Saturday, December 7, 2013
Our next section, before the CYOA style solo adventure itself, is a one page section detailing battles. It's still not the full D&D combat system, but it's getting closer. The tutorial already showed how to make attack rolls and saving throws. In this section, we're introduced to the idea of rolling for damage, and how both your own attacks and the monster attacks are now more deadly.
One interesting note is that for the CYOA solo adventure, all weapons do 1d6 damage. I'll find out later if variable weapon damage is listed as optional or not (yeah, I could just flip ahead...). When we were kids, we latched onto that chart showing what dice to roll for what weapons, and stuck with it, if it was presented as optional. In our most recent Vaults of Ur games, we were experimenting with an all weapons do d6 rule, but I think we'll go back to regular variable damage by weapon from the next session. As a DM, though, I often default to any weapon-using enemy only using a d6 for damage for simplicity, rather than figure out how many orcs are packing swords, how many have hand axes, and how many have daggers. I tend to discourage the low level "salvage all the weapons and armor from the goblins" style play, so it's usually not a big deal exactly what weapons they are carrying, at least for melee purposes.
Because this is a training module, it tells us that if we die, just start over again. Having played enough Atari (the Nintendo hadn't made it out yet) and arcade games, that wasn't weird for me. This was a game, after all. And I do remember that it took me multiple tries before I'd explored all of the areas, as I did die fairly often. I think this is a good thing. In the initial tutorial, you almost can't fail (only against Bargle's goblin do you have a chance to drop to 0 hp). Here, you can and likely WILL die often. It's a good lesson to be learned by new folks. It's also something video game designers might want to think about, as most in-game tutorials I've played through have had the kid gloves on. And they feel like a waste of time to me. I'd rather just jump in and learn while playing. But maybe that's just me.
One issue I have with the style of these introductory adventures is the lack of RP or options to outwit the enemies. This page gives you fairly standard advice about how D&D combat works mechanically, but it limits the perspective to the "roll to hit, roll damage, rinse and repeat" mindset that we often fall into. In this respect, some of the Endless Quest books, like Dungeon of Dread and Light on Quest's Mountain did a better job of preparing me for D&D play, as they included talking/negotiating with monsters, tricking them, or coming up with clever plans to tip the combat odds in my favor.
The page ends with the advice to keep notes of combat details, treasure earned, and monsters defeated on scrap paper, so there is a record after the adventure. For a while as a kid, I did try keeping it all in my head, and sometimes it worked, other times we just gave out treasure and XP after each encounter. These days, I do as advised and keep a page of scrap paper nearby when I play or DM. The page also gives us some advice about mapping the dungeon, both to avoid getting lost, and to note where dangerous creatures are so you can return to them later when you feel confident about facing them - subtle advice on old school play that gets lost on many, I think. Not only mapping, but the idea that you would scout out where monsters are, and only battle them when you're ready for them, rather than kicking in all the doors and rolling initiative regardless of what's there.
Friday, December 6, 2013
My birthday present arrived a week early, so I've been reading Stephen King's addition to his Dark Tower series, The Wind Through the Keyhole the past few evenings. The DT series is one of my favs, and really the only stuff by King I've read in the past decade has been those books and a few related works.
And since I'd always wanted to run a game set in the DT universe, my mental gears have been churning away at ideas.
Many years ago, I thought of using d20Modern/Future/Past/Apocalypse to make it work.
Now, I think Labyrinth Lord as the base set, Go Fer Yer Gun for PC classes, and Mutant Future for additional monsters and artifacts. It could work.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Saturday, November 30, 2013
At first, he wanted to play a "wizard" so we rolled him up a Magic-User. I briefly explained spells, and gave him Read Magic plus let him choose three more (one more standard, plus one for each point of Int bonus he had). He chose Hold Portal, Light/Darkness and Ventriloquism.
Rather than explain the intricacies of Vancian spellcasting to him, I figured I'd just let him cast each spell once during the adventure, and let him return to town and rest up if he wanted to refresh them. Turns out he died before he had a chance to cast a single spell, although he did take out a rust monster with the help of my wife's old Halfling PC from our gaming attempts from before our son was born (her Halfling is level 4 with a displacer cloak, +1 short sword, and a few other nice things). Anyway, goblins then made short work of our wizard, who had a 6 Constitution so only 2 hit points.
My son rolled up a Fighter and, with the help of Blossom the Halfling for combats (my wife was reading a book at the time, taking breaks to roll some dice when necessary), went on to trounce the dungeon, getting all the loot, dividing it with Blossom, then getting it all doubled by the magic mouth.
Back to the idea that hit me. Since I was going to let him use each of the 4 spells in his spellbook once each, I got to thinking. What if, instead of preparing spells, a Magic-User, Elf or Cleric (Clerics will need spellbooks or prayer books or something in this version to make it work rather than access to all their spells) can cast each spell in their spellbook a number of times per day equal to their Vancian spell limits?
So a 1st level M-U can cast each spell in his/her book once per day (as above). At 3rd level, with two 1st level and one 2nd level spells per day, each 1st level spell in the book could be cast twice, while each 2nd level spell could only be cast once.
Of course, 3E style limits of up to 4 per level per day might be a good idea, and my Level 15 cap instead of the BECMI level 36 cap would be necessary to prevent abuse.
What are the benefits? Well, first of all a lot of the utility spells that rarely see play would see play. Spell-casters move away from the tactical nuke/heal-bot mentality they engender. Yes, as they gain lots of levels they can do that, but they would still have lots of utility magic to go around as well. Gets rid of the "I cast one spell and am then useless" complaints of low level play. Makes caster characters' main motivation to seek out magical books, libraries, or other casters in order to expand their repertoire.
Drawbacks? All those arguments about casters replacing Thieves become more tenable. If you can cast Knock or Locate Traps several times a day without having to give up other (attack/heal) spells, might as well magic your way through such things than rely on a Thief's percentage chances. Maybe in an OD&D/S&W game without the Thief this variant would work better.
This is not an idea I'd want to use all the time, but for certain campaigns (or maybe as a replacement of the caster roll mechanic I'm using in Chanbara?) it could be fun.
Friday, November 29, 2013
This section of town business is like a cut scene, you've got no interaction at all, just a page to read. But the solo adventure to come, being more like a CYOA book, gives you some real choice in the adventure, although it's more limited than a real game. The "group adventure" in the DM's book is again CYOA style to a point, but the players have a lot of freedom to move around the ruins. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Needless to say, while these introductory/tutorial pages have little "replay value" in them, they do build nicely upon each other to ease people into the concepts and expectations of the game.
So, getting back to the text itself, we have a little story where "you" use the treasure from the first adventure to buy better armor. You banter with the armorer, try on some plate mail, bargain down the price, then pick it up a few days later. After failing to find any companions for your next adventure, you set off to the caves again, once more on your own.
And what can the new player learn from this? Well, first is that being well equipped for an adventure is part of the game, and that town business can involve role-playing, which can be fun. Good armor is a trade-off of protection for speed/carrying capacity. Your new plate armor is heavier than the chain, so you can carry less treasure, but you're more likely to survive with it.
The usefulness of Charisma is shown again - but of course when we were kids, that lesson went somewhat over our heads and like many D&Ders we thought of Charisma as a "dump stat." Of course, we used to roll ability scores in order like the book says, but we didn't worry too much about Charisma unless it was unusually high or unusually low.
The idea of safety in numbers is again shown, as at the end of the vignette you try (unsuccessfully, of course) to find some other adventurers to accompany you.
Yes, all of this is old hat to us veteran gamers. It was new to me 30 years ago, and definitely helped me out in getting the tropes and expectations of the game [yes, I'm repeating myself].
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Anyway, last session we finished in the middle of Little Bear Carolly's trial by dream-quest in which we were all transformed into pole arm wielding bears. This time, Jeremy couldn't make it so it was just Dean as Carolly, Alexei as Maya who was also accused, and me as Thomas the Visionary who was just along for moral support (which is interesting in that he lacks many morals with which to support them...).
We had to recover the MacGuffin...I mean the broken pieces of the Franklin Mint collectible plate with dogs playing poker. We had one last session. Three to go. Then we could prove Elder Karl and Maya's innocence and expose the lies of the ogre partisans in Fort Low.
To get the remaining pieces, pixies who stole our weapons shrunk us down to 1' tall and sent us into a tree-stump dungeon. We explored a bit, rescued the pixie they wanted us to rescue, found out that the mage who created the dogs-playing-poker plate was supposedly buried under the stump, and went back in to fight more spiders.
Just as we got into an inescapable situation, I (who had been drinking a fair amount that evening so I wasn't on top of my game) realized that when we took the pixie back out, we should have just had ourselves returned to normal size and then we could have dug up the mage's bones without having to battle spiders. As Justin commented when I said this, it would have completely bypassed the dungeon.
As it was, we were trapped and poisoned by spiders and all of us died.
|"Guilty!" "Guilty!" "The vote must be unanimous, Jor-El."|
Upon awakening, Karl and Maya were pronounced guilty, sentenced with exile. Next session, all of our PCs, alternate PCs, and whatever NPC help we can scrounge up will be heading off through a portal into the wilderness on a continuing mission to find new life and new civilizations, kill them and take their stuff. That's a Prime Directive that Thidrek can get behind.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Anyway, our next section in the Mentzer Basic Players' Book is a half page on dice. It's written for a complete beginner. It starts by explaining that dice is the plural of die. That beginner.
Well, as I've mentioned before, it was written for, in modern parlance, complete noobs.
Anyway, we get a description of each die, a bit of advice on how to roll and read the d4 in particular, how to get a d% by rolling the d10 twice, and how to get other dice combinations.
Dice notations are also explained. This section also mentions how to calculate non-die ranges, such as d2, d3, and d5.
With the advent of the OSR, there's been a lot of discussion about this sort of "dice tutorial" appearing in game books. Do we need it? Can we leave it out? What if someone picks up a retro-clone as their first RPG? Do only experienced gamers tend to collect these modern, typically self-published offerings? Are we somehow neglecting to grow the base with the next generation if we leave this sort of thing out?
Looking at my own offering, Flying Swordsmen, you can see that I split the difference. I didn't include this sort of thing in the book itself, but there's a note directing readers to my blog, where I did write up my own little dice tutorial and "what is role playing?" bits for someone who happens to stumble across Flying Swordsmen without having ever played another RPG that uses polyhedral dice, and without someone more experienced to show them the ropes. In the internet age, that seemed to be the best course for me and my publication.
But back in '83, when this set was being produced with the express purpose of getting it out onto mainstream retail outlets and into the hands of kids and adults who were not already part of the gaming scene, this sort of thing was absolutely necessary.
So I don't knock this section any points. In fact, I give it full points for not leaving anything to chance - right down to the initial explanation of die/dice.