Thursday, May 01, 2008

Look out! It's the wizard's ghost!

My buddy Stuart likes to doodle while he plays. Usually he does abstract geometrical stuff, but last Wednesday he produced this:

He left it on the game table so I had to scan it in. Stuart talks a bit about this session over on his blog. I'm kinda bummed to see our Gygax memorial campaign end with the conclusion of the Moathouse. Certainly, a good pile of the blame lies at my feet. Endeavouring to play AD&D 1st edition by the book is generally an exercise in masochism. The starting spell charts and training rules were like an albatross 'round the campaign's neck. And Wednesday I discovered first hand what a pain in the ass the weapon type versus armor rules can be. Maybe if we had something like the old Judges Guild product Dungeon Tac Cards that would have sped things along a bit, or simply having a slick character sheet where you could record all the modifiers. As it stood, I was just doing lots of extra look-ups on a chart with no real fun added to the game.

The back half of the session was fabulous. The players figured out that brute force was not going to work against the evil cleric Lareth the Beautiful and his soldiers. So they started getting creative, like setting ambushes with flaming oil. I really dug it when removed a door from its hinges and then used it as a mantlet shield to force their way in, toppling several of Lareth's men. Finally it came down to just the PCs against Lareth and his nigh-impossible-to-hit Armor Class.

That's when Doug declared that they were going to attempt to overbear Lareth. Bless their miscreant hearts, that was the first time I've ever been in a AD&D game that actually used the overbearing rules. And it worked, too! Four PCs (two were down by this point) against a single man was just overwhelming. So congrats to them for making Beggar Mobs work in their favor.

It was beautiful. Knocking down orcs or whatever is always a good time, but what really excites me is when the PC party starts looking for creative solutions, when they go from being a thrown-together gang of stumblebums with swords to an elite cadre of well-organized crimefighting criminals.

Unfortunately, that's not exactly where my players go to get their buzz. There's a bit of a gulf growing in my group as far as preferred playstyle. I would have happily ran lots more AD&D, or some OD&D, or Castles & Crusades, or lots of other Retro Stupid games. Stuart and Doug seem more interested in the modern kung-fu-superheroes-with-swords mode of 3.x and Exalted.

I'm not prepared to run that sort of thing right now. Or maybe ever again, I dunno. So Doug's going to take a turn GMing Exalted, but with an alternate setting involving the great frozen north. That ought to be interesting, especially considering that the dice pools used in White Wolf games make no friggin' sense to me whatsoever.

Here's my character idea in a nutshell: a caveman who found one of those 2001 monoliths, but in handy daiklaive form.


  1. I'm not sure if the gulf is in preferred playstyle per se. It seems to be more system-oriented. I don't want to speak for Doug (or Pat), but these days I'm preferring games where I:

    (1) have a toolbox of options to make a more mechanically-individualized character

    (2) can play PCs who aren't trivial in the game world (this one is partially playstyle, but low-level AD&D lends itself to high character turnover and rat-killing)

    (3) have more control over my character than a lot of early table-laden games allow.

    ...and, no, I have no idea what it is that I drew there.

  2. Anonymous3:57 PM


    I understand the divide in playing groups all too well. I have FINALLY been given the green light to run an OD&D session and hopefully it sticks.

  3. When you typed out the words, "Look out! It's the wizard's ghost!", were you thinking of the movie that Grim and Billy are watching at the beginning of the episode where Grim teaches Billy how to jump into people's heads and make them do crazy stuff?

    'Cuz I was. When I read it, I mean.

  4. "I'm the mummy's ghost! I'M the mummy's ghost! Grrrr!"

    Yeah, totally.

  5. Anonymous2:44 PM

    Jrients playing Exalted? Be still oh beating heart. Keep us updated on how that goes. Awesome character concept.

  6. Settembrini8:26 PM

    I`m pretty sure Exalted is pretentious-silly, which basically is a mixture I cannot begin to fathom.

    BTW, Doc Bat-A-Wang said the real problem with Exalted lies in the inherent railroading. Make of that what you will

  7. People keep trying to get me to play Exalted, but it turns out that "D&D isn't fun, it sucks," just isn't all that convincing. It's too bad, because the game does kind of interest me. (The setting not so much, but I suspect it's the presentation that's putting me off.)

    Inherent railroading--is that a reference to the virtue/limit break rules? I'm very suspicious of those, but I figure the right group could handle it.

  8. Anonymous11:42 PM

    I've seen the recording of the interview Set is talking about, and despite my love of Exalted, I have to agree with Ron to a point. Exalted PCs are very, very powerful, to the extent that they'd utterly destroy any pre-planned adventure in moments. The asnwer to this, given some of the rules, setting material, and story suggestions is to shackle PCs with a Virtue system that ensures they always act on certain principles, and the general tendency to have mega NPCs and pre planned stories the PCs can't get out of no matter what. It just boils down to different group, different style, but Exalted is really a hard game to figure out from a GM perspective. Ron's point was that the impetus to make the game impressive was always on the GM, which I disagree with.