Posts Tagged ‘Eric

06
Sep
10

Word from the Geofront

Just a quick update: I’ve been at Myrtle Beach for the past six days, hence my lack of gaming posts. I have, however, finished mapping out two levels of my megadungeon and wrote up the contents of 75 rooms, including assorted furnishings and bric-a-brac. I gotta tell ya, filling in all the fine details takes a lot of time! But it’s necessary to give the dungeon that “lived-in” look. Some of it actually counts as treasure, too! (This is a good reason to bring in the Trader PC: to assess the value of this chair or that tapestry!)

More later. Eric out.

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11
Aug
10

Age Before Beauty?

This thread on RPGnet contains a discussion on why people still play early editions of D&D instead of 4e. Some of the options presented by the original poster seem to miss the point, but the debate looks healthy and energetic.

As for myself, I run old-school D&D because it’s clean and simple and flexible, requiring little prep and allowing me to wing it without feeling like I’m breaking the rules. The thought of writing up 3e stat blocks again makes my brain bleed, and 4e looks far too rigid in format and playstyle for my taste.

What about you? Why do you play old-school D&D instead of the newer editions?

16
Jul
10

DexCon After Action Report, Part 2

Saturday saw a major upswing in attendance. The halls were crowded, as were the gaming tables. The signup sheets for my sessions, which had been almost empty, finally started to fill up.

My Saturday afternoon game was packed, with eight people squeezed around a small round table. Character creation was slowed by having only two sets of the core rules, though that’s mostly because people took a lot of time to equip their characters. Strange that it takes so long even with Red Box’s limited list of gear! But they finally sorted out their possessions and special abilities—mostly combative knacks in the vein of “two-weapon fighting,” “quick shot” and “weapon master”—and the fighter-heavy party trekked out in heavy rain to the Chateau.

This was unquestionably the best of my D&D sessions at the convention. The players had a strong dynamic and were interested both in role-playing their characters and in exploring and looting the depths. After negotiating with the Chateau’s orcish guardians (aided by an excellent reaction roll), they delved into the dungeons, where it took them some time to realize that the map they were drawing of their exploration was identical to one of the pre-drawn maps they’d received at the start of play. They eventually found their way to the vastness of the Grand Stair that wound down through the center of the dungeon. A random encounter there turned into something resembling a set-piece battle, and a wild plan involving a rope and elementary physics saved the day from an otherwise invincible opponent.

One noteworthy situation that arose here was the trouble of resting in the dungeon. Distrusting the orcs, the party decided to hole up in a small dungeon room. As the room they picked had no door, they set guards in the hallway outside, and took apart some furniture from a nearby room to build a bonfire in the hall. Naturally, this brought multiple waves of wandering monsters down upon them! They only reconsidered this stratagem after a preponderance of the PCs had been paralyzed by ghouls.

Saturday evening was a slower session, with only five players, two of whom had played in the afternoon game. The resulting continuity resembled a real campaign, with the returning PCs farming out magic items to the new players and sharing maps and information about the dungeon. Sadly, their chosen path took them through empty room after empty room, while the random encounter die refused to cough up any monsters. Had this been a session at home with my own gaming group, that would have been fine—exploring a new area is a more meaningful reward in long-term play—but these people were paying to play a single adventure, so I fudged things to drop an encounter in their path. Things warmed up considerably after that, and the players seemed to have a good time despite a near-TPK at the end. (How many paralyzed adventurers can fit into a carrion crawler’s stomach? Roll 1d4!)

Sunday was spent on a final visit to the dealer’s room, where I acquired a copy of The Swordswoman and some old AD&D modules on the cheap, then headed home; I’m not a fan of Sunday convention gaming, as I prefer to get home early and take some time to decompress. I think I’m finally finished decompressing!

All in all, it was a good experience and a viable experiment. I plan to give it another try next February at Dreamation 2011.

14
Jul
10

DexCon After Action Report, Part 1

Whew! I’m still recovering from four days spent in sunny Morristown, NJ at DexCon XIII. Joe Bloch over at Greyhawk Grognard assembled an elite team of DMs—him, me and Rich McKee—to run old-school games, creating a gaming track with the delightful name of “Invasion of the Grognards.”

The convention space, at the Morristown Hyatt, was pleasant and spacious, and Raul’s Empanadas down the street makes a mean empanada (surprise!). But that’s not what you’re here to read about, gentle readers! So, D&D:

I’d scheduled four sessions of play in my home megadungeon, the Chateau d’Ambreville, to provide a slice of actual old-school dungeon delving. I was a bit nervous; much of the fun of the dungeon crawl comes from being invested in the long-term development of one’s character and party. Would convention-goers enjoy the game without that attachment? (The answer turned out to be a definite yes. Read on!)

Thursday was slow; few people had shown up to the convention at that point, and the halls were all but empty. The sign-up sheets for my games were likewise almost empty, with four players spread across four sessions!

Only one person showed up for my first session. Not wanting to turn a player away, I let him roll up three characters and pick a destination. He chose the Keep on the Borderlands. Hearing from the locals that a party of adventurers had just visited the Caves of Chaos and trounced a tribe of orcs, his party went to the Caves… where they entered the cave that the PCs in my home game had just cleared of orcs. Instead of moving on to a more fruitful cave, he spent the next hour turning over corpses and searching rooms that had been picked clean.

This would prove to be a theme for the rest of the convention.

Thursday evening was spent as a player, roaming through the Castle of the Mad Archmage. The adventure was fun but frustrating, as teleport rooms confounded my mapping efforts and much of the party seemed bound and determined to get us all killed in entertaining ways. The characters were pre-gens, which saved valuable time from being spent on chargen but made it a bit harder to engage with the game.

Friday brought in more people wandering the halls and signing up for game sessions. Five players turned up for my afternoon game, including a father and his preteen son (player of the infamous “X the Dwarf”). The party headed up to the Chateau d’Ambreville, but decided the place was too dangerous to enter! Instead, they explored the Chateau’s infamous watchtower—long since stripped of valuables by prior adventurers—then went on to visit the ruins of Ambreville town, where they were encircled by undead and only barely cut their way out. They had fun despite only acquiring three copper pieces: a sure sign of success!

Despite my fears, no one had any problems with jumping right into the old-school dungeon delving mindset. There was no need for a grand mission; the quest for gold and magic was enough! Presumably some element of self-selection was in effect, as the adventure description was clear and straightforward in this regard. As to character creation, it went quickly, even accounting for house rules—especially coming up with special abilities for each character. More time was spent on buying equipment than anything else! The main bottleneck was a lack of rulebooks; I should have printed out copies of the relevant material beforehand.

For the evening, I played Shock: Social Science Fiction, one of those wacky new-school games that the kids are talking about. Despite only getting about a third of the way through the game due to time constraints and a surfeit of players, it was absolutely brilliant. We sketched out an entire setting in the first hour: far-future transhuman Earth academics visiting a lost colony where hunter-gatherers with elaborate marriage rituals are at risk of occupation by ore-hungry technocrats. The remaining three hours were packed with drama, largely centering around the technocrats’ discovery that according to the arbitrary measures of genetic “fitness” that defined their caste system, the hunter-gatherers would automatically be placed in the ruling caste if they were to be conquered and assimilated as planned.

Mind you, not only isn’t Shock an old-school game, it’s hardly a role-playing game at all. It would be better to describe it as a story game—that is, a game for creating stories. If that’s your bag, I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you’re looking to play a character and get into his or her head-space, though, it won’t give you what you want.

Next post: Saturday!

22
Jun
10

Do Not Read Fight On #9 If…

Pity my poor players, for whom some of the content of this excellent zine is off-limits

The new issue of Fight On is out now. Among the many awesome things it contains is an adventure called “Caves of the Beast Mistress”, which I wrote both as a tribute to Paul Jaquays’ Caverns of Thracia and “Night of the Walking Wet” and a memorial to my friend Sang Lee, whose monster illustrations grace the adventure.

Players in my White Sandbox campaign are hereby forbidden from checking out this part of the issue until they’re sure they won’t want to pursue any still-unexplored directions within the “side entrance” to the Beast Lord’s cave!

When y’all finally do clear these areas, the reward for your patience will be seeing that the names of the characters from the last few sessions are credited as playtesters.

EDIT: You may have trouble finding my contribution to this issue in the table of contents, as your attention is likely to be distracted by the familiar-looking name of  Eric Minton: Purchasing Potions (p. 25) and Grognard’s Grimoirs (p. 114). I am mortified to have forgotten to celebrate Eric’s pieces, which I hope will inaugurate an ongoing takeover of all printed matter everywhere by Mules.

27
May
10

we killed the beast lord. you missed it.

The Beast Lord enjoys his last meal

Tavis’s White Sandbox campaign is largely centered around Paul Jaquays’s 1979 masterpiece, The Caverns of Thracia.  On Saturday night, we defeated its arch-villain, Stronghoen the Beast Lord.

Thirty-seven players and fifty-five characters have played in the sandbox over its twenty-two session lifespan, and they’ve all been gunning for this moment.

What was most impressive to me is that defeating the villain was a beautiful team effort, in which everyone at the table that night played a part.

The Cast

Ookla the Mok, Elvish Ranger
Theos, Dwarven Magic-User (played by JoeTheLawyer)
Lotur the Scurrying Cur, a Fighting-Human (played by Greengoat)
Thales, a Faun
Arnold Littleworth, a Human Magic-User (played by me)
John Fighter, a Fighting-Human
Merselon the Magnificent, a Fighting-Human
Lucky, a Fighting-Hobbit (played by Eric)
THE SPIRITS OF ALL RED BOX CHARACTERS EVERYWHERE

Snapshots of Awesome

Ookla the Mok

Fred the Talking Fish (billion years old, made out of wood, you wear it around your neck, it never shuts up–in short, don’t ask!) cast an illusion on Ookla so that he looks like an Ixchel wearing a sombrero. Ookla would spend the next several hours going “Boogita-boogita-boo!” to every NPC in the game. (Dave had another awesome moment below, but I’m not sure if it was OOC brainstorming or in character.)

Theos the Renegade Dwarven Magician

Armed with our wand of paralyzation, Theos – unafraid to scout ahead – immobilized half a dozen slime-monsters which exploded out of barrels dropped by an especially pesky group of vines.  (He later made a pretty strong bid to operate the wand of wonder while high, which given Tavis’s glee at the idea would have been disastrous but showed massive courage.)

Lotur the Scurrying Cur

After overcoming a swarm of slime-monsters, Lotur ran up the side of a cave wall, and jumped down in front of a female Minotaur so impressively that she decided to worship him.

Thales the Faun, a Faun

Being half-goat means you can haltingly communicate to half-cows. (Who knew?) Thales managed to interview the female Minotaur, discovering much about their lair.

Arnold “Zolobachai” Littleworth

Armed with this information, Arnold cast Zolobachai’s Impertinent Invitation and strolled into a Minotaur Sorority Party. When his attempt to poison everyone failed, he made friends with their Druid-Queen Raven Gargamel.

(It turns out Raven’s gang views the Beast Lord as a sell-out to the lich roaming the dungeon, and she agreed to help fight the Lich if we first neutralized the Beast Lord.  She gave us a straight line of access to the Beast Lord’s palace.  I am pretty sure she didn’t want us to kill him, cannibalize his body for trophies, and then cook what was left in Arnold’s trusty frying pan, but all good relationships are built on keeping some facts strictly to yourself.)

John Fighter, True King of Thracia

With the help of our scouts, John found a group of ten were-bears whom we sorta knew.  After getting the bears good and drunk on Lucky’s dwarven ale, he promised them half the Beast Lord’s treasure if they would help us fight. Were-Bears are 6 HD monsters who cannot be injured by normal weapons – in other words, far more bad-ass than we are.

(So, with 8 of John’s soldiers, and 10 were-bears, we stormed the Beast Lord’s citadel. Everyone did brave things. Kudos especially to Ookla’s player, who ingeniously suggested using illusionary Harpies to trick the victims of a real Harpy’s mind-control powers. I don’t know if this was suggested in-character, so maybe it’s not an Awesome Thing for Ookla, but it was still damn clever, and built on an idea Joe had.)

Merselon the Magnificent

After the gang demolished six Gnolls, five Harpies and a Hydra, Stronghoen the Beast Lord and his group of Gnolls charged out at us. Though Theos managed to paralyze most of the Gnolls, Stronghoen incinerated all eight of John’s soldiers (including like 3 George Foremans) with a fire ball, which also put 5 of 7 party members at death’s door. When Arnold blinded the Beast Lord with the wand of wonder, MERSELON THE MAGNIFICENT magnificently vaulted into melee combat alone, and was the first of the Grey Company to draw the Beast Lord’s blood. For a round or two, Merselon fought the Beast Lord alone … until the Beast Lord slew him with single stroke of his enormous battle axe. It was an epic death.

Lucky the Hobbit

With Merselon down and the Were-Bears running away in terror, things looked grim. As Arnold desperately tried to revive the others, Lucky kept nailing the Beast Lord with critical after critical. As John, Ookla, and Lotur – all with 1-2 hit points – swarmed into melee, Lotur’s preposterous fumble managed to distract the Beast Lord long enough for Lucky to nail him straight through the throat with one of his deadly arrows, and as the Beast Lord fell to his knees, King John ran Stronghoen through with his blade, Heart of the Mok. (Then Arnold hit him upside the head with the busted frying pan.)

Lucky is more of a bad-ass than I'd previously assumed

Aftermath

We pretty much stopped right there: six survivors, each with one foot in the grave, gathered around the Beast Lord’s corpse in the depths of the Lost City. Though a Dog Brother was gathering reinforcements deeper in the palace and casting nefarious spells, the Slayers of the Beast Lord bowed their heads to honor all the brave souls who have soldiered at their side:

Merselon the Magnificent (Acrobat)
Christos, Assassin
Maldoor the M-U
Obscura the Illusionist
Lydio the Spider-Dwarf, M-U
Thisilyn, Cleric
Fostra, Archer
Caswin of Aeschlepius, Cleric
Emurak the multi-classed
Bartholomew Honeytongue, Cleric
Brother Gao, Cleric
Into the Mystic, Cleric
23, Robot Cleric
Myggle the Priest
Mallo Beer-bane, Cleric
Thorsten Skullsplitter (Fighting Man)
Garrett Nailo, (Cleric)
David Carradine, Monk
Colin, F-M
Tommy, M-U
Argus the Rat Knight, F-M
Narcissus, M-U
Elston, Elf
Sir Hendrik the Halfling
Garrock, Alchemist
Obamabiden the Druid
Fark the Dwarf
Dirk
Orb the M-U (and his spider)
Fletcher the Fighting Man
Janape
Bluto, F-M
Morena, F-W
Chance, Cleric
Billy the Rat
Nicholas, Cleric
Axum Maldoran (Axum)
Dr. Meridian Kaine the Cleric
Doghead the M-U
Tiburo, F-M
Wolfrey, F-M
Rebmik the Cleric
Balint, Sapper
Goo the baby Elf
Mariano the Fighting Man
Renaldo the Cleric
Florin the Dwarf
Oban the Cleric
B’Var the Fighting Man
Wallace the Caged (Fighting Man)
Mungar the Fighting Man
Tusk the Fighting Man

We could not have slain Stronghoen without their bravery, creativity, and fellowship.

07
May
10

Should I have killed Martin “Le Black”?

In last night’s game, while the party was fleeing a horse-sized giant scorpion, stalwart party member Martin “le Black” held the back of the line to give the others time to flee up a stairway. His player asked me if he could get some bonuses to AC for fighting purely defensively, having the high ground, and being better able than the giant scorpion to maneuver through the close confines of the rubble-choked stair. “Sure,” I said. But it was late and I was tired, and I didn’t actually determine what the modifiers would be. I just rolled the dice.

The attack roll for the giant scorpion’s stinger was a 19. Was this a hit? I didn’t know. Probably it should have hit—almost certainly, really—but that was meaningless when I was deciding on the modifiers after the fact. If I’d chosen the modifiers beforehand, this would be letting the dice fall where they may. Now, however, it was pure DM fiat either way.

I thought for a moment. If the attack hit and Martin blew his poison save, I’d be killing a PC by fiat. If the attack missed, I’d be going soft on my players, and that’s a violation of social contract; the old school DM must be harsh but fair, and this would undermine that crucial harshness.

Man vs. Scorpion

The scorpion in our game? Bigger.

What did I do? I split the difference, sort of. I let the attack hit but without the poison save; the giant scorpion’s stinger missed, but smacked Martin upside the head on the backswing for a few points of damage. Not much of a compromise, really, as he had oodles of hit points to spare, though it could have made a difference if the scorpion had gotten another set of attacks off before Martin clambered out of range. (Those two d10 pincer attacks can be nasty!)

In retrospect, the best choice would have been to discard that attack roll, solidly establish the ad hoc modifiers, and then roll the attack again. But I’m not embarrassed by my choice. Strictness isn’t a goal in and of itself; it’s a means to an end, and its goal is a more enjoyable play experience at the table. Player characters should never die for ambiguous reasons. Killing Martin while I was playing loosey-goosey with the rules would not have made things more fun.

The lesson I’m taking away from this is not that I need to be harsher, or that I need to kill off a PC to make up for it. The lesson is that letting the dice fall where they may only works if you know what the roll means before you let the dice drop.




Past Adventures of the Mule

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