Death! Frost! Doom!

edited June 2011 in Actual Play
Last night after MAID we played Death Frost Doom with High Quality Roleplaying. Death Frost Doom is James Raggi's low-level Lamentations of the Flame Princess / D&D module, and High Quality Roleplaying is an adventure game I wrote inspired by my experiences with particular types of low-level D&D.

Tony wrote a bit about it on his blog but I hope he'll write more here. I played a blacksmith, everyone else was tenant farmers. As the resident member of the middle-class, and also a veteran of the King's Wars, I took charge and made sure that someone was always walking ahead of me and behind me. Alexis's character had magic that he could do with his own memories; Karen's character was very religious; and Jonathan's character was tough-as-nails but mostly we were a bunch of scared peasants making our way up a cursed mountain trying to find some money because it was a bad harvest that year and, if we didn't find the fabled diamond, we were all going to starve to death.

We didn't find the fabled diamond.

Death Frost Doom is creepy as fuck. I commented to Alexis later that, if the mountain had been full of petrified people, that would be one thing, because it would mean a basilisk or medusa. But it was full of petrified wood: wood that had clearly been carved and crafted and then later turned to stone. And that was terrifying, because it was so unexpected. Likewise, the creepy cuckoo clock (it doesn't go "cuckoo" but instead a dying voice says "coocoo. coocoo") scared us all out of our pants. We never even made it into the dungeon. We burned the book (probably heretical, not that any of us could read.) and stole the windows to sell and eke out the winter with the proceeds. So we went back to town and sold them to the mayor's wife.

Then a few months later the mayor's wife was murdered by her husband who'd been driven mad by crazed dreams, and we were out of money. So we went back up again ...

Comments

  • It is a notorious screw-job. I'm told the best way to handle it is to not go in, and if you do go in, then for god's sake don't do anything. Starving to death is probably the optimal outcome. Congratulations!
  • Posted By: Ben LehmanLast night after MAID we playedDeath Frost DoomwithHigh Quality Roleplaying. Death Frost Doom is James Raggi's low-level Lamentations of the Flame Princess / D&D module, and High Quality Roleplaying is an adventure game I wrote inspired by my experiences with particular types of low-level D&D.
    I'd be interested in hearing more about HQR. I've seen a few references here and there, but not much detail. But from the descriptions of the adventures, both here and elsewhere, it sounds MIGHTY neat. Especially since some of my earliest experiences in RPGs involved terrifying adventures where characters searched frantically for silverware that was actually silver, and torched a child's room because they thought the toys were spying on them...
  • I'm cross posting this on my blog, since that's where I originally meant to write it.

    It's Ben's game, but I love it. Here's the run down.

    High Quality Role Playing (HQRP) is an old-school fantasy RPG where you play regular folks in a fantasy world dealing with the kinds of horrible threats that adventurers normally deal with. Yes, this means that you may be a tenant farmer facing off against a 1000 year old vampire or a blacksmith trying to con a dragon. If you’ve ever, say, had your first level Red Box D&D character fight a wolf, this isn’t that different. HQRP isn’t publicly released yet, but Ben tells me it’s “close”.

    HQRP is laser focused on that kind of gritty, super tense old-school play where you’re armed with a pitiful array of feeble equipment and meager skills where absolutely every threat can kill you horribly in one blow.

    Character generation is random and quite fun. There are no stats as such; instead you determine your social class and role and a few traits which then determine what your character is good at and what they own. The “good at” is relatively freeform. So, for example, Ben’s blacksmith, who is a war veteran and a coward is good at hammering things, appraising metal work, and lying down pretending to be dead. He has a spear and helmet. This is a pretty good character in HQRP. Jonathan’s character is a ditch digger. He’s good at digging and he has a shovel and a wheelbarrow. A few characters can do magic, though it’s always a rather risky kind of magic that typically requires you to do something costly or difficult, such as sacrifice your memories or pull out one of your own teeth.

    There is also a random adventure generator that gives the basic location, situation, and enemy. For example, you might be on a mission in the forest facing wolves, or underground dealing with a dragon because of your own foolishness.

    But the real beauty of HQRP is the resolution system, which is at once super simple and brilliant. To do normal things, you do them. When doing difficult things, you roll dice. Rolling dice is always risky, and while you can achieve great success, you can also fail horribly. You will almost certainly have to roll dice eventually, and doing so is a moment of delicious tension and possibility. Avoiding the dice roll is, however, just as fun as you strive to find a way to get over the pit or escape the town guard using only the mundane resources you have at hand. That’s the essence of HQRP.

    Now the academic part. I look to The Old School Primer as my source on what old-school play is, so here’s how HQRP fits with the principles of the primer:

    Rulings not rules: HQRP has a minimum of rules and they are purposely open to interpretation. For example, is a blacksmith good at enduring heat? Is swimming across a rushing river “difficult” or “insanely difficult”? The game emphasizes clear communication and discussion on these kinds of issues, resulting in a straightforward roll of the dice where everyone knows what’s at stake.

    Player skill not character abilities: HQRP characters just aren’t that impressive. There’s no way what’s on your sheet is going to get you through alive, which forces the player to come up with creative solutions and then try to put them into action. This is fun.

    Heroic, not super heroic: OK, yes, you’re playing a bunch of illiterate tenant farmers with no real weapons up against a horror older than time. True, you are probably going to die. But if you’re clever and lucky you might just pull through and score a treasure larger than any person in your village has ever imagined. To my taste, that’s pretty darn heroic.

    Forget game balance: In one game, the opposition was wolves. They totally kicked our ass! In another game, the opposition was Satan. I actually got off pretty well in that game.
  • edited June 2011
    Hot DAMN that sounds like fun. I guess that's also why there isn't much info yet on the TAO Games site.
    I guess I will just have to be patient (fighting my naturally geeky instincts) and wait until more information is available.
  • Thank you Tony.

    That's kinda flattering.

    James: we'll probably be headed back up the mountain next week, because of a famine or a plague or just plain avarice, so we'll see exactly how notorious a screw-job it is.

    One of the things that I think is interesting is that we ended up being better prepared / more cautious than the standard D&D party precisely because we were so underpowered... we didn't have an inflated sense of our characters abilities (meek) or toughness (none).

    yrs--
    --Ben
  • Posted By: tony dowlerwhere you play regular folks in a fantasy world dealing with the kinds of horrible threats that adventurers normally deal with. Yes, this means that you may be a tenant farmer facing off against a 1000 year old vampire or a blacksmith trying to con a dragon. If you’ve ever, say, had your first level Red Box D&D character fight a wolf, this isn’t that different.
    This feeling of ordinariness and dread is exactly what made Keep on the Borderlands so awesome when Adam ran it at Camp Nerdly. Well done, Ben! I can't wait to see what you've made.
  • I love hearing AP from Death Frost Doom! HQR sounds great! Can't wait to see it.

    ara
  • HQRP sounds like my kind of game. I'm writing a from the minion monster perspective hack, but I'd love to play the townsfolk struggling in a heroes world.
  • Sounds badass.
  • edited June 2011
    Posted By: James_NostackIt is a notorious screw-job. I'm told the best way to handle it is to not go in, and if you do go in, then for god's sake don't do anything. Starving to death is probably the optimal outcome. Congratulations!
    Well, apparently it's (spoilers) perfectly possible to "win" this module.. Although she did release the big bad stuff at the end.

    Oh, and HQRP sounds great!
  • If folks are interested in testing the game they should whisper me their emails and then they might get a surprise. I, myself am really looking forward to heading back up the mountain next week and seeing who, if anyone, survives. Or survives uncursed anyway. We already had one character retire (he found some gold coins and bought a small plot of land to farm radishes) and I wonder if anyone else will get an ok ending.
  • I have been informed that I forgot to mention Zeke.

    We did indeed encounter Zeke (a crazy man at the foot of the mountain) and he informed us that we were all doomed. We discussed joining him in his crazy-guy-in-the-woods lifestyle, since he apparently had some food, but decided against it.

    yrs--
    --Ben
  • Is it possible to see how play looked on the GM side and the playe's side. Like AP from both points?

    ara
  • That'd be great. We're going back up tonight, which should be it for the module, so if it is, I'll ask Tony to post here with a GM's perspective.
  • edited June 2011
    We finished it. The boss monster instantly tore apart Eli (Alexis's character) and Leonard (Karen's character) but Alexis's prayers stunned it long enough for me to hack it to bits. Then things got worse.

    Also, poor Zeke couldn't handle the stress and killed himself.

    From now on this thread will contain SPOILERS for DFD. So please, if you haven't played it and might in the future, let me know.

    yrs--
    --Ben

    P.S. Death Frost Doom is an awesome, awesome module.
  • It's worth pointing out that Eli, my character, was actually the son of my previous character, Elia (they're not known for creative names in this family). I had grown somewhat attached to Elia, and I knew that going back into the module would probably be fatal, so I ave him the retirement I thought he deserved. It's too bad he lost his son, but, well, Elia does magic by sacrificing his memories, so maybe he'll forget all about him.

    ...That's not really a bright side, is it?

    Anyway, there's something about HQRP that makes me quickly grow to like my characters, no matter how hard I try to make them unlikable. I think it's something about how small and human they are in this giant scary story. Old school D&D characters have about the same fatality rate, but they are mostly numbers and a class, so it's easy not to get attached. Newer characters can usually be resurrected, or just don't die. Characters I've played in games like Shock: and in In A Wicked Age have died, because their death makes for the best story. And of course in games like Bliss Stage and Polaris, the character's end is kind of the point. But I feel slightly guilty playing HQRP, because I've created these people, and now they're probably going to die in a situation they were never prepared for. So I try to make them unlikable, but then I still want them to stay alive, but sometimes they don't run away when they should and end up getting crushed by vampires or plants or whatever.

    I should also mention that I joined in this last session via Skype from Taiwan. It was kind of a hassle, because my internet here is slow and we kept having to reconnect. But I was set on playing this second HQRP session, because last weekend I dreamed that I was playing it. This game got into my head.

    Also, Death Frost Doom is a delightfully creepy and all-around awesome module.
  • Awww. I hoped this was something about the fun magic item system from Wizard's Crown. Ah well. Good luck with the dungeon!
  • Update?

    Did your peasants die on the mountain or live through it? I want to know! :)
  • The brave peasants did indeed return to the mountain. This time they brought someone who could read! Alexis joined the game from Taiwan via Skype and played a young yoeman who could ready. He was quickly drafted as the party's "cleric", and indeed he did successfuly manage to bless something with a lucky die roll.

    Alas, the adventure was not successful for all. The yoeman and a shepherd were killed, though the blacksmith made an impressive escape with an ungodly amount of loot. The Bad Thing that often happens in DFD did indeed happen. Mostly the PCs didn't mess with the most dangerous stuff, but when they did mess with something, they messed it all the way, e.g. taking doors entirely off the hinges and that sort of thing.
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