On Saturday, December 30, I ran the second session of Exsurge Auroram, the Arise playtest. We got through a more complex battle, and learned some important things!
Last time, I planned an encounter for the three players I thought were showing up. Instead, all four people were able to make it, but I failed to add more mobs to compensate.
We have the same four heroes: a Black Mage, a White Mage, a Hoplite, and a Raider. Each got 1 EXP from last time, and at least some of them bought some new stuff with it.
Once again, Kenney’s Creature Mixer gave me some neat little dudes. This time, the opposition was undead-flavored: 6 Grave Thralls (named after the Seven Dwarves, minus Doc), plus 4 Desolate (named after the Beatles). We used The Forest Path map.
Combat took almost two hours. Despite having charged tiles to reduce MP costs, our casters had 1-2 MP left from their totals. Everyone was near to full HP, but that’s courtesy of a very active White Mage.
A new feature of this combat was a pick-up opportunity: a Forest Fairy, who would randomly teleport around the map. If you caught a Fairy, you got advantage on a single Camping roll.
Part of what gave our healer things to do this round was having more guys doing more damage, so that was fun!
We found a few missing things in the tile types:
- OBSCURING tiles mention a BLACKOUT status but that status isn’t described anywhere else
- Similarly, SLIPPERY tiles talk about going prone, but nothing else in the rules describes this or how to recover from it
It sounds like Matty is working on a tile redesign that will address these. In the meantime, I house-ruled that OBSCURING would simply provide its Cover bonus.
Map Gravity Revisited
In terms of staging and running battles, we did better in keeping people moving around the map. As expected, the Fairy wasn’t something people spent a lot of time chasing around, but they did capture at least one. Feedback about this was that having more story-relevant map objectives would be more compelling, which I expected and agree with.
Player feedback also suggested that PCs will also just rush enemies who happen to be at range. That’s awesome for me, because if players will just split the party on their own, that’s less work for me to do.
Enemy AI Revisited
I tried a new approach to enemy AI: because most of the AI is about melee attacks, I used the AI when enemies were in melee, but otherwise played the GMCs more intelligently and would use ranged attacks when it seemed promising.
I think it worked out as a stopgap, but I’m still interested in other ways to approach this overall question.
We skipped a Camp scene this time because some players weren’t feeling great, but it feels like that part of the game is going well so I’m not worried.
I asked players for a preference on their next destination:
- Greenshadow Forest - more of the woodlands, along with weird enemies like Pole Goblins and Lake Lurkers
- The Fungal Necropolis - an empty, decaying city overrun by mushrooms and darkness. The Spore Cult, Fungal Mimics, Arachnowolves, plus a special boss!
- The Echoing Escarpments - traveling across high mountains and into deep mines. Stonehaunts, Gargoyle Prototypes, and Blacklung Horrors
So far I’ve heard one vote for the Fungal Necropolis. Just in case, I’m prepping starter maps for all three zones, and will then make further maps (and mobs and bosses) depending on which one they choose.