Got in more hours of gaming on Friday and Saturday than I’d managed in the previous six months, I think. The first session with my son on Friday night was one of the most enjoyable I’ve ever played, and we followed it up on Saturday morning with another (shorter) successful session.

His ranger was dismayed to discover that the trolls are keeping a closer eye on their hoard now that he’s stolen some of it while they were away from their lair, but was excited to check out a little more of the tower he’s been exploring and managed to get back to town with another ivory tusk. Another NPC bit the dust, this time a thief who fell victim to the undead monkeys within the tower when the characters failed to take sufficient precautions.

That evening my wife and daughter rolled up PCs and we had our third-ever whole-family game. The two new PCs joined my son’s ranger and yet another NPC and headed into the wild. After some tense moments when they became disoriented in the trackless jungle, they managed to find their way back toward town and drove off some jungle goblin raiders near town. Unfortunately, the next morning they ran into more goblins and were wiped out.

The first time we all played together, the party was captured out by goblins. The second session we all played together was a successful rescue mission with new PCs. And now the third time was a TPK. Though I want the threat of danger to be very real and want 1st-level characters to be justifiably frail, the death rate is discouraging. My son, in particular, was pretty upset about losing the ranger that had done so well in the first two sessions.

He and I have discussed this extensively and we are going to be making a few tweaks to improve the survivability of PCs. I’m going to up the binding of wounds from 1d4-1 hit points per battle to 1d6, and the overnight healing is going to be upped to 1d6 hit points as well. I think this is in keeping with the sword & sorcery vibe I’m going for. Battles are savage and death is not uncommon, but soon the characters are back into the thick of it. So we’re going to give it a try.

I’ve got another change, much more significant, in mind as well, but I want to think on it a bit. The goal is to increase survivability at the first couple levels without altering game balance or making mid-level characters TOO powerful. I also want the risk of PC death to remain significant, and even a threat to well-played characters. It’s a fine line and one that I think a lot of people have trouble with.

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6 Comments to “Got in some serious gaming over the weekend”

  1. Badmike says:

    Well the jungle should be deadly, perhaps even deadlier than a “regular” campaign. But you are right it’s not much fun when you are continually rolling up new characters. It seems to me you need more “cannon fodder”. For every PC, I would include one NPC, particularly fighter types or clerics (for their healing abilities). One of the battles I ran at the beginning of my campaign, I gave all the players a native warrior to run in addition to their character…with the inducement if they survived, they would become loyal followers of the PCs. Well 3 out of 4 of the NPCs died in the battle that followed! Good thing I included them or it would have undoubtedly been a TPK.

  2. Meepo says:

    Perhaps a HP kicker might be in order?

    It may make some of us fogeys cringe (we’ll get over it!) but you could always take the 4E way and have your 1st level characters add their Constitution score to their HP total. That should allow quite a bit more damage soaking and would work well with your heavier daily healing from rest.

  3. Timeshadows says:

    May I offer a few suggestions as a gamer and a mother? 😀

    * Use HP as it is in Searchers of the Unknown: Knock Outs.
    –HPs are then recovered immediately after a scene, and if dropped into the negatives, it simply means it takes longer for the character to rest and recuperate.

    * Death can still come from Save or Die situations, but kids and other normal people do NOT enjoy dying.
    –Still not sure why OSR folks seem to think its fun. It SHOULD suck, but not be something to wear as a badge: ‘I’ve lost every character I’ve ever made before they reached 4th level, that’s why I don’t bother naming them. It was a real hoot.’-sort of stuff (often said by lightly-toasted guys after a tough work week.

    * Next, come up with reasons why kidnapping and slavery are part of a monster’s shtick. Stuck in a cage for fattening up; thrown into an oubliette that actually does have a hidden exit tunnelled out by former occupants; kind-hearted monster children who want a human pet; etc.
    –Dying in RPGs will not really prepare children for Real Lifesorrows, it just hardens them, turns them off, and drives them to videogames or TV.

    * Next, address the same mechanic on their part. Killing attacks are reserved for helpless victims (tied-up, unconscious, Held, etc.). Dropping a critter’s HP to 0 is enough to make __stealing its stuff__ possible. Dropping them into the negatives ought to teach them a lesson so that they don’t come back (right away) to bother human/demi-human settlements.

    * When your family is ready for the ‘real stuff’ (not -realistic- at all, BTW), then let them ask you for the game to be taken to the next level.

    Just my two-bits from a Psychology, High Risk Armed Security, Gaming, and Parenting background.
    –YMMV, of course

    Best,
    -Kyrinn

  4. And we wonder why successive editions have increased the hardiness of fresh characters. Whether it is the -10 hp rule, or the more recent 4e approach.

    I have to admit I am torn between playing it true old-school and making the accommodation to more hit points at first level.

    My son lost his character in yesterdays D&D session, and while he was (outwardly) non-plussed, I know it was a disappointment for him.

    Tis a bit of a slippery slope, though, improving the survivability of 1st level characters. I think 4e has taken it to such an extreme, that characters can almost never die.

  5. Telecanter says:

    Yeah, the jungle makes it tough, most of my player deaths are unforced errors. Just an idea, what if you gave the players a magic item, say a fist-sized emerald that indicated when creatures were near. The gem glows, the party freezes, the ranger investigates. It would make the jungle more survivable as long as they don’t lose it . . .

  6. […] reconvened for another foray in the Forbidden Jungle with new PCs they had rolled up since the previous TPK. My wife had a halfling druid (great move for the environment) while my daughter went with a dwarf […]