Monday, May 31, 2010

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.

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