Tuesday, 1 March 2011

KotB Campaign Report 2: In search of dwarf gold

Marvin (Dragonlance Raistlin miniature)
Lando Smallrissian
Bob (or I think it was this Dragonlance Caramon miniature)
Ziplok (Mordheim Aenur miniature - not this one)
It was a half days walk to the Caves of Chaos. The party had been hired by the Jewel Merchant Brade to explore the caves and bring back Dwarf Gold. To aid their endeavour and protect his investment Brade had sent with the party Relag (F2) and his wardog (HD3). The party consisted of: the attractive Templar Cleric Kate, whose cousin was Marvin the Magic User. With them was the charismatic dwarf Lando Smallrisian, Ziplok the cunning elf, and ugly Bob the Fighter. The final member of the party was the 16 year old boy Deris, who had volunteered himself as a torch bearer to 'impress a lady' but had come dressed in expensive chain mail armor to the adventure. Lando had convinced the boy to exchange the armor for leather, to aid the boy's mobility Lando had said, and the boy pleased to have identified a helpful and likeable mentor, had agreed.

Relag and his wardog led them without mishap to a gloomy and tangled forest. On the floor of the forest they could see gleaming ivory and white - which they were unsurprised to discover was bone. The forest gave way to a canyon some 60' high on both sides. There were many cave entrances in the canyon wall, most somewhat off the canyon floor, and some would naturally be indentations in shadow and not true entrances. One entrance, just ahead on the left and some 10 feet off the ground looked real. The party bravely urged the wardog to check out this entrance. In disgust Relag walked with his wardog to just below the entrance and the party courageously advanced.

Narrow steps had been carved into the canyon wall allowing easy ascent to the cave entrance. Deros lit his lantern (he had come well stocked) and the party entered the cave (Cave Complex D). Within 20' they had a choice to head left or right - they chose left. The corridor quickly gave another choice, left or to continue straight. They went left to find tools for mining left lying against a dead end, obviously where workers were continuing to extend the cave complex. No one was currently in sight.

They returned to the corridor and continued along the same path they had been heading and almost immediately ran into 6 goblin guards (Location 17). The party slaughtered the goblins easily, though Relag lost five fate points. For their efforts the party gained the rich haul of 12 sp and 18cp. Additionally they found a barrel with 60 goblin spears in it. After considering the encumbrance they each took 3 spears each representing 1 dungeon stone.

DM note: As I have recently noted I have never DM'd with miniatures before. I found them chaotic but part of the problem was mapping onto the laminated gaming mat. Since I have blogged about this already I won't do so again.

"Relag lost five fate points." - FATE POINTS EXPLANATION - 'Fate catches up with you'
Hit points are problematic. OSR accepts that D&D combat is abstract, that a 'to hit' roll is not a single swing but represents the chance to inflict damage in that round. Hit Points represent how much damage one can take before one is dead. Yet hit points do not represent wounds, especially not at high hit points. There is in fact no mechanism for wounds in OSR D&D, with reducing effectiveness when wounded; only death at zero hit points. But so often people think they have wounded their opponent when hit points are lost. I decided to reject the name hit points and replace the term with fate points. Zero fate points is when fate has caught up with you and you die.
So when Indiana Jones, Master Thief, runs through a barrage of darts and loses 6 hit points, yet the DM says he is merely scratched since he started with 68 hit points, I advance the idea that he in fact wasn't hit at all, they all missed him, none-the-less if he continues to do this over and over again, his luck will eventually run out, and fate will catch up. The more he risks it, the quicker his fate will run out.
So what a damage roll represents in my campaign is loss of fate and bringing the character closer to death.
To more develop this idea adult humans (normal men) start with 3-4 fate points depending on physique and health and modified up by constitution, children and the elderly 2 hit points, young children and the infirm 1. These starting fate points are actually more like physical points and the loss of these usually can be described as a physical injury. What character classes do and absolutely what advancing a level does, is give the character more skill at avoiding injury in the first place, not necessarily more physique. So a Level 1 fighter who starts with 7 fate points, 4 points might represent his physical mass, the other 3 fate points reflect the training he has had and why he is better in combat than a normal man, and harder to kill. His skills at avoiding injury will increase in level. Constitution bonus increases one's general stamina and resistance, which can increase fate points but could if desired be thought of as increasing physicality. Heroes are tough? The end result for me as DM, is I wouldn't describe the new scar that's been formed until characters reach the starting fate points of their species or lower.
My novice players had no trouble accepting it, it was only me who had to be careful referring to fate points instead of hit points.

I must say my encumbrance system worked very very well. I am using Delta's encumbrance system  where 150 coins = 1 dungeon stone. On my DM screen all of the equipment and items are divisible into 150 eg sword 75 cn (1/2 stone), chain mail 300cn (2 stone) and spears 30-75cn, I said to the players 50cn, they all decided to take 3 spears each (1 stone). I combine encumbrance with strength altering the players movement. All rounded down to nearest 1/2 stone; <1/5 strength in dungeon stone = 120', 2/2 strength = 90' etc. All of this is put on the character sheet at character creation. It gives strength an additional roll apart from combat. More info can be seen here.

For Ziplok the elf with strength 11 it looked like:

Max Enc in Stone Weight
150cn = 15 pounds = 1 stone weight

Normal Movement / Encounter Speed
1/5 Strength =
120 / 40
2/5 Strength =
90 / 30
3/5 Strength =
60 / 20
4/5 Strength =
30 / 10
5/5 Strength =
15 / 5
>5/5 Strength =
Run normal movement in rounds

What was very satisfying was when characters put on chain mail amor and I said it weighed 2 stone they immediately adjusted their own movement rate. They each chose 3 spears because that is only 1 stone and all adjusted their movement rate accordingly. Marvin swore when I told him his spellbook weighed one stone, I relented and said it weighed only 1/2 stone.

Back to play: After their victory the party continued through the guardroom and up some stairs and approached a locked door. Listening at the door they heard language that could be goblin. With a crash Bob the Fighter and Lando the Dwarf bashed the door down and confronted a Hobgoblin Common Room consisting of 5 Hobgoblin males, 8 females and 4 young. There was no surprise and the hobgoblins won initiative and launched a disorganised attack on Bob and Lando, which failed to reduce their fate points.
Not wasting anytime on the party's turn Marvin the Magic User cast Sleep. Marvin's player has a reputation for appalling dice rolling from other games - he didn't disappoint on a 2d8 he rolled 3. Raucous laughter and groans met this feeble attempt. Ziplok the elf cast a second sleep spell and all the hobgoblins went nighty night. The party butchered the men and women immediately. They were going to butcher the young but one of the players questioned this.

DM Note: I don't understand surprise. You bust in on them, and you know they are in there, why should you have to roll for surprise, why should the enemy even get the same chance to win initiative as you. I need to mull on this further, I would have preferred to just grant surprise to the party. Sleep is very powerful and with two sleep spells it certainly did the business.
I said a player questioned the potential butchering of the hobgoblin young as, mindful of B/X Blackrazor's recent posts on what is role-playing, it wasn't Lando who was objecting it was the player and his quite appropriate sensibilities. And the reaction from the other players also failed to role-play with comments like, 'they're not real anyway'. Or, 'I bet the DM has some secret plan to get us if we kill the young'.
This is both disappointing and hard to avoid. But even JB in his posts relates stories of very experienced role-players falling into this hole. With my rusty DM skills and new players, this was a hole in KotB that the campaign was always going to fall in. Especially with the well known moral quandary KotB creates with all those women and children from different 'races', I prefer to say species. In the end the players asked how old the young were, they killed the adolescent and left the other younger three asleep and tied up.

Back to play: The party looted the bodies and gained some silver, which I know they recorded but I can't decipher their character sheets. Which is a worry. They exited the Common Room through a door opposite the way they came in and continued up a windy corridor. Faced with a choice to go left or 10' further and right, they chose 10' further and right. This led quickly to a locked door with light coming in from the outside. It was here they were set upon by 6 hobgoblin guards armed with crossbows (from Location 26). Pushing Deris the 16 year old torchbearer into the front line with the comment, "You're a man you can fight." He was killed by a crossbow bolt through his eye. In the battle that followed Relag the guard sent to watch over the party by the jewel merchant was also killed. Lando Smallrisian the Dwarf was reduced to one fate point after being hit for 6. Ziplok the elf was reduced by 2 fate points after being hit for 2.
Meanwhile Marvin the Magic User was desperately trying to open the door to the outside. I said he needed a 1 in 6 but increased this by 1 each round. He didn't succeed until another party member joined him to help. The hobgoblins had lost half their members and then they turned and fled looking for reinforcements. Some debate ensured about 'Let's continue the mission' but in the end they decided to run while the going was good.
The door was open and the party was high up on the canyon wall. Luckily Lando the dwarf had rolled up a grappling hook and 50' of rope as part of his starting equipment. They searched and robbed Deris the torchbearers body, but since they already had his chainmail armor he had little extra of value. I'm not sure what happened to his lantern, it's not now on any character sheet, so it can be assumed it was left behind in the chaos. The party tried to rob the body of Relag but his wardog would have none of it. The wardog with the enticement of some food would allow the party to move and recover Relag's body however. So they foisted him off the canyon edge and all descended down the grappling hook. At the bottom Bob the Fighter picked Relag's body up over his shoulders and carried him away (not sure Strength 13 should have allowed this), just as the hobgoblins reappeared and fired arrows at them. Bob lost 4 fate points reducing him to one. They weren't pursued into the forest.
In the forest the wardog allowed them to strip Relag of his chainmail and a chain amulet worth 200sp (200gp equivalent) which had a picture of a woman set with it.
They returned to the keep bearing Relag's body and had two other brief encounters.
Firstly they were met by a very distressed man desperate to know where Deris his son was. The party gave many excuses, eventually said he died well, but the party wished they had responded with "Deris who?" The man left vowing they had not heard the last of this.
Secondly they returned to Brade the jewel merchant bringing Relag's body. Brade was less angry about the outcome and more desperate the party return as soon as possible to search for dwarf gold. Relag's companion, the other guard, gave the party a grudging nod of respect for returning Relag's body and told them he didn't know who the woman was. Relag's wardog stayed with the other guard and his wardog.
The party headed for the inn. They were some 500sp richer and had all survived!

DM note: It was in this section I really had the feeling that all our computer game experience was dominating. 'We have to keep going.' 'Let's just get on with the mission' I had to explain that in OSR D&D surviving is the mission, and living to fight another day the only thing that mattered. But most of my players are only expecting a three session committment so this is lilely influencing their desire for completion.
In the end both red shirts had died, no party members. Was it fudged.... Yes I confess it was. I couldn't bring myself to kill party members. Honestly DM screen aren't there to hurt the party by a dictatorial omnipresent malevolent  bastard. DM screens are there so the DM can protect the party's bacon. But I want to be OSR D&D DM - I am weak - I am not worthy - forgive me master...


  1. I tend to resist killing PCs as well. Great play report!

  2. Keep on the Boarderlands looks strangely familiar...OH YEAH! RIGHT! It was my TENTH BIRTHDAY PRESENT! 1975!!!