Dragonmeet report by Glenn Fleetwood!
Under my sometime online and convention moniker ‘HomeBruGuru’, I ran two games of Low Fantasy Gaming at Dragonmeet this year in the UK. The picture here is of my morning group at the end of the game.
The adventure was called ‘After the Storm’ and I designed it to ease players into the system and get them driving themselves through various encounters in a semi-sandbox tropical island adventure, after awakening upon a beach following a ship wreck.
From building a raft to avoiding sharks to retrieve their equipment from the wreck, scouting for fresh water, hunting for food, avoiding or slaying cannibal goblins and their nasty shaman leader and his love of ‘Lash of Unerring Pain’, fighting giant snakes and dealing with the trap-riddled tombs of the ancient serpent people, to avoiding a field of sleep-inducing purple lotus, the party were challenged on many levels.
Much of the play involved individual skill and group skill challenges in which LFG shines. Building a raft was a group challenge, tracking for water was the ranger’s task. The half-orc fighter standing stalwart in combat surrounded by goblins broke them with intimidation. The magic user of course unleashed terrifying magics but of equal importance was that as an archaeologist by background, deciphering ‘Indiana-Jones style’ the carvings on the ruins and tombs of the serpent folk gave the party critical information.
The tomb-raider background rogue was often called upon to find and disarm the lethal mechanical surprises in the tombs (sometimes painfully so) and after the pain came the cultist/apothecary healer’s kit and magic in-hand. Far from being just the healer the cultist often stood in the front line when things got rough. The application of divine lore was also useful for working out that the ‘eye of the serpent’ in the tomb was unholy and shouldn’t be touched!
… and then the halfling rogue indulged their racial trait and touched it anyway…
The players got the hang of roll equal or under for skills and roll equal or over for combat and saves etc. One player suggested that LFG was the only d20 variant in which a ‘dice jail’ was redundant. Simply switch a low rolling combat and saves d20 to skill rolls and visa versa and you are good!
Everyone enjoyed playing with the exploits system, with a mace into the eye cluster of a giant spider stunning it on one occasion and a giant snake getting its head chopped off mid jump in another. Rescues played their part too, in one scene seeing a volley of poison blow-darts from the jungle goblins all taken in the shield of the cultist as he saved the magic user from certain status as a lifeless pin cushion. Another memorable moment saw the phrase – “Now you are mine to TOY with!” declared loudly by a delighted magic user player who had just levitated a dire panther into the air.
In both games the groups pushed their luck, daring to negotiate scythe traps and spiked pits, ‘severing the arcanum’ of magical fire traps and handling on one occasion a dangerous artefact… the consequence of which saw the half-orc possessed by a snake god and attacking her own party… Oops!
One group never made it off the island due to trying to grab too much treasure (that always ends badly in pulp stories doesn’t it!) but the other group stayed on-mission and after crossing a dangerous swamp made it to a sheltered bay, the cultist managing to negotiate their way onto the galley of a merchantman that had anchored close offshore to replenish water supplies in what started out as a tense standoff.
What once again struck me is how smoothly LFG plays. It’s an important factor at conventions because you have at best a 4-hour slot to play with and need to run a rapid story arc with plenty of punch.
Combat was of course easy to get into. Skill challenges and the application of terrible failures and great successes were very quickly picked up. New players liked that it all seemed pretty intuitive and as they relaxed they got into method-acting roleplay in the first person – undistracted by the rules or how they worked.
Experienced players enjoyed the freedom to declare what they doing in combat without having to work from a restricted list of exploits, and the cultist players on both occasions really liked the way in which favour worked. As a consequence many ‘unholy’ enemies were dedicated to the sun god, every wound tended to with pious focus, and every dawn greeted with earnest prayer. Both sorcerer players really started to get tense about rising DDM as things went on, and everyone felt the pressure rise with the ‘always on the go’ nature of the scenario and how their luck drained away, making them feel more desperate as their efforts to escape continued. The fact healing was rare and short rests not the ‘instant restorative for everything’ made the two old hands who joined my games go a little misty eyed.
I always wrap things up at convention games asking how everyone found it and what they thought of the system. On this occasion, everyone reported that they really enjoyed both the adventure and the how the rules gave them a sense of both character agency and clear and present danger.
It was a great day of gaming.
Cheers Glenn for the fantastic write up – we appreciate all your efforts!