Friday, April 04, 2008

Look out! Ghouls!

Erol Otus presents the Best Ghoul Illo EverWednesday night me and the gang played some more 1st edition AD&D, continuing our long slog to clear out the Moathouse. We had four casualties, including Elmo, when the party fought the 4 ghouls in the crypt. The cleric failed to turn and the result was a real fiasco. Doug finally had his magic-user cast a spell, a protection from evil to keep the ghouls from him. I had been harping upon him for two and half sessions that his magic-user has had plenty of opportunities to cast spells, despite knowing only read magic, jump, prot from evil, and light. We rolled starting spells exactly as Gary indicated, so no sleep or charm or magic missile for this 1st level M-U.

In fact, we've been playing with a lot of rules that I never used as a kid. When Pat's assassin hit 2nd level I cracked open the training rules and made him pay through the nose. When the PCs and some gnolls tied for initiative, we actually used the weapon speed rules for tie breaks. Next session we may even use the weapon adjustment for armor class charts. Individually, none of these mechanics add much to the game. That's why we ignored them all back in the 80's. But I'm having fun messing around with them now. And it keeps the players guessing a bit as to what is going to happen next.

Is it just me, or all ghouls one of the all-time 1st level PC killers? Three attacks per round combined with save or be paralyzed is pretty hardass. Add in that sleep and charm are useless with the fact that turning them isn't easy at level 1, and you've got a relatively common monster that can easily score a total party kill. There's a single surprise ghoul in at least two old modules I've rune: N4 Treasure Hunt and N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God. I've ran both modules and both ghouls nearly destroyed the party in basically throwaway encounters. In fact, if I ran N4 again I'd probably cut the ghoul or demote him to a cannibalistic zombie. Meanwhile, T4 puts four ghouls in the crypt, and that's not even the hardest encounter in the module.

N4 Treasure Hunt is a fabulous little module for starting a new campaign, by the way. I've ran it twice to good effect. The players start as zero level nobodies who must fight there way to 1st level. There's these little charts where the DM tracks the behavior of each player and assigns them a class (or multiple classes for demi-humans) and an alignment when they reach first level. ("You used the bardiche for most of the combats, you snuck around a bit, and your alignment tended towards evil. By my tally you can be either a Lawful Evil monk or an assassin of any Evil alignment. Make sure bardiche is one of your weapon proficienies.") You can run the adventure with absolutely clueless newbies and skip most of chargen. The adventure takes place on an island that can be dropped into any convenient sea. If the adventure goes well the PCs end the adventure on a boat, so you can start the next adventure at a port of your choice. Good stuff.