Monday, 26 September 2016

The Saga of the Goblin Horde continues

A few months ago I had the great pleasure of being able to sit down with my girlfriend as players and enjoy a game of Saga of the Goblin Horde, run by non other than its creator, Richard "Zadmar" Woolcock. Last Saturday Richard once again offered to run his brainchild, this time for the monthly gathering of Munich's roleplayers. Not only were my girlfriend and I able to join his game again, but I also got to add to the game with some props! Table tents, paper minis, status tokens, and of course custom Bennies.
This time there were not two, but six players (a new record for Richard). Due to the Setting Rules of SotGH, this meant not 6 but 30 creatures under player control on the field! Of course this being Savage Worlds, it handled nicely and we got two fights done that day, not to mention all the other great stuff! But I get ahead of myself.

I will talk about the mechanics first, and then give my impression how it translated into narrative and fun at the table.

The players chose from the SotGH archetypes published so far plus one quick addition (the Goblin Princess), so the gang-bosses setting out to wreak havoc upon the humans were the River Goblin, Goblin Scout, Goblin Pyromancer, Goblin Psionicist, Goblin Wolf Rider, and the Goblin Princess.
We had roughly 7 hours available to us, so Richard opted to run two adventures back to back: Dungeon Squat and Pub Crawl.

Dungeon Squat is a refreshing take on the typical dungeon exploration session. Instead of being the ones clearing the dungeon, here the goblins are the land lords... and pretty pissed at the invading humans! Problem is, there's a lot of the invaders, so what to do...?
Richard devised a simple and quick answer to that question. The goblins seeded the cave with traps, which came in the form of custom made cards, each representing a trap to be prepared by the goblins. Each trap had a corresponding skill assigned to it, and was prepared by the goblins scouting the cave for fitting trap locations - Notice rolls; these rolls would provide a modifier for when the trap was actually sprung (-2 for critical failure, -1 for failure, +0 for success, +1 for each raise.).

Mechanics: Thus prepared we awaited the arrival of the humans. Expecting cowardly borderland goblins and some quick loot, they had no idea what they were walking into. Each player had been assigned two traps, according to their goblin's skills (the cards were drawn randomly by the players, but afterwards could be freely exchanged, as long as every player had two cards in the end). To release a trap, the player chose a human to inflict it upon and rolled the corresponding skill noted on the trap card.
Players were dealt cards from the action deck to determine their order of play. Also, a clubs card meant some kind of complication, which should be narrated, and inflicted a -2 on the trap skill roll. The result of the trap skill roll inflicted either damage to the goblin, their target, or both (Critical Failure: Suffer 4d6 damage; Failure: Suffer 3d6 damage; Success: Suffer 2d6 damage. The adventurer suffers 2 wounds; Raise: The adventurer suffers 2 wounds and loses their Bennies; also each killed adventurer netted the killer goblin's player a Benny).
After the last trap was sprung we switched to tactical combat on a battlemap and charged the remaining adventurers and their henchmen. I believe we outright killed three of them, and severly wounded a few more. This helped a lot, but of course some goblin flunkies still died for the greater good. To quote Izzy Toecutter, "Shit happens." 10 Wildcard Adventurers and their 12 henchmen walked into that cave. Only the bard lived, because we willed it so (order from the big chief, somebody had to tell the tale to the other humans and all that). The tactical battle went quick and fluid, despite the huge number of minis.

Narrative: We started at the main Redfang Tribe encampment, where we received our orders from Chief Bignose: the humans are getting bolder and need to be taught a lesson! Ambush them, make our point, then go and burn down their meeting places for adventurers so no more will come... "taverns" or whatever the humans call them.
Travelling to the ambush site took about a day, and interludes were used to give out some initial bennies and share some nice (ahem) stories about love, tragedy, victories, and desires. The archetypes provide great hooks for this, and the tales told by the players began to set the mood.
When we arrived at the cave where we were supposed to take on the humans, the local borderland goblins had funny ideas about our presence. What ideas we will never know, because Maeson Crispyface blasted the leader and second-in-command of the borderland goblins in the face. With fireballs. That shut them up and the Redfang goblins got to work.
The trap card mechanic was an awesome way to handle a trapped dungeon, and it made the narration easy and lots of fun! Describing how our traps inflicted horror upon horror on the clueless human invaders had the whole table roaring with cheer and laughter time and time again. During a campaign game the cards could be used simply as pointers, to let the players come up with their own ideas, but for a one-shot game it was perfect. Everybody couldn't get to their turn fast enough to narrate more pain and suffering onto the hapless humans.
The big fight afterwards was a great bowl of laughter, mayhem, and many confused dying humans. Some players actually narrated the use of leftovers of the sprung traps in the fights. As per our orders, we let the bard live to tell the tale. Skally Finback really wanted a song to be sung about him, but the terrified bard couldn't hold a note. Probably for the best.

Pub Crawl is an adventure which can be run stand-alone, but ties in neatly after Dungeon Squat. Not content with the annihilation of the adventuring party, the goblins set out to teach the humans a lesson in humility. The objective was to destroy the three taverns in the nearby town.

Mechanics: Another interlude brought some more Bennies during the travel to the town, and a run-in with a guard patrol was resolved with Quick Combat. Afterwards simple sneak rolls got the goblins successfully into town.
Tavern #1 was a very new building, made from wood. The Goblin Psionicist mind-controlled a patron to start a fight, which provided enough distraction so that the Goblin Pyromancer could get to work, and the wooden tavern didn't stand a chance.
Tavern #2 saw the beginning of rainfall, so simply fireballing it was no option, but collapsing it from underneath via a Stealth and aceing Strength Check by the River Goblin did the trick just fine.
Tavern #3 was partially built over water. At this point the guards were alerted and the patrons had barred some of the doors. This was fought as a tactical combat, followed by a Dramatic Task to break the wooden support beams in the water and collapse the whole tavern into the river. The Goblin Princess had it done by round 3, without breaking a sweat. Yes, she's scary like that.
Following the collapse of the tavern, every guard and armed human in town set out to hunt the goblins down! A Chase ensued, with the goblins riding a stolen tavern down the river, with many humans in hot pursuit by horse on the riverbanks and boats on the river. The chase concluded with the tavern reaching the waterfalls, were the goblins showed the blessing of the luck of the brave, and the few humans who actually made it to the bottom of the fall alive were quickly dispatched via Quick Combat.

Narrative: By now the players had a good grasp on interludes and some more tales were told. Ambushing the guard patrol was a lot of fun... well, for the goblins. Our humour is lost on humans, I guess. The raid on tavern #1 went smoothly. The Goblin Psionicist mind-controlled a patron and tried to start a fight. His friends, assuming to poor fellow simply had a few ales too many, tried to restrain him. Meanwhile, the Goblin Pyromancer snuck through the kitchen, grabbed a few heavy items, entered the bar room, and smashed a whole wall of bottled spirits. A fireball later the patrons were running for their lives, the tavern caught fire quickly, and the goblins continued on through town.
Tavern #2 wouldn't go down that easily (or so we thought). Built from stone and with rain setting in, this could have been a problem, but the River Goblin spotted the partially broken support columns in the tavern's cellar, and went to break them down. Meanwhile, spotting a roaring tavern brawl happening in the tavern, the Goblin Princess didn't want to miss out on the fun and joined the brawl... with her sword. The ensuing chaos and panic alerted the guards, but also gave the River Goblin enough time and distraction to finish crushing one support column, and down the second tavern went.
Tavern #3 proved a more difficult target. Build partially over the river, it too had support columns as a weak point, but these were massive and underwater. The River Goblin scouted ahead, and determined they could be collapsed if pulled by a rope strong enough. Problem was, the only place to apply the right angle of leverage was inside the tavern, where a bunch of alerted sailors had barred some of the doors and were prepared for a fight.
The goblin gang leaders shrugged and sent their flunkies to break down the doors. A fight wasn't a hindrance to them, it was entertainment! Not so much for the goblin flunkies who got beaten to death by the sailors and other patrons of the tavern - which in the end did make absolutely no difference. Wading through the blood of slain humans the goblins fixed ropes to the support columns and pulled them clean apart. Well, the Goblin Princess did, for the most part.
The tavern roared into the river, a broken building now more resembling a very strange raft stocked with ale and spirits. The goblins rode their loot down the river, pursued by humans in boats and on horses. A mind-controlled ballista took out the more heavy defences, the Goblin Scout sent arrow after arrow into the pursuers, the River Goblin was death from below incarnate, and the Goblin Pyromancer couldn't stop swearing because everything was just too bloody wet!

This chase led the goblins on their tavern-raft along the river, straight to and down the waterfalls. The Goblin Princess of course travelled in style - inside an empty keg. By luck and skill all goblins made it to the bottom of the falls without major injuries, but all gang leaders were running dangerously low on flunkies. Luckily only a few humans had followed them down the waterfall (probably because they couldn't turn their boats around in time). A few well-placed fireballs, arrows, and bites took care of that problem.
Mission accomplished! And some nice loot to show off in the Redfang camp. Satisfied with their work the goblins set out on the journey home.

Conclusion: Richard not only has a knack for interesting new mechanics, he also uses the existing core mechanics in fun ways that tie in neatly with the narrative. He tends to run games favouring the mechanical side of Savage Worlds (which I like a lot), but it never bogs down the narrative! Instead it provides a great base for telling epic stories and ties in perfectly with his lively descriptions of scenery and NPC/PC actions.

Saga of the Goblin Horde provides a rich environment to play not-average goblins. The archetypes are well thought-out, quick to pick up, and fun to play. The adventures allow you to explore well-known situations in fantasy games through a refreshing new perspective. If you haven't already, check out the SotGH one-sheets Richard published so far!

Final Verdict: 5/5 dead goblin flunkies, would plunder again!

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