Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Quick Thoughts on Road To Legend

Mike, Laurent, Jesse, and his wife Iveta came by to give Road to Legend, the latest Descent expansion, a try. I'm typing quickly as I'm not sure I'll be able to get in a full session report before the Sunriver game retreat that I leave for on Thursday, but here's a quick rundown - 

The game is intended to turn Descent into more of a role-playing experience, with character development (and overlord advancement as well), smaller and more frequent dungeons, and just more of a story arc in general.

We spent about three hours going over rules, prepping for play (choosing characters, gear, etc), and running one level of the first dungeon (each has three levels). I'm pretty sure we could do two levels of dungeons per three hour session, probably closer to a full dungeon assuming no travel encounters or a lot of town activity. That's good news, although it means that a full campaign will take close to twenty or more sessions to finish. As a role-player from way back, that's fine with me.

The smaller dungeons give a much different feel, and I really like the semi-random nature of how they are built up. Between four different groups of mobs to stock the dungeon with and the various layouts (not to mention the rumors and legendary dungeons), it's clear that the variety will keep the game fresh. For example, in the level we played tonight there was a quick moving stream that swept the characters downstream toward a pit when they crossed it. 

There are still some questions in play I have (such as when to reshuffle the various decks), but since there's such a strong RPG feel it's easy to come up with a house rule on the spot when you encounter an issue. For example, at one point this evening Iveta's character was swept onto the same space as Laurent's by the stream, and you can't end movement in the same space, so I ruled that she pushed him downstream one space. Since there was no damage to Laurent, and it made sense from a physical standpoint, everyone agreed that this was a good solution. Harder to do this sort of thing in a boardgame without this much theme. 

There's been quite a bit of interest in play. I was delighted that Jesse and Iveta came, but it puts the number of interested folks at eight, not including me! That's not terrible, but it does mean we'll need to be careful about who plays when. I will likely set up a "hasn't played for the longest time" rule to give everyone a shot initially. While I'd imagine there is some attachment that people will get for certain characters, at the same time there isn't the emotional investment that one gets through character generation, and even the amount of development isn't all that extensive.

As a game, I think that it's a very nice blend of board game and RPG feel. The game is much more structured than RPGs (at least, the ones I've run - I believe in story first), and of course the whole "kill the party" feel for the Overlord is relatively rare in most RPG circles (again, the ones I've played in). Of course, it's much easier to respawn in this game, so death doesn't hold the same level of fear that it does in an RPG. 

All in all, I'd say this was a big success, and I'm delighted that I made the decision to make this a running game at the sessions I run. Because of the interest in playing, I expect to keep this on the table during the upcoming period when I'll be hosting every other week (Chris will be gone for another month on vacation with his family) and that will give lots of people the chance to play during that time. 

In a couple of months I expect to get a sense of whether or not we'll actually make it to the end. Perhaps I should have started the game at a higher level, but for me a big part of the fun is ramping things up as you go along - cooler weapons, deadlier foes, all in a big push to get bad enough to take on the villain in his crib. This expansion puts Descent in a class by itself, and I expect it to be a huge hit for them, even bigger than it is now.

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