Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Rounds 10 Through 13

Okay, I've been asked twice, so ... in my weakened condition, here are two rounds.

Here are things as they stood at the End of Round 10:

Moving around the field clockwise, from the bottom (as I always have), the cleric has healed his compatriots and they are getting ready to get out of range of the goblin slingers.  They will deal with them later, after they have rejoined their group.

In the bottom left corner the combat between the elves and the hobgoblins goes on as ever.  However, the arrival of the 9th level Lord (Karl, NPC) and the 6th level illusionist (Penn, Player Character), are definitely starting to turn the tide.  The second wave of hobgoblins have arrived from the wall make hardly any difference, and every time the elf bowmen shoot it makes a BIG difference.

The battle at the West Wall (left side) is another thing entirely.  You may notice that the mastodon (Pony) is suddenly alone, whereas before there were cavewights and goblins surrounding it.  There has been, between rounds, a fireball - the Queen drow elf sacrificing her own minions with her wand of fire as she runs towards the northeast tower (you can notice a considerable displacement if comparing the last image from the last combat post with the above image.  The Pony has failed its morale check upon this fireball, and is now running (as indicated by the arrow).  The hippogriff Hathor continues to defend its held master, the 7th level ranger (underneath the hippogriff), as a 7th level hobgoblin fighter continues to do damage to it.  And meanwhile the glaivers still try to break through the wall, and past the drow elf Prince who is holding the gate.  He is just now being met by Ty, a 6th level fighter (NPC), who will simply overbear in the next few rounds and push the much lighter drow elf from the doorway.

The battle royale at the north gate, the top of the map, gets more and more harried as the goblins and hobgoblins are clearly outflanking the left end of the human defendors.  It looks horrifically bad, and has the party up at this part of the map pretty much beside themselves.  The only thing really keeping them going at this point is the bard, who is singing like hell and creating the equivalent to a prayer spell to all within 60'.

To the right, you can see the cavalry arranging themselves, but they have not yet started to charge (moving at normal speed at the moment).  The three horsemen who were left behind are joining into their ranks, while there is one horseman moving at triple speed at the top of the map, vying to rejoin.

You may also notice two small figures at the upper left, to the left of the combat just mentioned - these are marked as B1 and B2.  They are a pair of brownies, lately conjured by the 9th level druid with the spell, conjure woodland beings.

You may also notice that the 6th level thief, Ivan, is on the Northwest Tower.  As a matter of fact he is inside it, fighting a hobgoblin and a 4th level goblin fighter.  They can be seen because, by convention, it is easier to pretend they are one floor lower than to create another tower layout for them to fight inside of.

This leaves the Southeast Wall.  The passwall has been cast (as I remember, we had recalculated out the length of time the mage had spent casting the spell, which was not known when I saved the end of the 9th round - if this does not jive with the description on the last post.  This is the nature of D&D, and I am remembering things in the order that they happened).  A host of hobgoblins has leapt from the wall (12' high) to fight on the ground, rather than open the gate, and to try to cut off the zombies marching into the created hole.  And meanwhile the glaivers here are dispensing with the last of the dire wolves. 

Then, at the End of Round Eleven:

There is little to say about the battle between the elves and hobgoblins.  Deaths occur on both sides and, if anything, the hobgoblins are keeping Lord Karl out of the main battle.  The lines have sorted themselves out, with the cleric Helmut rushing in from right.

The mastodon makes a convenient second hole as it leaves the fortress at the West Wall.  Hathor the hippogriff has been stunned and will soon die if it does not escape - which to do it must both survive one round without being stunned and abandon its master.  The ranger is definitely sweating (the ranger is played by my daughter, by the way, so I'm sweating a little bit also).

Ty has pushed back the prince and the glaivers are making some headway.  More goblins are coming, and the battle is by no means won.

Ivan is handily killing off his opponents inside the tower, and the brownies are approaching - they are heading for the ballista on the tower's top, which is in the process of being loaded (9 rounds to go for all ballista).  The flanking movement goes on.  Various points are coming together.  The Queen is climbing the stairs of the NE Tower, and the cavalry is thundering up the hill behind the goblin slingers, who are just now releasing a volley into the defenders (remember that the gray areas are slopes, from the fortress down as one moves outwards).  Things were getting unaccountably exciting at this point.

To the SE Gate - the orange line in front of the wall is a web spell, cast by the Mage Garalzapan, trapping most of the hobgoblins and making it very easy to kill them.  However, zombies move awfully slowly, and I personally felt it was a mistake to let them go through the opened wall first.  Not my decision.

You will notice, every dire wolf is dead.

Now, I'm sorry to say, but what with things getting exciting, I failed to save the End of Round 12 ... I was pretty pissed about it at the time, I have to say, but that's how it goes.  So we pick up again with the End of Round 13:

Many changes.

The hobgoblins are thinning at the lower left, as the elves deal with them - even though most of these elves are low on hit points and are only using daggers.  Never downplay an elf.  The standard bearer for the hobgoblins, you may notice, has pulled back towards the SW Gate again.  Telling detail, that.

At the West Wall, things are going fairly well.  The hippogriff has recovered and flown away, while a glaiver (directed by the players) sacrificed himself that Falun (the ranger) might live and recover.  I felt that was fair ... Falun is a rather attractive elf.  This round shows that a second drow elf has appeared (coming from the West Tower), named 'the Verger', and is helping to press the attack by the goblins.  Meanwhile, a group of glaivers has made good use of the second hole made by the mastodon (which would still, technically, be on the map but was removed to make things simple, as it is only running away), and are rushing to support the first breech.  So things are looking better.

The North Gate.  This is the worst part about forgetting to save that round.  So much has happened.  The Queen let loose a fireball in round 12 on the bard, ending the bard's song, while the druid (by use of a wall of fire, only just dispelled by the Queen in round 13) and his animal friends (a black bear named 'Snuggles' and a sabre-toothed tiger named 'Nibbles') tore nicely into what goblins were left over.  At the same time, the cavalry ripped through the goblin slingers and into the back of the goblin/hobgoblin line, doing tremedous damage.  The party was quite expectedly happy at this point.  I believe that Nibbles has failed his morale check and is fleeing - he has not been with the druid long and does not have a good morale.  Note that more goblins, and a drow elf called 'Youth' are still at the North Gage, which has still be jammed open by the druid's earlier use of warp wood.

Ivan is finishing off his opponents inside the NW Tower, and the two brownies are now attacking the goblins on the top.  So all around a good round for this part of the combat.

Finally, at the bottom right, the attack at the SE Wall has stalled.  The zombies are fighting the hobgoblins, while the 6th level Monk (Shalar), who has done little in this combat except kill dire wolves, has decided to climb the East Tower and fight whatever is there.  We know, of course, that it is a 7th level goblin fighter, waiting for him.

So there you have it.  The equivalent of four rounds of bloody mayhem.  In light of my recent posts, I suppose the gentle reader thinks I ought not to enjoy such things, but remember - this is all just pretend.  The real deal is something else.


James C. said...

This gentle reader sees no problem at all. How long has a single round been taking you to execute lately and how does this compare with the first several rounds?

Alexis said...

The rounds are taking less time than they were, approximately 70 minutes for a complete turn around. This compared with more than 90 at the beginning. We are, at present, in the 19th round. The reason would be a combination of greater efficiency and, of course, less combatants.

We expect that at some point, magically, we will complete the whole combat in one night.

Carl said...

Alexis, if I may summarize what's going on here in terms of game mechanics, you are using the regular combat rules to conduct mass combat.

The biggest drawback I can see to this is the amount of record-keeping that you, the DM, have to do.

Have you discovered any streamlining techniques during this 19-round journey aside from using Excel? It still seems like a ton of data entry during a given round.

Alexis said...

Yes, Carl, I am in fact using ordinary rules, running this combat exactly like any other combat ... only bigger.

In fact, I’ve given up on using excel to roll the dice. We tried it, but there are too many variables, too many different kinds of dice to be rolled and this takes too long to change the spreadsheet. I mistakenly thought that there would consist of dozens and dozens of rolls all corresponding to one another - but in fact, no. Instead, too much human interpretation of the rolls (saving throws, to hit, abilities checks and so on) is required.

So, with some discussion, we have agreed to use a ‘round robin’ technique for rolls. This consists of the party each rolling a d20, and ‘holding’ the result on the table until I ask for it. Thus, I call out the person, get a result, they roll damage (sometimes, when it is obvious they they have hit, they can roll the damage ahead of time also), and I make the recording.

You mention record keeping. A considerable amount of this can be done right on the map, since each participant is represented by a text box. Thus, instead of hunting up a sheet or a page somewhere that tells me what the hit points are, I am simply changing them on the map as I move the view past that creature. You will note that many of the little boxes feature numbers like 16/11; the second number is their present hit points, the first number is their maximum hit points. When someone dies they are removed from the map and pasted in a different place, where I can then assess them later for X.P. purposes.

As such, I can pretty much fly through a twenty person combat in little time. I have surrendered the dice entirely at this point, letting the party roll for the enemy as well as themselves, so as to allow me the freedom to bookkeep and nothing else.

The bookkeeping is not a huge issue in slowing things down. Moving is, as anyone knows who plays a wargame ... it is always moving the little icons. And, it is decision making, which I don’t insist happens in the six-second time frame - but about 15 minutes a round can be wasted with decision making, about a fifth of the total time.