Codex Adventum: Road to Monsterberg Beta Test

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  • #2505
    zarlor
    Participant

    Wait, I missed an opportunity for a crusing refutation? Dang! I’ll try not to disappoint next time.

    #2583
    SamuelGassmann
    Moderator

    Well we finished off the campaign two weeks ago now and I’ve finally gotten around to writing up how everything went so far.

    Where we last left off was the Hunt. We all bought a whole bunch of hunting ammunition + Weapons to prepare and had our hackles up after the spider incident, pretty much everybody expected another attempt to get rid of us. We weren’t wrong. (This is me justifying events after the fact, you’ll see)

    So as we embarked on the hunt there were plenty of detailed descriptions of late medieval noble hunting practice which was cool. Only rules that we had were no killing stags, those were only for the bluebloods. Anyways, we were just milling around when a courtier came up and offered to be our guide. As we didn’t have a better plan at the time, we accepted the offer and he led us off into the forest.

    …Straight into an old dried up riverbed. Then we heard the beaters ahead of us. Then our ‘guide’ legged it into the forest. As I had a heavy arbalest that I had stolen off of one of the crossbowmen from the last session, I decided to try and shoot him in the leg to slow him down so we could interrogate him. Unfortunately, I critted him and shot him straight through the femoral artery. As we had no necromancy between us, no chance of getting him to talk.

    At the same time a herd of wild boar came charging down the riverbed towards us, but with dex checks and help from staff weapons we managed to get out of the way of the herd without too much damage and even dropped one or two for our tally. We had a moment to reload our weapons and debate how we could make this murder hunting accident look more… accidental.

    Then came the wolves, which mainly bypassed us as we were on the high bank of the riverbed now but we shot and killed a few of them regardless with massed firepower. Finally, the bears… Two of them. We shot them a few times on the way in but didn’t concentrate shots correctly to bring one down. Despite a brief plan to see who was the slowest runner and sacrifice them to the bears we eventually knuckled down and slogged it out. We almost lost two PCs, me (Nils) and (Oisin) Gerd, but eventually Johannes Grant (Paul) and his newly acquired Montante finished both bears off and stole my kill saved our lives.

    We finished the hunt with a quite impressive tally and were well rewarded for our efforts with some awesome hunting talismans that improved our damage and some cash for later. (This is about two sessions condensed, we generally only play 1-2h sessions because of timezone issues and busy weekends)

    The next session we embarked on the endgame. The town elites called us in on a secret mission (which we chose to accept). First head to an allied monastery for further information and then scope out Jaroschau’s castle. We had a few bits and bobs made and bought like a Kolf-halberd hybrid and plenty of gunpowder and other fun toys extremely mission critical equipment.

    On the way to the monastery, we ran into a d20 Prussian deserters, ending up with 11. As they were also on horseback and not all of our horses were top quality, running away wasn’t really an option and fighting was suicidal. Luckily, our 13 diplomacy Beguine PC rolled a crit and beguiled their leader so we weren’t all going to die, yet. However, Beguine PC wanted to push their luck and took the offer to meet at a local tavern later that day seriously, in order to ply the deserters for information as it seemed that they worked/had at one point worked for Jaroschau. So we stopped at the tavern to wait for these deserters to come back…

    When they did, Beguine PC accepted their leader’s offer to dance and did ply him for information, only really revealing that these deserters were capital A – Assholes. When Beguine PC tried to then stop dancing, deserter leader forcefully refused, further reinforcing the ‘Asshole’ point. So we started plan B: Kick in the door, shoot Asshole in the face, toss the incendiary, run out the back and barricade the door. This went mostly to plan, and we leaped on our horses and rode into the sunset without a thought for the small family business we burnt down as collateral damage in killing that band of Assholes.

    Next session we got to the monastery and got the information: There was a way to sneak into the castle through an underground river leading to an abandoned mine, said abandoned mine also had plenty of horrific rumours around it. Perfect!
    We spent the rest of that session gathering information and preparing for our subterranean maritime adventure planning a fishing expedition deeper into Poland- nothing to see here Jaroschau

    First session in the caves we got our two boats sorted out and started into the caves. Then we came to a set of rapids, and through a round of singularly poor rolls we managed to lose one of our boats, with all the equipment still inside it, and barely get into a side pool. Luckily said side pool connected to a cave network and after that experience we all collectively decided that boats were for nerds and took up spelunking instead.

    Next session we crossed a chasm with some rope-work and explored a bit, going past some skulls, satanic blood markings and other fun stuff before coming to a split in the caves. One side had what my character recognised as ‘troll-signs’, bad ju-ju. So I set a simple noise trap to alert us if something came that way, which was then upgraded to a bomb trap with a natural 20 by our pyromaniacs. Then we started down the other tunnel, and ended up ambushing a set of surprised cannibal-dwarves!

    First we shone our bullseye lantern in their eyes and then started plinking away with ranged weapons, they replied by trying to hook our lantern with grappling hooks, which mostly missed luckily except for one, and the ensuing pulling match was broken by the getting cut. After a short and brutal melee where we blitzed each one down at a time while they tried to flee Johannes’ Montante once again proved lethal, only one escaped into the darkness… Until we heard a boom as he ran into our bomb trap. Aww yissssssss

    Next session was a short and sweet one as we didn’t have many people, mostly looting and exploring other side tunnels. We started rappelling down a slope until we heard sounds of anvils and cannibal-dwarf singing, (“Hi-ho, hi-ho, off to eat man-flesh we go…”) At which point we decided that no we shan’t go there, t’was a silly place. Though I harbour ideas of pitting cannibal-dwarves on Jaroschau. Anyways we finally got our boat across and into another part of the river past the rapids by lugging it through the caves and got to what seemed to be the entrance to a crypt, ending the session with a final roll to pick the lock on the steel door between us and Jaroschau’s castle crypt.

    The next and last session of the campaign we once again had a full crew and began to sneak through the crypts, witnessing a group of Jaroschau’s goons feed a prisoner, take some barrels out of a storeroom, and a spirit that seemed to fear the castle denizens. Remembering a rumour that Jaroschau had kidnapped a girl to marry for her inheritance, our Beguine tried to talk to the prisoner (who was said girl) and calm her down… And rolled a 1. Girl screamed and started screaming “GHOST” which, while understandable, almost got us killed as we all split and hid until a guard came down, rolled his eyes, and fucked off again.

    Breathing a sigh of relief, another attempt convinced her that we weren’t ghosts and we held a vote for our next course of action: Free the girl and go, or try and explore the castle to recce the place like we’d been asked. Narrowly we decided to free her and go, though we paused to spoil all the supplies we could lay a few more traps and caltrops and then ran into the tunnels back to our boat. Jaraschau’s men must have heard us or something because they were hot on our trail, but as we got in the boat we could power out down the river and into the sunlight for the first time in a week, girl freed and phase 1 of the campaign over.

    Feedback from the players is generally positive, a lot of our initial complaints are fixed with the new character sheets and Codex Integrum support. Some other things like skill challenges being a bit out of player control could be avoided next time with the temperament system. Other concerns about damage and ways it might feel a bit better for some kinds of players are lined out in Jack’s thread, but all in all the campaign works pretty well and I’d recommend it!

    #2585
    Hans Hellinger
    Moderator

    Thanks for the excellent writeup Sam!

    #2588
    JackG
    Participant

    This is an overall writeup from the POV of GM.

    First of all if you are reading this as someone not playtesting the campaign keep in mind that running this I was sticking to the letter of the law for the adventure so that shaped a lot of it. Monsterberg has enough info to go off script if you need to and is very open to modding to taste.

    I would definitely suggest a session 0 for combat and explaining the system, this is also a good opportunity to decide how you want to set how dense you want the rules and what your own version of Monsterberg will look like. This also gives you a chance to set expectations on “genre”, Monsterberg is not a marvel film, it’s more like Ocean’s 11 crossed with Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series. Where some systems don’t want you to preplan the operation and prep and let you go backwards and hand wave you have the thing you need or did the right thing that’s not how Monsterberg works. Monsterberg is about doing things “smart”, you prep, you evaluate risks and play the best strategy to get out alive. Minmaxing is encouraged to achieve this. If you don’t get this into your players you won’t get 100% out of Monsterberg.

    I didn’t do any of this careful preplanning, I just went full speed ahead with no prep for the players seeing if I could ride this badboy into the dirt.
    The results were pretty positive for the system, the players figured things out quickly and the result of some of the holes we found were very quickly addressed by Jean. If you are running a session talk to Jean about it, he hangs out here all the time.

    We ran it in roll20, if you want to use the adventure we built just write me I’ll send it over. At first we built macros for the attacks etc. this worked really well but added a lot of time to our prep. personally I’m a bit of a free wheeler as a GM and once the npc sheets were updated and streamlined it was a lot easier to just run it as dicerolls.

    I would suggest you run through with players how you can get more dice into attacks and into damage before the game and have a printoff sheet of these options. If you use them they will really add an element to the game. Anybody who has fired a rifle will know how much of a difference shooting prone on a bipod vs standing makes etc. I would also have a discussion with your players how much lethality you want in the system and adjust to meet it. Monsterberg is not ‘Lethal” system per se, neither is it a dnd slogfest.

    My players took a while to adjust to this kind of inbetween damage system where things could take a few turns to die or just one depending on crits. For next time I would probably prepare a range of “damage results” to kind of tell the players whether it was an actually damaging wound or not.

    If your players are uncomfortable with foreign languages make sure to name things for them to reduce their shyness, you can use google or wikipedia to find out how to pronounce things. it doesn’t really matter though nobody’s the Polish pronunciation police. But Monsterberg should feel a bit weird and foreign, it’s a weird and foreign place for the PCs too.

    KEEP TRACK OF DAMAGE, MONEY, SUPPLIES REST ETC this is something that is pretty important to the Monsterberg vibe. Monsterberg this helps keep the players feel a bit more immersed and constantly problem solving and feeling grounded in the world and under threat, which is what Monsterberg is all about.

    #2589
    JackG
    Participant

    Full disclosure I was playtester for the Monsterberg Adventure.

    When I ran it I was playtesting it according to the letter of the book, which is great but not necessarily how it’s meant to be run. Monsterberg is more a toolbox that gives the GM loads of options. The biggest plus of the adventure is definitely Jean, he is always easy to talk about the setting and easy to reach over the forum.

    Monsterberg is what I refer to as historical +, so everything is beautifully researched but with historical fantasy elements, so there’s magic, but magic the way they thought it worked.

    I would definitely suggest a session 0 for combat and explaining the system, this is also a good opportunity to decide how you want to set how dense you want the rules and what your own version of Monsterberg will look like. This also gives you a chance to set expectations on “genre”, Monsterberg is not a marvel film, it’s more like Ocean’s 11 crossed with Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series. Where some systems don’t want you to preplan the operation and prep and let you go backwards and hand wave you have the thing you need or did the right thing that’s not how Monsterberg works. Monsterberg is about doing things “smart”, you prep, you evaluate risks and play the best strategy to get out alive. Minmaxing is encouraged to achieve this. If you don’t get this into your players you won’t get 100% out of Monsterberg.

    We ran it in roll20, if you want to use the adventure we built just write me I’ll send it over. At first we built macros for the attacks etc. this worked really well but added a lot of time to our prep. personally I’m a bit of a free wheeler as a GM and once the npc sheets were updated and streamlined it was a lot easier to just run it as dicerolls, it’s more a question of preference. If you want details on how to add macros for attacks in roll20 just check the Codex Integrum forum where’s there’s a guide with the code already added.

    I would suggest you run through with players how you can get more dice into attacks and into damage before the game and have a printoff sheet of these options. If you use them they will really add an element to the game. Anybody who has fired a rifle will know how much of a difference shooting prone on a bipod vs standing makes etc. I would also have a discussion with your players how much lethality you want in the system and adjust to meet it. Monsterberg is not ‘Lethal” system per se, neither is it a dnd slogfest.

    My players took a while to adjust to this kind of in-between damage system where things could take a few turns to die or just one depending on crits. For next time I would probably prepare a range of “damage results” to kind of tell the players whether it was an actually damaging wound or not.

    If your players are uncomfortable with foreign languages make sure to name things for them to reduce their shyness, you can use google or wikipedia to find out how to pronounce things. it doesn’t really matter though nobody’s the Polish pronunciation police. But Monsterberg should feel a bit weird and foreign, it’s a weird and foreign place for the PCs too.

    KEEP TRACK OF DAMAGE, MONEY, SUPPLIES REST ETC this is something that is pretty important to the Monsterberg vibe. Monsterberg this helps keep the players feel a bit more immersed and constantly problem solving and feeling grounded in the world and under threat, which is what Monsterberg is all about.

    to recap. If you are looking for a hyper realistic setting with easy tools that can you can adjust to your needs then Monsterberg is it.

    #2590
    Hans Hellinger
    Moderator

    Outstanding writeup and very good advice for running the module.

    #2591
    Hans Hellinger
    Moderator

    I have to say though, from Sam’s description, it sounds like they didn’t figure out the mystery of the Raubritters castle.

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