Friday, February 20, 2015

....and a cougar named Milf...

Okay, as I've been posting, I'm been working up to running games again.  I've gone through all the angst of "am I really ready to be a DM again?" and "which system to I want to run?" and "how do I make my old stuff still work?" head games.  I've always enjoyed being a DM, almost more than being a player, since I started gaming back in 1978.  So, yeah, I'm ready to run again.  And after looking at all the systems to choose from now, I settled on what I was most comfortable with...1st edition AD&D.  It's not exactly my favorite, but I like it.  My favorite may actually be 0e, with some AD&D stuff added in.  But 1st ed is a very, very close second.

Now that last question up there...that's tough.  As I read through my old stuff, I realized there were several assumptions I must have made which I cannot make now.  For example, when you tell someone to use the old "3d6 eight times" method, you have to explain what you mean.  And even then, you may have to provide an example.  My method for starting characters is 3d6, totaled up, rolled 8 times to give 8 numbers ranging from 3 to 18, and then dropping the lowest two numbers and arranging the mix to suit whatever class you can make from those scores.  If for some unlikely reason none of those 8 scores are above 15, then ditch the entire set and roll another 8 scores.  I've never seen anyone have to reroll a set of scores more than once, until this last time.

Another assumption I made was that most people understood the combat system, the saving throw system and the descending AC system.  There were not options for anything different back then.  Combat was abstract.  Roll a d20 to represent your set of attacks this round.  The DM lets you know if you beat the AC of the defender or not.  Also, the roll did not represent 1 swing of a sword or shot of a bow but a set of swings or shots while the AC represented how well your target reacted to the attacks.  Thus, higher level characters were better at fighting because they had learned new ways to feint, thrust, and slash and so were able to find the soft spots better.  Tie this to the idea that hit points are not health solely, but also stamina and energy, then high hit points at higher levels meant you were more in shape and knew how to roll with a hit to reduce it's effectiveness.

Lastly, the players wanted to be heroes, not graverobbers and thugs.  The players wanted to emulate Conan and Prince Valiant and King Arthur and the heroes of legend or story.  Today, the players are geared toward killing things and getting rich.  Morality plays little to no part in the story, nor does theology or politics or even wonder.  The goals are not "let's make a great story to recount" but "how can I take this item and use it to get more gold or experience for my character".

But then I wonder if I'm projecting my inadequacies as a DM onto the players by assuming they don't want to play "right".  Maybe I'm not being clear enough with the hints and rumors about the world around them.  The list of regional deities and temples is too vague in terms of how the gods interact with man.  Or maybe I'm just not good at reading my players in terms of the game they want to play.

The reason for all this soul-searching is that I've tried to run, well re-run, my old gaming campaign from 30 years ago.  I read through all my old notes and tried to update some of it.  I cherry-picked a group to test out whether I could run this stuff.  Maybe instead of picking the guys I know who like Old School play, I should have picked the guys who like video games and newer styles of play.  I knew the first group would be more forgiving of mistakes and help me where I slipped up, but the other group would have been a better test audience.  And maybe I could convert them over to Old School play.  I don't know.  I may try to get another group going, one made of the newer style players.  We'll see.

Anyway, I have gotten the Old School group going and they went through my old "intro" dungeon as a way to get the players comfortable with each other and to help the players gel as a group.  It went okay.  I dumped the 2nd level of the thing because I wrote the dungeon to teach people who had never played a RPG before, but they don't exist anymore.  I then threw the modified version of a published module at them, and they did proceeded to trash the place.  They then decided to follow one of the rumors to what they thought was an abandoned tower...only to find it quite busy with folks.  The place would have been a death trap for them.  So, now they're headed off to the Barrowmaze.  But since they've not read up on the deities of the area, and I don't think they'll read up on the rumors and news that I'll be posting in the next week, I am not sure how this will turn out.

So, where does this leave me?  I have realized that while I like 1e well enough, I probably should have opted for something more B/X in rules complexity.  Also, I have realized that I don't tend to take the game seriously.  I mean, come on, it's a game!  So, when I DM, I tend to try to come up with ways to turn the rules on their side.  In the last game, as the group started toward the Barrowmaze, I rolled a random encounter, a mountain lion.  One of the characters is a druid, who cast Animal Friendship on the mountain lion just as it prepared to attack.  Now he has a cougar...he has named "Milf".  Such things are what I think this game is about, to have fun and be wacky or gonzo, and make great stories to tell.   Like, kobolds in orange vests and hard hats, or doing magic tricks and telling jokes at an undead's birthday party, or talking to a large hostile-looking creature, or finding a talking albino gorilla in a cage.....

Life is short.  The games should be fun.