The (mostly) same crew who were playing Carbon 2185 were interested in Forbidden Lands. So we have moved onto that, which is great because I enjoy playing this game. For those not familiar, it is a grim Fantasy setting that uses a modified form of the Year Zero Engine for sword & sorcery style play. Magic has a price, the world hates you, now go forth and leave a mangled corpse at the foot of a giant's cairn to pave the way for the future.
If you are not familiar, in the YZE you roll a pool of D6 and look for 6's. All you need is one out of the pool to succeed. You can push, which is re-roll, but any 1's that come up do damage to the attribute you used. So yes, you can disable yourself from pushing your mind and body. One rule change I made, I will allow those who use magic to push, which will increase the likelihood of a magical mishap. I like the mishap table as it is a combination of bad and not-so bad results.
Pushing is how you gain willpower and willpower is how you power your talents from your kin and profession, as well as directly pumping that into magic. And players LOVE to push even when the odds are not necessarily in their favor. For those familiar, think of as going for on 4th Down in American Football or going for 2 points after a touchdown. The momentum of success can turn the game in your favor.
I felt a little called out by the rules in the GM book, which basically tell you not to prep too much. Rely on the provided random encounters. I am a notorious over-prepper but I can dig what is going on here. I would not say its minimalist prep, but maybe it is. Either way, I relied on the system advice and it worked out well. I prepped a little, a few spots on the map that might be of interest.
In the group is a player who is excellent at reading and remembering where the rule can be found. For (literal) decades I have sweated over not knowing a rule. It makes a complex game like Warhammer stressful for me until I feel comfortable running it. But this time, I did not sweat it. I have a good rapport with these players and no one is judging me or rolling their eyes if I have to look up a rule. And in fact I let the one player be the rule authority at the table in an unofficial way and it worked out fine. No one died. We all had a good time. My place as the GM was not usurped.
Letting go of some control is not just fun, its healthy. At least for me. I was able to relax and could GM without feeling like I needed to be the expert.
The YZE rewards a player who wants to push potential great success, but also a sense of control they may not otherwise have. Right from the start, even in non-critical situations, the players were using the push mechanic. It is a lot of fun to see the consequences play out. One player is a dwarf skald and the other an orc rogue.
Immediately, the players made for a place on the map with an open cairn/cave legend. Part of prep is putting together some adventure locations and I had an elven barrows as one. Outside the barrows was an empty camp, with one "sleeping" person inside one of the tents. It was dusk and everyone else was gone. They left the sleeping person alone and checked out the rest of the camp before returning to the sleeping person. I rewarded them with bumps to their water and food dice because the food in the camp was still good. They found some cloaks as well. A pretty cool haul.
When they returned to the sleeping person, they attempted to wake them up by nudging them with their sword. I explained that they did not move and a brief investigation revealed that under the lightless conditions the blanket had looked full, but in fact only the shoulders and head and part of an arm remained of the sleeping person. Something had gobbled them up.
Note: What ate the person? I have no idea. I may have to come up with an ability that one of the elven dead has, but I did not pull the result from a particular monster. It was just color. Maybe abody snatcher?
They did have a wraith approach the orc and warn them not to invade the various barrows. One of the player's pushed a lore roll (I think) and a found footprint turned out to be the half-boot half bone toes of an elven death knight.
Of course, none of this disuades the characters from entering one of the two nearby barrows. Inside they run into 3 (eventully 4) elven wights. The first combat was tense, with player's strength falling not just to weapon blows but their own pushes. The orc managed to stave off being broken (going to 0 STR) using a kin ability and spending willpower, However, that orc stubborness did not avoid the critical injury associated with being broken. A D66 roll determined it was ruptured instestines. The dwarf managed to battlefield dress the wound, which would have been fatal if not treated.
They decided to retreat to a nearby hill to rest. For their pain they havef ound some paltry coins, a necklace of sapphires, and a set of chain mail. One of the principles of the game is that the GM should keep the characters hungry. No victory is ever THE victory that gets you riches. You get enough to get by.
Which was reinforeced when I had them roll for water and food. The orc's food, which had gone up to a D8, dropped again because that player rolled 1 on their food consumable.
Overall Forbidden Lands was a good experience. I like how much control the players can exert using the system. This is through pushing their rolls and deciding where they want to travel, what points of interest might be something to explore. And using the willpower they gain from those instances where they push. Combat was tense and not a sure thing.