This was an interesting experiment. Well, it's still an on-going experiment, but last night was certainly interesting. I had expected more resistance from this group about playing something old school. However, I think my comment about including rudimentary firearms assuaged any arguments. Since half of the players prefer the newer versions of D&D, and the others just want to roleplay irrespective of the rules in play, I put together a short one page set of starting rules. Ability scores chosen by arranging the following values (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, and 8) into the 6 characteristics. These can be modified based upon race chosen. I dumped the level limits and racial class restrictions but only allowed the classes of Fighter, Ranger, Cleric, Druid, Magic-User, and Thief. They could choose from any of the races in the PHB. They all started with the average starting gold for their class. I dropped weapon speeds and weapon vs. AC adjustments but kept spell casting time limits. I also went with group initiative based on a d10 where the number is the segment in the round in which you act. I asked for a Three Sentence Backstory as described here. Lastly, I added the following house rules, all spelled out so that there would be no confusion:
1. Magic-users get the same bonuses for high Int that Clerics & Druids get for high Wis.
2. Weapon proficiency rules apply.
3. Magic-users may use magical longswords, but not mundane ones.
4. Clerics may use the preferred weapon of their diety, even if it is edged, with no penalty.
5. Thief players may choose to use the thieving abilities as spelled out in the 1st ed PHB or may opt to use the 2nd ed point distribution.
6. No AC adjustments for weapons but size adjustments still in force.
7. Spell use is modified to the following: spell casters prepare all known spells each day however may only cast the maximum number of spells allowed by their level and ability score modifier per day. Thus, a first level
magic-user with a 16 intelligence can prepare all 7 spells he knows, but is
limited to casting only 3 of those spells per day.
8. After any battle, those injured may choose to down a pint of wine or ale and receive half hit points or 1d6 hit points back, whichever is lower. (I call this my Conan rule.)
9. When the thief character attempts to use an ability, the player rolls the "one's" die and I will roll the "ten's" die to determine if the ability succeeds or fails.
10. While the game mat may be used to help draw out rooms and such, the "5 foot square" concept of miniatures movement does not apply. The original movement in inches does and ignores the grid.
The first one to arrive announced that one of the other players had just texted in to say that he had a job opportunity show up, so he would not be able to play. However, they had worked together on their character concepts and decided the absent player was going to be a half-orc fighter and the present player would be his half-orc little brother who is a thief. The older brother is trying to teach the younger brother the respectable trade of being a mercenary and the younger brother just keeps seeing the short cuts. Next player arrived, heard the half-orc concept and joined in as a half-orc cleric who is helping to shepherd the young one into a better choice of profession. Next player thought it would be really funny if the entire party ended up being half-orcs and thought the Freeport background helped to encourage that. So, he made a half-orc fighter who was a childhood friend. Our video chat player popped in, heard the half-orc pattern developing but had already gotten an idea for a halfling fighter. He modified it to be a mentally unbalanced halfling who thought he was half halfling and half orc, so he was a quarter orc or a "quorck". And to compensate for his size, he upped his strength and bought a 2 handed sword. The last two players arrived shortly after that. One had zero experience with AD&D so he just opted to copy one of the other fighter's stats and pick different armor. The other decided to be different by choosing to play an elven ranger/magic-user. Surprisingly, sort of, he was the one who complained the most about the rules.
Side track for a moment: I had been reading about the OSRIC rules for a while now. In fact, I became aware of them a few months before I attended the first North Texas RPG con. I downloaded them and skimmed through them. They were initially so similar to the 1st ed stuff that I was happy to say, "at last, a copy of the 1st ed stuff in one place and better laid out". However, last night as we were doing up characters and the rubber met the road, we found a lot of little nuances which do not match up. Stuff like XP amounts to go up a level for some classes, proficiency penalties, and little things like that. It wasn't game changing but it did confuse us until I just mandated that the PHB took precedence.
Back to the story: So, once all the characters were rolled up and ready to go, I read the opening for the 1st part of the Freeport Trilogy, Death in Freeport. Since they were mostly half-orcs, I modified it a bit to fit the group. They had just arrived in Freeport on a ship run by a captain who apparently didn't know much about merchant vessels. He had hired the group to be sailors on this trip to sell some foodstuffs to the island folk. However, once the ship arrived, the food was found to be completely rotten and worthless. Now they are stuck in Freeport, with rumors following them about how poor they performed as sailors. They decided to hit the first tavern they could find and look for work. They chose the Heave Ho! Tavern in Scurvytown as it was near where the ship put in (randomly determined). The place is a dump but they started asking for work after the first round of watered down ale. The only lead they got was related to the construction of the lighthouse. A beggar came in to size them up and they promptly threw him out. Deciding that there was nothing here for them, the set out to look around this area of the city. They went into a pawnshop a few doors down and asked about work there. The pawnbroker only told them of his troubles. He was getting all these folks showing up wanting to buy left shoes because someone in a 4 block area was breaking into houses and stealing all the left shoes of every pair in the house. Some folks thought they might be pawned so they had come to him looking for them. For some reason, this intrigued the players who decided at that moment the group was going to become private investigators.
Leaving the pawnshop, they saw the beggar that they had thrown out of the tavern was nearby begging from another group of folks. They proceeded to grab him and question him roughly about the missing left shoes. He resisted (of course) and then pointed out that a group of 8 rough looking fellows carrying billy clubs were starting to surround the group. There was an exchange of threats as the ruffians stated they were a press gang for a large ship. Our group countered with who they were and their connection with the rotting food. The ruffians were disgusted and disdainful, and decided that they preferred to grab some others who might be competent. Once they departed, a middle-aged man in robes asked the group if they would be willing to take on a small job for him. They readily agreed and the robed man took them into the nearest tavern and bought them a round while relating his story.
He introduced himself as Brother Egin, a monk in the temple of Seker, the God of Knowledge. He wanted the group to find out what happened to Lucius, the temple's librarian and his friend since childhood. Lucius had gone missing about 2 weeks ago and Egin was worried that it might be related to the last time he disappeared six years ago. When Lucius had returned, he acted funny. He didn't remember all his friends or what his duties were, but he took over the library again and treated it like it was his own personal place. He was often rude to the other brothers and to visiting monks. He started asking odd questions about things from the War of the Pious and Philosophers. Lastly, he started spending the temple's money buying up books and such from that time. Then he disappeared for a few days. When returned, he was back to his normal self but very concerned because he could not remember any of the time he was gone.
The group asked to investigate the temple and Egin led them there. On the way, he pointed out Lucius's home, which caused the group to stop and investigate it. They found the place messy but not ransacked. Searching it led to the discovery of Lucius's diary in a hidden compartment of his desk. The diary mentioned a few names and hinted at something cultish. The group then resumed their trip to the temple. They met with a couple of novices charged with watching over Lucius for the past few months. They also met with Milo, the assistance of one of the temple's high priests. He gave a few bits of information but appeared haughty and disdainful to the half-orcs preferring to talk almost exclusively with the elf.
Leaving the temple, the group headed back to Lucius's home which they now claimed as their own. However, waiting outside the house was a man in chain mail who suggested they stop asking questions about Lucius and mind their own business. "Okay," they responded in genuine agreement. Deflated, he leaves and heads off to a tavern in the Docks quarter. The thief and the halfling follow him. Chainmail guy meets with a nicely dressed gentleman. They exchange a few words, gentleman gives a small pouch to chainmail, chainmail exits through back door while gentleman leaves through front door. Halfling follows gentleman, thief follows chainmail. Chainmail goes two blocks down, enters tavern, meets with other guys in armor and shares pouch with them. They stay and drink away money. Halfling observes gentleman enter dilapidated house with bricked up windows. No other entrances. Decides to call in back up. Gets back to group as thief returns and all head out to house. Group enters house, finds trap door in floor which leads down to a wine cellar. One large wine barrel is entrance to underground area, maybe sewers. Going down tunnel, they find a pit trap and two doors. One door opens into hallway with two doors further down, one on left and one on right then hallway doglegs right to end in double doors of brass. First door (on left) is locked and thief almost breaks tools trying to open it. Second door is unlocked and opens into small octagonal room with desk and chair. Large book with evil writing on desk. A few smaller books in unknown tongue stacked nearby. Several reports on building lighthouse as well as letters from a few places on continent again hint at cult intrigue. Group refuses to try brass doors and goes back to hall way, back to other door by-passed. This one opens into a large octagonal room painted black with a 10' deep pit in center and stars painted on ceiling. Opposite of door is altar with stuff on it: silver candelabra, black candles, tongs, silver dagger, black cloth strips. Pit smells of urine and possibly blood, gives anyone looking into it the creeps. Group takes books, reports, and cult stuff.
Deciding no one is present, the group returns to the locked door and attempts to break in. Three tries leads to breaking lock and 20' x 30' room is discovered with 4 large chests, walls hung with gaudy purple curtains, and 6 skeletons rising to deal with intruders. The cleric steps forward to turn them, realizes he has chosen a Melnibonean god of the sea...who is CE. So, instead, he takes control of the 6 skeletons and commands them to pull down the curtains. The thief attempts to unlock the chests, succeeding with two of them. Just before they can be opened, a secret door which no one had seen opens and 3 snake-men enter. They attack the group. The cleric commands the skeletons to attack one. Everyone else attacked the other two. Short work, only one fighter injured with a spear thrust. Investigating chests leads to finding lots of copper, some electrum, and a potion. The skeletons are dressed in the curtains and commanded to carry the chests back to the house. On the way out, two more snake men attack, but die with no real effect on group. Getting to house, group discovers the place was ransacked by someone while they were gone. Skeletons sent to clean house after putting chests in basement. Other two chests have more copper and a nice shield.
So, now the group decides to sell the books to the Temple, getting 600 gp for them. Tries to find out more about left shoe bandit, but no one has any new info. They also realize that beggars actively avoid them and everyone gives their purple robed attendants very weird stares.
Next game picks up from here. We'll see what happens next.