Got in a second session of our new AD&D campaign which uses L1: The Secret of Bone Hill as a starting point. This session, my wife joined up and selected a PC from the “standby” folder I have ready for just such an event. She selected an elf fighter/thief (still un-named) and she and my daughter were off. My son was busy doing something else and apparently didn’t feel like playing, so his PC stayed behind.
Like the short first session, this one was a lot of role-playing and wandering about town. When headed up to the castle to confront the rumored-to-be-evil local baron, however, they decided they might need a bit more muscle. At this point my daughter went to successfully coax her brother into joining the game. I ruled that his albino half-orc fighter had slept in (keeping in character with the PC’s player) but was roused from bed and ready to adventure.
I believe that the start of this session might be the first time I’ve run an all-girls group of players where there was more than one player.
Since I know a lot of readers aren’t necessarily interested in reading full session reports from other peoples’ games, I’ll put the write-up below the fold.
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We kicked off our new AD&D campaign Monday evening with PCs that had been rolled up over the weekend. Initially, the only two players are my two kids, but we are hoping to add a couple more (players, not kids) as things get rolling. A blow to our plans is the fact that a few friends of my son who we’d hoped to recruit have parents who are opposed to D&D, which I thought seemed real 80s but is what it is.
We didn’t have a lot of time Monday evening and it took a bit for the players to get their bearings, but we got things started. PCs are starting at level 3 but with 0 XP and normal starting money and gear. So though they’ll be a lot more survivable and have a good boost in power, they’ll still have to earn enough XP to advance and they’ll have to find magic and treasure the old fashioned way.
Here’s the log of the first session:
Session: 1; Date: 9/5/2011; Location: Home (1.5 hrs)
Game Dates: 9/1 – 9/2; Start: Restenford; End: Restenford
Characters: Hearth, Gork, (Hearnora)
Hearth (F Half-Elf F3), Gork (Half-Orc F3), and Hearnora (NPC F Half-Elf MU3, sister of Hearth) arrived in Restenford in search of adventure. Got meals and rooms at the Inn of the Dying Minotaur.
RUMOR: A child was bitten by a giant rat.
RUMOR: There are ruins on top of Bone Hill.
RUMOR: A band of brigands lairs on Bald Hill.
The party debated whether or not to head for Bone Hill but decided to investigate the rat attack and began searching along the western bank of the river. While looking under the dock at Falco’s Tavern the owner sees them and invited them in for a drink.
RUMOR: There are huge wolves in the Kelman woods that serve a giant.
The party continued the search along the river and surrounding area, including a burned-out stone building at the end of the road near the stockade wall. GORK got pricked by a needle trap on a chest of drawers in a bedroom but it had no effect. They also dug through the warped remains of an armory in the building but didn’t find anything of interest in the ruins and gave up for the day.
They got rooms at Falco’s Tavern because it’s cheaper than the Inn of the Dying Minotaur.
Not a lot accomplished, but things are underway. The second session (actually already played last night) didn’t have to deal with introductions and background, and the PCs already had some idea of what they’re wanting to do.
I also decided to institute a 100 XP/level session award for each PC. This session consisted of no combat and no treasure found. I’m not really interested in subjective “roleplaying” or “story” awards, but I also don’t want PCs going completely empty-handed after this sort of session. 100 XP/level/session is my compromise, though I might have to cap it at higher levels. We’ll see.
We kicked off our 1e AD&D game last night. Rolling up PCs took a while, mostly because of unfamiliarity with the details and where to look things up in the books. My brother (who I hadn’t gamed with since the early 1990s) and my son are each playing two characters, so that made things take a little longer. But it was fun and a great trip down memory lane. We even rolled for psionics, but fortunately no one was even close to possessing them. Eventually we finished up and got rolling.
In a throwback to the way we played back in the day, I dumped them in town with no idea what to do and eventually they ended up in the tavern “looking for adventures.” A bit of interacting with locals and scrounging up money for a map finally produced a lead, and they prepared to set out.
As in the old days, though, actually getting out of town proved problematic. A meeting with a mysterious cloaked figure in a dark side street led to being narrowly missed by an assassination attempt, a rooftop chase, pursuit of the cloaked figure, and a fight with the would-be assassin. In the end, of course, evasion of the city watch was called for and the cloaked figure joined the party.
About three hours after sitting down, the PCs were finally on their way to the abandoned mine which had hit a shaft leading down to monster-infested places. A couple of days travel got them to the entrance. At that point we broke for the night.
I intentionally played up the city portion, offering opportunities without railroading anyone like in the olden days. Fortunately, they bit on most of the bait and things went well. Like in the old days, there was little combat and few references to rule books during the urban portion, and we seemed to play a long time without making any measurable headway. Which is just like it was back in the day.
We hope to continue today.
So my son’s character was stuck in a room by an iron one-way door. There was a small space between the bottom of the door and the stone floor, and one of the party had a potion of diminution. They decided to give it to the dwarf in the hopes that his smaller stature would lead to a smaller shrunken stature.
He tried squeezing under the door but got stuck. Then they couldn’t get him back in. My son’s character poured oil all over and tried pushing him through, but to no avail. Suddenly the expiration of the potion dawned on everyone and they began to fear for the dwarf’s life.
Finally, my son took the cleric’s staff, rammed it against the dwarf’s banded armor, and told everyone to push.
Pop. The dwarf was levered through and released them once the potion wore off. Whatever it takes.
Got in another session this weekend with my kids. My son’s half-orc fighter, the one who got a second chance last week after I screwed up a combat, returned to the hidden complex known as the Caverns of Quasqueton, formerly the home of Roghan the Fearless and Zelligar the Unknown. This, of course, is Module B1: In Search of the Unknown, something that I’ve never played but am enjoying immensely. My son is also playing a halfling thief.
I have to hand it to him. When rolling up his fighter, he had hoped for good enough abilities to create a paladin, but our 3d6 seven times, arrange six to taste, remaining roll is starting gold method means getting those numbers is rare. So he ended up maing a half-orc fighter and told me that even though the guy wasn’t anywhere near the universe required for paladinhood, he was going to live the life of one anyway. A half-orc paladin wannabe. He bought a holy symbol and has even tried to turn undead with it. I’m not sure if he is trying to turn to be “in character” or if he thinks it might really work. I’m letting him roll and so far all of his rolls have been low, so he doesn’t know if normally-successful rolls will result in failure, also.
My daughter, meanwhile, joined in after we had been playing for a while. She picked out a character she had rolled up recently, a half-orc with an intelligence of 4. In Labyrinth Lord, an INT of 4 means “Unable to read or write,” so she named him “Grunt” and decided he’d be a less-than-talkative character. His STR of 15 means that, despite social shortcomings, he’ll be welcome in many adventuring parties.
Now, I really don’t think I’ve ever had a PC party with two half-orcs in it at the same time before. And we do not use the “half-orcs are so cool” idea that seems to have caught on in later editions. Half-orc humans, as a race, are definitely not considered “so cool” in our game. But here we are, and not only are my kids playing two half-orcs, they are both playing them in pretty fun way. In both cases they decided to go this route on their own without any direction from dear old dad.
One of the rooms in the fortress is a sort of “trophy room” with a dragon skin, a turned-to-stone basilisk, mounted heads of enemies, captured weapons, and the like. Against one wall of this trophy room stood six skeletons which had not been included in the pre-written description. These, of course, were placed there by me from the monster list and attacked as soon as the PCs looked closely at them. When the paladin wannabe’s turning attempt failed, battle was joined. As luck would have it, the players rolled poorly and the skeletons rolled pretty well. Things ended with three PCs, an NPC, and a hireling all unconscious with another hireling dead. Two skeletons remained, but as they were under orders only to attack those who approached them, they returned to their positions and resumed their silent watch.
The two half-orcs were the first to come to, and they carefully prepared to take on the two remaining sentries. I kept rolling to see if the skeletons would react, but they did not until the PCs were as ready as they could be. Fortunately, my son’s fighter had one vial of holy water left and they were able to take out the two remaining undead, revive the rest of the party, and retreat back to town.
Except for the fact that they were facing mindless undead, it would have been another TPK. Again, their tactics weren’t stellar but it was the horrible rolling that really did it to them. That and the fact that they had no cleric in the party. The key is to get yourself into position so that even if you roll badly you’ve got a chance to disengage. My kids need to work on that a little.
But I’m liking the half-orcs and the way they’re playing them.
I’m sending my son through B1: In Search of the Unknown and we played for several hours today. It’s a change of pace game from our Forbidden Jungle adventures, and as an experiment I allowed him to play two PCs. Late in the session he found his party (his halfling thief and half-orc fighter along with an NPC elf magic-user and two men-at-arms) in a tough fight against a group of kobolds.
The kobolds were down to the last two standing, but they kept passing morale checks and kept on fighting. Having just finished off his last one, the half-orc fighter stepped over to assist one of the men at arms who was in bad shape. The fighter missed, and during the kobolds’ turn I rolled a d6 and a d20, stating that on 1-3 the kobold attacked the fighter instead of the man-at-arms. It was a 1 and the attack roll was a 19. I rolled damage and the fighter went down below zero. Our rule is that when a PC goes below zero they must make a save vs. death. If they pass, they’re unconscious at 0 hit points. If they fail, they’re dead.
My son wasn’t terribly happy (which is understandable) and said he didn’t know that the kobold could have attacked his fighter. I had earlier stated that he didn’t get a rear attack, which meant that the kobold had him in sight and I ruled that it was possible. My son rolled low, and the fighter died.
A couple more rounds of combat saw the last pair of kobolds wiped out, and my son again complained that he didn’t understand how the kobold could switch targets like that. I repeated that there was no reason that the fighter couldn’t be attacked.
But then my son clarified what he meant. He wasn’t arguing that the kobold couldn’t switch targets; he just didn’t think the kobold could switch targets tHAT ROUND. The previous round, his fighter had been in combat with a different kobold, and this round he declared that he would move over to aid the man-at-arms. (We declare actions before rolling initiative.) He pointed out that the kobold didn’t know that the fighter was coming, so how could he have decided to attack after (presumably) declaring the man-at-arms to be his target?
And he was right. I had not initially figured on the fighter coming over, and to change the kobold’s action after my son declared his wasn’t really fair, even if I used a die roll to determine the actual target. I’ve previously ruled that attackers can only switch targets after declaration if the target goes down from another attack first. Since the man-at-arms was still up, I should have had the kobold attack him that round and roll for target the NEXT round.
Now, I’m not a big fan of going back in time and fixing things. But I’m also not a big fan of screwing up, particularly when the players suffer for it. So I ruled in favor of the players (for now) and allowed another save vs. death. He made it, the fighter they thought was dead groaned when they began to grab his gear, and everything was all right in the world.
Was I being a softie? I don’t really think so. Though the transgression wasn’t a major one, it certainly didn’t follow the standards we’d been using and that he had every right to expect would continue to be followed in normal circumstances. I even make him roll again, and failure would have meant dead.
On the other hand, if I would have ruled dead was dead, I would have basically been saying “Yeah, I messed up a little but it’s no big deal…other than your character dying.” That’s the sort of thing that jerk DMs say.
The family 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 fighter she had rolled up on her own one day. My son, meanwhile, took advantage of the fact that the rules for multi-classed characters using our new XP and advancement system* were finally coalescing and created an elf cleric/magic-user.
They decided to spend a day searching for hirelings as their previous trek into the jungle ended badly at the hands of goblin raiders. Being short of funds, they could only afford to hire two men at arms, an old worlder with leather, sword, and shield and a native tribesman* with scale mail, spear, and shield. I explained that the tribesman’s scale was in rough shape, and my daughter wondered if it might not be stolen. I did nothing to discourage the thought.
Rumors floating around town centered around a tower across the big river, off to the southeast. My son’s previous character, the ranger detailed here, had been to this tower but had told the boatmaster he had not been able to locate it. Despite the ranger’s story, the amount of loot he brought back out of the jungle had set the townsfolk a-talking. So the party decided to set out in search of this tower. They rented canoes and paddled across the river. The elf had trouble and was nearly washed out to sea, but after an hour of fierce effort they were all safely across and the canoes hidden.
After an afternoon of jungle trekking, they set camp for the night. Being as everyone was in good shape and the weather was good, they decided not to set a fire. All three PCs have infravision (simply good night vision in our game) and the three of them decided to take turns on watch. Shortly after the other bedded down, my daughter’s dwarf spotted a man and a mule loaded with packs and tools making their way southward. As the dwarf had surprise, he quietly watched as the man stopped and set up camp. Soon the man was snoring away. The dwarf let him sleep and waked the halfling druid for her watch.
The druid (played by my wife) cast a Speak With Animals and asked the mule what was going on. The mule complained about being awakened but informed her that they were headed toward the sea. Apparently the previous place had not worked out, though the halfling didn’t understand exactly what that meant. The halfling thanked the mule and let the strangers sleep. At the crack of dawn the man awoke, grumbled about his sore bones, and set off toward the south with his mule in tow.
The party continued on their way through the jungle, taking cover when a group of five elephants rumbled past. The old worlder man-at-arms, a newcomer to the new world, wanted to take one down for the ivory. Fortunately, both the elf and the halfling talked him out of trying. Soon they stumbled upon the tower they sought, but while they looked it over they were surprised by something in the trees.
An arrow flew into the tree next to the old-worlder’s head, and not waiting to see who was shooting at them, the party ran for the tower. A huge set of bronze double doors, one of them slightly ajar (from the ranger’s previous visit), was visible through the vines overgrowing the tower, and they fled inside. The native tribesman, slowed by his scale mail, lagged behind and was narrowly missed by another arrow. But soon they were all safe inside.
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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.