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Matthew Muth
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ENnies nominations come out today! Fingers crossed for HAoE!

Ok. Today at noon EST I am running my fourth ever HAOE game. A group of friends and I are in a large secluded cabin in northern Georgia.

I have a vague sense of plot but I believe it will revolve around a sinister vendor of candied apples who desires on specific apple owned by Grimhilde. Will the characters assist him or side with her?

I will post later today what happened.

Running a game of Happiest Apocalypse early next month (back to back with Bedlam Hall). I went through the revised combat rules and liked them. But a max of 3 harm seems really brutal. I do love that it is simplified, though. Is there a reason you went with 3, instead of say, 4 or even 5? Just curious so I can mentally prepare myself for the slew of death and insanity. :)

So I have turned a lot of people onto HAoE and they are asking when pre-orders might be taken. Anything I can tell them? :)

Christopher, something I want to make sure does not get lost in all this discussion is something very key positive feedback. In each of these sessions I have run, there have been a few murderhobo types - hard core Pathfinder/D&D guys who hate just about everything weird or off. Now, to be fair, these guys like the games I run as I tend to have things come off as a Tim Burton movie, but still, these guys loved it so much, that they wanted to line up and buy copies when it releases. These dudes may never run it but still, they liked it.

Sadly, some of these guys live in the same town I am living in and I am moving away soon (my wife got a job transfer to a new city). But I can find some converts there. :)

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Oh and here are a few of my NPC cards: Elizabeth Bathory, Constance Hatchaway (the insane bride), The Horseman, Squire Toad, Mr. Charming, and Augustus Dilley.
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So let's talk about the scenario I have used.

In the three times I have run it, I have used the same basic story:

Years ago, Mr. Oswald Dilley (the original founder of the park) struck a deal with several dubious individuals to use their magic and powers to help fuel the park with supernatural elements, then imprisoned them within his 'Hall of Rejected Princesses.' Among them was Elizabeth Bathory, the notorious Blood Countess who used magic fueled by the blood of others. But she managed to find a way to get her familiar, a talking fox named Attila, out of the prison and enact her schemes. Her scheme was to convert the Headless Horseman to her cause and get him to decapitate the current CEO, Augustus Dilley. Since the original contract was signed in Dilley blood, the Countess figured that spilled the current man's blood was her last chance.

Now, backgrounds that were created took us about an hour and a half (I have a little subsystem I use for backgrounds that players tend to go nuts over, so I used it here, too.)

In each case, some good characters were made. One player in one session suggested she was here looking for her brother who disappeared a year ago (we found out later he was a victim of the Headless Horseman). Other players were children of U.S. Senators looking for good contacts in the entertainment industry, a paranormal investigator and (a mistake allowing this on my part) an undercover government agent looking to expose everything.

Players love, love, love the park creation process but after the first time, I found it took too long so we just focus on one area.

The first game the area they focused on was a Nordic themed place, in the second game it was a Pirate themed place and in the third it was a Lovecraft inspired park. They made elaborate rides, shops and restaurants.

In every case, they made a combination of characters in costume and attendants who served the costumed weirdos.

Now, as the plot progressed, the first scene involves a horrible accident at the park where visitors are killed, Bathory's pet fox, Attila being the engineer of the accidents, spilling enough blood for her to execute a few plans behind the scenes.

The next scene involves their boss, 'Mr. Charming,' sending them on a special assignment based on their clever actions. He sends them down to the bowels of the park to negotiate a contract with a special guest of the Halloween Parade. They get down there and have to load a mysterious coffin sized box into a truck driven by 'Squire Toad,' (and they go on a dangerous ride through the tunnels). (They LOVED Squire Toad, by the way.) They know there is something moving inside the box.

Squire Toad's truck breaks down and he warns them to stay close. Of course they wander off while Toad fixes the truck. They find their way to the Hall of Rejected Princess where they encounter Joan d'Arc, Lucretia Borgia, Queen Mary and, of course, Elizabeth Bathory and her fox (who they recognize from the first scene).

Bathory tries to strike a deal with them, promising them power and influence if they let her out. (And I describe a nice song and dance number which is kind of morbidly funny.)

They usually tell her they will think about it . . .

They get to the truck, Toad yells at them for wandering off. They get to theri destination and are asked to read from a book and open the coffin where there is a bound person inside. Horseman materializes from Hell, lops off the head of the victim and puts it on his body so he can talk. They must negotiate with the Horseman who is none too happy to be in the parade yet again with bad compensation. They offer him all kinds of things in the various scenarios - Dilley Dollars, Fidget Spinners, T-Shirts and even a bride in one scenario.

Now, from then, things go off in different directions. Bathroy uses her fox to cause trouble, more accidents and so on. In one instances, they convince the creepy bride from 'Haunted Hotel' to marry the Horseman. In other cases they decide they may want to side with Bathory.

Either way, the end scene is with Dilley watching the parade from his owner's box off Main Street. I portray him like Johnny Depp's Willy Wonka, but weirder and with 15% more sexual miscreant to him.

In one story, they save Dilley, in one they blackmail him and in another they serve him to Bathory and the Horseman.

Oh, and I called my scenario, 'I Just Can't Wait to be Queen.' :)

You will be happy to know that whereas the second session of Happiest Apocalypse was . . . not good, the first session was spectacular. Also, despite the second session’s problems, they did provide good feedback.
The specifics of what happened in each session I can go into at a later date, that is really more for fun. I am sure you would be more interested in the nuts and bolts feedback of the system.

First, you should know that the folks I ran the game for (5 players in each session) are really top notch players – former ENnies Judges, former ENnies Business Manager, current ENnies Business manager, a couple of fairly well known game designers, etc. So they are used to examining rules and offering excellent play and advice.

Second, every single person who played absolutely loved the game, loved the idea of the game and thought it was just a spectacular idea.
Several individuals expressed skepticism at an ongoing campaign or extended play but by the end, were convinced there were enough ideas and possibilities for campaign play. And several of them wanted to have me let them know ASAP as soon as the game was available. So I made several future sales for you. :)

OK, now on to some of the critiques, suggestions, etc.
Almost everyone suggested that there be a playbook/skin like the standard PbtA games. The reason for this is that it would help making characters much faster – especially in one shots. The way things are laid out now, it takes much longer to whip characters together as people are potentially suffering from analysis paralysis. Further, it runs the risk of people taking the same abilities. Sure, they can co-ordinate, but that is just one more thing to take up time.

Suggestion: This is something I have heard every time I have run it (3 times now). I realize that one of the problems you had mentioned in the past was that you did not want a management skin, an entertainer skin and a rides attendant skin to have to figure out why they are all together. However, maybe you could switch them to archetypes. ‘The Brat,’ ‘The Kiss-Ass,’ The Weirdo,’ The Bully,’ ‘The Super Fan,’ etc.

Feedback was split on the combat system. PtbA games have always been a little odd for me with regards to combat. Violence resolution has always felt like people need to trust the GM when the GM takes all the rolls and just narrates how the scene gets resolved. But I think what several people preferred was the Monsterhearts method where the one roll dictates what happens rather than the subsequent damage roll. For me, I am of two minds on it. The one roll method is certainly more convenient but the subsequent roll promotes more diverse choices.

In discussing the entire game after each session, there were questions as to whether or not there would be chapters on maybe some pre-set standard parks. So if you want to run it as a dark comedy, have a chapter with some ideas. If you want to run it as sheer horror, have a section that discusses that. Some ideas for attractions and rides as well as some rumors and story seeds with various attractions. This may help kick start some GM ideas for a session (or campaign).

I guess along these lines there was some confusion regarding whether or not the creatures and princesses were real people who dressed up or there were actually talking Toads and Lions running around ala Who Framed Roger Rabbit. I obviously told them it depended. Of course, this might be something to mention in the GM section – decide which way you want to go with it. How much overt or hidden fantasy/supernatural do you want to include in your game? That might be worthwhile to include.

Also, there were some questions about Wards. Some items or abilities give a +1 Ward. I can’t recall seeing what Wards do in the game (maybe they were there and I missed it). So I just had them pick either physical or magical and gave them a bonus versus being attacked (depending on the attack type). Was I doing this right?

So the second session I ran last night was kind of a mess. They liked it but things went off the rails in a bad way, sadly.

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My second HAoE game. At GenCon no less! It went really well. Here are some of our props.
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