Wednesday, August 12, 2020

#RPGADAY 12. Message


What to do with this one? 

Have you utterly sent the wrong message to the players? Have your players misinterpreted a message and decided to play another game? 

As a DM, this is frustrating because usually a message, especially a written message is supposed to be super clear, totally unambiguous. 

My last campaign died of COVID-19. We have no particular plans to start up again. But it was suffering from a horribly ambiguous statement I made. I gave the characters a note which said they were to receive 5,000 pounds silver. I actually wrote it down for them. 

This one was special, I cribbed it from history. I pieced together details from a couple of manuscript and books on the death of William the Conqueror. The oldest son, Richard received all of Normandy and the William Rufus, the middle son received the Throne of England, 

"...while Henry received five thousand pounds in silver, which he hastened to secure, having it carefully weighed out to make certain that none of his appanage was denied him." 
~~Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (Peterborough MS)

So Henry ran off to count his money. These documents have a biting edge that amused me and I thought that it would amuse the players to see something like this. 

It did. 

Except for one little thing. As I pieced together several documents to get the flavor right, but forgot the actual message because this often occurs in these historical writings. You have to piece together several to get a good read on the actual message of the author. Clearly, they are taking pot shots at their leadership. They also have pretty low opinions of them, because these families are clearly fighting with each other. 

William the Conqueror left these funds to Henry so he could purchase his own lands... but only left Henry enough silver to purchase about 1500 acres or 2.3 miles. So, Richard got Normandy, William Rufus got all of England and Henry got some silver, which is nothing when compared to what his brother's got. Talk about sending a message! 

Unfortunately, just like the Chronicle above I forgot to name the purpose of the silver, leaving the party with a ridiculous sum on paper. They were to buy or rent a ship with it. Worse, the way I phrased it, the players never actually got their hands on the physical silver, just a letter from the Emperor promising the silver to whoever was reading it. So, the party could show the letter saying they were to have access to 5,000 pounds silver worth of goods and then nothing... For relatively small purchases, no one would take this letter from the party. The party wrote out an IOU from the Emperor's treasury, which is hysterical when you think about it .

And boy, did they use it to the fullest. 

The message of this post is, don't forget the message. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

B2 Session - Standout Play during Keep on the Borderlands

I ran the kids through one session of Keep on the Borderlands. For fun, I let them use AD&D characters. They have a Cleric, a Thief (halfing), a Paladin, a Ranger, a Fighter-Magic User-Cleric (half elven) and a Magic User (elven). Each character is 2nd level, except the F-MU-C who is 1st level. 

They were less than impressed with the Keep itself and as soon as they got directions to the Caves of Chaos they set off. They also learned some gossip about the area, but disregarded much of it. They picked out a campsite to the east of the Caves and explored for the first day. They spent a lot of time checking the area to the west of the Cave complex, but finally mapped out the four cave entrances on the lowest level. Areas D, E, G and A, in that order. Since they didn't try to enter any of these areas, nothing happened. The thief tried to listen at each cave mouth, but heard nothing. Of course, everyone else tried to listen but didn't get that close. 

Out of an abundance of laziness, once they completed the circuit of the area, they went back to Cave Entrance A. All six of them entered the cave behind the thief who was prodding around for traps. He spotted the pit just as the 8 kobolds outside spot the characters.   

Everyone but the thief made a mad dash for the eastern mouth of the ravine, but pulled up short under the large tree. The kobolds don't have missile weapons, so they pursued on foot. At the tree, the MU wanted to get a spell ready while everyone except the Cleric got out missile weapons. In the meantime, the thief sprinted for the entrance to cave E. 

One volley of arrows sent the kobolds back to their cave. The party wanted to regroup and rethink their plan but this was disrupted by a horrible scream and thud from Cave E. The ogre clobbered the thief, who had one hit point left and played dead. The ogre saw the rest of the party and charged. Several flights of arrows and a magic missile routed him back to his cave.

The characters loosed 4 flights of arrows in two rounds as per AD&D rules, most missed but doubling up missile attacks makes AD&D missiles more deadly than D&D.  Out of a hail of 12 arrows, only 5 hit along with the magic missile but they knocked the ogre's hp to just 4. Strangely, the cleric didn't pull out a missile weapon for second time and stood off to one side with her mace.

In those 2 round of activity, the thief picked himself up and hid just inside the entrance to the cave. Shockingly, he backstabbed the ogre for a one shot kill. 


Now here is where things went sideways. They moved into Cave E to camp for the night. The cleric threw out the idea of waiting until dark to move the ogre's body to their campsite to the east. They lit a nice fire for him and lay him out like a sleeping adventurer. The cleric prayed for the ogre out of respect for a fallen foe. 

Back at the cave, the characters mounted 3 watches. They are not simply guarding, they were watching for someone or something to investigate the body and the fire. 

That's a really nice plan and we ended on this high note. The next session will be a rare series of nighttime encounters. 

Experience awards were meager because the players don't know they are sitting on a pile treasure. They think the bag is a lumpy bed. They knocked 2 kobolds down to 0 hit, but their friends dragged them inside. I'm gonna count those as kills along with ogre. 

I have to give credit where credit is due. The cleric's idea to dispose of the body plus use it as a lure for other monsters was great. That is worth at least 200 experience. The thief's idea to to play dead to set up a backstab was turning lemons into lemonade. 

On paper that is 533 experience points. I'll add another 77 to make it an even 600 divided by 6. 

Since they made Cave E their base camp they will be pleasantly surprised when they investigate further. I will award another round of experience the moment they discover the treasure. 

If you don't already have this module, check it out on DriveThruRPG. 

B2 The Keep on the Borderlands
B2 The Keep on the Borderlands

#RPGADAY2020 11. Stack


I like this one because it flows from the last entry, "want". 

When I design my campaigns and sessions, I stack the deck in my player's favor. My players are more likely to be wiped out by a bad die roll than any creation of mine. 

When planning, I use the rule of three to stack the deck in their favor. At the table, there are three ways to complete a task: Conflict, Parley, Escape. Usually, they end up being called: Combat, Talking and Flight. Under those three categories, I think of three ways to be victorious in a fight, three things the characters could say that would end the conflict and three ways to escape. 

Of course, my players are smart and they end up doing the exact same thing, with completely different answers and completely different outcomes. By working with the players ideas, the game flows naturally but no one can say where that flow will take us. 

Of late, I have been playing D&D with my family. A lot of one off modules, sessions and different rule sets. Last weekend, we tried playing Keep on the Borderlands with AD&D characters. It's a favorite of mine. 

This time, my kids found a game breaker in their first expedition to the caves. In all the times I've hosted or played "The Keep", this one possibility never occurred to me. And I look for game breakers. Mainly so I don't accidentally kill the party or allow the party to kill themselves. This solution to "Keep on the Borderlands" is pretty cool. I'll post about that separately, but the point is, by stacking all of the possibilities with the players capabilities in mind, you get an enjoyable game which does contain risk, but doesn't come off as "over-powering" or "loaded" against the people playing. 

#RPGADAY2020 10. Want


I want my players and I to have a good time. That's all. 

I could go into all of the other wants I have in life, but that would be a wordy list of things that would all point back to having a good time. 

"A good time" is a complex thing, at the table or in real life. It doesn't necessarily mean "you had a good time", it means quality.

A flat tire sucks. Having a flat time at exactly the moment you have a young driver in the car, who will need to know how to change a flat, is "a good time" because of the quality of the experience. Spending time with a child, teaching a skill, learning a skill are all quality events. 

That's all I want.  

Sunday, August 9, 2020

#RPGADAY2020 9. Light


I could post about actual light, but I already did that last year under my series on 52 weeks of magic

No, I won't rehash that. Instead, I will post on making light. Of play, of games. 

Sometimes, a one-liner or good joke can make or break or possibly both a good session. One of my favorite gags came at the expense of my whole campaign. And I wouldn't change how things played out for the world. 

The PC's got clobbered by my antagonists. Most of them died thrice over. However, a cleric survived through all of the bloodshed. I didn't pick up on the fact that he was leveling like crazy. 

As the rest of the party rolled up new characters for the third time, he was collecting new spells. One of them was Quest. 

Since I didn't expect that the party would would get to 9th level against this particular antagonist, that character was not protected against a 5th level spell. And when the cleric unloaded on him, the effect was spectacular as it was effective. 

"I charge thee with a quest to bring me the most perfect grilled cheese sandwich."

I was really sick of that particular antagonist, so I didn't mind this outcome. But it turned in to brick joke. The guy ran off to find that grilled cheese sandwich which put me on the spot to come up with some other plot line. As this new plot line developed, the poor victim kept returning with grilled cheese sandwiches. 

"Master, here is the most perfect grilled cheese sandwich." 
"How do you know it's perfect?"
"Chomp... It's so good." 
"The perfect cheese sandwich has been defiled by your bite." 
"I know...  I know, but it was so good!" 

The table erupted in laughter each time we landed the joke. Eventually, I had to turn the DM reins over to someone else because the joke was killing my adventures. And that too was "so good". 

While this is a story of making too much light, everyone should try to bring some levity and light to the table. It is play, a game after all.  

Friday, August 7, 2020

#RPGADAY2020 8. Shade


Shade is an interesting word. As a line artist and stippler, I generally don't get in to shading. But sometimes, it has a it's uses. When you try something new, it's a good idea to limit the scope of the whatever it is. 
This process is more natural to me than any type of shading.
But it's usage is limiting. Things become exciting with the use of color and shading. 

This is four shades of blue grey. It's still limited but more lively. 

This piece has 5 colors. What a difference one more shade makes. 
And this is my favorite. It has 5 colors, purple, green and blue, plus black and grey. Each color has only 2 shades. But those shades make it dramatic. 

Shade goes along ways towards coloring the world. When applied to characters in a game, shades of this or that make them come to life. Often, it doesn't take much to shift or shade a character from a paper cutout to something more lifelike.