is the overworld map of the Rappan Athuk megadungeon; they've been doing some exploring there as well.

    -Each session the players set a Quest to deal with some threat or find some artifact or what-have-you. I or Lula then preps a dungeon or set of NPCs based on that Quest. Completing Quests earns the PCs downtime and healing potions.

    -AW&W3E is kind of a Frankensystem; I've kludged on several personality mechanics, some of which work better than others. One of the main impulses for converting to 5E is to be able to just use 5E's native "BIFTs" system, though we'll probably keep the 3:16-style flashbacks since everyone likes those.

    However, the even more important reason I want to switch to 5E is because the Pathfinder/3E-based game is getting clunky as the PCs level up. You know, the usual nonsense where you have a +2 and a +3 to your to-hit bonus, and a +1, a +4, and a conditional +2 to your AC. This issue is obviously exacerbated by a party full of Wizards casting buffs all the time! 5E cuts down on buffing capacity considerably, and many things that used to be bonuses just work by giving you Advantage.

    Matt
  • edited August 2014
    Sorry, removed this question, just started reading the rules linked above.
  • How does a typical (or fun, non-typical) combat look?

    Does a a AW&W party approach a dungeon different than a traditional D&D party?
  • Has anyone made any cool magic items yet?
  • Are you doing anything with rituals or magical research that requires GM-fiat?
  • the downtime rule seems weird to me? It seems to be saying that the less hp remaining on average, the less downtime. That seems backwards to me.
  • How does a typical (or fun, non-typical) combat look?
    Typically they work together to lock down the baddies with status effects and then do lots and lots of damage to them. Bad guys that are immune to a lot of status effects (such as the aforementioned Ghosts) typically cause the party a lot more problems and manage to get in on them and hurt them a bunch before being dealt with.

    It varies a lot though, depending on who is present and what the bad guys' abilities are. For instance, if bad guys inflict status effects, then the party has to work together to mitigate those effects, through the Helping Dice mechanics and/or by using appropriate defensive spells.
    Does a a AW&W party approach a dungeon different than a traditional D&D party?
    Yes and no. Now that they are higher-level and have better items, there's always someone with Greater Invisibility to do any needed scouting. They also don't need as many physical tools to overcome barriers, though there is some traditional dungeoneering.
    Has anyone made any cool magic items yet?
    Yeah, there are some neat ones. You should check out the magic item creation rules in the main Google Doc. They're pretty robust. Wands have turned out to be OP so I'm nerfing them a bit in the 5E rules.
    Are you doing anything with rituals or magical research that requires GM-fiat?
    Not really. Any time they want to do something wacky, we just kind of talk about how to handle it with the existing rules.
  • the downtime rule seems weird to me? It seems to be saying that the less hp remaining on average, the less downtime. That seems backwards to me.
    Nope, it's deliberate, albeit somewhat meta. It's my attempt to get them to be careful and impose a bit of a death spiral in the game. Works fine.
  • And of course if @Lula or anyone else playing in the game wants to chime in, please do so.
  • This is relevant to my interests.
  • Has anyone died?

    Was there a bit of an awkward stage when everyone was low-level, or not so much?

    If someone did die, do they re-enter as a low-level character, and, if so, do they feel totally useless for a while, or not so much?

    Thanks for sharing!
  • edited August 2014
    I'm looking through the rules doc - this is fantastic! I'm not a huge D&D fan, but I would definitely play this.

    Oh, more questions:

    1. One of the ideas here is that each character has a "rival" in town. And sometimes you have flashbacks about bad stuff happening with them.

    However, part of the conceit is that the PCs are the only competent individuals around. Does that mean that the wizards have normal/incompetent rivals? What do they look like? (Maybe rivals for a romantic interest, and that kind of thing?)

    How often are they rivals vs. enemies?

    2. A funny thing jumped out at me. Why do you gain a Helping Die whenever you are incapacitated?

    Then I saw this, later on: "You can spend an Effort Die to cheat death. Whenever your character would otherwise die, spend an Effort Die instead. You will automatically stabilize, though you will still need healing."

    Is that why the rule is in there, to basically prevent PC death? The two together sound like they would.

    3. "The GM has a secret list of events, not all bad, that will occur as more of these flashbacks happen."

    What are these secret events like, and what is their purpose? (For example, is it supposed to create the feeling of advancing Fronts, a la AW, by introducing new complications, or simulate an active, living world out there, or what?)

    Sweet stuff.
  • Has anyone died?

    Was there a bit of an awkward stage when everyone was low-level, or not so much?

    If someone did die, do they re-enter as a low-level character, and, if so, do they feel totally useless for a while, or not so much?

    Thanks for sharing!
    1) Nope, for reasons you identified more-or-less downthread. See clarifications, below.

    2) Low-level was a little rough, but not too bad. New characters do begin at 1st level but with XP socialism they advance pretty quickly, and they definitely find ways to be useful—the group is really good at making sure they have good magic items when we divvy up the magic items at the beginning of each session.
    I'm looking through the rules doc - this is fantastic! I'm not a huge D&D fan, but I would definitely play this.

    Oh, more questions:

    3. One of the ideas here is that each character has a "rival" in town. And sometimes you have flashbacks about bad stuff happening with them.

    However, part of the conceit is that the PCs are the only competent individuals around. Does that mean that the wizards have normal/incompetent rivals? What do they look like? (Maybe rivals for a romantic interest, and that kind of thing?)

    How often are they rivals vs. enemies?

    4. A funny thing jumped out at me. Why do you gain a Helping Die whenever you are incapacitated?

    Then I saw this, later on: "You can spend an Effort Die to cheat death. Whenever your character would otherwise die, spend an Effort Die instead. You will automatically stabilize, though you will still need healing."

    Is that why the rule is in there, to basically prevent PC death? The two together sound like they would.

    5. "The GM has a secret list of events, not all bad, that will occur as more of these flashbacks happen."

    What are these secret events like, and what is their purpose? (For example, is it supposed to create the feeling of advancing Fronts, a la AW, by introducing new complications, or simulate an active, living world out there, or what?)

    Sweet stuff.
    Thanks! I've often had bad experiences with D&D, too, but that's why I designed this game. :-)

    3) Yeah, there was a romantic rivalry, and the negative NPC relationships are definitely "people who don't like you and you don't like them," (although there's one exception where the love-hate flow in opposite directions, quite amusingly) not, "people you want to kill." The PCs could squash any townie NPC like a bug, in-fiction, but doing so is outside the scope of the agreed-upon rules at the social level.

    4) Ah, not exactly. That rule should read, "When you are incapacitated for reasons other than HP loss..." This is an adaptation of FATE's "Fighting In Spirit" rules, so that people can still contribute while under otherwise boring status effects. If you want to spend a Helper to not-die, you need to already have that Helper in your pool when you would otherwise die.

    5) They're basically revealing some secrets. I need to rethink those a bit now, since the PCs have figured out most of them anyway.
  • I got to play this tonight, a short session:

    I really like how the communal magic items worked, something about that really drove home for me that this was something a little sideways from D&D.

    Essentially, the magic items are on index cards and before we went to the dungeon they were passed around the table and we got to arm up. Some items had been made by PC's. The more powerful PC's would make sure the less powerful were protected enough.

    Helping dice were also really, really cool. I liked how if I give a helping die it is a d4 and when two people give helping dice it is d6, 3 people give helping dice = d8.. That is really clever.

    I'm going to go to your google doc and read over the rules for XP and questions.

    Cool D&D hack, Matt. Any thoughts on the switch from PF to D&D?
  • Hey, sorry I missed this post before. Just to clarify, almost every single one of the items were PC-crafted; only one or two of the really boring ones (e.g., the +1 longsword) were found in dungeons.

    The PF-->5E conversion is overall going really well. The lower-level PCs getting the heavier-hitting items always helped somewhat with the level imbalance, but now with the overall power curve contraction of Bounded Accuracy, the game really hums. The rules are simpler and easier to manage, but just robust enough that the game's driving purpose of creative problem-solving using spells is still entirely possible.

    The PCs are less godlike now, too, which is great. They can still lock down bad guys like nobody's business (I shoulda had them come at you from all sides), but Invisibility is no longer an instant win button, which is as it should be, IMO. Not to mention the Concentration rules that prevent endless buff-stacking. Hard-hitting monsters are going to, well, hit hard, which was a bit of an issue before.

    This was also one of the best sessions ever for people's personalities really mattering. Certainly some of that was both the setup and the way I prepped for it, with the Dryad NPC as a sort of mirror on the PCs' potential immorality. But the BIFTs are absolutely great.

    Matt
  • How are the spells?

    I've seen a big shift over the years with D&D spell effects becoming more and more clearly defined, which often limited creative uses. (Early versions of D&D simply described what kind of magical effect was involved and often let the GM sort out how to adjudicate their uses, whereas newer versions were much more specific about mechanical applications and only really useful in grid combat.)

    Are there still interesting and flexible spells with non-obvious utility?
  • Hmm, good question. The players might be better-equipped than I am to answer, but my perception is that many of them are very strict, a few are pretty loose. Same as it's ever been, in other words. But the divorcing of preparation from spell slots means that you can be prepared to be creative without sacrificing being prepared for combat, which is nice.

    Matt
  • I don't remember any interesting and flexible spells with non-obvious utility in either the Pathfinder or 5e versions of the game. Pretty much everything has a really specific effect. Spells are often fun, but creativity isn't really a feature of the spellcasting portion of the game.
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