Saturday, December 29, 2012

Understanding AD&D 1st Edition Combat

After a first look through of the combat system in the Dungeon Masters Guide, I boldly went to the gaming table thinking that I understood how to run things. Boy, was I wrong. Well, not necessarily wrong, mind you. But I froze up pondering potential corner cases in the system. Thank goodness that it was just a test encounter because the game ground to an absolute halt. I wasn't anywhere near confident enough to start make rulings since the intent was to run things according to the rules as written.

Determined to learn the way of 1st edition, I trawled the major old school forums looking for clarification. I didn't find a whole lot of specific advice but I did find some pointers. One such pointer was to ADDICT which is short for the ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS® INITIATIVE AND COMBAT TABLE. Don't let the name fool you. It's not just a table. It's a step by step explanation of first edition's combat system with examples. It's a well done resource and it got me oriented but at times my head started to swim while reading. It is almost 20 pages of explanation after all.

After giving ADDICT a careful read-through I went back to the DMG. That really didn't help. The text there seemed ever more dense but I was determined enough to slog through. Then a lightbulb came on. What about OSRIC? I've had the PDF for years and even have the book on my shelf. I wondered how close it was to 1st edition. I never tried to play OSRIC but instead used it as a general resource supporting my other D&D-like games.

After reading the combat section in OSRIC I finally got it. I was already 80% of the way there but the clarity of presentation was invaluable. I now feel confident enough to start running the game and eventually work some of the niftier corner cases into my 1st edition gaming routine.

The AD&D 1st edition state machine is an amazing thing to behold but observing it to understand it is sometimes a bit difficult.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Under the Christmas Tree!

Under the Christmas tree, I found a stack of AD&D 1st edition reprint books; the Dungeons Masters Guide, Players Handbook, and the Monster Manual.

I started D&D with Moldvay Basic & Expert and never owned any original 1st Edition AD&D books so it's neat looking through them and discovering what so many have been talking about for so long. Now I know where Papers & Paychecks came from.

Anyways, my first impression is quite positive. So much of the game is already familiar but so much of it isn't. To me, it sure seems like 1st edition AD&D is old school Dungeons & Dragons with the switches and knobs purposefully exposed. In a way it makes me feel like I did when I first discovered D&D. I know that I'll play it and that I'll love it but it won't be as written. Heck, without a few more readings I'm not even sure if I know the rules. That's part of the fun.

Is it just a sense of nostalgia talking? Maybe. Probably. It's not likely that I'd have such patience for a game published today but it's a great way to be reminded that play is the thing.

Okay, I'm off to flesh out our very first 1st edition adventure.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Twilight Company a Castles & Crusades Campagin

We're getting ready to kick off a Castles & Crusades campaign. The two PCs are sole survivors of a destroyed mercenary company called the Twilight Company. The adventure will be driven by their attempt to rebuild the company from scratch. This means that they'll have to delve into dark places for loot to finance their endeavors.

The plan is to run from low to mid levels with Fields of Battle used to resolve the big stuff.

Gave Fantasy Dice a Whirl

Recently, I picked up Fantasy Dice and we gave it a whirl, but before getting to that, a bit about the game itself.

As presented, Fantasy Dice is a generic system that you can play historical or gritty fantasy right out of the box. It also provides all kinds of switches, knobs, and advice for shaping the system to not only fit but to also to help build your setting.

The advice's intent is easy to intuit because there's an internal consistency woven throughout the game. The task resolution system is pervasive. Use it to sneak away, engage in combat, cast a spell. Now, you may be thinking that such an approach may sound boring. But trust me, it's not.

The game uses the full spectrum of normal polyhedrals: D4 through D12. Your character's attributes determine the number of dice you roll while your skills specify the type of die to roll. Roll the pool and take the highest vs. either a target number or vs an opponent's roll. There's more.

You can dynamically scale your die pool to better fit the situation at hand. Let's say you're facing a low target number - 3 and you've got 1d10 as your pool. Well, you could roll that D10 or you could scale the pool down to multiple D8s or even farther down to even more D6s. Scaling also goes the other direction. If you've got a pool of, say, 4D6 and the target number is 7. You can't hit it no matter how many D6s you roll. So, you scale up to fewer D8s or even fewer D10s and so on. Something else to consider is that there are degrees of success and failure. Scaling allows you to play a situation conservatively or you can go big. Pretty nifty.

Now, a bit about combat. Scaling applies here as well but it's not the only tactical layer available. The basic maneuvers include attack, counter attack, interrupt, parry, block, dodge, overpower, and overwatch. You then have a choice of tactics which include aimed attacks, deadly attacks, feint, focused attack and defense, harass, snapshot, and targeted. The options really do a good job at helping to model both melee and ranged combat without bogging you down with too many options.

Players also can choose paths for their character. This is a defined growth track for a given character. For the most part, these are named maneuvers to mitigate conditional penalties making them different from, say, feats. If you select Way of the Swordsman, for example, you can learn maneuvers such as various types of riposte, remise, thrust, slash, dual wield, and so on. If you select Way of the Archer you can learn maneuvers for aiming, reloading, and so on. By splitting the combat tactical layers out like this the author made the whole thing very approachable.

In no time, we went from just scaling dice to using the basic maneuvers and path options.

Okay, how does damage work? Weapons inflict a wound level and type. Certain maneuvers and good rolling increase the inflicted wound level while mediocre rolling, armor, and maneuvers reduce it. While you track all wounds taken, only the effects of the worst one is applied. After the action is over, tally up the wound specifics; things like bleeding, broken bones, and internal trauma. This keeps the game fast and simple.

Fantasy Dice is pretty danged GM friendly. All of the enemy combatants that I ran were examples right out of the book and for the most part were expressed as a die pool, weapons, and armor. We're talking 1st Edition D&D levels of complexity here.

I mentioned it earlier, but I wanna say it again, I really appreciate the internal consistency. It really makes the game approachable and I felt confident making rulings on the fly.

Test Scenarios

Throughout the test scenarios the PC wore leather armor, vambraces, greaves, and a leather cap. So, not heavily armored but carries a short sword and shield and is quite skilled.

In the first encounter it was the PC vs a man-at-arms wearing a sallet helm, brigandine over mail. His skill level was one step less than the PCs. This encounter was over in 9 seconds. The PC won initiative and struck the man-at-arms on the arm hard enough to stun him which made his attack easy to evade. The next turn the man-at-arms was struck on the same arm again causing a stun effect. On the third and final turn the PC enjoying the advantage of the stunned opponent jammed the short sword at the face of man-at-arms causing a nasty wound that knocked him out of the fight, begging for his life.

Just by swinging the short sword it was difficult to get past his armor. The jab to the face was a combat maneuver. Afterward, I determined the specifics of his wounds. There was nothing permanent. The accumulated wounds simply broke his spirit.

In the second combat encounter, it was a stupid street thug armed with a club and a dagger trying to mug the PC from behind. His ambush attack roll was really bad so it was soaked by the PC's armor. The PC drew the short sword, and even with the penalty, struck the mugger in the face with the blade. That was it. Game time was about 3 seconds.

In the third combat encounter, the PC was attacked by two street thugs. This time the PC wasn't successfully ambushed and had time to prepare shield and sword. The PC won initiative and sliced one of the thugs in the leg immediately knocking him out of the fight. The second thug got bashed with the shield but all he got was a bloody nose. The thug's counter attack slammed onto the PC's arm but didn't do much. It was a superficial hit. But he used the opportunity to run away succeeding on the dice roll using his speciality of knowing the town.

In the fourth combat encounter we tested ranged combat. The PC found where the thug lived and waited for him to come out of the house in the early morning. The PC had total surprise and launched an arrow striking the thug in the abdomen. The result was terrible bleeding, a broken rib, and deadly internal damage. I then determined if he would survive or not. The thug's friend failed to stop the bleeding so the shot thug's condition worsened as he was taken to a surgeon on the payroll. I scaled the dice to see if the surgeon could hit the target number to stop the bleeding and start healing. Failed. It was just a matter of time, the thug was a goner.

It was extremely handy to be able to just handle modifiers while running/playing and then determine wound specifics afterward.

My only complaint is about the book's organization. I've found myself flipping through it looking for a bit of info that I know is in there somewhere. Though since I have the PDF I can lean on iBook's search functionality.

Don't let my gripe about organization put you off. Fantasy Dice is not only well done but it's a great value. Definitely check it out.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Troll Lord Games 5 x 5 Sale

I normally don't post up about sales or what-not but this one's too good to pass up if you're a Castles & Crusades fan.

The Trolls are putting on a big sale for the release of the 5th printing of the C&C Players Handbook.



I picked up:

All for around $10!

The Black Libram is new to me as is Engineering Castles. I already had the Fields of Battle box set but wanted it as a PDF. Same for the CKG Screen.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Burning Wheel for Fun and Profit

Well, not for profit but for research. Yes. Research! Kinda anyways.

Since the release of RuneQuest 6, I've had the feeling that it and Burning Wheel cover a lot of the same conceptual territory but obviously as different game implementations. I wanted to blog a bit about it but my BW-wise is a bit rusty and needs polished back up before I can put pen to paper or even fingers to keys so we've kicked off a Burning Wheel Gold mini campaign to get back up to speed and to have some fun along the way.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Wushu With Kids

Last Thanksgiving, I ran a WhiteBox Swords & Wizardry game for my niece and nephew. It was a huge success. I recently had the opportunity to play with them again. They were very enthused about playing but had a little difficulty getting back into the groove. I took it as an opportunity to try a little experiment. What would play be like with another system?

I sifted through my collection looking for a game that would be a good match for them. I've got some great games that I know like the back of my hand but they would be a bad fit since the kids really wanted to do character creation.

I found it.

A few years ago, I tried running Wushu, but for one reason or another it just didn't work out. A tickle in the back of my mind told me to take another look - that it might be just the thing that I was looking for. Scanning the book, looking for just enough bits to get character creation started I liked what I saw. Plucking several index cards from the office organizer, I headed to the dining room where brainstorming was already taking place. In about half an hour everyone had characters made and they were raring to go.

Over the course of the visit, we got two solid gaming sessions in and again they were very good. Wushu worked like a charm.

The kids had little problem producing details in order to build dice pools. In fact, I think Wushu itself helped them articulate their imaginations. Vetoing a detail here and there wasn't as problematic as you might think. Most of the time a veto wasn't for genre emulation but for narrating victory without scene resolution. You might think that a veto would dampen enthusiasm but that wasn't the case. In fact, the vetoes seemed to have been taken as a challenges to be overcome through more description.

We took up where our WhiteBox game left off with the characters ported over. The first session actually ended with a total party kill. You also might think that a TPK would derail the fun but it didn't. They flipped their index cards over and started creating new characters.

Between sessions they worked up some pretty in depth back stories for their new characters connecting them to their old ones. The interesting part, at least for me, was that they would free play it and then talk about what shook out of that as Wushu traits.

Through the freestyle session they decided that their new characters would go to the mountain top where the first adventuring party met their demise and recover their bodies in the hope that resurrection is possible.

In the second session, the PCs found themselves accosted by forest bandits. A battle broke out on the old forest road. The adventuring party needed to keep their equipment in order to endure the journey to the mountain and the bandits wanted it.

Taking significant wounds, the bandits were barely fended off. The bandit leader himself escaped by the skin of his teeth and melted into the forest.

The man-at-arms, the wizardess in training, and the old adventurer made camp to do some recuperation from the woodland encounter. The session ended with them looking at a distant mountain range with the collective wonder of how it could be possible to get there when the road was already so difficult.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Run, don't walk on over to Grim and Perilous to check out the upcoming release of ZWEIHÄNDER!

From the site:

ZWEIHÄNDER Grim and Perilous is a dark fantasy role-playing game, loosely based on the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay tabletop system.  Set for release in autumn of 2012, ZWEIHÄNDER embraces the dark and gritty nature of old school RPGs of yore while simultaneously providing many modern advances found in today's roleplaying game industry. The finished product will be "world-agnostic", universally adaptable for any low or dark fantasy campaign (similar to GURPS).

I have little experience with Warhammer and its Old World so I really can't compare the Grim and Perilous artwork to its inspirational sources but I can say that the look and feel that we've seen so far reminds me of The Riddle of Steel. That's a good thing.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

RuneQuest 6 (digitally) in my hands!

As soon as I saw that RuneQuest 6 was available I rushed over to RPGNow and grabbed a copy. I wasn't disappointed.

The first impression was that I was looking at an artifact of history. I own Mongoose Runequest 2/Legend and really like them. RQ6 just feels different. I somehow get the feeling that it looks and feels like the RuneQuests of old even though I've never ever seen an actual copy of the older rulesets. There are no discernible bits of Glorantha in RQ6 other than hints in the runes and rune magic. The presentation covers a wide variety of fantasy games but skews toward cinematic grittiness. For the first time reading a D100 game I get a Burning Wheel vibe. Players have lots of codified combat options, getting hurt is a dangerous thing, and willpower is meaningful. Individual character motivations (passions) are meaningful and characters at least in part learn from failure. It's one of the most complete rulebooks that I've seen in a long time, once again, making it comparable to Burning Wheel.

Check it out.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Chomping at the bit for Runequest 6

I've been finding myself chomping at the bit for the release of Runequest 6. I already own both versions of Mongoose Runequest, Legend, and the big gold BRP book so why the interest in 6? To be honest, at first I wasn't intrigued but I've come around.

Back in the day of shopping for RPGs at Walden Books I don't know if I ever saw Runequest on the shelf. I think I remember an ad or two in Dragon Magazine which helped build for me a sort of mystique for the game.

When Mongoose Runequest 1 was released I was on the lookout for a gritty fantasy system. I loved it while some long time Runequest fans battled it out online. On top of enjoying the game for itself, Mongoose Runequest exposed me to other D100 games. When the big gold book from Chaosium was released I scooped it up to build on the MRQ game that I was running along with OpenQuest. I wasn't disappointed.

A few years later, Mongoose announced that they were re-releasing Runequest and they did a heck of a job. It was a real improvement. When it was announced that Mongoose would no longer produce Runequest books I barely paid any mind since I already had my mitts on the game. Some "Design Mechanism" guys would be taking over the line and Mongoose would be releasing a new very non-Glortantha version called Legand and it would be all OGL. Soon Mongoose would get their book to the presses and it could be had for a buck as a PDF. That's one heck of a deal. So why the interest in Runequest 6?

Mongoose Runequest II/Legend is easily my favorite version of Runequest and the guys for making it so are The Design Mechanism guys. Pete and Loz do great work and the previews show that a high quality effort is in the works. On top of that it looks like Runequest 6 tackles some of the things that I worked around with Legend - things like movement and charging. On top of that, their tweaks make the game even better and I want to support them because their pipeline is full of stuff that I want to see.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Part 2: The Funnel With Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2

After dinner we picked up right back up where we stopped...

Cole knew that they needed more bodies to build the ranks and with having no luck recruiting in the village he called in some favors from his army connections.

The new recruiting roll went very well. Instead of rolling low for success we use the roll-high option with 15 as the base target number. As GM I adjudicated the great roll using the margin of success (> 15) as a rule of thumb. The result was that Cole now had a small host of warriors at his command one of which became a named PC - Edmond, a soldier who has seen much of the world. The rest were treated as henchmen of sorts in the classic D&D sense. AFF2 makes this incredibly easy to do: Skill 7, Stamina 7.

With their ranks swollen, the original cadre of adventurers are now confident that they can take the hall and expel whatever dwells there.

They split up into two asymmetrically sized teams. The smaller team took the side entrance that was tried earlier while the larger team burst through the front door. Advancement was decidedly quick so as to keep the bad guys on their heels. It worked.

As the teams cleared the passages of debris and wreckage they made contact with a single bowman from up on high who loosed several arrows at the teams but never managed to really threaten anyone. Without waiting for the adventurers to be on top of him the bowman rappelled down behind a stack of stuff and made his way toward a secret exit made from a fallen portion of the stone back wall.

Cole and Wystan caught movement up ahead and recognized the figures as the ones seen before. This time it was obvious that it was they who wanted out of there.

Up over piles of debris Cole, Wystan, and their men gave chase. Up one pile and down its other avalanching side they slid to the ancient dais where the lord sat when the hall was new. But they found none of those who they saw just a moment ago. Instead, before them was a hunched figure wrapped in crude cloth. A face, not just any but the one of the dark creature killed in the kitchen. It peered at them in anguish and surprise. It shuddered and convulsed in contempt.

Cole gripped his weapon to strike it down once again. But this time it grew.

The body of the hunched figure stood and twitched on pivot to face its adversaries.

It was naked from the waist up. Its skin was the mixed hue of dark grapes and the blackest night. As it stood, it leered over the adventurers with many faces for mixed in the beast's body was that of the goblin, missing locals, and Kenrick.

Cole and Wystan stumbled backward at the sight that towered above them at eight or nine feet tall. An extra tinge of fear pinged against their hearts. The others fell back from a baser fear.

Outside, Audrey, Edmond, and their cadre began to give chase to the men who escaped through the secret passage but too soon the hunted melted away into the woods.

Back inside the great hall, the faces intertwined in the body of the demon wailed not for salvation but for their misery to be put to an end. Fear seeped into hearts. Several of the men understandably  turned and ran but most didn't. Wystan, who just days before, who had his resolve all but melted by the lesser dark creature, strode forward and swung his axe into the body of the dark thing.

It was gargantuan, but, apparent to anyone who could see past the terror, it was not yet fully formed. It lumbered to and fro and swung clumsily its fists and malformed tentacles that emanated from its body apparently at will. It took a step forward like a baby on the verge of becoming a toddler. Its knee buckled and it fell onto a shriveled deformed leg of one of the fallen that jutted awkwardly from the base of its haunch.

While nearly prone the thing lashed out and knocked Wystan back against a pile where he tried to regain his breath.

Again, Cole ran toward the exit and grabbed Wystan dragging him along. The rest of the men were already on the move. Some before and some after.

Once outside, Cole called for Audrey to come to their aid. He wanted as many bowmen as possible there to take this thing on. Edmond barked, calling in men who were still searching the tree line.

At the portal they launched volley after volley of arrows. Some hitting their mark with most sticking in the doorframe or disappearing through the decrepit wall. Suddenly the door frame buckled and exploded outward. The demon was on the loose and ready to take as many lives as possible. (Perhaps to finish its incarnation?) Men cried out in fear. Some ran to find safety while some gave no regard running as fast and as far as their legs could take them.

Soon the demon was mixed amongst the adventurers which made missile fire impossibly dangerous. The ensuing melee swung to and fro - the outcome quite uncertain.

Cole lept forward to press the attack along with a cadre of spearmen. They gave what seemed like as good as they got but something terrible and wicked tickled their hearts.

Struck hard, Cole stumbled over the body of one of his companions who was just killed. Wildly, in a fog, he looked around for an escape route first and friends second. He was breaking. From out of his periphery he saw a wild man surge forward who attacked with such savagery that it was the dark thing's turn to lose its footing.

The arc of Wystan's axe was wide and it scythed the head of the kitchen goblin's head from the greater thing's malformed shoulders. Now, seemingly blind, the demon's blasphemous form held open its hands and clawed through nothing but air. With another stroke of the axe it was over. Audrey, who ran forward to attend to Cole stood with him and with the wild axeman. Edmond approached along with a few others trailing behind. Together they received the thanks of Kenrick whose form lay complicated in the form of the demon.

Cole and Audrey looked at Wystan and wondered in silence and smiles what had gotten into their friend who seemed so timid such a short time before.

The late afternoon sun lit the side of the hall which reflected an ancient hue of white onto them. Cole looked around at those who stayed. He knew that they were no longer a trio alone.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Part 1: The Funnel With Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2

With me working extra long hours we haven't played anything in months. It got to the point where I said, "That's it! We're playing something this weekend!" That got the thumbs-up so it was a go. What to do. What to do...

We have a really neat game world under development that we started playing in with Lamentations of the Flame Princess and continued under Dungeon Crawl Classics. At one point we even used Microscope to help us build the game world's mythology. Which, by the way, is a really great way to do it.

With the setting determined I needed a location. Fixing that that was easy. I used the random dungeon generator found in the AFF2 book. Instead of creating a dungeon I created an abandoned great hall where the roof had begun falling in creating obstructions and pathways.

Stuart Lloyd posted a comment to one of my Dungeon Crawl Classics posts about porting the idea of The Funnel to Advanced Fighting Fantasy. It's pretty nifty and quite in the spirit of AFF. It's fast - so fast that during a break, it was used to generate another "0 level" character to fill in the ranks of the fallen. More on that later.

My wife generated 4 characters to start play:

  • Kenrick, a master craftsman who specializes in bows.
  • Audrey, a peasant who is good at tending wounds.
  • Wystan, a peasant who brawn and use of the axe is well known.
  • Cole, a sergeant who is known to be a good leader and handy with a sword.

To jumpstart the story we knit the characters together a bit. Kenrick hired the peasants and the sergeant to explore the abandoned great hall for two reasons. The first was that the master craftsman had his eye on claiming it for himself. And there have been strange happenings in the area and sightings near the hall. Tales of missing villagers and flickering shadows had spread through the villages like wildfire.

Off they went making sure that they could get there by mid morning. None of them wanted to be anywhere near the hall after dark.

Upon arriving the four would be adventurers walked around the outside of the hall noting its state of disrepair. Kenrick tallied reconstruction costs in his head as they went. Turning the corner on the last seen side they discovered the outdoor kitchen adjacent to one of the hall's long sides. Amazingly it looked to be in quite good shape so that's where they began exploring.

Kenrick and Audrey stayed outside while Cole and Wystan went in. Click.

A spring assisted blade swung into the path barely missing the both men. Deciding that their current path may not be the best they backed out into the daylight. Cole leaned on his trap knowledge to suspect that the side entrance was the daily route used by whoever was there. And indeed it proved the easier route.

Even though the sun was approaching its midday height the shadows were deep inside the kitchen. The two men turned a corner and shoved a door hard inward hoping to set off any potential trap. On the other side they found nothing mechanical but instead encountered in the purple darkness an even darker, smaller - no - stunted nearly naked figure hunched over two fistfuls of raw flesh. In anger it spun like a wild animal, hissing and leaping. The sergeant lashed out in shock with his sword and struck the thing to the floor. Another stroke of his blade put the feral display of aggression to an end. Wystan who watched what had just happened began to crack and turned to run away. Cole cooly pulled him aside and explained that in order to work together they had to stick together. All the while the sergeant was trembling inside for he had never seen anything like that. Afterward, Wystan would be seen clutching his holy symbol.

Outside of the kitchen Cole pulled Kenrick aside and explained to him what happened inside asking if he wanted to continue exploring. A nod to the affirmative was all it took for an entry plan to be formulated for the great hall.

The adventurers broke up into two pairs; Kenrick and Audrey, Cole and Wystan.

Wystan kicked the hall's side entrance open and Cole entered first. He looked up to see the glare of the sun poking through the broken roof. Birds flitted through the rafters and the scurry of critters could be heard in the jumbled debris that was a mix of thatch, plank timbers, tables, and benches. The stacked height of the stuff made it impossible to peer across or traverse the hall with ease.

Straight ahead a small clearing was seen so Cole went to investigate with Wystan following close behind. Kenrick and Audrey stayed by the door. The whoosh and thud of an arrow shuddered Cole backward and scrambling for cover. The arrow quavered stuck in an overturned bench. Wystan hunched and too scrambled for cover looking for an egress route out of the hall.

From his position Cole could see the flicker of movement on his left and on his right but he could not determine numbers. Without another moment of pause he snapped to his feet and ran for the exit pulling Wystan along.

As the pair shot through the side entrance and into the high day sun they called for Kenrick and Audrey to follow. Once they found a position that at least felt somewhat safe they stopped and formulated another plan. They would not plunge into the hall again with a head count of only four. But since their group consisted of two bowmen they decided to once again pair up but this time to watch both entrances, the side portal that they just ran from and the hall's main entrance. Kenrick and Wystan watched the main and Cole and Audrey the side.

Hours passed and the resulting fatigue tugged the watchers toward weariness. Each fought wandering a wandering mind and tunnel vision. Suddenly and simultaneously each pair was ambushed from behind!

The attackers leapt from concealment with flashing blades and covered faces. The attacking foes didn't outnumber the group. In fact the ensuing melee was one to one but the surge of surprise shook them. In a few moments Cole drove off his attacker only to see Audrey go down before he could get to her. A slash of the sergeant's sword drove Audrey's ambusher away.

Around the corner Kenrick struggled as he didn't have a melee weapon to fight with. Instead he tried again and again to make distance between his attacker and himself in order to launch desperate shots. One or two were loosed but to no avail. Wystan on the other hand went wild with his axe giving as good as he got until he faced Kenrick's ambusher. Within half a heartbeat they fell upon one another. In full synchronicity both recoiled their weapon arms and struck - simultaneously. And at the same exact moment they both made contact with the earth. One of them got up while the other didn't. A coup de gras was about to fall.

Cole expected to find his companion mortally wounded but instead found her hazy from a blow to the head. Her ambusher's blade apparently turned in the chaos and landed flat on the side of her brow. Helped to her feet the two of them ran as fast as they could to their companions, wondering with each footstep how they were faring. Leaning forward to see around the corner as soon as possible Cole saw straight steel ready to be plunged into Wystan, his comrade. Whoosh.

In what seemed like slow motion, a streak flashed from his periphery and through the sword holder's side who then shuddered, stumbled, and took flight.

Wystan's wounds, while not pretty to look at, did not seem to be immediately life threatening. Kenrick's wounds were terrible and each moment that passed counted toward his demise.

Audrey prepared to work on her two fallen comrades. Doing the best she could, applying preprepared bandages, it looked like Kenrick's bleeding had stopped so she turned her attention to Wystan. Her hands shook from fear and haste as she could not tell how many others could be out there preparing to descend onto the bloodied group.

Wystan mumbled but was shushed as Cole hunched to the height of the overgrown verge along the once pristine road to the hall. His head swiveled looking for the next wave of attackers that he knew must be coming.

The sergeant asked Audrey how soon they could move. Her reply was a somber, "Now" for Kenrick had passed on. The uneasy decision was made to leave him as they carried Wystan away from there.

Even though under normal circumstances it was only an hour's trek to home that destination might as well have been on the moon. It would soon be dark.

Once a bit of distance was put between them and the hall, Audrey used her hunting skills to find a location that provided some sense of safety and cover. There Wystan was made comfortable as the other two kept watch waiting for what felt like the inevitable. But dawn arrived first lifting their spirits some.

Back at their village, as Wystan rested and mended they all debated about what to do next. None of them wanted to go back to the hall but the consensus was that they had to. Each and all wondered the status of their party.

They could find no one, not a single soul who would help retake the hall even though an obvious threat to all was developing in that terrible place. Independently and together each recognized and acknowledged that it was up to them to make the difference. And it was this that cemented their fellowship of three.

Thus ended part 1. And we broke for dinner.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spiffing Up The Place

If you've been around for a while you may have noticed that I've spiffed the place up a bit. I kept putting off theming Platonic Solid because I had to learn how Blogger did things and I already had tons of stuff like it on my plate. One day last week I woke up and the old look finally got to me. It had to go. So, I jumped in with my trackpad and keyboard in hand and voila! There's still some tinkering to be done but so far, so good.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Picked Up Honor + Intrigue

I recently picked up Honor + Intrigue which is based on the game engine found in Barbarians of Lemuria. Instead of playing a barbarian who crushes those in his way to hear the lamentation of the women you play a character who hums a baroque tune that dances around the glissade of flashing steel.

I'm a fan of Barbarians of Lemuria and even though it does sword and sorcery just about perfectly I don't run it often because I like combat systems that provide a bit more tactical oomph. Honor + Intrigue deftly provides that and more. It's got fencing schools and maneuvers that build on top of a tactical advantage system that really makes combat hum.

We've only run a couple of test encounters but the game has gotten two thumbs up. It doesn't hurt that I met my wife on a fencing strip. Our real life experience helped us get up to speed rather quickly. Terminology never got in the way. In fact, it helped.

The plan is to run a mini-campaign of 3-5 sessions. Where it goes from there is unknown. Maybe I'll port the concepts over to Barbarians of Lemuria. I'm also contemplating building a mecha game based on Honor + Intrigue. But for now...

En garde!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Experienced at 1st Level?

When playing Dungeon Crawl Classics it sure feels like it. Last night we sat down and did a test encounter with Gareth the woodsman turned 1st level warrior and a new character, Henrik a 1st level cleric. Both were played by my wife.

I randomly determined the opposition force and it came up 5 dark creatures of chaos. The exact same composition as what killed three 0-level characters in a single round in the previous session. Uh oh. How would it go this time with just two 1st level characters?

Turns out that Gareth's new warrior abilities are difference makers. The boost to initiative and the attack die, even though it is only 1d3, allowed him to take the fight to the enemy versus trying to manage the situation and hope for the best. You really appreciate that 1d3 because you didn't have anything like it before.

We even had our first mighty deed of arms. One of the dark creatures was disarmed by Gareth with a stroke of his blade and left to totter till it was the last one standing.

Henrik the cleric didn't do too badly either though he didn't get to cast any spells. The encounter was over in a blink! He was the only one hit on the PC side; 1 measly HP of damage.

I guess the notion that 1st level characters are exemplary in the game world and are not to be trifled with has been around for a long time. Maybe even from the beginning of the hobby but in action at the table it never really felt that way. Not for me at least. 1st level always felt quite amateur. Yeah, it's a meta-thing since that's where we first encounter the game with our player characters and it's all up from there. Dungeon Crawl Classics tweaks that perspective. You start out with a group of characters that are indeed quite amateur and by the time they've hit 1st level they're already showing a bit of grizzle.

Very cool.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Dungeon Crawl Classics Followup: The Funnel

In a previous post I introduced the 0-level PCs who were part of the game; Thorek the dwarf, Gareth the woodsman, Saul the cobbler, and Mithra the alchemist.

The second session was non-stop survival by the skin of their teeth. The 1 HP cobbler was the game changer who once again stepped up saving his party's bacon. It was amazing. At the end the entire party was low double digit XP away from hitting 1st level. It looked like all of them were going to make it. But then we played the third session.

The mission of the third session was to make their way to a clerical order named The Haligesith. They're a growing power in the area and must be warned about the strange going-ons along the old forest road. After a night resting up in a roadside temple they set out fresh. The day starts out a little cool but sunny. Daylight passes virtually uneventful except for when they got twisted around on a side road. It all started to look the same.

As the sun went down so did the temperature so they made camp and started a small fire. Gareth took first watch and almost dozed off since it was nothing but boring. At midnight he touched Thorek on the shoulder to wake him for second watch. As he did so he thought he heard something. Numbed by recent sleep Thorek didn't hear a thing. The dwarf got up to throw more wood on the fire and Gareth went out into the dark to double check. There was no way he could simply lie down to sleep. The hair on the back of his neck wouldn't let him.

In the darkness Gareth barely saw anything. Especially just coming from the light of the campfire. He and something out there passed one another but barely. He sensed it. A woodsman's axe lashed out into the darkness in frightened desperation but hewed only thin air. With a new perspective honed by adrenaline he saw more than one but less than five small dark figures sneaking toward the camp. One of them turned to him and drew steel. Awkward and unresolved melee followed. Gareth gave out a warning cry to his companions.

Four darkened and hunched figures set their designs upon the camp with their own steel drawn. Saul the cobbler drew his awl and rolled into the shadow of a large tree. One of the figures walked right past him completely unaware. Mithra threw off her cloak and sprung to her feet ready. Thorek moved to the fore ready to bear the brunt in defense of his friends.

While Gareth remained locked in deadly combat in the darkness it began in the camp. Saul leapt from his shadow to attack. He missed! One of the enemy spun in surprise but missed even though Saul was standing there flat footed. Was it another one of Saul's amazing moments where he would take control of the moment through ingenuity and luck?

Mithra and one of the dark things sprung on one another at the exact same moment. Its weapon found flesh and her staff cracked its skull killing it instantly. She stood stunned with the fear that her wound was mortal.

Gareth's last blow of the duel in the dark dropped his opponent and he turned to help his friends. Then before his eyes he saw hideous blackened steel take them all in a flash. 

Saul's opponent didn't miss on the follow-up stroke. The cobbler fell so quickly that it was stunning to watch. 

One of the creatures of chaos climbed over one of its dead and cut down the stunned Mithra.

The usually stout Thorek seemed tangled in surprise. His wild swings cost him as an enemy deftly dropped beneath the arc of his attack and rose behind it to lay him low.

Horrified, Gareth turned and ran into the darkness. His woodcraft skills made the difference. All that night with no sleep he eluded the enemy's search. At some point, the exact hour the woodsman could not recall, a thunderstorm aided his efforts.

It began to grow daylight and he realized that the things that were trying to find him were no where to be seen. So he decided to go back to the camp site to at least give his friends a decent burial. He knew that it would take everything he had to bear the sight so he pricked up his courage and strode on.

Still cautious Gareth peeked at the camp from a wall of trees. The fire was out but where his friends? No bodies. No kit. Just the crushed undergrowth and torn turf of conflict. Then his world went black.

Here's a bit of closing fiction written by my wife after the game:

The group was to deliver a missive to the Haligesith clerical order and tell them of their encounter with the strange, aggressive men two days before. After a day long trek, they settled into their campsite for the night, excited to finally be off on what felt like the beginning of a real adventure. But during the night, more of the creatures attacked, killing Saul, Mithra, and Thorek. Only Gareth managed to narrowly escape and returned to the campsite by the light of day to find it stripped bare. Lost in grief, he did not hear the footsteps behind him until a crack to the back of his head made the world go dark...

Gareth's eyes opened slowly and he felt dazed and confused, the memories of the previous horrific night slowly coming back to him, making him shut his eyes again. Had it been a dream? The throbbing in his head suggested not. Visions of the grotesque little man plunging his sword into Mithra's belly seemed to play over and over. Her mouth opened in a silent scream as she fell to the dirt. And in his mind, Gareth lunged toward her to catch her and tell her that everything was going to be alright, as if he had not really turned from the gruesome site and run away in terror.

He was pulled back to the present by someone shaking his shoulder, gently at first, then slightly harder, refusing to let him suffer in peace. The woodsman cracked his eyes open again, listening numbly as the men before him claimed to be those that he had sought. The Haligesith. They had brought the bodies of his companions here and they had found the letter that he carried. Gareth forced himself to sit up, then nodded, swallowing hard to push down the lump in his throat.

"Can I see her?" he asked after a few moments of silence.
A cleric had brought Gareth to a small chamber lit by candles, then left him there alone to say his goodbyes to his companions. The bodies of Thorek, Saul, and Mithra had been cleaned and laid together on a stone table, their arms folded across their chests and their eyes closed as if they were sleeping peacefully.

Gareth approached quietly, almost hesitantly. He picked up Mithra's hand and squeezed it even tighter than the lump in his throat. Shaking slightly, he reached into his pocket and withdrew a small copper ring; a crudely fashioned, almost worthless trinket. He had intended to replace it once they had discovered their fortune, but now he slipped it onto her cold finger. "I am sorry..." he voice caught in his throat and laid her hand back across her still chest and wiped away the tears that had begun to well up in his eyes.

Those filthy creatures would pay. He did not yet know how, but he would hunt them down and their deaths would be painful and long. In the corner of the room lay what belongings had been recovered and Gareth picked up the meager amount of copper coins and the map that had prompted their adventure. 
When he stepped out of the chamber, the cleric was waiting there patiently. "What are you planning to do about these creatures cursed by the gods? If you would kill them, where can I sign up to help?" he asked, his voice dripping with hate.

I gotta say, The Funnel is amazing.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Finally Played Dungeon Crawl Classics

I finally got around to playing Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classics last night and I gotta say that it was fun. The first time I read the game I was turned off by some things. No, not the weird dice. I loved that idea. I was instead turned off by the 3rd Edition-isms so I tucked it into my hard drive thinking that DCC would remain a curiosity. For whatever reason the game came up in conversation and we decided to give it time at the table.

Of course we started with the funnel; 4 characters run by a single player, my wife. They are: Thorek the dwarf, Gareth the woodsman, Saul the cobbler and Mithra the alchemist. Hit points ran the full gamut, from 1 to 5.

Gareth the woodsman knows Thorek the dwarf who knows a guy who has a map for sale. Saul the cobbler and Mithra the alchemist are kin who set out to adventure for the legendary wealth that's "out there". They have a meeting set at the road house on the old forest road. Thorek who has known those who have set abroad becomes the impromptu leader of the band. He sets the marching order with himself in the front carrying a forge hammer. Gareth is next with his trusty hand axe and closely following up is Saul with an awl from his workbench clenched in hand like a dagger and Mithra who wields a staff/walking stick.

Gareth sees odd tracks in the mud. I call for him to roll an Intelligence check vs DC 15 to get details. The roll is 21! He can count 3 or 4 individuals in bare feet about the size of a child out in the cold elements. Then Mithra spots something up ahead on the road. It's an object or something lying in the middle. Thorek tells the rest of the group to stay put while he goes and checks it out. Gareth stands in front of Saul and Mithra since he's the burliest of the 3. As it turns out, the thing on the road was a piece of torn material off what looks like a heavy cloak. Attack!

From the high bank of the road two nearly naked, what can be called men in the loosest sense of the word though too small to be, with nearly black skin the color of wet slate leap onto the party. One attacks Thorek the dwarf while the other leaps onto the woodsman sinking his teeth into the man's collarbone. From there the newfound party careens into the chaos of their first bit of action.

Gareth stumbles and smashes his axe into the road's high side rock bank breaking the axe's hickory handle. Thorek, in the excitement, forgot about the lanyard on his heavy headed forge hammer and on a wild swing essentially throws throws the hammer down through the tree tops on the low side of the road. Amazingly, Saul who has 1 hit point throws himself into action to save the dwarf and takes down one of the creatures with a stroke of his awl. And Mithra with her measly 2 hit points steps up and crashes her staff on the head of the thing that is biting the woodsman.

Interesting how that played out. The two tougher characters were saved by those teetering on the edge of death just by setting out.

Thorek tells the rest of the party that the road house is just up the next hill. Scared they break out into a run. I called for a Fort Save to determine condition when they arrive. All fail except for Mithra who is the most scared of what just happened.

As the smoke of the road house's ovens came into view yet again something was seen up ahead on the road. Another of the dark figures was hunched over something. A body! Mithra yelled at it but wasn't going to advance on her own. By the time the rest of the party could catch its breath the thing was long gone. As it turns out the man lying on the road, an old adventurer, was Thorek's contact. Mithra began to bind his wounds like she did Gareth's a scant hour ago but he was well beyond her capabilities. His last raspy words were to take the map hidden in his shirt. It's too important not to.

Thorek declares that they'll take the body to the roadhouse and then determine how to do a proper burial. And that's where the session ended.

After it was over I had each character roll a Will Save. Saul and Mithra failed while Gareth and Thorek both succeeded on the high end. We're using the results to shape the fiction and upcoming role-play.

Quickly I discovered that my bias against the 3rd Edition-isms was wrong. Those "isms" made light made it easy to run fast and loose in ways that I never felt comfortable doing when running full blown 3rd Edition. It felt a lot like Swords & Wizardry with some extra bits to help shape the intended experience. The character funnel makes for a neat experience too. It's more personal and less focused on the game world though I suspect that will change as the survivors grow in power. It got two thumbs up.