Sunday, 2 February 2014

Numenera: the Beale of Boregal, part five

This recording comes mostly from a laptop mic, and so the audio quality is dubious. I recommend listening on speakers rather than headphones if possible. Many apologies.

Here begin the spoilers for the starter scenario The Beale of Boregal, and as always be aware that our podcasts are not entirely family-friendly.

Ghost in the Machine

Link to episode 05

Despite Arthur's efforts, the move from the early scenario to this concluding chapter feels a bit disjointed to me. I'm not entirely sure why - the hints about where to go next aren't any more tenuous than in many another game. I think part of it is my setting issues again, or perhaps more accurately, issues with how I'm perceiving different parts of the setting. In my head, the first section is that sort of generic fantasy period where you have wandering adventurers but also relatively egalitarian societies and no sumptuary laws or universal serfdom; the middle section I pictured as being in a Heyeresque setting, basically Regency Bath with more mutants and metal face piercings; and this part appears to be set in a kind of Wild West frontier town run by a council of necromancers. I had a certain amount of trouble reconciling these as being with a couple of days' travel.

That aside I quite enjoyed this section, despite it not really offering you much freedom of approach. We got to do some stuff that wasn't just fighting things, and Arthur took some very sensible decisions about the final encounter, including switching out the dialogue for something that felt more natural (and Arthurlike), and nixing the boss fight they seem keen to include. As written, this is asking for TPK.

Let me expand on that a bit. Boregal is a Level 5 enemy with 20 Health and - importantly - Armour 2. Basically, he builds himself a body out of random junk lying around and then goes to town on you. As I've mentioned before, small numbers are significant in this system, and that Armour 2 makes Boregal entirely immune to attacks from anyone with a Light weapon; in this case, the Nano and Jack both. Barring a roll of 17+ there was no way we could have injured him, leaving the job to Dan's Glaive. She would have been doing typically 5 damage per hit after Armour, so four successful attack rolls needed at a base chance of 1/4 (Level 5 means 15 to hit), although she could have knocked that down a bit a few times with Effort. But frankly she would probably not have had the chance. Boregal has two main attacks, both psychic. One will target a single PC, causing 6 points of Intellect damage and negating their next turn; this would have taken a 15 to resist, and Glaives ain't good at Intellect stuff, so there are good odds of Boregal stopping her attacking on several turns while also inflicting damage. With a small Intellect pool, two hits would be enough to Impair her, reducing her chance of critical hits and making Effort more costly. Two more hits would probably cripple her. There's really no reason to attack anyone else, as Boregal's effectively immune to their damage, but if he wanted to he has an attack that damages everyone for 6 Intellect. Basically, all he needs to do is spam the stun attack until the Glaive drops and then fry everyone else.

As if that weren't enough, there's a suggested GM intrusion: psychically take control of a character and have her fight her friends for two rounds. That's all you need, really.

I have to assume that nobody is actually running this encounter as written, because it's completely psychotic as far as I can see.

The town as written is a little more interesting that we found out in this adventure. With time short and after a few distractions, we sort of wanted to finish off this one-shot, and so we missed out on really finding out any details of the town. That being said, the adventure introduction is frustratingly opaque; it feels like it's almost telling you stuff but then veering off at the last minute leaving only hints. Quite what is supposed to have happened I can't make out despite reading the whole thing.

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