Archive for January, 2010

Session 2: They venture into the Underworld

January 25, 2010

The interesting stuff first.

They checked out the tunnel beneath the collapsed cellar and found a small series of finished stone rooms. They didn’t finish exploring, though the unexplored side passage pinged with live spiders when someone cast a Locate Flora and Fauna spell. They got side-tracked by an ornately carved room with a vaulted ceiling and a 10′ pit leading into the depths. Old skeletal corpses in battle gear littered the floor. All the stone inscriptions were smashed. Using Detect Magic they could see a magical fog waft up from the pit as if it were breathing. A torch thrown in showed a 100-foot drop. Of course they tied a rope off on one of the stone carvings and rappelled down … 50′. Luckily they brought a second rope.

The PC at the end of the rope tied it off and continued down. His knot was bad, and he fell some 20′ to the bottom. A bad roll on the falling damage meant he hit the ground like a sack of wet potato skins and wasn’t moving. They tried to help him out, but he was the one with the healing spells. D’oh!

The shapechanger turned into a bird, flew down, realized he was still alive but she couldn’t help him. She also didn’t have an animal form that could climb the shaft, nor fly carrying the rope. And nobody had a third coil. So she explored further alone (!) to try to find something that could heal him or bring the rope up. She was startled by bats, found the noxious, greasy nest of some horrible monster, and sensibly returned to wait it out.

After some conversation, one PC topside decided to run back to town alone (!) through 15 miles of forested hills in the middle of the night to buy more rope. He arrived, but the gate guard wouldn’t let him in as it was 1 in the morning in monster-infested wilderness. They haggled, he threw coins up for the guard to go buy him some rope, and the guard returned and tossed it down. He got a couple gold for his trouble, which was nice.

Then the PC ran back through the woods, disturbing a nest of Giant Ticks, and managed to get back a total of six hours later. (Elves have a special ability to move overland as fast as if riding a horse, and he did a Forced March).

Later they encountered the monsters from the nest – giant maggots! Disgusting! I described them as too-large though. I used four dice in a row, should have been only 2, but oh well. In that area they found more carvings – and writing that wasn’t smashed! Someone used the Read Languages ability to puzzle out some very interesting info about the civilization that built these places.

And much later they encountered a murky pool in a hallway. When they got too close, a watery snake rose out of it and struck. It tried to drag them underwater, and succeeded in a couple cases. A wild tug-of-war broke out, but the creature was able to pull in three at once at one point. The ones that were pulled 60′ to the bottom saw some treasure down there in the dim glow of the slime on the walls. So of course after they had killed the monster and it re-formed one of them swam down again alone (!) to try to get some loot. They fled without killing the monster for good.

They’re in a deciduous forest in Summer, and there’s a stream nearby. For food their shapechanger goes out hunting. She’s bringing back mostly moles and hedgehogs right now. Gotta love random tables! It doesn’t help much that she’s going out hunting alone (!) and doesn’t have a bow. She hunts as a wolf.

A little behind-the-scenes info.

I didn’t tell them what the names of the monsters were. The “Giant Spiders” were actually just basketball-sized Hairy Spiders in my notes. The six-foot “Giant Centipedes” were actually Pine Needle Centipedes for their camouflage carapace. The “Giant Maggot Monsters” were Carrion Crawlers. The “Water Snake Monster” was a Water Weird.

I didn’t map for them, except in one specific case where there was a weird-shaped cavern. I tell them “You descend into a cave roughly 20′ x 20′. There are natural tunnel exits north and east. Each tunnel is only 5′ around.” The same goes for the overland map – they tell me which direction they want to go and I tell them the next hex’s terrain type. Since I’m not using specialized mapping terminology, I can describe to the mapper at the same time as the rest of the group.

I don’t tell them what treasure they get – I describe it for them. Gems have a color and a size. Coins are “clean and silvery” or “corroded green” or whatever. If someone had Appraisal I would skip that step, but that’s the price they pay for investing in that extra point of weapon skill instead of Appraisal.

This game feels very equipment-oriented. I keep track of time, and tell them when their torches burn out. Equipment tends to get used up, lost, destroyed, and I like to see that kind of operating cost in the adventuring group. They throw lit torches into rooms and down into pits to light the way. They’re constantly finding innovative uses for rope. I like to see what they do with the tools they’re given to overcome their environment. Nobody bought a 10′ pole yet but I’m sure someone will find out they need one and pick it up on the next trip to town.

It’s interesting that so far they’ve passed up every treasure cache. They didn’t finish exploring the upper cellars, they didn’t investigate the horrible maggot nest (with good reason I guess), and they were chased out of the pool area by the Water Weird (again, good move). But the Water Weird also stopped them from exploring a snake pit farther back, which had a little loot. I’m going to stand by my guns here, and if they don’t look in the right places they’re not going to find anything.

So far they’ve evaded a lot of monsters, but they also killed quite a few. I’m surprised we didn’t see more casualties from the Carrion Crawlers as they’re 3 HD and the PCs are only first level. And a couple times people almost ran out of breath in the murky pool. And if the guy who fell had dropped an extra 20′ or had failed more of his unconscious recovery rolls, he could easily have just splattered down there.

This session we had a new player – one who had never played a tabletop RPG before. He had played video games like this before, though, so it wasn’t entirely new material. Mainly, as I told him, the differences are that you can try to do whatever you want, but you have to do your own math. He seemed to enjoy himself a lot, and said he’d be back next weekend.

We also might pick up a sixth player, the girlfriend of a current one. It sounds like she plays D&D so we won’t have the “bored girlfriend observer just making sure her dude isn’t at the strip club” thing going on.

Normally I’d have misgivings at our current player mix. You usually don’t want to see people join in pairs because when one flakes out, the other has a good chance to. They both want to go to the same wedding, or deliver a baby, that sort of thing. You can’t really fault them for it. We have a married couple, the aforementioned BF/GF, a friend of the married couple, and a neighbor of the married couple. Everyone seems pretty cool, but there’s the possibility of cancelling the game if there’s a big church function or something. Ideally you want separate players. But honestly, I’m lucky to have picked up a full group like this and it’s nothing I can complain about.

Finally, figurines. I have a dry-erase mega-mat that rolls up into a shipping tube. The first session I used dice for everyone, which got confusing, but it worked. This time someone brought a box of prepainted plastic minis, which was pretty cool. I still used dice for the monsters, because it’s just easier that way. My problem is, even if I had a bunch of metal figurines, I wouldn’t be able to bring them. Weight and the volume of the packing material are main concerns. I could buy a bunch of plastic figures. And I found a set of printable paper stand-ups like you’d use for a board game. I’d just need to make bases for them, and I could bring them all in an envelope. Since it combines cheap and easy to carry, I think that’s what I’ll do.

I just really don’t like how the D&D plastic minis look like ub3r k3wl superheroes. Someone needs to produce a line of these plastic minis that actually look like adventurers – backpacks, lanterns and torches, more weapon variety, some normal clothes. I’d buy that for a dollar.

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Session 1: Got the new game rolling

January 18, 2010

Last Saturday my new gaming group had our first session. We met the previous weekend so I could get feedback on the game setting and the system, so people were playing something they wanted.

We ended up with two humans and two elves, with a pretty good mix of character skills. They took a lot of flaws like phobia, criminal, poor, colorblind, etc. It’s an interesting band of misfits and it’s pretty clear why they’re all adventuring on the edge of the world. So that’s cool. Dwarves have some neat features in this game and I hoped someone would play one, but I think not so many people like playing Dwarves.

I guess they don’t sparkle enough 😉

Four players, probably a fifth next weekend. Three are pretty experienced, one played a couple times a few months ago, and the last has played only video game RPGs. It’s nice to have some new players and also some experienced ones to help them along.

The campaign is a wilderness sandbox (as previously described) set upon the ruins of an old civilization. Town is rather inhospitable at the moment and boring besides, and certainly not profitable (though one player stole a backpack and there was some eating of stray cats). So they set out into the hills to see what kind of loot and trouble they could dig up.

You know, in Dwarven they use the same word for “loot” and “trouble”, sort of like that Chinese “crisitunity” thing.

Anyway, they found a great depression in the ground, which they immediately assumed was a collapsed and overgrown cellar of some building. One skirted around to investigate some stonework on the west side halfway up the depression, and another decided to just climb down and cut through the depression itself. There was some scuttling through the underbrush and she was attacked by Giant Ants! (She rolled just 1 HP for level 1 and was feeling pretty nervous)

They smashed a few of the tough little buggers but set the forest on fire when one PC was knocked out and dropped his flaming sword. They camped in a newly-discovered nearby ruin to heal up and then a PC doused herself with water, turned into a wolf, and jumped through the flames to retrieve the sword.

Back at the ruin they found its cellar was also collapsed, and an exposed fieldstone tunnel led deeper.

When we left off, the fire was still going and night was falling. No wandering monsters yet, surprisingly, after a few days tromping through the wilderness. Seemed like everyone had fun.

I gave them a piece of hex grid paper and drew the area immediately around the colony town, but after that they had to draw the map. They say they’re traveling northwest, I tell them what the next hex is. The hexes are 5 miles each, which gives me the ability to have multiple hidden things in each hex if I want, but many can be empty.

The map is finished but it needs to be more densely populated with adventure sites. And I need to detail those adventure sites – I currently have only some sketchy notes on nearby ones. I have a bunch of random encounter tables for each region (each forest, each set of hills, etc) and a bunch of random tables for DM aid (prospecting, random treasure, etc). But I just finished writing the game rules, which are in the Player’s Guide. I need to write the Treasure book and the Monster book. I’ve been going off the cuff using D&D stats for those so far. And the DM Guide will pretty much just be a bunch of tables and DM aids like I’m gathering now, plus rules for strongholds, magic item creation, that sort of thing.

We’re playing at a local gaming shop called the Game Matrix. You don’t have to pay for table space and it’s pretty cool. I’m thinking of making a few pieces of wargaming terrain and giving them to the owner. They have a bunch available for people to use, but I can see some pieces they’re missing.

I’ll do a little update for each session. Nothing too detailed, just the highlights. Hopefully that gets me posting more.