Monday, April 26, 2010

DM screen modifications

My 4th Edition DM's screen is great at being a physical barrier between my players and my notes when running a session; unfortunately, its contents aren't very useful for 1e/OSRIC. This evening I worked out a solution to that problem...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

AD&D record sheet updated

I made some minor edits to the character sheet we've been using to better support the rules cleanup I've instituted for our game. A permanent link is also available on the right.

Prior to our next session, all players will be required to copy their character to the updated sheet for consistency going forward. This should only take a few minutes, and the effort will be worth 200 XP each.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Backstab and Turn Undead

After a bit of research today, here are rules clarifications on two abilities we debated a bit during last night's game:

  • Backstab - To backstab, the intended target must be unaware of the thief (this typically requires at least a Move Silently check). The target need not be "living," but it must have a discernible backside (for example, slimes and beholders cannot be backstabbed). A successful backstab renders the victim instantly aware of the thief, automatically foiling subsequent attempts. Also remember that thieves gain +4 to hit when backstabbing.
  • Turn undead - This ability can only be attempted once per encounter, per cleric.

Friday, April 23, 2010

T1, part 3: A Feasting of Ghouls

We played our third session of The Village of Hommlet last night, with a cast of Gulwar, Amiculum, Ellimorell, and Rylin, halfling thief and newcomer to the party. The characters have found their local renown surging of late, and as such have been approached by a steady stream of prospective mercenaries and hire-ons. Rylin, hitherto working as a line cook in the Inn of the Welcome Wench, was one of these. With Dravin still ailing from the party's previous expedition (fell ill after being bitten by rats in the moat house), the PCs also employed the hulking fighter Kobart (arranging a wage of 5 gp/day through his associate, Turuko) and the self-proclaimed scribe, Spugnoir.

At the onset of the session, an ore trader arrived in Hommlet bearing the bodies of a local huntsman and his two adolescent sons, who had departed east along the road the previous morn in anticipation of Ulaa's Hunt, a scantly-recognized holiday in the region. The hunters' wounds indicated a grisly attack, and after [finally] meeting and consulting with Rufus at the estate of the village elder, the PCs chose to investigate. At dusk, they noted the local custom of food-sharing by candlelight in the wake of a significant death.

The next morning, the PCs visited the traders' establishment to replenish supplies before heading out, and on their way they encountered Rogar; curiously, the man had a long and newly-drawn scar across one side of his face. The warrior admitted to fighting, but would say no more on the matter. After he and Gulwar mutually apologized for their previous dispute, Rogar agreed to accompany the party east. Their venture lasted two days and uncovered no leads in relation to the murders, though the characters did encounter a clothier and his family (a wife and two cousins) traveling west, and escorted them to Hommlet.

Upon their return, the PCs and their three hirelings delved back into the moat house, opening a pair of locked doors on the dungeon level and discovering an assortment of armor, weapons, provisions, and a large pile of black capes and tabards bearing an unknown insignia: a yellow eye wreathed in flames. Intrigued, the PCs set shields face-down on the steps and piled them in front of the doors to serve as makeshift alarms, then proceeded to the secret chute uncovered in the torture chamber during their last visit.

Rylin scouted the bottom, some 30 feet down, noting what the group believed to be more zombies amid an earthy room lined with six-foot alcoves (crypts). After experimenting with various means of setting fires down below using two kegs of brandy found in the store rooms (these were marked as being from Dyvers), the party descended the chute, ready for battle.

That's when things got interesting. The zombies, four in all, converged on the friends immediately, paralyzing Rogar and Amiculum, to the group's horror. The melee then degenerated into a gruesome bloodbath and feasting for the ghouls (for that's what the creatures truly were): Rogar was half-eaten alive, Ellimorell was slain, and Amiculum fell, bleeding and burned. Kobart failed a morale check and fled up the chute, but Spugnoir cast sleep and the warrior plummeted back down to the stone floor, landing in a broken heap.

In the end, Rylin and Gulwar defeated the ghouls, the latter saving Amiculum from within hairs of death with his magic. Kobart and Spugnoir lived (Spugnoir actually never descended the ladder), and the survivors (five in all) hauled the mangled corpses of Rogar and Ellimorell back to Hommlet. That's where we ended.

This was an eventful session to say the least, and it ran great, even if the outcome was less than ideal for the PCs. I inverted armor classes on the fly, eliminating hit tables in favor of hit bonuses, and the change was well worth the minor up-front effort. There's not a ton more I need to streamline at this point, though I do need to make some alterations to our character sheet to avoid any confusion going forward.

Right now, I'm unsure if I'll make the move to C&C or just stay with OSRIC. There are cases for both at this point, though I'm probably leaning a bit toward the latter. I just need to think about it more in the coming days.

Not much XP was gained from this session. I'd already decided to grant Amiculum and Ellimorell a 1,000 XP boost, as in retrospect it was somewhat unfair to allow Dravin and Gulwar to begin the campaign so much higher. The party is also granted 1,000 XP for the cloak of elvenkind found in the previous session, though this award will only be split by the characters that played in that game. For this session, the ghouls are valued at 352 XP, and this award will be split equally between Rylin and Gulwar.

Updated XP totals should be reflected on the site shortly.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Rules Update

I've been spending time today researching the potential impacts of transitioning my game to the C&C rules. Since I found one or two things that might be detrimental to the existing characters, I've decided I need to discuss Castles & Crusades with my players in more detail before making a switch. In the interim, I'm considering the following changes to 1e/OSRIC:

  • Upward AC. PC base to-hits would equal 20 - THAC0. Monster to-hits could then equal their hit dice. Calculating AC is trivial: just add to (instead of subtract from) the base of 10. Doing this math up front should make attack rolls much simpler, with no ill effects, and eliminate "to-hit" tables.
  • "SIEGE" checks for task resolution. This would replace AD&D ability checks (or the lack thereof) and saving throws with a standard "d20 + modifiers vs. target DC" mechanic. This is the meat-and-potatoes of Castles & Crusades, and seemingly makes task resolution a breeze. No more wondering what to roll, or if you want a high or low result. Of course, a great complement to the SIEGE system is...
  • Standard ability score bonuses. 13-15 = +1; 16-17 = +2; 18-19 = +3. This makes mid-range scores more relevant, and bonus thresholds easier to remember.
For next session, I'll likely implement only #1 (which is purely a syntactical change), and continue to use d20 vs. ability score for ability-based checks.

I also want to develop and print a "cheat sheet" of rolls for my players. For example:
  • Attack roll (high) = d20 + modifiers vs. AC
  • Ability check (low) = d20, less than or equal to ability score
  • Saving throw (high) = d20, greater than or equal to saving throw value
  • Initiative (high) = d6, result determines combat segment on which opponents act
  • d% (low) = d10 for tens digit, d10 for ones digit; succeed by rolling less than or equal to a target percentage; "00" = 100
That's all for now.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Just what I've been looking for (finally)? Castles & Crusades

I started playing D&D when I was about twelve. The current printing of the game was AD&D 2nd Edition, and for ten years, that's all I knew. When 3e came out, I ran/played it with multiple gaming groups, and DMed a campaign that lasted a handful of years, ending around levels 10-11.

At some point in that span, the d20 system got to be a bear. I found myself spending hours upon hours prepping high-level encounters, and running a campaign just started seeming like more work than fun. That's when I began turning back to "old school" D&D editions, where the rules were simple and imagination and creativity always took center stage. I've been writing about my latest AD&D endeavor (this time using OSRIC) on this site. It's going fine, but there are still a few things that bother me about the old school mechanics: hit roll tables are a nuisance, players not knowing what dice to roll, or whether they want to roll low or high bogs things down, and ability scores are often meaningless without being at least 15 or higher. These are generally minor quips, but the fact that I've played the later D&D editions that resolve these issues make them a little harder to suffer.

I'd heard of Castles & Crusades before, paged through it briefly, but when a good friend told me of his recent C&C experiences with his gaming group, I started reading in more detail. Castles and Crusades is old school in feel, but makes the rules tweaks needed for the game to run more smoothly, adds a simple (yet effective) level-based core mechanic, and empowers players with a handful of additional (yet classic) character options. I went ahead and ordered the books, and plan to give the rules a trial run in my next AD&D/OSRIC session.

For the current PCs, there's nothing really to convert, so this should be a pretty risk-free exercise: armor class goes positive, base to-hit bonuses replace THAC0, casters (just one) gain 0-level spells, and the "SIEGE" mechanic (d20 + level + ability mod) replaces most arbitrary and ability-based checks. I actually wrote up a tentative cheat sheet of various "need to know" rules (things that normally get looked up mid-session, like how to turn undead) using C&C mechanics and based on the classes present in the current party - it's one page, 16-point font, double-spaced.

My expectation is for the game to feel no different but run more smoothly, and with the players feeling a bit more empowered with their characters, having a better sense for their odds of accomplishing their various heroics. Long term, there are a lot more options for creating new characters, and the game should prove even easier for me to adjudicate, both in and out of combat (the monster stat blocks in the Monsters & Treasure volume are classic, simple, and clean: a combination I hadn't previously thought possible).

By the way, the artwork's sweet too.

Anyway, I'm trying not to get into too many C&C specifics in my post - the game isn't new and it's not my intention to write a full review (I haven't even run a session with it yet). But before I go, I just want to paraphrase a conversation that my friend had with one of his players toward the end of one of their games, retold to me over the phone:

[DM] Do you want to level up your character real quick before we move on?
[Player] I don't know, it's getting late. Maybe we should stop for the night...
[DM] Actually, it's really easy... [checks book] Roll your d6 for hit points. OK, good. Base to-hit doesn't change, [checks a couple more things...] OK, I think that's all we need to do.
[Player] OK, so I guess I didn't really gain anything new?
[DM] Yeah... but remember that you add your level to all your checks. You basically just got +1 better at everything you do.
[Player] Oh? ...Ohhhh!