Time to check in again on my experience working through The Gates of Terralon, a linear RPG experience presented in the form of a desk calendar. Last time, I kicked off the early-year tutorial, and this time I’m going to cover the rest of it.
On the 8th/9th January (remember, Saturday and Sunday are on the same page), there’s not much to do but roll a Constitution check to not lose my lunch going through the dimensional gate, which I succeed. Fine, cool, one step closer to making a horrible hubristic mistake by trying to destroy the demon realm with a big magical bomb.
10th January has me giving a pep talk to my troops, which I succeed at – meaning I’ll get a bonus on my rolls in the combat that happens on 11th January. That proves handy, because it’s a tough fight against no less than 4 demons, but I end up slaying two of them and taking damage from the other two (prompting me to quaff my healing potion). Then a series of unlucky rolls meant I got battered by the flying boss demon on 12th January.
13th January offered an honest to goodness dungeon crawl: the sheet for the day shows a little map with each room numbered, and I have to pick my route through the dungeon and resolve the rooms I go through. It ends up being zero-sum: I successfully find a healing potion in a demonic sacrificial altar, which I instantly quaffed (erm, seems a bit dodgy to be drinking potions sourced from there but OK, I won’t pass up 4HP) and then I failed to defend myself against a monster and lost the hit points the potion gave me.
14th January is a couple of skill checks: the first determines whether or not I get a small penalty to the second one, the second one determines whether I lose 2HP to an ambush from a demonic guardian or not. This feels kind of low-stakes to me, so let’s move on to 15th/16th January where I fight the demonic gate guardian.
The demonic gate guardian is a big titty spider lady. She looks rather feral and I think she’s meant to be topless; the illustration of her here doesn’t show nipple, but I wouldn’t confidently say it’s 100% unambigiously safe for work either, which feels like a weird choice for a game presented in a desk calendar which could conceivably be used in someone’s workplace. Anyway, I evade her bite but still take a bunch of damage as she squeezes me with her many legs, like she’s Pris from Blade Runner multiplied by four or something. I am very low on hit points now, but I am just about hanging in there, so come the 17th January I get to the end of the tutorial – intact, but barely. The bomb is set and we cut away right as it’s about to go off. Everything’s going to be fine, right? No need to worry about Commander Barrington just because we’ve not witnessed the cosmos-shattering kaboom, right?
That means come 18th January we get to pick our main character for the actual quest! The Sundial Games website provides rules for generating your own character if you wish, but I think I’ll pass. They have apparently been doing modelling runs and, per the Kickstarter update they posted on the subject, they found that more than half of all the characters produced fully randomly ended up dying way more often than intended, but they also found that if they made custom characters whose abilities had good synergy with each other they vastly outperformed the pregens. If it’s too easy to miss the sweet spot, maybe the rules need a bit more refinement?
In addition, given that the whole ethos of the game is that you do a little bit of play per day rather than sitting down and poring over a character gen system, I’m more than happy to grab a pregenerated character so all the work is done for me. Neatly, the companion booklet not only provides a large version of the character sheets, and the background blurbs, but also provides the higher-level versions of the characters.
Anyway, if the system hadn’t already had ample D&D 5E influence, the various pregens on offer seem to be very much the sort of quirky character beloved by the kids these days, with aesthetics and creature types often clearly lifted from existing D&D lore with suitable names changed. You have a
warforged machine-person artificer, a human “cleric” who is clearly intended to be a paladin (don’t think Wizards can control the use of paladin, buds), a dragonborn draakon elementalist wizard, a tabaxi feline monk, a kenku avian necromancer, and a tiefling half-demon swashbucker.
I’m going to go with Mori’an Corvus, the avian necromancer, mostly because his backstory is hilarious:
Mori’an was born with a unique gift. As a hatchling, he pushed a younger sibling out of the nest to see what would happen. When she died from the fall, he was there to bring her back from the dead. He has been fascinated with death ever since.
And there, with our selected pregen travelling to the settlement of Graycliff to take part in a tournament there, I think I will leave things off for the time being. I think I will do my next episode of this series to cover the rest of January, and then from there switch to a monthly update schedule.