Saturday, September 18, 2010

Motherlode: Five Point Plan

Alright, Scott, you're on.

Since most of the stuff that I've been using for the Motherlode game has come from other blogs that I've read over the past few months and not in-store purchases, I'm going to choose five (5) things to game with from there. As said before, we're using Swords and Wizardry. I really like the streamlined Saving Throws and the way that Ascending AC and To-Hit bonuses are already worked into the text. As someone who started out playing D&D in 3rd Edition and is running a game for people who've all played 3rd Edition, it's a good place to start for that base old-school feeling, but with some tweaks that make it easier for me and my players to accept.

So, without further adieu...

1) Beyond the Black Gate's Thief Class: Probably my favorite iteration of the old-school type thief class. The single Thievery percentile skill both simplifies the classes' multiple skills issue and helps 1st level Thieves feel a bit more useful.

2) Jeff Rients' Deck of Stuff: I love this fucking thing. The random items that they drew helped my players flesh out their character, whether it was giving them a flavor (like the wheel of stinky cheese convincing Joe that his half-elven magic-user was 250lbs.) or was something that they could use in a pinch (Mike's silver dagger, which he hurled into a crossbowman when he realized that he didn't have any other ranged weapons)

3) Jeff Rients' Carousing Rules: Because that's the kind of silly shit that I want to encourage in this game.

4) Tales of the Rambling Bumbler's Super-Simple Combat Maneuvers: Literally, the best way I've ever seen to adjudicate called shots, knock downs and the like.

5) Trollsmyth's Shields Shall Be Splintered: Makes having a shield totally awesome.

And to top it all off, liberal application of my newly acquired copy of the Moldvay Basic box set.

Everything else, from here on out, is going to be pure me.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Old school D&D my way

In the past few months, ever since I started looking at earlier versions of Dungeons and Dragons, I've been immersed in reading the opinions, examples and modifications of dozens of bloggers, forum posters and retroclone authors who all seemed to be having a blast with what they were playing. Having never played an edition of D&D before 2nd, I took all of these examples to heart and tried to make my eventual campaign as much like the games I saw Jeff Rients, Zak S, James Maliszewski and Al Krombach playing.

It didn't go so well and I think I know why. There wasn't enough me in it.

I have still never run a dungeon crawl or a sandbox campaign. I know that for many of my fellow bloggers, these are the types of games that they grew up on and what they associate with D&D. A person who never stopped playing B/X or 1e or an old hand returning to a game that they loved would be able to wing a fun, old-school romp because they know how it goes. They'll remember what they loved about these games, be it the exploration aspect, the fact that death could be around every corner or the game worlds that they almost lived in. When I ended up running it, I tried to play a game that I had never played before like a person who's been playing it for years, if not decades. Needless to say, it didn't feel right.

So what do I like in my role-playing game experiences? I'll have to think on that. The games that I've run with the most success have mostly been westerns, cyberpunk and modern supernatural hunting. I'll have to think on it before deciding anything concrete.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Don't bury me... I'm still not dead

And today, we got one more potential player.

I was shelving the African American Fiction when LeeAnn called me over to the desk to meet a girl who was interested in the D&D game. Her name is Jamilah and she was unfortunately unable to make the Wednesday afternoon time slot due to classes, but she noticeably brightened when I told her that the game was pretty much on hold for this semester and would hopefully start in January, once everyone's schedules could be recalibrated.

So, in tribute to the wonderful platonic ideal of this Library D&D game, here's the Riverboat Gamblers. I always kind of likened them to a combination between the garage punk of the Hives and Dillinger Four's driving rhythm. If that doesn't mean anything to you, they're a solid melodic punk group with a pretty incredible live show. :)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My unfortunate realization

Talked with LeeAnn again today at work. Apparently, she had gotten some more complaints and disapproving comments about the D&D program from the religiously minded folks in the community at Homewood's local community fair. Once again, no one but Tai showed up. As much as I'd hate to admit it, I really don't think that the Homewood Library is really the place for a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. The people I've met there have been wonderful and kind, but D&D hasn't really had a great track record with God's people over the past few decades. I can assume that the last time any of these folks have heard anything about D&D, it was coming from a pulpit in the mid 80s. I don't think any amount of earnest proselytizing on my part will ever convince them that there isn't something sinister about rolling dice and kicking imaginary monsters in the face.

In a way, I'm kind of glad that the game fell through. The increasing amount of work and reading that graduate school has been heaping on me has honestly felt overwhelming. I don't think I could have kept up school, work and a weekly campaign session without cracking. But the sheer outpouring of support and encouragement that I've received from local Children's and Youth librarians has been astounding. They've inspired me to continue working on the Motherlode campaign, despite my initial misgivings about the first session and tonight, I sent out an email to all of the folks who've encouraged me asking if they would like to like to start up an all-librarians game of Dresden Files.

Yeah, I know it's not D&D, but LeeAnn loves the Dresden Files and she said she'd go halfsies with me on the books. :)

Friday, September 10, 2010

And another thing...

So far, the library game has only garnered one sign-up, the aforementioned Tai. But my mother, who is teaching at a local public school, has been talking to a couple of her new students who seem like they'd be interested in the game.

However, the outpouring of support and encouragement from other children's and youth librarians has been unbelievable. When I went into work on Wednesday, LeeAnn, the children's librarian, handed me this:

Everything in this box is perfect: the book, the Keep on the Borderlands, even the dice and crayon for coloring them in. I have never met this Steve, but apparently he found this copy of Moldvay Basic in a friend's attic and decided to send it to me.

That's fucking awesome.

So we played some Swords and Wizardry last weekend

And I'm still not really sure how it went.

I had told my friends at college that I wanted to run a really informal pick-up D&D game for anyone who wanted to play. Last Saturday, I drove up to Oberlin for Labor Day weekend with a bag full of dice, the Deck of Stuff that I'd put together and a half-finished, randomly-generated dungeon map. The following day, I was able to get a nice chunk of folks together for the game, including my girlfriend Jamie, who's been incredibly supportive of this whole D&D kick since I started this summer, my good friends Mike, Ethan and Joe (who all worked with me on the noir radio drama that we did at college) and a new freshman named Daniel who I'd never met before.

Character creation was where we first started having problems. I'd gone for the 3d6 for each stat, can switch scores around method and as a result, a couple of my players were incredibly unsatisfied with their characters (nothing above a 12 and a 6 at the lowest.) I tried the lines of reasoning that I'd heard over this: that stats weren't as important in old-school D&D and that they're not what defines your character, but it still chafed them to feel like their characters were somehow behind the curve. Both of their characters were behind that Raggi Curve (more penalties than bonuses), so I let them reroll to much better results.

However, the resulting characters were hilarious. A fighter with a Constitution of 6 carrying a bizarre assortment of cheap weapons and a mule. An ogre fighter who ended up spending all of his money on a set of ring mail. A 250 lb. Half-Elven magic user (who pulled the 'Wedge of very stinky cheese' from the Deck of Stuff). A dwarven cleric of Granitenose, who entreats his believers to keep what is theirs and acquire more. A goblin thief who was probably the best prepared character I've ever seen in terms of random equipment. We started out in a tavern called the Irish Deer in the mining town of Motherlode, a rough and tumble place filled with what looked like Aragorn stunt doubles. There, the PCs bought a map to the ancient ruins of Myrmidia from a slightly dodgy Cut-me-own-throat Dibbler type and ventured out into the wilderness to find the caves, complete with a passel of 6 henchmen hired by the Magic-User, courtesy of the Meatshields! hireling generator.

Turns out that the only thing the map led to was an ambush courtesy of a group of bandits that the swindler was in cahoots with. In the combat that ensued, one of the Magic-User's men at arms was killed and the dwarven cleric nearly got it with a well-aimed crossbow bolt. However, the party managed to pull one of the bandits off of the cliff by his foot, hurl a warhammer across a chasm into a crossbowman's face and utterly dismember the rest of the bandits, thanks to the ogre's stick full of nails (and ridiculous damage bonuses) and the surviving goblin man at arms, who must have taken a level in badass at some point, because he ended up killing three guys and taking 1 hp's worth of damage in the process.

Naturally, everyone wanted revenge, so they returned to Motherlode in search of Holsten, the snake-oil salesman, eventually chasing him to Looter's Row. The fighter kicked down the door to the house, only to be hit with a crossbow trap that fortunately didn't take much out of him. The group entered the house cautiously It was then that the bugbears came out of hiding, wielding crossbows and doing the standard thug threatening. Once again, combat ensued, with another hireling falling to their death at the bugbear's hands and the Magic-User flinging his Sleep spell over all but one of the goons, who decided that discretion was the better part of valor and fled. The party entered Holsten's basement, where the sneaky little bastard escaped into a hatch in the floor.

The room search went well and it didn't go well. Our ogre fighter smashed open the locked chest next to our forger's workstation and got hit with a poison dart trap. Even with a bonus against poison, he failed his save and started taking damage. He was incredibly upset by this turn of events and particularly at me for putting it there. I honestly didn't know how to react. As the cleric carried him off to the local Church of Antra to help slow the poison, the rest of the team continued the search much more carefully.

Once all of value could be looted from the workroom, everyone made their way down into the hatch, torchbearers first. What they found was the corpse of their erstwhile swindler surrounded by spiders, who attacked first and poisoned the cleric. I don't know why I chose the spiders, given the negative reaction I had just gotten from the poison issue, but it happened anyway. Once the spiders were dealt with, the PCs brought the cleric to the Church of Antra again, where the priestess was decidedly less than happy that two poisoned folks had been brought before her within five minutes and charged them accordingly. And with that, the game was over for the night.

I'll try and post more later tonight on my reactions, but it's been a little difficult dredging up this stuff and I'd like to take a little time to think.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Cleric Divine Intervention Table, incomplete as of yet

So, I know I'm no Zak S, but my Clerical Divine Intervention table is as of yet incomplete. I'm still looking for a minor and severe negative effect for the bottom end of the table. If anyone would be willing to help out, I'd be much obliged to them.

Divine Intervention
Usable at any time. Subtract 1 from the result for every time you have rolled on this table today.

1. Smote instantly. You dead
2. Your god grows tired of your pleas. You are struck dumb by their might, affected as per a Feeblemind spell. You cannot cast any spells or turn undead until this effect is dispelled.
4. God revokes powers for 1d6 days
5. Rebuked! Cleric is affected by one of the following:
1 Cause Light Wounds
2 Darkness
3 Fear
4 Blight
5 Hold Person
6 Continual Darkness
7 Disease
8 Curse
7. The voice of your god fills your head. Lose the rest of your turn.
8-12. God refuses to answer your prayers
13-14. Fortune favors you. As the effects of the 'Bless' spell
15-16. Regain one use of any prayer you know
17. Casts a random spell of your highest spell level
18. Casts a random spell of level 1d6.
19. You are imbued with the righteous fury of your god! Your Strength and Constitution magically raise to 18, any weapon attacks you make now count as magic weapons and you gain a bonus to hit, damage and AC equal to your highest spell level.
20. Your god manifests their awesome might against your enemies. Acts as a 'Symbol' spell with differing effects depending on the domains of your god.

There's a first time for everything

So, I'm starting the (hopefully) bi-weekly Swords & Wizardry based Old School mash-up campaign tomorrow. The situation is this:

The campaign will take place on the still-unnamed continent detailed in this cool map I drew.
Pictured: cool map

The PCs will be adventuring in the northwest portion of the map, the area tentatively called the Valley of Dead Gods. It's kind of a combination between California during the Gold Rush meets Egypt in Raiders of the Lost Ark. A few years ago, the Valley was devoid of civilization, only dotted with trading posts and caravansaries for travelers and merchants making the journey to the sea ports of the north. That all changed when an archaeological expedition from the City of the Cathedral discovered the ruins of Myrmidia, long thought to have been an ancient myth. When the ruins were discovered, it launched a massive pilgrimage of tomb robbers looking to loot a quick fortune, scholars and magicians looking to expand their knowledge of the ancient world and merchants looking to make some money off of both of them.

In the boomtown of Motherlode, prospectors, scholars and fortune hunters alike meet to buy supplies, rest after escaping from certain doom and drink themselves into oblivion after cashing in their ill-gotten gains. It's home to a dozen taverns; a temple of Antra, the goddess of the underdog; a claims office sponsored by the Cathedral College and a stretch of street called Looter's Row, where robbers and snake-oil salesmen alike sell artifacts of dubious quality.

Alongside this prep, I've got my Deck of Stuff, supplemented by the recent purchase of Fight On! #5 for Jeff's expanded Deck list and my own creations.

Quinne's Quartzcaster courtesy of Chris Lowrance. I told you I'd fit it in somewhere.

Now I've just got to create/find a handful of dungeons for them to explore. If anyone knows of any free dungeons that would fit a locale like the Valley of Dead Gods, let me know.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Wherein Jamie works on a random table for the first time ever

So, yeah.

I've been working on a pair of tables to be used by magic-users and clerics, respectively, when their spell slots run out. Lately, I've been thinking that the standard spell progression stuff covers what a magic-user or cleric can safely cast. Once their spell slots are expended, they can still attempt to tap into arcane forces or call on their god for aid, but what happens as a result is all up to fate.

I'm trying to make each table distinctive, representative of my take on each of these classes. For the magic-user, harnessing magical forces beyond their control is pretty much an all-or-nothing scenario. It either helps them or harms them; no matter how minor or major that effect is, it can never be neutral. On the other hand, my cleric table has a wide 8-12 space consisting of nothing but 'your god does not hear your prayers.' It's much more of a bell curve, with your god striking down great vengeance at the top and smiting your needy ass on the bottom.

Resulting product will be forthcoming for analysis and criticism as soon as I finish with 'em.