Play by Forum: Hexplore It - The Sands of Shurax

Heh, I wasn’t expecting Tom to join us. But y’all could!

I am also not a fan of TTS and I don’t own it. But I will play if I don’t actually need it myself!

Nah, strictly play by forum. I’m just using it to administer the game state so I don’t have to have it set up on my table for months and take photos.

@Thraeg, @Ormus - any thoughts as to Roles you might want to play? If you’re not already familiar with the game don’t worry too much about the finer details, mostly you just want a party spread between types of role: Strikers are DPS, Sappers are debuffers (and in particular, do a lot of damage to enemy energy, which limits their options as far as attacking - this hasn’t always been super high priority in older volumes but Sands has a keyword called Energetic that gives enemies with 50+% of their energy additional nasty effects), Healers are, you know, healers, Assists are kinda tanks/buffers, and Utility do various weird things that can help the group out. Also important to note, the party mostly acts collectively, except in combat. (Or there’s now a Merchant role who can split off, set up shops, and send hired goons to help out when the main party fights.) So supporting each other is helpful, solo capabilities irrelevant.

'mando’s contemplating a Striker, a Sapper, and an Assist, so one of those roles can be covered already.

Also, Healers are very much not mandatory, if that was a worry for anyone. They can be very good, but they’re the least common role overall and many of my games of Hexplore It have not had one.

I’d like to join up, provided the group can tolerate absences/pauses every so often. I often camp on the weekends, and If the game extends until late June, I’ll be in Costa Rica and mostly incommunicado for a couple of weeks.

I almost always play a tank in MMOs, so maybe I’d like to do an Assist class if you’ll have me. If my inconstancy would mar the group’s experience, I’m content to subscribe and observe.

I think in this particular game it’s probably fine as long as you don’t mind things going on without your input sometimes. Like I say, I’m not sure how much it even makes sense as a PBF yet since the most control individual players have is during combat and that’s probably too slow to resolve turn by turn on the forum. But eh. I want to give it a shot starting with the approach I discuss above, and if y’all feel like you’re not getting to make meaningful decisions we can always adjust.

I should also offer the option of just getting dealt a random Role of a type as well, or having me pick (I’ll probably just go with a Sands Role because theme and new content, if so).

The Trap Specialist looks fun, I could go with that.

I am familiar with the rules, but not any tied to SoS specifically. I will check the rules out tomorrow (I am on UK time).

I like the Warden, but in the spirit of theme, I’d choose the Whip Master.

That makes me lean toward Dervish to make sure we’ve got a Striker onboard. I wouldn’t say no to one last person taking a Healer slot, but like @malkav11, you can absolutely make it through without one. At least in VotDK and FoA, there was sort of an invisible threshold of power you’d cross midgame that you rarely if ever felt especially threatened beyond (assuming you were keeping difficulty within a couple of ranks of default, like we did).

I’m happy to play the Templar if @Thraeg wants to play an Assist or Sapper.

@Thraeg ? We are apparently waiting on you, man.

Oh, sure, I’ll try a Sapper then.

OK, if @Thraeg is a Defilist or whatever, would it be better for me to be a Whipmaster or a Templar? What do you think @malkav11 and @ArmandoPenblade?

I’ve been watching the Rolling Solo playthrough videos to get an idea about the rules.

Do what you’d rather play. They all work, and the SoS ones have a few specific tricks to interact with the SoS systems, too.

Do you have a specific preference or would you rather leave it up to me?

Ok, I’ll be the Whipmaster then just because I really like the peacock feathers

No preference at this point. I’m open to trying whatever.

I’ll have more time to do initial setup, fill out stats, etc later but for now, presenting our party:
@Matt_W as the Empowered Troll Whip Master

@Ormus as the Metabolic Shifter Trap Specialist

@Thraeg as the Headstrong Drian Psion

and @ArmandoPenblade as the Resonant Fairy Dervish

Please feel free to come up with names and elaborate backstories for your doom…I mean, valiant adventurers.

Edit: Okay, calculated the numbers, and put them in this spreadsheet.

Before you do anything else in the game, you can spend any or all of your ten starting gold on Gear Upgrades for your stats. Abilities start at 4 gold for the first Rank you purchase as Gear, and go up 1 gold each time from there. Skills, 3 gold etc. Vitals, 2 and up. (The ring around each stat is the gear ranks and their costs.)

General thoughts: y’all suck at skills. Especially survival. Holy shit. Three of you kind of really need survival (well, 2 of you if our Metabolic Trap Specialist can get some Metabolic ranks going) or you’re going to be starving in the Wastes constantly. (Speaking of which, you might want to save some gold for buying rations - they’re 2 gold plus a surcharge from whichever Caravan Master is at the nearest Caravansary, or just 2 at a city bazaar. Up to y’all, though - some enemies also drop food and most will drop gold.) Mando, you’re kind of unprepared for this whole frontline fighting gig with a whole 1 point of attack and 3 health. Thraeg, you really want to get at least one more point of Ectoplasmic Growth because you don’t get to actually get any Mutations when you use it until you have 3 points of it. Which, you would normally start with, but…you’re Headstrong. Tough luck! Let me know which gear if any y’all would like to grab. Keep in mind after this you won’t be able to buy gear usually except in City-States, and they’ll only offer specific stats.

For our spectators, a quick breakdown of what all this means:
Hexplore It characters start with a Role sheet, which defines baseline stats, including Abilities (Attack, Defense, and two unique Masteries, all with Role-specific names, which are primarily used in combat but Masteries may have some out of combat utility.), Skills (rolled every turn to navigate in the correct direction, possibly locate miscellaneous resources, and forage for enough food to spare one’s nonperishable food reserves; as well as being used for Missions and other stat tests), and Vitals (health and energy, the former self explanatory, the latter a resource primarily used to activate Masteries and some Racial abilities). There is also a section for recording derived stats - masteries will often have effects based on how many ranks you have in your Abilities, things you pick at certain ranks or similar. And Attack Abilities have a couple other associated icons indicating whether they do just Health damage or can optionally do Energy damage or Outlast damage instead (in this party the Psion and Whip Master can choose to do Energy damage, and the Psion can choose to do Outlast damage). Nobody in this group has it, but certain Roles in Sands of Shurax have a gold icon on their Defend ability that indicates that they are better at Bribing bribable encounters and Caravan Masters. And some Forests of Adrimon roles can optionally attempt to Influence enemies to their side. (If that enemy has an Influence rating.).

The Whip Master is a control specialist who can bind an enemy in their whip to injure them and potentially sustain an ongoing effect that reduces the enemy’s available actions and later gives allies a damage boost against that enemy while the effect continues. They can also electrify the whip to do damage, at higher ranks,reducng the enemy’s number of targets that round and also boosting allied damage.

The Trap Specialist lays damaging traps for the enemy and they do extra damage (at later ranks, permanently improved) when they correctly guess enemy actions, and can also exert control over the enemy’s actions.

The Psion can always do two different actions on a combat round at a potentially significant energy cost, can spontaneously manifest temporary Mutations (a new mechanic in Sands of Shurax) for the duration of combat, and can lay mental traps for the enemy to heavily energy damage and debuff the enemy if they guess the enemy’s action correctly, at later ranks also buffing party skill rolls triggered by those enemy actions.

(You may notice a pretty freaking strong synergy between these three classes.)

The Dervish can reduce damage dealt to them whenever they spend energy in combat, make multiple attacks per round, and self-buff to be more evasive and opportunistically gain extra damage during combat when they evade. (No synergies here, but pretty strong abilities nonetheless.)

Races modify the Role starting stats, and provide an Initial Food Rating, which is both how much Food a character must consume on their turn if they fail their Survival roll (or in Sands, are in the Wastes and want to avoid heat exhaustion) and sort of an indication of how large that character is and thus how much food they can carry, and a Racial ability. Most racial abilities are active once per X abilities with a cost.

The Troll can gain ongoing health regen for a few rounds once per combat.
The Shifter can copy someone else’s Racial once per turn, with the same costs and restrictions.
The Drian has that special Bribing proficiency that some Sands roles have, and can once per turn pay Energy instead of some amount of Gold when buying an item.
The Fairy can pay a fairly substantial amount of energy to give a 2 point bonus to any skill roll. (Skill rolls are lower is better, so -2 is good.)

Traits are personality characteristics of that character that give another small adjustment to base stats, and then have a condition you must fulfill to gain “trait points”. Every time you fill the bar on the trait card with trait points, you gain a Trait rank, which makes the ongoing ability of the Trait stronger. At ranks 3 and 6, you also rank up a stat. Usually, at rank 6 you also give the trait an additional effect.

Empowered you need to spend energy to gradually give yourself the ability to…not spend energy when you use masteries and Racials. Eventually, you prevent Energy Drain from hurting your health by converting it to regular energy damage.
Metabolic requires you to heal energy, but lets you eat less and less food when you fail Survival checks. Eventually you can also treat effects that check your Food Rating as 2 higher or lower, depending on your preference.
Headstrong requires you to end combats at full health, and gives you extra damage while you’re at full health, eventually cancelling an attack against you (specifically, not group based) the first round of combat if you’re at full health.
Resonant requires triggering a once per Game Turn effect, and allows using those effects more frequently, eventually including those from allies.

A couple of these don’t really sync very well with the characters, but such is the way the cookie crumbles.

Ok, did setup. Here is the Game Turn placard:

Here is the current game setup:

You are starting lost in the Wastes directly below the “HOTTile” in the center bottom, which in this case (it’s random) contains a Caravansary and an Oasis. There is also an ancient ruined village to your immediate right (this has no inherent game effect, unlike the Caravansary and Oasis). While you are in the Wastes you move more slowly and have to eat food equal to your Food rating even if you make your survival check. Taking a Caravan from the Caravansary (or finding another one) is the only way to make it back to civilization in the form of the City-States in the quadrants to either side (or on the other side, pictured shortly). However, the Ravager of Shurax will spawn in the next few turns and start moving around the Wastes. He’ll only visit each explored HOTtile once and only the players can add new ones by exploring. Once he’s visited and departed from over half the explored HOTtiles in play, Act II starts, and he’ll start moving faster and leaving the wastes at times. This is bad. (And Act III is even worse.) So you probably want to balance between time in more civilized regions (which are more forgiving and offer opportunities to get food more regularly) and time in the Wastes (which get you more time on your clock and Ravager crystals and such). This is the Ravager, btw:

Here is the other half of the board. Notice the Circumstance cards in play. Many turns will involve encountering a Circumstance on this board - you’ll roll a d6 and 1, 2, 3 or 4 hit the card in that slot. 5 or 6 is the top of the Circumstance deck. If you roll a 6 and so choose, you can draw a Peril card instead. Probably don’t do that yet, they’re very dangerous (but have additional rewards).

Here are zoomed in versions of the cards up currently:

Here are the current missions the four City-States are offering, from Dria, Nemsynet, Phorora and Tarri left to right:

(The one for Phorora is the start of a Living Card story arc.)
If you can find a Mission location (with the arrow-in-target icon of the appropriate terrain type, you can initiate any of the three missions that involve skill checks. Get the appropriate amount of successes on the appropriate skill in one attempt, and you will have succeeded the mission and will get moved one step toward that city on the reputation track (either horizontally or vertically depending) and get the listed reward as a group (a gold hex with a + means you get 2 gold each if you’re in that city’s part of the reputation track after the mission adjustment and none if not, and the + cards are Power Ups which are how you advance). A couple have “opposite reputation” options, which mean you can choose to have done the mission for the opposing city instead, and get that reputation. Generally the only difference otherwise is they have a different reward for getting a critical success.

Finally, here’s the starting Battle Mat, which tracks some miscellaneous things like Reputation, Arena Reputation, group permanent items, how many times you’ve gotten food from Oases, and difficulty (starter, to start with):

Things I need from y’all:

  1. take a look at your finalized character stats in the spreadsheet a couple posts back and see if you’d like to buy any gear upgrades, then let me know what.
  2. name your character.
  3. Pick a starting reputation as a group - you can move one step towards any of the four City-States at the start of the game. It’s optional, but possibly beneficial. Being aligned with a City-State gets you discounts for some of their stuff when you’re there, and more money for using the Employment option, better pay from their missions sometimes, and so on. Getting maxed out rep with a City State (or a faction, in the extreme corners) has other benefits if you have the expansion. But also, the opposing City-States might mess with you.
  4. As a group, let me know which movement mode you’d like to use (the Game Turn placard has the list and the effects) and where you’d like to go. If you move to or through the Caravansary you’ll reveal a Caravan Master and their destination. If you stop there, you can buy Bazaar items cheaper than 3 gold base price, with a Master-based markup. (I’ll provide the Bazaar placard, but importantly, you can buy food at 2 gold for 5 food at a time. You can share gold and food whenever outside of combat.) And optionally travel with the Master to their destination, which will trigger the Caravan Journey mechanics (they can be pretty rough, and cost food, so be careful). The Oasis heals you and can refill your food (see the Game Turn placard). Going up to the edge of a HOTtile will allow you to place a new random HOTtile which might have things like mission locations or bosses and you can keep going if you still have movement. Once I have your intended destination, I’ll pull up any new stuff that’s triggered along the way and then…
  5. I will roll your skill checks for you. If you crit anything I’ll ask which critical benefit you want unless it’s obvious (e.g. healing is pointless right now because you’re at full.) In the unlikely event a character with a positive Food Rating succeeds their Survival check (seriously y’all suck at survival), I’ll ask if you want to eat food anyway if you’re in the Wastes - it’s optional at that point, but if you don’t you’ll gain the Heat Exhaustion Condition and take 2 Energy Drain (which removes energy but rolls over into health if you’re out of energy) every turn until you clear it. If no decisions need to be made at this point, it’s either Circumstances or the Event phase depending on where you end up.

@Matt_W @ArmandoPenblade @Ormus @Thraeg