Thursday, November 12, 2015

Gameholecon, Part 4, Death by Nexus

I've always been a bit unimpressed by the whole idea of alignment in role playing games. That's part (albeit a tiny part) of the reason I was so pleased with the morning's session of Mutant Crawl Classics, wherein +Jim Wampler said, in essence, alignment in a post-apocalyptic environment is meaningless. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that he was running a tournament game in which alignment was of primary importance: Death by Nexus - a gladitorial combat, set up by the gods, pitting teams of differing alignments against each other in strange, other-dimensional arenas. Truth be told, I was originally signed up for another session but, alas, the DM had to cancel. Then the session I thought was open for another seat was not (and I understand that the Con hosts were being sticklers about tickets and table slots and such). So I thought to myself, "self, you're here to learn DCC. So jump right into this and get to know the combat system". So I did.

Now while I'm not too fond of the idea of enforced alignment, I'll be the first to admit that I tend to play chaotic characters. Just ask anyone who was a part of the multi-year AD&D 1e campaign in which Pheelanx Durrowphael (still my favorite character of all time) sowed chaos, even fueling the Blood Wars, whenever given the opportunity. And in +Brendan LaSalle's "Neon Knights" game, guess who was the only chaotically-aligned character? Yeah . . .

So when Jim randomly assigned alignments to teams and I got Chaos, I thought - well, that's appropriate.

Truth be told, alignment didn't matter a whole lot in this free-for-all. Three teams of three each entered the arena. Those who were killed were immediately replaced by another pitiful mortal meat puppet. In the first scenario, Law and Chaos were placed on platforms at opposite ends of the arena. Paths led from each platform to a central platform on which three elementals - fire, ice, and air, each representing, respectively, chaos, law, and neutrality - duked it out. Above the fray, on a cloud, were the heroes of neutrality. Near the starting point of each alignment team was a rack of weapons. I don't remember all of them, but chaos had a red hot poker, a javelin that shot flames, and a molten metal battle axe. Ice had a flail, I think, I dunno. Neutrality had weapons, including a lance and a bow, that allowed them to fly for their movement. It became apparent very quickly that neutrality and law felt threatened by chaos. They beat up our poor, innocent fire elemental, causing our chaotic weapons to wane in power. Neutrality, with their flying ability, was able to descend on the path leading from the chaos platform to the main fray, killing off our heroes more quickly than they could re-spawn (which was kind of the point). Needless to say, chaos got their butts handed to them.

The next arena, neutrality, in truly neutral form, decided that they needed to balance things out, so they attacked law alongside the forces of chaos. This arena was set in the eye of a vortex. One of laws weapons allowed them to shoot a paralysis ray, as the cleric spell. Those who were paralyzed drifted down into a narrower section of the whirlwind and were destroyed. I honestly don't remember who won that contest, but I think it was the longest-lasting of the combats.

The last arena was sort of triangular. Within the angles of each point was a circle of blood and, within that circle, two pods or columns that held weapons: one offensive, one defensive. The schtick was that, in order to get a weapon, someone had to be killed within that circle of blood. Of course, each team set about killing one of their members (or two, in the case of law and neutrality) in order to get the weapon or weapons. This played well against the fact that whichever player survived the most combats over the course of the convention won the combat. I had one brand-new character, for instance, so he "took one for chaos" and allowed himself to be killed so that the defensive weapon (a really cool cloak that turned forces of law and that we never had the opportunity to use) could be had by his team. Again, everyone ganged up on law, though one of my characters, who had a herd dog, did sic the dog on the neutral team toward the end because . . . well, because he was chaotic, that's why!

I'll admit that, after hearing so much about 0-level funnels and the carnage that usually results from them, I was just a touch disappointed that none of my characters died in that morning's MCC game. All three survived. Yeah, I liked all three for differing reasons (you do bond with the pathetic little schmucks, honestly), but I had no "badge of honor" to wear, no loss I could count as my own.

This more than made up for it. I went through 11 bodies characters that evening. Furthermore, because of the nature of the combat, I was able to learn a little more about spell effects, mercurial magic, and clerical magic, all of which I had hoped to do at the con. All-in-all, with the three sessions I was able to attend, I accomplished my goal of being steeped in the DCC system and learning how it worked in real-time. And I love it. I seriously love this system. I'm giddy like a schoolgirl about it.

Here is a list of the fallen one's names (given before combat, mind you) and their cause of death:

Whipping Boy - Arrow through the eye
Failtacular - Cloud burst
Meat Puppet - Sonic shock
Next in Line - Freezing ray
Fodderovski - Miasma arrow
Walking Corpse - Lightning staff
Coffin Filler - Paralysis sword
Death Song - Lance
Grave Trough Soup - Collateral damage (sacrificed to obtain weapon) - survived one combat
The Last in Line - Scheduling conflict (I couldn't be at the tournament the next day) - survived one combat
Loving McDeath - Scheduling conflict (ibid) - survived two combats (tied for first place when I left the table)

Jim has a cool "Dead" stamp used everytime someone dies in the tournament and a Hugh the Barbarian "I survived" stamp for those who actually make it through a round without dying. I didn't see much of Hugh's face. Then again, no one did. It was a complete bloodbath. But I think I was the lead sausage-grinder.

Mission accomplished!

Lord of the Dead, Jim Wampler, overlooking my corner of the Death by Nexus graveyard


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