Monday, May 31, 2010

Campaign Journal: Retainer Dogs Session 3

The Roster (Player Name - Character Status - Character Name (Race/Class/Level)
Joe - Primary: Osamu (Human Cleric 1) INJURED SESSION 3
Joe - Back-up: Gerrie (Halfling Fighter 1)

Bryan - Primary: Hargreaves (Halfling Fighter 1)
Bryan - Back-up: Edwin (Human Magic-user 1)

Roy - Primary: Malic (Elf F/M 1)
Roy - Back-up: Milhous (Human Thief 1)

Christina - DEAD: Brigid (Halfling Thief 1) DEAD SESSION 3
Christina - Primary: Aethyl (human Magic-user 1)

Notes From Session 3
Osamu is injured

Brigid is dead

Primary and Alternates are in Pendleton, Session 3 End Time/Session 4 Start Time: DAY 6 (5 AM).

Olef is guarding the Fortunate Fools Base Camp

Christina needs a Back-Up Character.

Items Sold in Pendelton:
2 axes from the dwarves SOLD S3
3 spears and 2 swords from the bandits SOLD S3
2 swords, 2 daggers, 2 shields from dead men at Farmer Jon’s House.
SOLD S3 TOTAL: 40.5 gps/xp.

TOTAL EXPERIENCE FOR SESSION 3: Primary = 457 XP EACH; Back Ups = 81 XP Each.

Sword and 2 daggers (one of the daggers has a hollow pommel and contains a map) from Tybrin
(3) crates each holding (4) Halfling crafted pottery jars, finely decorated.
(4) barrels of good quality ale.


Day 5 (2 AM): Session Start time

Brigid and Osamu left Olef at the camp. They spied the flames and smoke in the distance from Malic and Hargreave burning down Farmer Jon’s House. On the way there, they ran into the skeletons that Osamu had Turned earlier in the evening. A battle was fought, Osamu was gravely injured and Brigid fell dead from the blow of a skeleton’s club. Osamu Turned them once more, then not thinking it wise to continue on the journey alone, and being closer to camp then Farmer Jon’s House, he carried Brigid’s body back to the Fortunate Fool’s Camp.

Meanwhile, back at Farmer Jon’s burning house, Malic and Hargreave encountered Jon Jr. as a leper zombie, again , from the evening’s earlier encounter. They quickly dispatched it with a lucky sword swing from Hargreave. When it became obvious that no one from camp was going to show, Malic and Hargreave traveled back to camp to find that Osamu and Olef had built a perimeter of torches to ward off surprise encounters. They came upon Osamu preparing Brigid for the journey to the Underdark. They arrived back in camp around 5 AM. The party chose to sleep and set up a watch schedule, split between Olef on first watch and Malic on second.

Late in the morning, the PC’s spied riders upon the road. Malic stopped them to talk, but they made it obvious they did not wish to speak. A debate of either going to Zebulon’s Dungeons to find the Fortunate Fools or going to Pendelton was settled. The group decided to head to Pendelton. Around 11 AM, Aethyl arrived from Pendelton with a message from Zebulon for her and Malic that he wished for his apprentices to work for the Fortunate Fools and for neither of them to stay in Pendleton.

A four hour journey by horse back to Pendelton put the characters in the town around 3 PM. Osamu went to the Wise Woman’s house and had his wounds tended to. Mayor Tomm was run into. He told them that one rider like they described had entered town, but not two. Malic once again tried to engage a rider in conversation, again he was rudely told to bugger off. The rider rode out of town heading south.

The group decided to spend the night in Penelton. While selling the weapons they had collected from killing bandits and raiding dwarf bodies, Malic discovered a map hidden inside the pommel of one of Tybrin’s daggers. He set out on his own with one of the horses to follow the map. He set out around 6 PM.

Needing to cross the river, Malic left his horse and forded the river on a skiff. On the other side, he spied a Kobold hiding under an overhang near the river. He avoided him and continued on his way. He passed up a seemingly abandoned farm house as well.

Coming upon a cave, Malic saw two kobolds on a wagon dump a load of goods (presumed to be stolen bandit goods). He hid as the Kobolds passed him by. After their departure, he witnessed four carnivorous apes come out of the cave and start angrily destroying the goods dumped in front of their cave. Malic took a shot an one of the Apes. In a bizarre turn of events, including lots of lucky die rolls and a amorous she ape, he manages to kill three of the four Apes. He then decides it best to head back to Pendelton.

Not encumbered by a wagon, and taking a different route (the route shown on his map); Malic managed to get to the Bandit Hideout before the two kobolds returned with the wagon. He killed the two kobolds and discovered a young girl hiding in the hay loft and her bound, trussed and barely able to move mother inside the house. Discovering from the girl, Heidi, that the bandits were dragging bodies into the root cellar. He investigates. He finds a cellar full of half rotten vegetables, a sack full of something and a door that does not look like it belongs. Casting his Read Magic (NOTE, DM mistake here, he did not have that spell memorized for the day). He reads the runes around the door, “Know that he who enters here, enters the Dark Ways”. He leaves the root cellar. In the barn, he finds the remainder of the bandits stolen goods and gets to work loading them into the wagon.

One hour into this, the two kobolds return from the Apes Cave with their empty wagon. Malic kills them both, then, wagon loaded up, journeyed south to a bridge he’d seen in earlier travels. Collecting his horse from earlier, he heads back to Pendleton. He has Heidi and her mother traveling with him.

Day 6 (5 AM): Session End time
Malic rides into town with the wagon, three horses, cargo, Heidi and her mother, Gia.

Campaign Journal: Retainer Dogs Session 2, Attack of the Living Dead!

Pre-Game Business
Recommend everyone download a copy of Basic Fantasy RPG
Done in Spades. They beat me to the punch and showed me up by having 2 printed copies on hand. Most seem pleased with my last minute switch from Rules Compendium/ Labyrinth Lord to Basic Fantasy RPG.

Convert characters from LL to BFRPG.
I hoped for this to go faster then expected, I planned for 15 minutes, it took about 45. I don’t think this is representative of the system, but just player “crunchiness”.

Added Character Background Elements:
One or more of the Halflings are on a quest to recover a family heirloom (a magical platinum flute) for a clan of Halflings from a larger city.
Done. Joe and Christina’s Halflings. Joe’s is his Back-up (Gerrie), Christina’s is her Primary (Brigid).

The Magic-users are apprentices of Zebulon Whately, sent to seek experience towards gaining Journeyman. Gwen Whately, a more experienced apprentice of Zebulon, left a few days ahead of them and has managed to join on with the Fortunate Fools, who particularly needed a mage.
Done. Roy’s Elf (Primary, No name listed on my roster) and Christina’s mage (back-up, Aethyl)

The Roster (Player Name - Character Status - Character Name (Race/Class/Level)
Joe - Primary: Osamu (Human Cleric 1)
Joe - Back-up: Gerrie (Halfling Fighter 1)

Bryan - Primary: Hargreaves (Halfling Fighter 1)
Bryan - Back-up: Edwin (Human Magic-user 1)

Roy - Primary: No name on roster (Elf F/M 1)
Roy - Back-up: Nothing listed on roster

Christina - Primary: Brigid (Halfling Thief 1)
Christina - Back-up: Aethyl (human Magic-user 1)

What I Expected to happen and What Did Happen (Edited for Player Perusal)
The group (Primary and Back-ups), while traveling to Pendleton, stumble upon a gang of bandits with an Ogre in their employ. The PC’s have the advantage of surprise and their actions lead to the capture of the Bandit Leader (Tybrin the Vicious). His capture will ingratiate them to the village of Pendleton and give them allies, a dwarf named Olef Red Beard, and the caravan leader (Jan the Turban Merchant). It will also cause some animosity with a fellow adventuring group, The Blades of the Spears, who were hired by the City-State of Mebulon to capture Tybrin, and give them a potential enemy in Joss the Yellow-Mane, who will show his ass as a coward from encounter one. The Ogre, will do his best to escape, he is all ready grievously injured by Olef. Tybrin is all ready unconscious from his wounds. Two dead dwarfs that were traveling with Olef Red-Beard and the merchants are found at the scene. They died in combat with Tybrin and the Ogre.

Things occurred as expected; however, I thought they would have realized that a group of Bandits who have been raiding caravans for the past several weeks (told to them by Jan the Turban-Merchant) MUST have a hide-out here about, probably stashed full of loot (AHEM!).

Aethyl cast her Sleep spell to enchant two of the bandits into a slumber, her radius also caught Jan the Turban-Merchant. Shots were fired at the Ogre as he flew away. Hargreave counted coup on the sleeping bandits, but Olef, before passing out spoke to Brigid saying “Tybrin, bandit, reward, if alive”, thus saving him from the same fate as the bandits.

Now some criticism, first to myself as DM and next to the players. Planning on the ogre escaping and Tybrin surviving was a mistake. I’m going for a sandbox approach, but then I place two occurrences that MUST happen for the plot to move forward. That was stupid, and I had to rescue my plot-hook in order for it to happen. Not to mention, the ogre escaping, obviously set up by the DM, makes players feel cheated as if their actions don’t matter. That is “plot” driven adventure writing, not character driven. Plot driven stories are not sandbox, for sandbox to succeed, plot must be directed by the players. My only job as DM is to provide interesting encounters (not always planned) and interesting NPC’s and locals.

As to criticism of the players, well kids, interrogation often leads to discovery, which in turn leads to more loot, which in turn (in the little game called Dungeons & Dragons) leads to more experience points. I provide the doorway (often hidden), but you must check for traps and enter. I’m just saying…

In the village of Pendleton, they will meet the Fortunate Fools and the Blades of the Spears. The Blades of the Spears took the job of tracking down Tybrin (which they have done nothing to accomplish), and the characters captured him by accident. There will be mixed impressions of the FF as they will fire the tBotS, and hire half the characters in their stead (they only need four), but it will be obvious from the beginning that they will be playing second fiddle to the FF as their retainers.

Occurred as Planned.

Joss the Yellow Mane will arrive late that evening with the body of Magon in tow. He will be seeking recognition for this feat. The PC’s have the opportunity to expose him as a fraud. Unfortunately, they will discover (either then or ahead of time, depending upon what transpires between them and the FF that Joss is the cousin of a member of the FF). In any case, they will most likely make an enemy of Joss.

Occurred as planned. They HATE Joss the Yellow-Mane.

The Primary characters were hired by the Fortunate Fools, the back-ups were hired by Tomm the Mayor of Pendleton to guard Tybin until authorities from Mebulon arrive to take him into custody. They will receive their reward when the authorities arrive.

Tomm ordered four villages to take poor Olef to the village Wise Woman for care.

Jan The Turban-Merchant told them he is traveling to Mebulon to report their success to the proper authorities and if possible, he will travel back with the authorities to ensure that they get their just rewards. He expects to return later in the summer, about three or four weeks from now.

They set out from Pendleton to make camp with the FF, with Joss hired on as the “Retainer Boss”. The next morning, the FF take their leave of them and set out for Zebulon’s Dungeon. After three days of foraging, with a couple planned “flavor” encounters and Random Encounters a possibility, on the evening of the full moon, they are attacked by a pack of zombies and skeletons. The zombies are composed of a local family they met two days prior (Jon the Farmer, his wife and three kids--twin girls and a younger boy). From there, they may go to Farmer Jon’s farmstead, discover two dead humans in the farm house itself (both armed with swords, shields and leather armor) and battle two child sized “slimy” creatures (which they had discovered the footprints of) and find a trail leading away from the farm to somewhere…

More or less. They humiliated Joss, and Hargreave insinuated that Yellow-Mane should sleep lightly. Joss got the message, and took off on his horse towards Pendleton, and was further victimized by Hargreave placing thorns under his saddle, causing his horse to run wild. Roy’s elf disliked Joss so much, that he set up his own camp (at a good tactical position) to avoid him. While at his private camp, the elf encountered Farmer Jon and had a nice conversation with him.

Olef made an appearance, still not at 100% from his battle with the ogre and pledged his undying loyalty to them.

I rolled for random encounters, but none came up on the dice. For my own amusement, I had decided to let the RE’s be completely random, they would only occur if rolled and I would roll on the RE tables from the Random Encounter Table letting the dice fall where they may. If a dragon came up, so be it. Life isn’t always fair. Alas, the dice did not permit any extra fun.

The planned encounter with the Zombies and Skeletons (in which the players discovered that I don’t always follow what is printed in the rule book about “known” monsters--these were 28 Days Later style zombies--fast, flesh eating and viscous), almost saw the end of Osamu the Cleric. Osamu turned the skeletons and two of the zombies before falling. He was reduced to 0 hit points, and would have become zombie chow and dead without heavy magics not available to them, if Brigid had not acted quickly and killed the zombie trying to munch the unconscious cleric. Olef poured a healing potion down Osamu’s throat and rescued him.

Thus we have a House-Rule: 0 hit points is not dead yet. I will allow one round +/- Constitution bonus (in rounds) to receive care. Care being “I spend a round binding his wounds.” However, if it is obvious that the character would not survive with only minimal care (no magic used, grievous wounds, etc.) so be it.

Also, a bit more criticism to the DM: RESIST THE URGE TO RESCUE THE CHARACTERS. It cheapens accomplishment.

The elf and Hargreave followed the undead horde’s trail from the base camp heading North West back to Farmer Jon’s homestead. There the elf discovered signs of something being locked within the farm house. The root cellar door was broken down from within as was the exterior door of the house itself. Inside were the corpses of two dead humans dressed in leather armor and bearing swords and shields, that had become zombie chow, along with the families dogs just outside of the farm.

The elf carefully investigated the root cellar, saw that there were two slimy, child sized “somethings” in there, that took no interest in following him. He and Hargreave burned the house to the ground.

Afterwards, they discovered another trail of slimy footprints and several “creatures” that leads away from the farmstead and NOT towards the camp. It heads North East.

End Session 2

No characters are injured at this time. Osamu was, but Olef’s healing potion, brought him to full.

Only Hargreave and the elf are at the farm. Everyone else is back at base camp.

Ending time was Day Five around 2AM.

Treasure experience points do not yet reflect “items recovered”, be they magical or

Experience points for mundane items are rewarded when they are sold (one point per gold piece obtained from the sale--not the book value). Magical items do not grant Experience points, unless they are sold, and only then on 10% of the total cost to make said item, not on how much it was sold for.

I am not the kind of DM that says “you found a Sword +3”, and items do not typically glow blue or any such nonsense as that. Items must be tested and analyzed for powers to be discovered. I DO grant experience points for successfully analyzing an item. Also, very few magical items are found locked in a treasure chest. In my games, if an NPC or monster has a magical item, he is probably using it, most likely against you.

I decided to go with Group experience versus taking the time to dole out individual experience.

Primary and Back-up experience points: My original intention was to award each player X amount of xp, and let you dole it out amongst your Primary and Back-ups as you see fit. I didn’t do that for this adventure, as there was a clear breaking line as to when the Back-ups gaining experience ended and the Primary’s continued (in this case, when the Primaries left Pendleton and the Back-ups stayed). That is the model I will continue to follow, when it is appropriate. When not (either the Primaries are played the whole session and the Back-ups are not, or vice versa), I will revert to my initial intention and let you divvy it up as you see fit.

Treasure experience is gained at 1 xp for each gp obtained, divided by the current number of characters (PC + NPC, if appropriate). I do this on a group basis instead of an individual basis, because in my experience if I do not, it turns into a game of constantly passing notes to the DM to play a game of “screw your neighbor” (ask Joe about Derrick).

See also, note above about mundane and magical treasures.

I DO offer individual experience for a short (two paragraph) character story--one time only per character, thus far only Joe and Bryan have done this--AND for a concise, Journal done in character per session. Both rewards are at 1/20 of current xp needed for the next level (right now, that equals 100 xp).
Monster Experience points are gained at Monster XP Value divided by the number of characters (PC and NPC) involved in its defeat. NOTE: total character number is counted regardless of that PC/NPC surviving the encounter. Thus no, you can’t kill the red shirts or your fellow player characters to drive up the experience point total. None of you know him, but I knew a fellow named Carl that was fond of this tactic. Thus, I am shooting down “Carlism” from the get-go.
Not to flog a dead horse, but being active instead of reactive will in most cases lead you to more “loot” which in turn leads to more experience points. Case in point: if there is a group of bandits raiding caravans, they probably have a hide out. But your DM being reactive to your character’s actions, probably hasn’t let said hide-out remain static. So the opportunity may be gone. I planned on doling out enough experience points so most characters will advance once every three sessions. You all didn’t hit that goal this time, you‘re about 250 xp short of that. You might want to seek out opportunity in the future to step it up a notch. Take off your WFRP hats and put on your D&D hats. I will now step down from my soap-box.

Without further ado, Experience point totals (for anyone checking my math, I round fractions up):

Treasure and Experience Point Awards Session 2
Primary Grand Total = 449 XP EA..; Back up Grand Total = 273 XP. EA.

Treasure XP Total: Primary = 21 XP EA.; Back-ups = 14 XP EA.
Looting Tybrin the Vicious (57/8 (P+B-U)= 8 xp each)
300 sp, (30 xp)
27 gp (27 xp)

Looting the Bandits and Dwarfs on the Road (46/8 (P+B-U) = 6 xp each)
35 sp (3.5 xp)
25 ep (12.5 xp)
30 gp (30 xp)

Looting the Bodies in Farmer Jon’s House (28/4 (P)= 7xp each)
30 sp (3 xp)
25 gp (25)

Monsters XP Total: Primary = 228 ea.; Back-up = 46 xp ea.
The Caravan Encounter: 365 xp/8 (Primary + Backups) = 46 xp. Ea.
5 Bandits (125 xp)
1 Ogre 240 xp (yes he got away, but I felt guilt over that, so Happy Birthday!)

Night of the Living Dead: 625 xp/4 (Primaries only) = 157 xp ea (I didn’t count Olef in the total, because do to DM ineptitude, he didn’t do much)
5 Zombies 550 xp
3 Skeletons 75 xp

The Farmstead: 50 xp + 50 xp (bonus for defeating smartly) 100 xp/4 (P only) = 25 xp ea
2 “Slimy things”

Other Rewards (Rewarded @ 1/20 of 2000 xp)
Good RP Bonus = 100 xp ea.
Good Use of Class skills = 100 xp ea

Items Recovered, but not sold:
Sword and 2 daggers from Tybrin
2 axes from the dwarves
3 spears and 2 swords from the bandits
2 swords, 2 daggers, 2 shields from dead men at Farmer Jon’s House.

Campaign Journal: Session 1, May 11, 2010 Musings of a befuddled old-school gamer: Failed Campaign, new “old” system selection and character creation

Recently, my gaming brain has been on hold. Namely, I just couldn’t get into finishing the current campaign. I started, late in 2009, a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Campaign (second edition) self titled: Things to do in Marienburg before you die. The original concept was to run the game sandbox style. I was using Hogshead’s Marienburg: Sold Down the River as my main resource.

I was excited about it on several fronts. First, I’ve been wanting to get away from my usual story driven game master style and return to the sandbox style of my college days. Second, WFRP (first or second editions) is possibly my all time favorite, and normal “go-to”, RPG of choice. Third, I really dig M: SDtR, and think it is one of they single best RPG city books ever penned.

The campaign started off strong. The real time game start date was just before Christmas of 09. I was in the Holiday spirit, so I created an adventure based upon the Dutch stories of Sinter Klaus and Zwarte Piet. The first three sessions went very well. My plan was to start things off with a solid story line, and then hand the reigns to the PC’s. I thought I had given them an interesting background. They were all affiliated in some fashion or another with the Stevedore and Teamsters Guild. I seeded the plot with some political ins and outs, and hinted at dark things happening inside and outside of Marienburg. As a second resource, I was using Warpstone 25: The Fimir, Ruinous Inheritance. My “uber” plot was to eventually place the PC’s in a moral dilemma in first indirect and then direct conflict with the Fimir.

Flop. Pure flop. I tried rescuing the campaign by trying to steer the party in a direction that would lead into the portions of The Enemy Within campaign that I have not run them through (basically the last third of Death on the Reik then lead them into The Power Behind the Throne). Again, flop. In a last chance “hail Mary” I started introducing them into The Dying of the Light.

I realize now my mistakes from the beginning. My first mistake is, with this group, I have never run a campaign sandbox style. I have always, no matter what system we play, but normally WFRP, run story driven games. Second, I wanted them to take the reigns and run with the ball, but I didn’t hand them the reigns from the get-go. They reacted to my first adventure, story driven, and were expecting more of the same.

So now, I return to my favorite version of Classic D&D. This is not the first time I have used this rule system with them. About one year ago from the day I wrote this, I started a mini-campaign called Kill Bargle! The concept of that was to take the classic evil wizard from the 1983 Basic boxed rules version, and have him become the groups’ nemesis. Kill Bargle! was not intended to be sandbox, I planned it as a story. We only played, I believe one session, but it went well enough. It would have lasted longer, but my real world obligation as an Air Force Reservist demanded that I travel to Iraq for six months.

So here I am at the beginning of my lastest attempt at OD&D. My latest campaign is titled Retainer Dogs (yes, it is an obvious play on the Tarintino film Reservoir Dogs). My intention is for the game to be sandbox style. The only story element I am supplying is a reason for the group to be together: they are the hired retainers of a recently successful band of adventurers calling themselves The Fortunate Fools. The Fortunate Fools have been contracted by the Wizard Zebulon Whatley (name shamelessly stolen from H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror) to clear the dungeon beneath his temple of unwanted beasties. I will resist the temptation of binding them to the “story”. I will supply plot-hooks, but my preparation time will be minimalist, allowing me to scrap anything planned and “go with the flow”.

I’m starting the campaign with a couple raped and bastardized canned adventures to start things off. Both are sandbox by nature. In an attempt to stick to the sandbox style of referring, I am primarily running a meta-dungeon campaign. There will be some wilderness adventure, and perhaps a bit of city adventuring for dungeon breaks, but most of the action will take place in the dungeon, which I will prepare some of prior to each session and much of it on the fly, taking cues from the players to read what kind of adventure they are seeking. Most of my preparation will be in the form of providing interesting NPC’s, and I’ll strive to keep encounters memorable.

Normally, I encourage my players to give a detailed background for their characters; however, I am using an old-school approach to world design. I may end up using the Known World as my backdrop, but I am intentionally keeping those details vague at this point. This is not spawned from a sense of mystery on my part, but rather I think it will be interesting to allow the world to grow organically around the characters. Hence, much of their background will be created in session to deepen character interaction with the world at large and will come when and if the need is felt to go beyond the dungeon. This is a trait of old-school RPG’s that I miss. It doesn’t have to be about setting or “the story”. Instead, let it be about the characters and “their story”. I do not know how long I will run this campaign. I have no long term plans, which is a conscious decision on my part. If there is no direction, it can end when it needs to instead of fizzling as my Marienburg campaign did.

My normal mode of operation is to conceive of an over-arching campaign story, but I am avoiding that. I will seed the sessions with story devices. If the players “bite” on a plot-hook, I will expand upon it. If not, I’ll shrug my shoulders and move on. I do have a theme in mind. This is a group that likes and is used to WFRP. I am borrowing a page from my Warhammer book: things are a bit shadowy and not what they seem, there is more going on then meets the eye, or is there?

I debated on what rules system to use. Normally, my go-to system is Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. WFRP is great for what it is: a grim, dark land of perilous adventure, set in a world of low-magic. That is not the tone I am shooting for here. My tone for this campaign is a high-magic realm, cinematic action with door kicking cowboy antics. So I immediately ruled out WFRP and looked to other systems.

My candidates were: FUDGE, Tunnels and Trolls, and Classic D&D (in my opinion, anything pre-3rd edition). I ruled against FUDGE simply, because it did not feel right for what I wanted to do with this campaign. I’ve never played with FUDGE, but I want to. I think it would be a great rules system for some campaigns, but did not feel old-school enough for the tone I am trying to achieve. I have a belief that one system does not fit all. Some systems fit well with the games they are meant to run (such as WFRP). Even universal systems, such as FUDGE and GURPS, in my opinion, work well with some campaigns, but not others. Tunnels and Trolls definitely has an old-school feel to it and I’ve used it in the past; however, I’ve never been happy with the combat system. I feel combat gets too dragged out and while I like a narrative “wing-it” feel to combat, I also like a system that has more strategic possibilities. Dungeons & Dragons, circa 1981 to 1983, works for the tone I am setting and has the old-school feel I wanted, is free-style enough, yet strategic enough, and I get nostalgic just flipping through my dusty box of old-school, geeky goodness. It was my first RPG love, and I always return to it, eventually.

In my preferred version of D&D I freely mix Moldvay with BECMI and traces of AD&D 1st edition. My preferred tome is The Rules Cyclopedia (RC), but I am also allowing Labyrinth Lord. I am taking LL into consideration because it is close enough to my revered RC and is available for free to my players. Let me say that again: FREE. I determined that in this day and age, I will not play a game that requires a considerable financial obligation from my players. “Gratis” is good and hence my initial consideration of FUDGE. I also have copies of the 1981 Moldvay edition and 1983’s versions of BECMI Dungeons & Dragons editions floating around the game table. All in all, if it was published after 1980, it is close enough, but if there be squabbles, then RC trumps all others, unless I decree otherwise.

As I stated earlier, this is my second time running D&D with this group. There was some drastic resistance the first time. One player, who unfortunately had to be so foolish as to successfully retire from his career with the FAA and move out of state to become a professional ski-bum, was vehemently opposed the first go around and sat it out. Another player did so as well. He had other things going on in life at the time, so he bowed out of my Kill Bargle! game. He is still playing with me, and I hope he stays. He is being a sport about it this go around and is giving it a fair shake. A third player only has experience with D&D 3rd edition. He is trying his best to wrap his mind around the concept that dwarf is a class, and is happily doing his best to figure out the calculus of THAC0. My last two players are a married couple, both have played AD&D 2nd edition, D&D 3rd edition and I believe 3.5, and agree with me that 4th edition looks like the bastard child of World of Warcraft, and NOT D&D. They are for it and their infant son believes that all dice look tasty, regardless of the system being played.

Our first sessions was spent rolling up characters. I encouraged the group to include a dwarf, a cleric (no spells till 2nd level in my games) and a mage. I also instructed them to make two characters each and I recommended they round out their “back-up” characters with fighters. I decided to roll 3d6 and let the dice fall where they may. In other words, no arraigning, simply roll and write them down in order. I did allow them to re-roll one attribute that was 6 or lower and keep the higher of the two scores. I also allowed them to adjust their ability scores as per the character creation chapter of RC. I have always house ruled that 1st level characters begin with maximum hit points. Optional rules in use are Weapons Mastery and Skills. Since I use Weapons Mastery, other then Mystics and Druids, I do not require characters to follow usable weapons by class. If you want to be a sword wielding magic-user, go for it. Clerics may use edged weapons as well. With Weapons Mastery, it balances out. In addition to this, I used an article from issue 2 of OD&DITIES, Special Items for New PC‘s. I had them randomly roll for one item for each of their two characters.

I have four players with two characters each. I believe the primary characters are: the cleric, a mage, a Halfling and a thief. The secondary or “back-ups” are two Halflings, a mage and a thief. There is no dwarf and no fighters. This is not a big deal, as I had planned on throwing in two or three NPC’s to round out the party, depending upon their overall strength and needs. I believe I will add a dwarf and two 0 level men-at-arms commanded by a 1st level fighter. Plus, the Fortunate Fools as well, who will be a mixed adventuring party of 4 with 10 total levels between them. This sounds like a lot, but there is a method to my madness that I can not explain further at this time.

I had intended to run each of them through a solo adventure (one player with both of his/her characters), to give them a bit of background, a wee-bit of experience and perhaps some extra coin or a minor item obtained. I was going to spring board from having each of them going to the market to buy their weapons, armor and equipment. This would have been great, but frankly, character creation took much longer then I expected, it always does. During these solo adventures I was going to deliver two rumors to each of them. One of the two, all players would get, and another (rolled randomly) would be gotten by players individually. Not having time to run the solo adventures, I instead gave them each the shared rumor and their individual random rumors.

Rumors gained were:

The Fortunate Fools are hiring brave adventures to help them clear beasties from the Wizard Zebulon Whatley’s dungeon. They’re in the small village of Pendleton hiring candidates now (shared rumor)
Goblins have been spotted in the area and I ain’t seen goblins in these parts ever before
The Darkling Woods are haunted by slain priests of a best forgotten dark cult.
There used to be a Chaos worshipping cult in these parts. They had an abbey, but it’s crumbled and gone. Nothing is there anymore.
Kobolds ate the baby of Old Farmer Tann up the road. They broke in plucked the child right off the tit of Old Tann’s young wife. She was too young for him, if you were to ask me.

The next session will begin with the players in Pendleton seeking to be hired on as Retainers for the Fortunate Fools. I’ll try to resist having them meet in a tavern, but no promises.