Recently, I wrote an article about introducing plot points (as used by the "Pulp Alley" ruleset) into the "Fear and Faith" rules so that we could play a Scooby Doo game. My deliberations on the subject can be found here. "Fear and Faith" is a set of rules that is specifically designed for horror games (including comedy-horror!); it's derived from the ever-popular "Song of Blades and Heroes" fantasy skirmish set and therefore should produce a tense and exciting game.
In that previous article, I promised a report as soon as we played our first game. This has now happened, so here's the article...
We decided that we'd play a variant of Pulp Alley's "Trail of Clues" scenario. In this, 2 plot points are placed on the board, with others placed later as/when the first ones are solved.
The game would start at dawn. Each time the good player rolled a turnover [i.e. 2 or more failures on an activation roll], the clock would advance through the following stages:
Dawn [game start] ->dawn2 ->daytime ->daytime2 ->evening ->evening2 ->night [game ends]
Dawn [game start] ->dawn2 ->daytime ->daytime2 ->evening ->evening2 ->night [game ends]
In other words, the game would be over once the good side had rolled a total of 6 turnovers.
- Each minor plot point solved by the good side would be worth 1VP.
- The major plot point would be worth 3VP to the good side, if solved.
- The evil side would start the game with 2VP. Hopefully this would give the good side some sense of urgency, since they couldn't just sit back and claim a draw for doing nothing!
- The evil side would also gain 1VP for each good character that was eliminated.
- The 5 members of "Mystery Inc" (aka the "Scooby Doo gang"). See here for details.
- The "Death Knight". A scary, powerful skeletal knight. Who knows if it's really a man in a rubber mask, though?
- 3 Spectres. These are immaterial and have the haunt characteristic, which means that they are both unable to move outside of a preset area and are impossible to defeat with conventional melee. However, they are vulnerable to a character with conviction, such as Fred or Velma.
- Crazy Joe. Q5+, C2, Morose. A cheap "extra"; his morose ability will lower activation rolls for friend and foe who are near him.
- Farmer Benton. Q5+, C2. A cheap extra with no particularly interesting abilities.
- Rex (Benton's dog). Q5+, C2. Ditto.
- 3 college students (Maxwell, Judy and Brad). Q5+, C1, whatever! More cheap fillers, though the whatever! effect has the potential to shock and stun nearly good guys.
Note that most of the evil side are not monsters. Indeed, I view them more as bystanders and distractions rather than as agents of the bad guy. They're not present to fight with Mystery Inc, though in game terms melee is a viable choice. Any such contests represent argument, misdirection (intentional or not) and just general obstruction rather than physical punch ups.
To the north-west of the table, there's a ruined tower (not a genuine medieval castle, but perhaps a deliberate folly constructed by some American magnate during the last century). Nearby is a campsite for a summer study group of some type. Across the river there is a slightly seedy farmer's cottage and in the foreground there is a wooded valley between 2 hills.
The initial 2 plot points have been deployed, one in the campsite and one in the valley. The evil forces have also been placed; they're fairly well scattered around the table but with a spectre near each of the current plot points.
Fred was in something of a daze as Mystery Inc disembarked from their van, so Shaggy, Daphne and Scooby pressed on to investigate the seemingly-deserted campsite. Velma was a little way behind the lead group.
The campsite wasn't empty, though: a hideous apparition promptly floated across the meadow and through the group. "Yoinks!" exclaimed Shaggy as he ran away. Daphne stumbled backwards and tripped over a guy rope (or her high heels?); she fell over.
Shaggy stopped backing away from the spectre. He had an uneasy feeling, so he took a quick look behind him. There stood a hideous, black, skeletal knight, making awful wheezing sounds (the "Death Knight" had just run half the length of the table to get to this point)!
Meanwhile, a young student (Judy) approached Scooby and started to coo over him. "What a cute puppy!" she said. Let's see, you must be a poodle cross of some kind, I think".
"Ruppy? Roodle?" gasped a shocked Scooby "Grr, rowf, rowf, rowf, ROWF!" The college girl fled, crying loudly, just as Velma approached. At the same time, the phantasm vanished [in game terms, Scooby scored a "gruesome kill" on poor Judy. This then caused a fear test for all the evil side who were in range - and an immaterial model that fails a fear test is removed. As the evil player, this effect was not something I had anticipated!]. The Death Knight also slunk away and hid in the morning shadows, though only temporarily.
Whilst Daphne stood up and dusted herself off, Scooby and Velma rooted around the campsite, looking for clues. "This cable looks as if it goes to a projector of some type" said Velma, as she uncovered something in the grass. "I wonder if it's high or low voltage?". There was a flash and a bang as she discovered the answer the hard way - by being zapped [Velma and Scooby attempted the challenge for the plot point; it turned out to be a C3 physical attack. Scooby shrugged it off, but poor Velma was "killed"].
"A crue!" exclaimed Scooby triumphantly as he dragged out some packaging from the edge of the campfire. It was some packaging with a return label giving the address for the "Acme Halloween Costume" company. Daphne took one look and said "Oh, great! Another maniac in a rubber mask, right?" [The reward for the plot point was indeed "It's a rubber mask", which would penalise the evil side in combat for the next turn].
"Um, guys" said Velma, looking pale and unsteady after her electric shock. "I don't feel too good. You go on without me; I'll just rest here for a while."
With Fred still in his own dream world, Daphne, Shaggy and Scooby started to make their way towards the next plot point, in the wooded valley [after the solution of the first plot point, a 3rd one had been deployed on the bridge across the river, but it seems that they weren't interested in that].
Although they had some close calls, all of the heroes managed to avoid the clutches of the Death Knight as they crossed the field.
Fred, on the other hand, wasn't so lucky. He thought that he had seen a monster and consequently wasn't watching his feet. When he tripped and landed flat on his back, an obnoxious college student (Brad) was right there to "help" him up again. This obstruction cost him quite a bit of time.
Reaching the wooded valley first, Daphne and Scooby tried to skirt round the hill to approach the hill. Once again, a waiting spectre charged at them from out of the undergrowth. Daphne fell over in surprise [not again!], whilst Scooby fled a short distance.
Recovering from their initial fright, the pair tried to climb the mound again. this time, they were accosted by Crazy Joe, the ruined tower's custodian. His foul mutterings and shouts scared Daphne so much that she turned and fled, whilst Scooby lost his footing, rolled down the hill and lay at the bottom, stunned. [Joe's 'morose' attribute made it difficult for anyone near him to avoid him or do anything else that was useful - including the spectre! When he did attack Scooby and Velma, he was outnumbered and should have been at some disadvantage. However, in a major upset, he scored a "gruesome kill" against Daphne and this sent Scooby reeling in fright].
Crazy Joe ran down the hill to finish off Scooby Doo. His swearing and thrashing of the undergrowth with a stick was too much for the poor hound; Scooby bolted away through the trees and wasn't seen again, at least during this game.
Meanwhile, Fred (who had finally shaken off the attentions of both Brad and the Death Knight) had caught up with Shaggy. Together they approached the area from the other side.
However, it was Shaggy alone who completed the plot point. He reached down a rabbit hole and drew out an item wrapped in waterproof cloth. "Ouch, that hurts!" he exclaimed, as the rabbit scolded him for the intrusion by nipping at his fingers [once again, the challenge was a C3 attack - but this time Shaggy wasn't "injured" by it and could carry on].
"Look out!" called Fred, as an oblivious Shaggy scratched his head and wondered what he had found. He had seen the spectre approaching Shaggy from one side and Crazy Joe from the other. Fred ran up the hill towards the apparition, but slowed as he drew near. "It's just a projection!" he exclaimed. The projector device was hidden, but not so well that Fred couldn't find and disable it within moments [normally, a character wouldn't be able to melee an 'immaterial' model. However, Fred had the 'conviction' trait, which permitted him to disregard superstitious explanations and instead look for a physical solution. His combat rating of C3 made short work of the C0 spectre - and his easy victory caused a daunted Crazy Joe to step back a few paces as well!].
Buoyed by his last success, Shaggy called out "I got this!" and ran through the woods and up the next hill. There, he found the 4th minor plot point and attempted to solve it. No-one was there to see what happened, but Shaggy ran away, screaming in terror [I can't remember what the plot challenge was for this one, but I think it might have been the 'scary' one. Either that or yet another C3 attack. Either way, Shaggy failed the challenge miserably and fled for his life, never to return].
On his own now, Fred was being pursued closely by the Death Knight, who had finally caught up, almost. Fred ran and ran...
...until the villain trapped him amongst the trees. Fred's conviction was of no help now, as the all-too-real physical foe beat him senseless! As evening fell, the last hope for Mystery Inc to solve the case of the Death Knight faded into nothing...
This game was a bit frustrating for both sides, I think. Although the adaptations and scenario we used are in the right direction, there's something still not quite right about it all and it didn't really work as we'd have liked. Ok, let's see if I can figure out what are the problems:
- Fear tests. Every time a monster charges one of the good models, that figure takes a fear test. Unless the target either passes 3 dice against their quality stat (or fails all 3!) then the overwhelmingly likely result is that they will either recoil a base depth or flee a short distance. Either way, the monster has failed to make contact. So, assuming that the good side doesn't want to rumble and charge the monster themselves, just how does anything from the evil side ever fight a melee, let alone win one? I think we must have interpreted something in the Fear and Faith rules incorrectly here, but I can't see what. I'll need to make inquiries.
- Time Limits. The idea of having a time-limited scenario with multiple objectives was spot on, I think. It was intended to encourage the good side to "split up and look for clues". However, basing the time limit on turnovers didn't lead to the desired result. Indeed, it had exactly the opposite effect, as the good player moved extremely cautiously so as to avoid double-activation-failures (i.e. turnovers). Indeed, it's a strange artifact of the Song of Blades and Heroes activation mechanism that the more you try to do in a turn, the less you're typically able to accomplish. Do a few things reliably, or take a chance on doing more or doing nothing. So, perhaps a more traditional "number of turns" mechanism would have worked better? I'm not sure...
Finally, here are some other thoughts. I'm not sure if these are problems that need addressing or not, though:
- "Crazy Joe", the morose character, had an effect out of all proportion to his cost. His morose trait acted as a huge and unexpected drag on all characters near him, but especially on the good side because there were more of them. And then, his combat abilities seemed nothing short of amazing, though it has to be recognised that he saw off Daphne and Scooby through luck as much as anything else. "Gerroff moi land! And don't come back, you young whippersnappers!"
- The house rules for the "Trail of Clues" adaptation didn't work too well. Since only the good side could solve plot points (see my previous article), they could always place the next plot point fairly close to their current position. This made it virtually impossible for the lesser "evil" characters to be in the right place to interfere as the game went on. Remember the farmer and his dog from the force list, or the 3rd spectre? They never got anywhere close to the action.
- The challenges for the plot points seemed to be quite tough. Out of 3 plot points attempted, 2 characters were lost. Again, how much of that was just bad luck as opposed to unreasonably hard challenges, though? I'm not sure...
- I like the idea of having the "civilians" (or at least a large part of them) controlled by the evil player and used to distract, confuse and hinder the good guys. However, it seems a little odd that the loss of such a "civilian" should cause a morale test for the monsters. Similarly, the letter of the rules would have a civilian cause a fear test when he or she charges, just because they're part of the evil team.
Perhaps we should have played them as a separate "faction", still controlled by the evil player in his/her turn, but acting as if they were good models otherwise [i.e. not causing fear tests when they charge, but being affected by fear of the monsters just as the heroic side's models would be]. Indeed, here's a thought: could the evil player have one of his monsters attack one of his "civilians", in order to cause a fear test in nearby heroes when they see a "friend" lost? Hmm...
So, will we play Scooby Doo again? Yes, I think so, probably. However, I think there will need to be changes to some of the house rules first. It's close, but not quite there yet...