Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Advice for Casual Broodmother Play

So I got an nice email from my buddy Dane, one of the gamestore players who competed with the online crew to loot the Dungeons of Dundagel.  In it he congratulated me on the publication of Broodmother Skyfortress and made the following request:
If it isn't already in your book, please blog tips to the used-to-game-but-now-have-infants types on how to run your module as a one-off with a scrounged together group of friends. I don't even have a system to run it in. I'm pretty sure I could make due, but if it goes well that scrounged together group might be willing to come back for regular murder-hobo shenanigans.
Although Broodmother was specifically designed to wreck existing campaign worlds, I think it can be made to work as a pick-up for introducing new people to the wild and woolly world of role-playing.  Here are my thoughts on how to make that happen.

1)  You need a system with a light touch.  Although designed with Lamentations of the Flame Princess in mind (a free no-art version of which is available here), there's no reason why you couldn't use any system from super-light options like Searchers of the Unknown to retroclones like Swords & Wizardry or Labyrinth Lord to maybe even D&D 5e.  Here's a reddit thread where using 5e with Broodmother has been discussed.

Dane, in your particular case I'd note that Labyrinth Lord is a retroclone of the 1981 Basic/Expert D&D we used in my Wessex campaign and it served as the mechanical backbone of that Mutant Future campaign we also played.  Of course, you can buy the '81 rules in PDF nowadays (here and here), if you want to go that route.

Mechanically, if you aren't using LotFP the only key modification you'd have to make is to the Armor Classes.  LotFP uses a base 12 ascending AC system.  For other AAC games, simply subtract 2.  For old descending AC convert by subtracting the number in the book from 21.   For example, the loathsome wretches who live under the castle would have old school ACs of 21-12 or AC9.

2) Unless you go with something like Searchers of the Unknown, I strongly recommend you make some pre-gen PCs.  I recommend ripping off cool characters from movies and TV and labeling the charsheets obviously.  For example, make a charismatic thief and write at the top of the sheet "This guy is like Starlord but with a sword."  Also, you'll probably want to make these people higher than 1st level.  The method I would recommend is for each PC roll 3d6 and assign the middle number rolled as the level.  If two or three numbers match, use that.  In future sessions replacement PCs can start out at 0xp.

3) Because dealing with the giants in the adventure requires imaginative thinking more than anything else, I suggest handing out some extra equipment of the sort that requires creative application.  Give each of your pregens something from the Deck O' Stuff and maybe even a random magic item.  If you do the latter, do NOT hand out magic swords or armor or zappy wands.  A potion or a scroll with a couple of spells or a weird miscellaneous item with dubious application is a far better idea.

4) Give the PCs a mission.  Killing all the giants should not be their task.  Surviving the cloud island and retrieving the macguffin works much better.  Give them a crappy wizard patron--call him Merdalf or Ganlin or Jerkminster if you like--who needs the party to retrieve a hunk of the Rod of Seven Parts or one fragment of the Key to Time or some dang thing.  That way if the campaign launches you have an overarching plot in place.  Nerdenkainen can even supply the method of getting onto the cloud (I suggest catapults), and you can just start the adventure somewhere on the outdoor map.


5) For what might potentially be a one-shot adventure and nothing more, you can ignore the angle where the giants are wrecking up the campaign world.  But I recommend you invent a couple of place names that they've already wrecked and mention them in your introduction to the adventure.  Steal some recognizable places from the Lord of the Rings flicks and/or Skyrim and/or Game of Thrones and barely re-skin them.  For example, change Rivendell to Elfindale.  If the campaign launches, make sure you roll out an adventure or two that addresses facts like the Last Elven House has been destroyed, the Great Elf Lord is dead and his people are now refugees.

6) Don't be afraid to kill the entire damn party.  In fact, make twice as many pregens as you think you'll need.  If the players can't take being murdered by hideous shark-elephant people in the spirit of fun in which it is intended, then their dispositions maybe aren't suited to play D&D.