Thursday, February 12, 2009

slow start, solid finish

Players arrived in a trickle last night. Squirrel (one of the owners of the cool game store where I run) and I knocked off a quick game of Wiz-War before starting the adventure proper. I had bought a copy with scruffy box art but pristine contents at the con auction last Saturday, based solely on the fact that it was about wizards sneaking around a dungeon, zapping the crap out of each other and stealing treasures. It’s not a bad game by any means, but you can see how it leans a little on originally coming at out a time when “Hey, stupid kids! Wizards!” was enough to sell a game. Of course that’s exactly why I bought a copy, so I can’t exactly look down on the designers on that one. So after Squirrel finished spellmurdering me, he got on the phone and made sure Joe was coming. We then got knocking around with some Labyrinth Lord.

Remember yesterday when I mentioned prepping an extra dungeon that doesn’t really have anything to do with the larger campaign? I’m really glad I did that, because with the late start I felt like we needed to get right into the thick of things with no screwing around. Joe was still en route but Squirrel was hot and heavy to hit the dungeon running. I suggested that rather than dungeoneer with a lone cleric, he recruit some cannon fodder. His PC’s charisma supported bringing up to 4 hench-weenies along with him, but his light purse only allowed for a single rent-a-goon. And even then he had to sweeten the deal by plying the guy with some wine Deric had on his equipment list. It amuses me to no end that the zealous Lawful cleric only managed to recruit a henchman by liquoring him up first.

Thus was hired Abe, the first dude off of my half-assed hireling list. Back in session #1 as Carl and Squirrel were making their first PC’s I thought to myself “Only two PCs, eh? I better whip up some spearcarriers they can recruit.” On a blank sheet of paper I quickly listed about 20 names, each starting with a different letter of the alphabet. Then I randomly determined one stat (roll d6, 1=Str, 2=Int, 3=Wis, etc) which I would then roll 3d6 for. The other stats would all be assumed to equal 10 or 11. Then I rolled d4 hit points for each of these wretches. So here is literally everything I knew about Abe when he entered play as Deric’s sidekick:

Abe, 9 Str, 1 hp

Deric, who you will recall could only barely afford to hire Abe in the first place, bought Abe a spear. That’s it. No armor, no backpack, nothing else. Just a spear. So one PC and literally the lamest henchman I have ever seen enter the depths of STONEHELL. Great gravy, this is a nifty little dungeon. I hope ol’ Amityville Mike keeps making levels until the end of time. Using as his basis Chgowiz’s slick One Page Dungeon Template, Mike packs a hell of a lot of dungeon onto tiny 30 square by 30 square ‘subsector’ style maps, with just two pages of text. I ran 2 hours of well-paced play last night and the party only partially explored the southwest quadrant of level 1A!

Deric and Abe were in the dungeon just long enough for Abe to wet himself over a room ‘haunted’ by a magic mouth when Joe arrived and jumped in with the unstoppable Grognard Whiplash. Two weeks ago I wondered whether Deric and Grognard would be able to get along, since their faiths are diametrically opposed. Today I am happy to report that they were able to set aside their differences to come together in an ecumenical spirit of friendship, brotherly love, and tomb robbing. Squirrel and Joe were later joined by Christy. I’m pretty sure she did not come to the store for the game, but it’s been my policy to ask everyone who comes into the shop if they want to play. And it worked! Huzzah! Christy rolled up a thief that she did not come up with a name for right away, so I announced that until she settled on something else her character would be known as Christy the Thief, simply as a convenience.

When we were joined near the end of the night by Wheels (not my buddy Pat, who is called Wheels by some, but a different guy called Wheels), he ran into the same naming problem. Wheels the Magic-User actually sounds kinda neat, in a “casually break the illusion right in half” sort of way. Wheels, I should note, found out about the game because he was searching online for information about the RPG Zombi. That led him to this old post of mine. He then saw the blurb in the righthand column of the blog about the Labyrinth Lord campaign. Wheels is also interested in Mutant Future. I wouldn’t mind running a little bit of that at some point.

Other highlights of the evening:
  • Deric routinely failing to turn skeletons. As a cleric 2 he only needed a five or better on 2d6 and consistently rolled a 4 each time the bone boys showed up. He did turn some zombies though. When a ghoul attacked he either didn’t realize the dude was undead or forgot to try turning. That could have been a disaster but some good rolls and Grognard’s low AC saved the day.
  • Grognard Whiplash being demoted a level, due to a bad roll on the Wheel of Fortune. Everyone at the table knew that spinning that magic gameshow wheel was a bad idea, including Joe. He did it anyway, since it had been previously established that Grognard was a compulsive gambler. Fortunately, he earned enough XP to get that level back.
  • Christy not relying exclusively on her thief percentiles. When opening a chest she described her precautions to avoid undetected traps, which saved her from a poison needle she had missed.
  • Three giant centipedes surprising a party of three adventurers. I had the little creeps drop from the ceiling onto their faces.
  • Abe surviving! His morale never quite broke, nothing quite killed him and he contributed to several fights, earning him a half share of XP. I promoted him to a Fighter 1 and re-rolled his hit points. He now has 4 hp. On the downside he’s spending the next ten days recovering from giant centipede poisoning. Under Labyrinth Lord hirelings must check morale at the end of every adventure to continue in their master’s service. I think I’ll have to penalize the roll a point due to the poison-induced misery.
The lowlight of the evening would be the GM discovering that he had been pimping over all the clerics in his LL games! Aargh! For some reason I got it in my head that Labyrinth Lord followed the OD&D/Basic D&D rule that clerics don’t get spells until level 2. That’s just plain wrong. The cleric spell chart in the book gets you a 1st level spell right off the bat and a nice smooth advancement from there. Part of me feels bad about figuring this out. Deric (and the clerics that eventually appeared in Sunday’s game) could have been a lot more useful with a spell at first level. On the other hand, Turn Undead is a really potent power (assuming you can roll a 5!) and I don’t think clerics really need a spell at level 1 to make a contribution to the group. I generally prefer adding to the rules in the book rather than changing them, but I’m torn here.

Anyway, I look forward to running again in two weeks and I hope to see some of the same faces again. Carl, Christy, Dave, Joe, Squirrel and Wheels have all been fun people to sling dice with. And the invitation remains open to anyone who can swing by the store in two weeks.