Friday, January 23, 2015

Tower of the Stargazer: ASE Modifications

Going to run Tower of the Stargazer again as a one-off, but this time with a group that might actually turn into a regular campaign. I've decided my main campaign will be Pat Wetmore's Land of 1,000 Towers, so a few things are in order to fit the Stargazer in a little better.

Of course, ASE is gonzo, and the Tower is pretty scientific and nonspecific, so it wouldn't be out of place to just run the Tower straight. However, I do want it to be a good introduction to the ASE style of gonzo, and it will need to hook into the titular megadungeon.

1. The statue. I'm not sure if ASE has any medusas, but some weird folktale just won't cut it. I'm not even sure medusas even exist in the Land. Instead, it'll be a statue of Torpo the Cannibal fighting the Sasquatch Khan, tying in nicely with Obelisk of Forgotten Memories.

2. The prison. While the quasi-spectral undead were pretty effective here, I wasn't quite sure how much I liked that they charged as soon as you open the door. Yes, I get that it's a lesson for listening, first, but not quite in the theme of voluntarily triggered traps. Instead, we'll get a Sasquetron (also replacing the fifteen-armed skeleton) that turns on if the party takes the key ring off the hook. The dead guy and parasite will remain, although it will use the parasite mechanics from Obelisk of Forgotten Memories. 

3. The telescope. The control panel will gain an "aiming" dial, with two black ink marks. The leftmost mark points the telescope (rotating the whole fist) at Mt. Rendon - this is the current setting. The right hand one points it at the Inn of the Alabaster Surprise's courtesan changing room. Other settings do move the telescope but refocusing to get a usable image is a laborious week-long process. However, the beam's deceleration process hasn't yet been figured out, and depending on how it's aimed you will either miss your target and go flying into space, possibly becoming an Orbital God, or otherwise blasting a person-shaped hole in the surface and dying instantly. 

4. The books. Some of the books are good as-is, but all the Eldritch Library books about communicating with space aliens are instead equally deranged histories of the Land of 1,000 Towers.

5. Appearance. Obviously, the tower is going to look like a huge stone arm, with the dome being a clenched steel fist. Plus, when the telescope extends, it takes the place of the middle finger.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Review: 52 Pages & Tower of the Stargazer

Tower of the Stargazer is as great an introductory adventure as everyone says it is. I did go easy on the party (there should have been two deaths) but I'll justify it as a one-off with family, so there's less pressure to use the sheer brutality of the first trap to set the tone of adventure gaming in general. I also really let the players go easy on the ghost, letting my partner's stage-magician brother win with a card trick, mostly because it's the one part of the module I actively dislike. I understand why Raggi put it there, but, damnit, if I sign up to play a game I want to play that game. Running it again, I'd probably just have it be a "ghost barrier" they have to knock out by turning, holy water, magic weapons, or some other ritual. I guess riddles also work. Also, there were a few ambiguities with room descriptions and maps, most importantly being Calcidius' position - the map puts his containment circle very close to the staircase, but the room description says he's in the center, which is probably more accurate, as I went by the map position and found myself momentarily trying to figure out what his reaction would be to the party breaking open the door and then falling back down the stairs in a heap. Finally, I like the delicate risk-reward balance the module has. Failing to get the treasure stash is by no means a failure, as a pretty average 1-2 session haul can be pilfered elsewhere, and the lack of wandering monsters pairs nicely with the deadliness of most of the triggered traps - there are a dozen ways to die, but you can spend a good amount of time contemplating them.

The 52 Pages rules worked very nicely, and I didn't have any trouble integrating them with the Tower. Some adjustment would have been required for Calcidius, as the rules don't approach modeling a magic user of his level, and the magic system is distinct enough from the D&D baseline that I can see myself having to rework any NPC magic users that appear in future modules beforehand. I've put together a PDF compilation of all of Roger's Color Magic posts to help with that, but of course his system has evolved since then. The players didn't really use their knowledge rolls much, although I did pre-roll a lot of their characters which gave them less time to inhabit the world before making their selections. In the future, I think the way character creation is highly integrated with the game rules would be very helpful for quickly getting new players on their feet.

I will definitely be using 52 Pages rules for my next campaign (and hope that the Next 52 will be ready by the time characters start to breach 3rd level!). I'll be running ASE, and although my main group will start out with the suggested ASE intro scenario, I'll probably post a Tower of the Stargazer reskin I'm working on in case I need to do an alternative starting module.