December 23rd, 2009

fireborn eye

Fireborn: First Impressions - Pre-Game and Combat

As I've previously mentioned, I've talked my roleplaying group into starting up a game of Fireborn, where all the characters are reincarnated dragons living in human bodies in the modern world. A week ago Sunday, I finally got my first chance to see Fireborn in action.

It was a rather modest start -- two of my players, {M} and {S}, came over for character creation/finishing touches, and I convinced them to stay for the evening and run through a little "pre-adventure" with a few simple encounters so I could build up some confidence in the gameplay mechanics. It was a good experience for all three of us. And the difference between this "pre-game" game and the start of the actual campaign was dramatic (though I'll get to that later, in the "Fire Within" first impressions).

I'm actually REALLY glad I did that, because that "milk run" had some powerful effects:
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We started out with {S}' character Kimiko, a covert operative visiting London from overseas to investigate reports of magic, breaking into a house belonging to Hugh MacHugh, a known but minor member of the Freemasons and a suspected mage. Kimiko subdued a guard, but his cigarette accidentally lit a bookcase on fire and set off a fire alarm -- forcing her to flee the house with guards in hot pursuit. Meanwhile, {M}'s character Maggie -- a former paramedic who started providing independent services as a street doc, to help people who wouldn't otherwise go to hospitals -- encountered George Saint while shopping for groceries, and after both of them shared a hallucination/flashback about dragonslayer George attacking dragon Maggie, he went mental and attacked her in the modern day. Kimiko broke an ankle while running from MacHugh's estate, and Maggie knocked out George and called the hospital so some other doctor could help out the poor beggar. Kimiko called up Maggie for help, and after Maggie discovered that Kimiko had been involved in the fire over at MacHugh's place (MacHugh stiffed Maggie about 20,000 pounds after a disagreement over services), the characters bonded and holed up to heal.

This gave both players a chance to deal with the game's narrative mechanics and combat mechanics in a low-pressure situation.

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The overall verdict: As the RPG.net reviewer said, Fireborn's rules get out of the way when you're trying to roleplay and jump into the foreground when you need them to describe the action, and it's a combination that everyone seems to appreciate so far. By the third combat at the end of the pre-game, {S} and {M} were into the flow of the dice and {S} was praising the system's unique attributes -- how counterattacking and partial success and vivid combat descriptions and whatnot flowed from the core rule in a way that really goes beyond anything we've previously played. Easing into the combat rules a bit at a time has worked out the best so far for us; find some excuses to have your first action scene be small and non-threatening, so that your players feel free to experiment with the rules and the number-crunching in a way that doesn't make them feel like they're putting their character on the line by not doing things "right".

Anyway, tonight will be our second proper game of the campaign, and the first with everyone attending. I've gotta get going so I can make it home in time for game, but I should have a little more time over the holidays to write up how "The Fire Within" is playing out and how the various elements I am injecting on my own are playing out.

(Also, note to self: Now that I am assigning experience points, remind the players that you have to keep track of what XP you've already spent, because it's those accumulated expenditures that determine your character "level".)