A collection of rambling posts about gaming, running, and politics. (and, in 2009, photography.)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Actual Play, Part II

I forgot to mention that I had planned to have all characters doing standardized damage. 1d6 for one handed weapons, 2d4 for two handed weapons. The players complained expressed a desire to do individualized weapon damage, and so I relented.

The party regrouped after Richard's fight with the mole man, and wanted to head into the small door. Beyond, they found a short, empty passage, ending in a stairway going down, and with a door on the left side of the passage. They checked out the door, carefully listening for sounds and so forth, then opened it to peer inside, and saw three faces peering back out at them. One character threw open the door, while two others rushed in to fight against three of the molemen and two rats.

Two interesting things happened during the fight. The first was that one of the badguys rolled and then confirmed a fumble. I rolled on my Wicked Table of Fumbles, and the result indicated that he'd struck an ally. I narrated him loosing his balance and his sword going out wide and opening up the guy to his right (molemen are right handed, you know), since he rolled enough damage to kill the dude outright. Also, I pseudo-killed the first character here. Michael's cleric had rushed in, and got jabbed twice, taking to 0 hit points.

I had initially set out to do it the old fashion way, where 0 hit points = dead, new character time. After perusing some house rules, I'd decided to try being somewhat less lethal, and so I created a house rule and table, so that when reduced to 0 hit points (And the GM was feeling benevolent), you got a 1d6 roll. 1 = dead, 6 = back on your feet, and between was varying degrees of nastiness, like coma and limb loss and such. So Michael's cleric hit 0 hit points, got his 1d6 roll, and got a 6, so he was still in the fight!

The party dispatched the molemen and rats. Combat was a breeze for me to run. I didn't watch the clock, but the fight with four characters and five bad guys lasted probably 15 or 20 minutes. Far less time than with stuff I've run recently. And more fun too, in a way. I narrated the players through the combat, and it was fast and fun and loose. No one looked at rule books.

After the fight, the characters were bloodied, and so they headed back to the Keep to recuperate. Arriving back at the cave later, they wanted to keep an eye out for any sign of traffic or recent activity. I told them that they could see some sign - there were a few objects sitting just in the entrance of the cave. As they carefully approached, they saw that it was 4 human heads. Payback for the 4 molepeople that they'd dispatched. They proceeded inside once again, back through the secret door, and into the passage.

There was some discussion here about which way to go. They could take the stairs that went down, or they could check out the door at the end of the long hallway. They elected to check out the door. (Note - Michael and Jerry chose the door because they were totally in the spirit of old school, and were concerned that going down the stairs was in effect going to the Dreaded Second Level of the dungeon.) I described it as a large wooden door with a pull ring in the center of it. They lined up before the door, ready to do battle with whatever lay on the other side. One character pulled the ring, which came out slightly, and then the floor dropped out from beneath them. When I designed this particular trap, I wondered how many characters it would kill. It was 10' wide, the width of the passage, and 20' long, surely enough to capture most or all of a party as they tugged the ring (the trigger). I hadn't though a lot about it, but I'd planned to have anyone standing on the trap fall into the pit, and take the damage (2d6 for the 20 foot fall, 1d4 x 1d6 damage for hitting spikes at the bottom). Now, with the entire party standing on the trap, I wavered, and flipped through Keep on the Borderlands, which I had nearby, to see if the folks who originally wrote this stuff had a method for throwing characters into pit traps. I found one, which suggested a 50% change of falling in, so I went with it. Even so, the players were a tad skeptical of how their characters could avoid falling in, but we handwaved it to an extent, figuring the mechanical noises right before the trap opened were a sufficient alarm. By luck three of them avoided falling in, but Michael's thief went into the pit. He took *a lot* of damage, far more than he had hit points. I went ahead and let him roll the Last Breath 1d6, it was generous on my part, but I did so because we were playing our first 'test' session, and I was still enjoying fiddling with my Last Breath chart. He ended up not dead, but in a coma for 4 weeks, plus a few weeks of recovery time. I explained that in the future, when a character took massive damage like that, he would simply be dead, with no followup roll.

I do not recall which time, but once, when Michael's character was reduced to 0 hit points, he offered the character sheet to me, and asked if wanted to rip it, or keep it, etc. We did the Last Breath, so it was not a big deal. Michael was not bothered by his near death experience(s), and in fact had indicated to me previously that he had an interest in seeing a character die. He's played RPGs lately that treat characters with kid gloves, and every fall has a bunch of big comfy pillows beneath it, it was in an odd way, refreshing to play in a setting where there were in fact lots of sharp pointy things that could very easily kill a character.

The party managed to get the unconscious thief out of the pit and headed again back to the Keep. Michael looked over his other stats, and after a few minutes, decided to make another thief-ly type. He was also pleased when his randomly generated starting money allowed him to buy better armor this time around.

Back to the cave, they went quickly to the secret door, only this time, the molepeople had been busy preparing for them. Jerry's elf moved the right rock in order to open the door, but was doused in oil from a hidden tube. He then ducked JUST IN TIME as a gout of flame shot out from nearby, rigged to light him up. BB-Q Elf. Yum. The party paused, and Jerry wisely wanted to try to wash the flammable oil out of the elf's clothing. There was a still pool in one corner of the cave, which the elf began rinsing his clothing in. At this point, Michael, really getting into the vibe of old school play, expressed some concern about the dark pool, and that it had not been searched or really declared 'safe', and I pointed asked Jerry if the elf was bathing in the water. Jerry said no, that he was on dry ground, just rinsing his clothing. One of Michael's character started probing the water with his 10' pole, and it was deep. Michael wanted to do a little testing and exploration with the pool, I believe, but Jerry convinced him to press on into the labyrinth.

They made it through the secret door this time, as it apparently needed to be manually reset. They ignored the large door and its pit trap, and went through the small doorway again, narrowly missing an improvised dagger trap, and then fighting against some rats. I'm using Morale rules, so at one point, the last rat fled. They headed down the stairs, and into the labyrinth proper. Now we were doing some real dungeon crawling. The hall was somewhat narrow, only 5 feet wide, and they took a right, explored about 150 feet of dungeon corridor before coming to a door. They went through, into a room with eight molemen, armed, sitting around a table, with two more sleeping in the corner, and a giant rat lying beneath the table. The party charged in, and the elf cast sleep, putting 5 molemen and the rat into a deep slumber - one that they would never awaken from, as it turned out. The characters charged in to do battle, and to slay the sleeping molemen. Almost right away, the molemen lost a morale save, and so the three remaining ones took off, running through a door on the far end of the room. The party paused long enough to make sure that they would not be followed before charging after the fleeing bad guys. They hit a fork in the tunnel almost right away, and Jerry wanted to know if his elf could tell which way they went, thanks to his infravision. I shrugged and said, sure, maybe, and rolled a d6. The dice gremlins smiled upon him, and he could see the faint heat of their footprints, quickly fading, but headed to the left. They followed, and the tunnel split again - and again the dice gremlins were on Jerry's side, but this time he could see that they'd split up. they picked a passage and continued the pursuit. They came again to a split, but this time, they could not tell which way their quarry had gone. But they heard the sound of a door close from down the right passage, so they charged that way, throwing caution to the wind. They rounded the corner and saw a closed door with two levers on the handle. Jerry's elf grabbed the handles and threw the door open, and fell right into the pit that opened up beneath his feet. Beyond the door was a large dining hall. One of their fleeing quarry, and two dining molemen were there, and they turned to do battle with the party. Richard the fighter leapt into the room. One of the molemen swung at him, but Richard dodged the blow and took the nasty creature's head off with one blow. The other two turned and ran.

We were out of time for gaming, and so they pulled the unconscious elf out of the pit trap. He'd been reduced to 0 hit points by the fall, but had rolled reasonably well on the Last Breath table, and was only unconscious for an hour or so, and weak for a few days after. They made their way back out of the labyrinth, as they heard the sounds of pursuit behind them - apparently the molepeople had gathered and were on the attack. They made it back to the Keep, and that's where we broke off.

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I certainly had a great time. It was fun to run with the loose rules, making it up as I went. I think I did a good job of being descriptive enough to give the players a good idea of what was going on, and to immerse them into the game. I enjoyed that combats were short and sweet. I loved not having to spend tons of time flipping through pages looking for rules. It was both as deadly, and as forgiving as I'd hoped. I "killed" three characters, but each of them survived, and will fight another day, though it will take the thief a few weeks yet to recover. I'm going for a mix of fast and loose play, with a dose of simulationism - they have to keep track of which character is mapping, which character has the torch, etc. We are not tracking number of arrows, or rations and such, within reason. If they end up lost in a dungeon, then well get concerned about how many torches they have left, and how many days of food they have.

My demo game was, for me, and I believe for my players as well, a smashing success. And I'm looking forward to running it again when time (and baby) allows.

1 comment:

Todd said...

I was rummaging through my stack of reading material this morning when I came across your Labyrinth Lord part one article, which I had read sometime last Spring. Anyway, I went back and read it again along with part 2 and thoroughly enjoyed the read. I find the narrative style and GM empowerment to be the best part of old school gaming. I think it requires more of the GM in certain ways, in that you have to be comfortable with making rulings on the fly. This is the birthplace of "house rules". Anyway, thanks again for blogging, keep it up!!

-Todd Rooks