Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Capaign Momentum

Here's something to think about.

My buddy and I have started playing AD&D again in the Forgotten Realms. He is running an entire adventuring party which he used to run a few years ago until they were tragically and mysteriously lost. (Not in the game mind you, the actual character sheets, his notebooks and all his dice just simply disappeared!)

So we re-rolled everybody and started fresh with everybody at first level.

Growing up playing AD&D in our small community, we typically had to run more than one character at a time and many times, since there was only one DM and one player, we would run an entire adventuring party.

Most of my friends are pretty good about role playing the different personalities of their characters and so forth, but essentially, it's pretty tough to do that consistently since all the characters are created from the mind of a single person.

This adds an additional problem which I recently pointed out to my friend during his last foray into the Haunted Halls. (Using Greenwood's stuff but having been fleshed out, with an upper and lower level by your's truly.)

I could see him making the same mistakes over & over because he only had his perspective of things to rely upon. Yes, he's playing 6 different characters at once, but they all SEE things the way HE sees them.

This is really working against him and I have to say, I don't think it ever dawned on me all these years just how bad this could be for a player and his characters.

It's also frustrating for me as the Dungeonmaster.

Ideally, AD&D and other RPGs are designed to be played with a group of people, one of them acting as the DM, referee or gamemaster and everyone else running a single character. I'm not telling you anything new here but I'm just making sure everyone knows that I fully understand the concept.

But living in BFE where many of the locals rarely even read a book without pictures and AD&D still has that lingering reputation for being an indoctrination into a suicidal, satanic cult, it's VERY tough to find mature players. You might get lucky and fing some fringe or a dabbler or two, but nobody that wants to play seriously or with any amount of dedication. Ones that you do manage to find have never heard of AD&D as we know it and they only want to play this pitiful shadow of the game that exists today.

If you manage to find enough people to play AD&D the way it was meant to be played with a diverse group of people with varying opinions and perceptions, then you are very fortunate. You run into problems keeping the momentum going and it's much easier to synchronzie schedules when the group is only two or three people that live within 10 minutes of each other.

In the case with my one buddy, we are able to play almost weekly and that way, keep the game flowing without significant gaps in playing time.

One thing for sure, despite all the limitations and frustrations that come with running a single player in a dungeon, I am having a pretty good time.

(I think my player might be too.)

And that's the most important part.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Heroes & Heroics

I know we have beaten this dead horse in the past but I decided to post this to educate both novice and veteran players alike.

Let's put this in the perspective of "winning" any competitive sport or event.

In the game of chess, (Which I ain't half bad at, I'm no Bobby Fischer or Kasparov, but I do alright.) the game begins by moving pieces. In order to win, you have to move pieces around the board and place them in jeopardy.

In order to win a fight, (MMA, TKD tournament, or even on the street), you have to let your hands and feet go. You place yourself in a position to be countered and hit in return or taken to the ground or whatever.

You need to stay on the edge of defeat.

Let's apply this to roleplaying games. AD&D in particular and one of my dungeons specifically.

In order to be classified as a hero by me, you need to show that your character lives up to the name. Some people think that because you are 1st level, have exceptional stats and more hit points than your average 0 level peasant working behind a plow that you are automatically a hero.


What you are is the guy that decided to TRY and become something better than your average peasant. You decided to be an adventurer. That doesn't make you a hero in my game.

What you do with your opportunity does. Just like if you decided on some bold endeavor in the real world, you have an opportunity to succeed gloriously and have your name and deeds sung about by the bards or to fail miserably and become nothing more than a funny smell in the dungeon when the next group of bright-eyed victims comes adventuring through.

If you act as if every single door before you is booby traped with some fiendish device that will slay your character instantly and irrevocably, if every treasure chest is really a triple hit-dice mimic, if every floor is a "Trapper" and every ceiling a "Lurker Above" then you are obviously being an overly cautious, pussy.

After all, it's only a character and you can always roll a new one.

Don't get me wrong! You should never stroll casually through one of my dungeons, booting every door and shouting "Have at thee!" every time you burst into the room.

You need to walk that tightrope between bravery vs lunacy - caution vs cowardice.

That is unless your character IS a raving lunatic or a mincing little coward.

Then you're just role playing.

Let me offer some suggestions if you want to survive one of my dungeons. I discussed earlier that I have always had a soft spot for thieves. For some reason the class has always appealed to me. Partly because of Bilbo Baggins, partly due to Robin Hood I don't know. (I also used to play Thieve's Guild...anybody remember that gem?)

So, I used to think up new tactics and tools beyond the mere "Thieve's picks & tools" to help keep them alive. What's great about this stuff is that ANYBODY can use it! No special training in a shadowy Thieve's Guild in the bad part of town, no need to learn any special ninja skills, just use your head!

What's wrong with carrying a couple of half pound bags of white chalk powder around? You come to a room where something might be invisible and you toss the bags up into the air or let them impact with some hard surface and invisible objects are (possibly) revealed. Of course it can be hurled into the face of an enemy for the same purpose.

Instead of a 10' pole, I like the idea of a 100' piece of string with a small lead weight tied on the end. This is tossed down a hallway so the string lands on trip wires and such. (Special Ops guys use Silly String for the same purpose.)

10' poles are far too unwieldy. Try carrying a real 10' pole around once.

Small wooden wedges for doors vs iron spikes. You can carry more and they can fit in tighter spots.

Many people come up with elaborate tools to open doors. What about simply standing to the side and pulling/pushing the door open? You will avoid MOST traps that way. Maybe not the poison needles and other stuff, but you should be relatively safe.

And I can't stress enough that you need to look at everything and take some freakin' notes if your memory sucks!

The bottom line is you need to be creative. Creative in your tactics, in your characters and in your roleplaying and just let go and have fun!

It's like my friend said, "Embrace the dungeon!"

Wiser words were never spoken!