Monday, March 28, 2011

Mace West Cudgelcon

Hoping to bring news of Dust to Dust to the tribes of North Carolina, Kainenchen and I went with three other friends to Mace West Cudgelcon in Hickory, NC. We had not exactly realized the small size of this convention ahead of time, nor its general character, which was not especially interested in learning about any LARP. Having said that, we enjoyed ourselves, played games, saw several more games we wanted to play, and got a lot of writing done.

Prior to Saturday, the last time I had played Magic: the Gathering was sometime in 1996; the last cards I had bought were from either Alliances or Mirage. Kainenchen and one of the other people were especially interested in buying some cards and building decks. At first, I said to myself, "Gee, I'm sure the game has changed a lot, and I'm not sure I'll even know how to play anymore." This gave way to, "Yeah, okay, no one is using all those white cards, a pure white deck might be fun. I'll at least see what happens and show willing." I got lucky and put together a deck that did quite well, given the somewhat draft-like limitations. This deck was, in brief, more successful than any deck I played back when I was an active Magic player. We ended with a five-player free-for-all game, in which my really obnoxious life-generation and creature-inflation cards were shut down early and I never really recovered. I enjoyed the five-player game quite a lot, though, and I find it easy to imagine that we might pull out those decks and play again. I was surprised at how much of the game felt familiar, since Mirage was one of those sets that really started to go nuts on odd, obscure mechanics. Reading through the Wikipedia entry on M:tG rules, it looks like I've dodged some crazy stuff and just didn't have a problem with the crazy stuff I did see (Metalcraft, for example, or Infect). The tightly limited range of cards we drew from helped me a lot, as it narrowed my choices in a way that kept me from being paralyzed with indecision, and narrowed other people's choices in a way that stopped them from having all of the cards they needed to completely smoke me.

We twice tried to play Battlestar Galactica with the Pegasus expansion, but circumstances thwarted us, such as the fact that Mace West closes its board game room at 1 a.m. This did, however, renew my interest in buying a copy of this excellent boardgame. The cooperative-competitive hybrid model that they use appeals to me strongly, though I am terrible at being an unrevealed Cylon.

We are long-time fans of Arkham Horror, and Kainenchen and I like Descent pretty well (though I'm not enthralled with the full-on DM-as-antagonist setup), so Mansions of Madness is of great interest to us. DM-as-competing-player is still tough for me to support, but that doesn't make me reluctant to at least give it a try.

As a quick PSA and digression: those maniacs over at FFG are doing something I was sure they wouldn't be able to do! It seems that I gravely underestimated their ability to find new design space in a very tightly designed game. There will be an expansion for Chaos in the Old World, called The Horned Rat. The basic board game is amazing, and I look forward to seeing how Skaven fit into it.

Also, one of the other people in our group picked up the Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon board games by WotC. All I can say from what I saw is that they are big and heavy boxes, which would seem to indicate lots of Stuff inside. I guess we'll see, if we can ever schedule a game.

Even though I don't have an active 4e game at the moment, I bought a box with four plastic beholder minis. They look super cool and they make me want to run 4e again a little bit more. I almost bought a rulebook for Musketeers fantasy swashbuckling (ahem, other than 7th Seas), but couldn't really justify the expense.

This was the first time I've gone to a convention and spent most of my time playing games. It is only the fourth convention I've ever been to that was not Dragon*Con (the other three being one Chattacon, one GenCon, and the Festival of Dreams - well, okay, I did spend most of my time at the Festival playing games, but those were SI and KG events). Mace West Cudgelcon was more like Festival of Dreams for me than it was like the other cons, but I didn't walk into Mace West knowing almost everyone in the con. Being outgoing and meeting new people is not what I do best.

Going to the other Mace Con in High Point, in November, is a distinct possibility, especially since I can just drive home at night. It would be even better if we could get more people I knew to go...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dungeon Philosophy

Item 7 of this dungeon-building project specifies a discussion of dungeon-building philosophy. My first post of actual content was running a bit long just as my spare time was running a bit short, delaying said philosophy until now. MMO design and LARP design have both informed my ideas on dungeons, as you'll see.

The truth is that I have design philosophies about games, not dungeon design specifically. For one thing, I've never been a professional level designer. (This has a lot to do with not knowing a damn thing about using Maya, 3DMax, or any other comparable tools.) As a Content guy, I made some recommendations about what might go where and what the place's overall story was, but in general I stayed out of their way and we were all happier as a result. Having a level design philosophy wouldn't have done me a whole lot of good anyway, since the other main thing we did was stock existing levels in different ways. Just about every MMO, as well as some single-player games, does this. (Quick list of guilty parties: WoW, CoH, Mass Effect, FE.) This is not, in itself, really a sin. It's really a question of how well they discourage you from noticing this fact. The amount of time and energy that goes into texturing a level and making pathing work properly means that it would be grossly inefficient not to re-use levels. The games I listed were also focused on presenting a large world, so they needed to present a huge amount of content. Oblivion handled this with making its repeatedly-used unit something smaller than the whole level, and did a pretty good job of disguising what they were doing. Other games have used the patchwork-level idea with varying degrees of success; I seem to recall that FE's pathing issues were exacerbated by this practice. WoW's cave segments are particularly recognizable. Don't get me wrong, though, this is still comfortably filed under "good practices" as far as I'm concerned.

Dungeons present a completely different set of challenges in a LARP. The one universally-recognized virtue of Indian Springs State Park in Georgia for LARPing purposes is that its cabins, barracks buildings, and the Infirmary are ideal for conversion into trap-filled and monster-haunted dungeons. Other parks have lodges and pavilions that are workable, but IS has an embarrassment of riches on good places to run indoor modules. Given those limitations, games sometimes use outdoor areas and request suspension of disbelief ("okay, guys, the edge of this path is the cave wall"). Everyone knows it's not the most ideal case, but it's how things are done.

Special mention goes to Eclipse's Wonder Twins, who have in the past coordinated taping off an entire unit of the site with police tape. Just having more definite boundaries helped; they also used rope lights to define some parts of the terrain as impassable. The whole unit represented a vast underground cathedral, and was an excellent module that included the entire playerbase as either PC or NPC. Good stuff there, but ruinous on setup time, and not infinitely repeatable.

The longest dungeon crawl I've ever heard of in LARPing was eight hours: the Tomb of William the Black in SI. The longest dungeon crawl I've personally played in an MMO takes around six hours to clear: Blackrock Depths. These are minimal compared to, say, the World's Heaviest Dungeon. A dungeon crawl intended to last pretty much the whole campaign is commonplace in old-school play, and Undermountain, and so forth. (Also, the Tomb of Horrors was certainly intended to include the beginning, middle, and end of the campaign - possible in a single night of play.) Diablo gets a special mention here - prior to the expansion, the first game keeps the entirety of the action in the same dungeon.

There are countless blogs full of advice on how to build dungeons that will remain interesting for as many levels of play as the game runs. I've never played in a game like this. The longest dungeon I've played through in a tabletop setting was an adaptation of I3: Pyramid set in Eberron. We were in this dungeon for around seven sessions, I think, which was something like a quarter of the game's full run. The longest dungeon I've ever run was in a Forgotten Realms game - I would guess that the PCs spent something like eight to ten total sessions, out of the thirty-ish we played that year and the sixty-one we played overall, in this dungeon. More recently, I've had four-session and five-session dungeon crawls in my 4e game. I mention all of this to establish the baseline of my experience.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

For my next 4e game

From January of 2009 to January of 2011, I ran a D&D 4th edition game set in a reinterpreted version of the Dust to Dust setting (as Dust to Dust does not natively have dwarves, eladrin, half-elves, or tieflings, this was necessary). We had a lot of good times with this campaign, and over the course of 45 sessions, the party advanced from 4th level to 13th level. There was a modest degree of player turnover (a total of eight players came through the campaign, though the party had six players for most of its run), and no character death.

I will eventually run 4e again. For now, though, I'll be running Mage: the Awakening, as it was the most common #1 choice when I polled the prospective players (out of a list of five or six options).

I've mentioned before in this blog the ways in which I find 4e dissatisfying. On the whole, I find 4e to be a very good game that is not intrinsically designed for deep characterization; if there is to be deep characterization, it has to come from the players and the GM. D&D 4e is instead a remarkable example of a good pick-up-and-play game at low to mid levels; I say this because I have watched players who are very inexperienced with 4e's mechanics (and are not just natural tactical geniuses) play with a high degree of proficiency even when playing a pre-generated character in the 5-7 level range. This is a meaningful virtue: heroic-tier one-shots are a better game experience in 4e than any one-shot experience I've had in previous editions.

I get the strong impression that the designers had no interest in creating a deep-characterization game. They wanted Wahoo! action and they wanted it fast. Games do need to be approachable for new players, and they need to hook players quickly, so I'm on board that far. A DM and group of players just need to go several steps beyond the stages of character creation listed in the book in order to set up conflicts that will drive the game, but the text explicitly pooh-poohs such an idea as the gameplay of amateur thespians rather than Real Gamers. God forbid you should want characters to have motivations beyond wondering where they'll get their next pile of cash.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Dungeon of Three Deceits: Sector 1

(If you don't know what this post is about in the first place, read this.)

Ground Rules

For the creation of this dungeon, I will be doing the following.
1. Using 4e rules.
2. Assuming that the scale of this map is 1 square = 10 feet. 4e, and 3.x to a lesser degree, requires space to move. The game is less fun when all of those lovely movement powers are unusable because there's nowhere to stand. Also, the tactical decisions of positioning go out the window. (If you hate minis combat, you won't understand this reasoning, but you're probably also not playing 4e.)
3. Connecting my dungeon to the dungeon Kainenchen is writing. This particular entry is based on a preliminary conversation, and things may get changed around a bit as writing goes on.
4. Writing in story goals. While I'd like any DM to be able to plug this into a campaign without hassle, I think that defining spaces for those plug-ins and showing some cool ideas of my own are the way to make that work.
5. Rejecting any obligation whatsoever to use symbols on the map for their original purpose, since in some cases I don't even know what that was.
6. Statting fights for five characters of about 6th level.

The Big Idea

The core conceit of connection between Kainenchen's crypts and Harbinger's halls is that this dungeon, the one I'm writing, is connected by certain psychic strands. Barriers in one dungeon may be removed by solving a puzzle or winning a fight in the other. The specific do A to achieve B connections are the main things that I expect to see change as we go, because we haven't written everything before writing everything. See the tag at the bottom of the page that says, "you get what you pay for?"

Story Hooks

1. Six magical daggers are spread through the two dungeons. Each is imbued with one energy type. These daggers are also shaped to be keys to a certain very unusual lock.
2. There is a very powerful, very dangerous creature called the Living Shadow of Ugrazhe that has been fragmented into six beings, and can only be destroyed while in this fragmented state.
3. By activating the six waystones, portals to a heretofore-undefined Elsewhere open, and the dungeon becomes a travel node for portals.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A thing I'm doing... in all my spare time

Over in A Dungeon Master's Tale, a group project has been proposed, and it intrigues me. I don't know that I'll stick with it long enough to finish, but I'll be posting bits as I have time and inclination. Kainenchen has expressed interest in doing this also, so we may make our versions connected - you know, mirror-realm versions of each other or something. The rest of this post is copied from the original.

Most people that have been playing the game longer than, oh say... 15 years should recognize the rather iconic map above.  Even those of you that may have cut your teeth on 3rd edition have seen it presented there.  It is, of course, the dungeon originally provided in the AD&D 1e Dungeon Master's Guide.  It and the accompanying sample of play have together long been a sort of touchstone for me in the way that things like Village of Hommlet, In Search of the Unknown, Bargle & Castle Mistamere or Keep on the Borderlands are for others.

I realized something about this map and I recently.   Despite it's importance to my early understanding of the game I've only ever used it for off-the-cuff, ill-prepared ventures.  I've never actually sat down to stock and prep it like I now normally do.  That's rather a pity,  I think, because it's a well-constructed level.   That secret door in room 3 (hiding somewhat in plain view and challenging the party to put the clues together to find it) is a prize in and of itself.  Overlook it and you've got only a handful of standard 1st-level-dungeon-looking rooms on the top half of the map to explore.  Discover, it though, and the whole level opens up.

Beyond room three one can reveal the nooks and crannies of those odd passageways and the weird little side rooms whose overall layout and construction beg the questions "what?" and "why?".  Why this little bit here and that narrow passageway to nowhere there?  What earthly (or unearthly) purpose is served by the three 10' square rooms that terminate the narrow halls in the south-east quarter?  That series of rooms beyond the secret door is just dying to be stocked and described, is it not?

So here is what I am proposing to do and this is where those reading along can come into the picture if they so desire.  I'm going to stock that thing room-by-room here on the blog at a rate of three rooms per week starting next week.  I'm encouraging those reading this to do the same.  At the end of this process the world will have (hopefully) several stocked dungeons based on a single, iconic map.  The differences and similarities between them can be an interesting statement on the game and its participants.   

I offer only some simple guidelines for this venture:

  1. Use any version of D&D, the clones or even another game (even genre) entirely to complete the dungeon.
  2. Provide as much or as little detail as you desire as you go.
  3. To get started add a comment to this blog saying that you're getting started and provide a link to your blog so we can all go see.  
  4. You can join the fun at any time and take as long as you like doing it. 
  5. Use as much or as little of the background and the few existing room descriptions associated with the map from the DMG as you like.  The only requirement is that you use the above map.
  6. I'll be posting three rooms per week starting Monday, February 7th.  (My first post on this will probably be sometime around the 15th.)
  7. I encourage you to not only stock the thing, but talk about your choices and dungeon-building philosophy as well.  For instance, if you're using randomly generated results, talk about why.  If not, also talk about why.  Will it be a themed dungeon?  The value in this project to me is in hearing about what a particular DM likes as well as seeing it directly applied.  
  8. Will there be winners?  Will there be prizes?  Everybody is a winner but there won't be prizes.
  9. If you want to play but don't yet have a blog, start here.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Rolling up a character: Numerical equality

This post is a response to one section of Samhaine's latest post, so go read that first. I'll wait. You're looking for the "I Won this 18 in the Lottery" section.

Maybe there is a middle ground between randomly generated ability scores and point-buy ability scores that gets it all right. The appeal of random generation, to me, is that they feel "earned" (won, really) snatched from the jaws of doom. This is great and all, but... people lose that lottery all the time. A feeling of winning, of course, needs a threat of loss in order to exist, but boy does it suck when you lose the ability score lottery in games. (Admittedly, some of us lose the ability score lottery in real life; just ask some of my friends about their real-life Con or Dex scores, and whatever my theoretical Int is, I run mad with envy when I'm around people who have higher. Regrettably, this is common.) I have played characters who won the ability score lottery and characters who lost it, and I didn't find that playing with crappy ability scores improved the roleplay; I categorically reject that old-school argument. Having "a weakness" is well and good; having "nothing but weaknesses" is not.

I have my problems with point-buy, though. In 4e, you're never going to see a fighter with high Int, unless the player deliberately created a grossly suboptimal character. Pretty much everyone is going to have an 18, 19, or 20 in their class's attack stat. I've played a character who started with a 17 in his attack stat. I don't recommend it, and wouldn't repeat the experience. (My issues with non-Essentials star pact warlocks are pretty serious, but not the point of this post.) My complaint about ability scores all being the same within a party comes down to Syndrome's argument in The Incredibles. 

The one piece of good news here is that +2 to your attack stat is trivially easy to come by (if all else fails, play a human); the downside to that is that it sets up a situation where some races just never have members of certain classes. Deva fighter, anyone? This is balanced somewhat by giving otherwise undesirable race/class combinations some grossly OP feats, which then come back to bite the system in some really odd ways. (My issues with Dwarven Weapon Training are also not the point of this post, but I can point to dwarf-flavored revenant assassins as part of my issue. Thank you, Kainenchen, for being a good sport about that.)

Disclaimer: I freely acknowledge that the solution I'm about to propose may simultaneously not solve the problems of point-buy while also losing the lottery feel of random generation. I don't know if I would like this system, because I haven't thought it out yet.

What if you randomly selected between different ability score blocks? Something like the following table, modified from the 4e PH:

Roll 2d6.
2: 15, 14, 13, 12, 12, 11
3: 15, 15, 13, 12, 11, 10
4: 16, 15, 12, 11, 11, 10
5: 16, 14, 14, 12, 11, 8
6: 16, 16, 12, 10, 10, 10
7: 17, 15, 12, 11, 10, 8
8: 17, 14, 12, 11, 10, 10
9: 18, 13, 13, 10, 10, 8
10-11: 18, 14, 11, 10, 10, 8
12: 18, 12, 12, 10, 10, 10

Introduce some or all of the following iterations on this system, seasoning to taste.
1. Deliberately unbalance the stats somewhat, within a range of 2-4 point-buy construction points, possibly buffering whichever of these stat blocks you as a GM find to be least desirable.
2. Minmax slightly more than the core rules allow, so that there are some ability scores below 8, or stat blocks with two 8s. Because players have lost some of their choice here, it's more fair, not to say more desirable.
3. Create versions of these stat blocks that are pre-arranged, and do not allow players to arrange to taste. You could get away with higher overall scores this way, if you wanted. To water this option down very slightly, allow players to switch the positions of two and only two scores.
4. Using the PH2 as-released version of Weapon Expertise and Implement Expertise (the +1 attack bonus per tier feats), add the following: You may not have an ability score higher than 17 at 4th level, 18 at 8th, 19 at 11th, 20 at 14th, 21 at 18th, 22 at 21st, 23 at 24th, or 24 at 28th. (To state this another way, you must not have had an ability score higher than 16 at character creation, after racial modifiers.) This is a feat tax on those characters, but because their points are spread out elsewhere, they do at least have a material advantage in skill-use situations.

Variants 1-3 bring a little more lottery back into ability score generation, and are only fair because the player doesn't control what they get. Could this lead to players being unhappy? Maybe, but I think that a lot of players would still see the manifest equality of their stats and not make too much of a fuss.

Edited to add: So there I was, poking around in recent back articles of a blog much, much more widely read than this one, and I find that he too has referenced Syndrome from The Incredibles as part of an argument about ability scores. I would like to state for the record that I had not read the linked blog post before writing this one, though I had read this closely-related post.

Friday, March 4, 2011

3.x Kitbash: A Replacement for Schools of Magic

In playing 4e, one of the things that I miss about 3.x D&D is the feeling of a greater structure to magic. I would like 3.x magic more if it had more of a sense of mystery, but it's better than the total lack of structure presented in, say, a 4e wizard. I understand that Essentials at least superficially does something about this, but "I understand Essentials does X" is a common refrain for me since I haven't bought any of it yet (and given that I am not currently running a 4e game, I'm not likely to make another purchase soon). ShaggySpellsword has for a long time been my main source of information on all things Essentials D&D.  Anyway.

As a further digression, I would like to sit down and kitbash the appearance of a system into 4e by tweaking existing spells, but any players of such an effort would have to be at peace with hand-typed character sheets, as DDI would regard them as mutant commie traitors. (Don't get me wrong, the original Character Builder saved vast amounts of time and energy. It also made kitbashing almost impossible, so we can be allies, but not friends.) Back to my original topic: 3.x structures of magic.

This is something I've messed with before, as displayed in my wiki. But everybody's done an elemental breakdown of magic, whether it's air-earth-fire-water(-spirit/void), earth-fire-metal-water-wood, or whatever. So, not so interesting anymore. I was flailing for something that felt different, but also structured enough to stop me from flying into a rage at squishy magic systems. Oh, and plains-swamps-mountains-forests-islands... also been done. Ahem. Though I like Birthright enough that I would appreciate a system that really drove home the connection between wizards and the land, that's not really where I'm going with this. I'm looking up, not down, and I have some ideas for constellations and planets.

My idea, which is still in a very rough form, is that each constellation might be a specific spell. The lines that "connect" the stars form its rune; different ways of drawing lines between the stars signify different spells. Sorcerers, therefore, imprint upon specific constellations, which they can change only with great difficulty. The planets in their courses pass through many of these constellations; wizards study these courses and derive power from them. They might focus on one planet, reducing their access to others (and possibly eliminating their access to an opposing planet, whatever that would come to mean). I haven't yet worked out anything about the themes that connect the spells of each planet, but I'd be taking as much inspiration as I could from astrology and various esoteric traditions. Stealing from Dragonlance the idea of one or more moons and their phases influencing spells in some other way is also possible.

I like for magic to feel like a part of the game the players can explore, and will want to explore. I want to be able to introduce new things they haven't seen before, but with some thought (or, in more obscure cases, research) can see how those things fit in with everything else. I want opponents to have governing themes with a bit more going on than "fire mage."

Fire mages everywhere hate me for this, so I'll explain. There's nothing wrong with fire mages, until PCs know that they're about to go fight a fire mage and bulk up on protection-from-fire effects. Then you have one of two situations, both of them not so hot. In one, the PCs' protections work, and the fire mage is toothless - he really should have learned another trick. In the other, the fire mage has fire spells that ignore resistance to fire, in whole or in part, so either he's doing some other flavor of damage (mixing, say, profane/necrotic damage with his fire damage) or he's casting FIRE rather than fire, and the PCs' efforts and resources to prepare were wasted. This situation generalizes to other kinds of preparations, but is at its worst with narrowly themed spellcasters or elemental creatures. Therefore, I'd have each planet draw on multiple concepts and be more than one-trick ponies.

Oh, another neat thing about this: spell scrolls look like star charts, and that's awesome. Also, it gives a really strong reason for your setting to have a lot of circles of standing stones. If you're a darkness-beyond-the-veil-of-stars kind of person (though personally, I'm generally not) you're all set for something to start eating stars and destroying known spells.

If I ever get around to it, I'll work out some planetary themes and spell lists, and post them here. This will be perpetually low priority, though, what with all of the other stuff I should be writing instead.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Dresden Files RPG: First Combat

Thanks to a certain confluence of events, last night's session of Samhaine's Dresden Files game had only my wizard and Kainenchen's character Trudy the Vampire Slayer Serial Killer were the only ones playing. Because there were only two of us, we decided to play through a "what-if" of the previous session, rather than playing the session the GM had prepared. So Samuel and Trudy fought the goblins and their pack of hounds at Pickett's Mill State Park. I can't think of a time when I've found it easier to visualize the setting of the fight, such that I (politely, I hope) pointed out places where there were errors in the GM's layout.

In the first round, two of the six hounds were approaching, and I put up my Armor spell (a rote: 2 Armor for 2 rounds). Okay, there goes my Mental 1 stress box, fine. Fey hounds arrive, Trudy guts one of them. It's what she does - if there's a way she can apply a Weaponry roll, the bad guys are going to lose.

In the second round, I fry the other fey hound with my single-target Fire attack rote. Yay, dead fey hound; boo, just used my Mental 2 stress box. We haven't yet taken damage, but my mental stress is stacking up in a hurry. The other four hounds begin to arrive, but we can't ever funnel them into a narrower area to make it worthwhile for me to use my area attack rote.

Optimization Note: By this point in the fight, there's no reason for me to cast rotes, and I am cheating myself of  some amount of effect every time I do so. This is because every evocation, no matter how small, costs at least 1 mental stress, and once my Mental 1 stress box is filled, a new Mental 1 stress rolls up to the next stress box. As I am filling higher stress boxes and taking various consequences, this becomes still more true. This is something I didn't really appreciate until a bit later in the fight.

Anyway, we have a little bit of time of fighting the fey hounds while the goblins are still outside the building. Trudy gets started on working over those hounds while I extend my Armor spell (filling my Mental 3 stress box, I believe, but kicking the duration up by four more rounds). I think Trudy is starting to take small physical hits at this point. At some point, I wipe out two more hounds with a non-rote Spirit evocation that hits them both for 4 damage; because of my consistently awful roll for Discipline, I take some Feedback damage from that.

It's at about this point that one of the goblins breaks out some of the windows on the front of the building and starts shooting me. Much like with the actual layout of that building, it was like shooting fish in a barrel. This is when I learn that Athletics is one of the most important skills in the game, and Samuel has it at +0, whereas the goblin is really quite skilled with his bow. So I take a mild physical consequence and my Physical 4 stress box. This is unfortunate for me, in that this removes a consequence I could be spending on spellcasting.

I spend a round making a Lore declaration, since I really need to stop casting spells for as long as possible. It's sort of ridiculous, but I'm trying to come up with something that might actually relate to Lore. Thus I explain to Trudy a rune that is baneful to the fey, and encourage her to use it as a pattern of attack. Of course, as the GM pointed out, a Lore roll of 6 means that I theoretically could declare any stupid thing I wanted. I don't feel like I know enough about the cosmology and rules of the fey to improvise a better idea than this. In another round, I roll Alertness to find some iron or steel that Trudy can use to start ignoring some of the goblins' special abilities (talk about things I wish I'd done earlier!).

So, we're pretty screwed at this point, as Trudy is taking now quite significant consequences from the goblins' attacks. I cast another big evocation, trying to flatten the last hound and one of the goblins. This... does not go well, as I blow yet another Discipline roll (originally a -3 roll to go with my base Discipline of +4; I use my Aspect of "Tainted with Power" to reroll, and come up with a -1 on the dice). So I bleed off power as fallout, which sucks because I really, really need to hurt these guys, and I soak up power as feedback, which sucks because my shit is already wrecked. Also, this doesn't kill either of my targets, and my consequence is that Samuel enters a moderate fugue state. He's definitely falling apart here.

We've got almost nothing left, and we haven't yet touched the second goblin. So I take a further (mild) Mental consequence of hallucinations to use my Fire attack rote on the goblin. It does some unimportant amount of damage that doesn't kill him. I concede at this point, as Samuel curls up into a little ball of overwhelming psychic trauma. Trudy is fighting alone, and she is nearly dead herself, but she is a sociopath and won't be denied her prey. She hurls herself through the broken window to get at him, and he backpedals. This is the final tense moment of the fight; she takes some kind of penalty, but leaps on him and impales him with the fireplace poker, and this ends the fight.

(If the GM had remembered to use all the free tags the goblin had against Trudy because of her injuries, he would have forced her into taking either an Extreme consequence or conceding, I am pretty sure. We need armor like there is no tomorrow, and we'll both be improving our Athletics skills.)

After the cut, more meta-commentary, including comparisons to my experiences with Spirit of the Century combat.