Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tidbits and Short Answers

I just realized that it's been a few days since I last posted something.  Usually, I've got a few ideas brewing in my head that will have demanded to be aired out here, but not this time.  School's winding down which means meetings and last-minute cram sessions are increasing.  I've just not had time to think of a decent post.  However, I've had a few random thoughts that need some feedback.

Lulu is where I have gotten all of my Swords & Wizardry books if I couldn't get them at the NTRPGcon.  My books are all paperback and beginning to show signs of wear.  I figure I'll need to upgrade to hardback soon.  I just don't know if Bill or Matt will be bringing any of those to the con.  So, I'm holding out with them in my cart until June.....unless Lulu gives me a really good sale.

I realized that I've kinda painted myself into a corner with my DM-ing. I've used nearly every one of the 1st level modules I have with some group.  This would not normally be bad except that there's usually a couple of players who overlap, which runs into the problem of player knowledge of the traps & tricks.  So, I need to spend some time updating the modules, taking the previous incursions into account.....

Just heard that Monte Cook has resigned as the lead developer for 5th ed (or D&D Next as they're calling it).  Honestly, I find myself completely apathetic about this news.  Monte has interesting ideas, but I never cared all that much for his stuff.  Apparently, WotC is trying to play down the news by announcing the open beta testing of the rules on May 24th.  Again, don't care.  I think I found my game with S&W.  I even tried to think in terms of 1e AD&D (or OSRIC), and found it a bit too rules heavy.  In fact, as I started thinking about running the next campaign using the 1e rules, I immediately thought "out goes Druid, Illusionist, Ranger, Paladin, Assassin, and Monk.....and maybe even Thief".  Then I realized that's just S&W.....

I turn 50 in less than a week.  This is both bothersome and strangely distant.  I find myself re-evaluating things in my life now; time with family & friends, time working or teaching or tutoring, stuff I've collected.  The feelings dredged up by this are very difficult to express.  No doubt the stress of things this year added to this increased feeling of mortality has played havoc with my mental health...and my patience.  Is this what insanity feels like?

I normally handle stress pretty well.  However, I've found myself snapping at folks more often.  I need some downtime because the increase in alcohol consumption is not helping.  Why do they call it "tourist season" if they don't let you shoot them?  Why is there Braille on the drive thru ATMs?  Why isn't there mouse flavored cat food?  Why does the stuff that's bad for you taste so good and the stuff that's good for you taste so bad?

There's a guy in Bedford that's selling off a lot of his gaming stuff so he can downsize and move into a smaller house.  I managed to pick up a copy of Boot Hill, Lord of the Rings RISK (trilogy edition), a batch of the Metagaming pocket games (Melee, Wizard, Death Test, etc), and a copy of SPI's Games of Middle Earth.  My man-cave looks like a game store exploded in there.  It looks worse now that I've pulled a lot of stuff out looking for things to get signed at NTRPGcon.  I've got a small backpack full already....

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Epiphany of Sorts

As I consider the different approaches I can take in making the next campaign game, I suddenly realized (again) that the DM designs the type of game he/she would like to play in.  One of the older groups on-again/off-again DM's really enjoys back stories and intrigues and hidden references.  Another prefers storylines with a few possible choices for the PC's, but they all push forward a story.  I prefer open ended free-for-alls in which I can wander and explore.  And once that thought really had a chance to germinate, I realized that this was the root of my dissatisfaction in the past.  While the characters are all low level, the players who want storylines can begin to puzzle out threads to follow.  The hack-n-slashers and min/max-ers can have a field day attacking and killing things.  And everyone's happy....then around 6th or 7th level, the game tends to change.  The PC's are now beginning to get reputations, there's more roleplay needed.  More thinking needed to determine who's telling the truth in those RP settings.  The hack-n-slashers are held back because now they can literally sever a storyline.  The min/max-er's just want to roll the dice and "click the dialogue box" to get to combat.  And no one's entirely happy any more which leads to players bickering and me sitting there wondering where did it all go wrong.....

It went wrong when I, as DM, did not say at the beginning what type of game I was going to run.  I did not set the tone properly.  So, I have learned my lesson and will be ready to do just that at the start of the next game.  I know this sounds iron-fisted, or at least it does to me, but I don't see any other option out there to get the players started working like a team.  I know it will work because it worked when I presented the Kobold Campaign.  The group worked up to 10th level when the main storyline concluded with the successful resurrection of the protector dragon.  It works in the Sky Pirate game in which I am playing because we all started out as captured slaves.  So, the next step is: what event pulled the characters together?  I need to spell that out clearly along with the type of game I will be running.

So, now to work out the details......

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Searchers of the Unknown

Last night we were missing half of the Old School Group, as I call them.  One had a gaming conflict because of a 5th Friday which got us out of sync with his Pathfinder group.  Another was recovering from an onslaught of the flu and possibly strep.  And a third was celebrating Orthodox Easter. 

Unfortunately, we couldn't start on time because one of the core group was tardy because of a birthday party for his surrogate son through foreign exchange.  While waiting to begin, we had an interesting discussion about various editions of D&D, proof vs. faith, and dynamics of group play.  Besides much beer being drunk and eating a wonderful pizza (if you have a Papa John's in your area, you must try the Buffalo Chicken pizza.  It's to die for!), I presented the one page of rules for minimalist D&D....Searchers of the Unknown.  The immediate response?  "One page? Huh!  I like it!"  Character creation literally was rolling 1 dice and making 3 decisions. 

Once our tardy member arrived, I popped open Tomb of the Iron God by Matt Finch (or if you prefer pdf).  It worked very well with the minimalist rules.  The group had heard stories about a temple of monks destroyed by their own god for their avarice.  Rumors swirled about how much gold and jewels must be buried in the pile of rubble that was once the Temple of the Iron God, a local deity of death and justice.  The group asked around in town about any news of the place but after hearing of the gold present, they immediately took off.  Arriving a few hours later at the pile of rubble, they began to look around.  The only thing left standing was a 15 foot tall iron statue of the Iron God, holding an upright urn in one hand and a staff in the other.  Behind the statue was a set of stairs leading down into darkness.  They lit a torch and began to go down the stairs. 

Spoiler Alert - if you plan on playing in this module, don't read further!

The stairs ended in a large room.  Another statue of the god was present, but this time he was kneeling down and the urn was leaning toward the stairs.  The opening of the urn was easily 3' to 4' across.  In the center of the room was a goblin head with symbols and marks carved into it.  One of the group picked it up and it spoke to him in a loud voice.  He decided to keep the head, so he put it in a bag.  Another of the group dropped a copper piece into the urn and they heard it roll and slide down a ways before making a pinging, bouncing sound.  Looking around the room at the carvings on the walls and the two closed doors, they found a secret door behind the statue and opted to go through it.  It was a ramp down into another room where they found the copper piece. 

To speed this up, they explored about 8 rooms, encountered two sets of skeletons, one zombie and about 9 goblins.  They started using doors to go over pit traps, then as weapons.  Some of the best lines of the night?

Goblin: "Surrender!"
Charlie: "Okay!"
Dewayne: "I drop the door on him."
Roll to hit, sucessful...damage, 9 points....smashed goblin.

Charlie: "I jump in the pool of holy water and start splashing the zombie and skeletons."
me: "Roll to hit"
me: "they start to melt"
Jim Bob (because Dewayne was injured into unconciousness): "I jump in the pool of holy water and baptize Dewayne".  Splash!
me: "okay, sure he heals ...(roll d4) 3 points"
Dewayne: "Woohoo!  I'm alive!"

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What to Run?

Sorry for the lack of posts.  School year is winding to a close and so there's lots of things to do: grades, comments, awards, alumni, etc....

But right now I'm wracking my brain trying to figure out what it is that would make me want to DM for a long time without campaign boredom setting in.  It would be nice to know what it is that pulls my attention away and installs a strong sense of ennui.  Maybe it's the rules or maybe it's my lack of confidence in myself or maybe I really do just suck as a DM.  I would like to think the last one is not true because a lot of folks want to play in my games.  But that could also be because I'm an easy DM and the puzzles or challenges are easy.  See, confidence....

What if I get bored with the rules?  Or, what is it about the rules at 6th, 7th or 8th level that turns me off so?  Honestly, I don't know.  Maybe it's because I never have a storyline; the players make the story go.  Or maybe it's because I have never learned how to make groups of monsters work together and make sense working together.  I don't know.  All I do know is that time is running out for me to make a decision and start a real campaign.  So, here's the options I'm thinking about.

1) Swords & Wizardry 3rd printing as base rules.  Add in a few extras like the Background table from the Dungeon Crawl Classics game and a few other character races like gnomes and mess with the magic rules a little.  Set it in Blackmoor.

2) 1e house rules AD&D.  My first love.  Add in the 2e thief as a replacement option for the 1e thief.  Dump half-elf and half-orc as races.  Allow only the Big 4 classes.  Still use the DCC background table.  Disallow Chaotic Neutral and all Evil alignments for PCs.  Set it in the City State of the Invincible Overlord.

And a new one cropped up the other day, Searchers of the Unknown.  I stumbled on it in a reference on Jeff Rient's gameblog.  It makes the PCs use the same stat blocks the monsters have in Basic D&D or in Swords & Wizardry.  Nice little mechanic for saves and combat too.   I'm going to give it a shot on Friday with a group and see how it plays out.  It certainly has possibilities.

Okay, gotta go tutor a kid for an AP Physics test.  More later.....if I can find the time.