Saturday, 19 February 2011

Singing those XP blues no more

I was so impressed by Alexis's XP system I finally became a follower of his unique blogging style - anger and genius.
Alexis's system is:
A) 20 X.P. are awarded for every point of damage a character suffers.
B) 10 X.P. are awarded for every point of damage a character causes. 
C) All damage caused against the party is totaled, multiplied by 20 and then distributed to those party members who were witnesses and who specifically took some kind of action in the events, even if that action failed to cause damage or the member was unharmed. 

Cutting and pasting part of my own comment on his blog I said, 
The system is intriguing, as are many of your others that have inspired me over the last six months. I am particularly attracted to the reward for risk and activity your XP system invokes. I am slightly concerned about my ability to track the XP in game, as even with your Excel program, I struggle to keep all the other rules I have in my head.

HERE to take you to the post I commented on the next two links take you back in time...
Here next to read more.

I was commenting on Old School Psionics Post - Advancement Rules the Easy Way.
He proposed 
Complete one adventure - level up to 2nd
Complete two more adventures - level up to 3rd
Complete three more adventures - level up to 4th

I said:
Thanks for this post I found it very liberating. I am trying to convince my novice friends to play once a month for three sessions. After session 1 they all had approximately 190XP. At the end of three sessions, assuming they find the 'boss' monsters and garner the loot at best the thief and cleric may make 2nd level. I know purists will disagree, and even I rebel somewhat but - how boring for them. How boring for me.
After your post, I think I might let them all advance to second level at the start of the next session.
I'll save proper XP advancement for a real campaign not a demonstration series.

I suffered turmoil pangs of turmoil
Pang 1: Thou shall not house rule to allow DM fiat.
Pang 2: But I am running a demonstration game (perhaps 3 sessions only)... not a full campaign.
Pang 3: What about all the work I did on rescuing Intelligence as a dump stat = IQ bonus = XP bonus.
Pang 4: My players only did three encounters last session and chatted a bit in town and I am thinking about  letting them be level 2!

Oh the pain and blues.

But I have found an answer. Well hopefully.

Basic Procedure: 
At the end of each full gaming session each character is awarded 1 XP and rolls 1d20. Each XP provides a +1 modifier to this roll. If the total equals or exceeds the required Roll to Advance for the character’s class and level (see Table 1) plus racial modifier (see Table 2), the character advances to the next level. XP needed to reach this number are deducted from the character’s running total. Unused XP accumulate from session to session. 

So at the end of 1 session a cleric gains 1XP and gets +1 on the roll  to advance = a 1st level cleric needs  17 on a D20 to advance. If the cleric doesn't, than at the end of the 2nd session a second XP is awarded (+2) and the cleric rolls again.

But what if I added the IQ bonus to that score - keeping sweet with all my previous thoughts that if you are smart you 'Catch on Quick'

Got to love a random roll in OSR D&D. The tension at the end of a session, in that last roll of the night, to see if one has advanced!

But what of Alexis's system - that is still genius. I like it a lot. It seems true and incentivises the play I want to see.
But I am playing a demonstration game, it may be all over in two more sessions. What to do, what to do........

The blues are coming back.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Combat Sequence, What Combat Sequence + Miniature Madness

2 shots of the table a few hours before KotB Session 1

When I DM'd my KotB session just over one week ago, not only was I 17 years out of the DM saddle, not only did I have five new player novices to educate and entertain but I was also a complete miniatures novice.

This was a bad combination that only just worked. Preparation was successful. My miniatures were some ebay pre-painted dragonlance minis (nearly the whole heroes set now) and my warhammer collection (Brettonians and Dark Elves) plus some ebay pre-painted orcs and goblins from LOTR. For my gaming mat I used the link from Beyond the Black Gate to take me to here to generate my pdf poster size 1 inch square grid. Then I paid US $40 to  to laminate and deliver my poster. I was very happy with the result.

My players happily chose their PC miniatures, I had my baddies, but I had forgotten one crucial point. I had no idea what I was doing. I was too far from the gaming mat to feel I was participating in the combat. That's two points actually. I started off by mapping the caves of chaos onto the gaming mat and getting confused as I was upside down. Drawing is not my skill. 
Was combat enhanced - I have no idea.

Alexis Tao of D&D in response to a comment I made described his combat sequence - complicated but somehow very satisfying. I don't think I'll follow this yet - and I just paid $40 for squares not hexes.

What I think I'll do next time is this.

1. Follow the rules. I like Lab Lord for it's clarity especially in relation to declaring actions before initiative. Especially important for spells.
1. Players declare character movement or actions.
2. Initiative: 1d6 is rolled by each opposing side.
3. The winner of initiative acts first. The Labyrinth Lord may check morale for monsters.
4. Movements can be made.
5. Missile attack rolls are made, accounting for DEX adjustments, cover, and range.
6. Spells are cast and applicable saving throws are made.
7. Melee combat occurs; attack and damage rolls are made, accounting for STR and magic adjustments.
8. Other sides act through steps 4-7, in order of initiative
9. When all sides of a conflict have acted and the combat will continue into the next round, the sequence begins again at step 1.

2. Make the players map on blank paper and use the gaming mat only for combat. Mapping is their job not mine, I just describe the options. If they get lost, tough.
3. On their character sheets they had two movements as per B/X - move/turn and move/round for encounters. They really only need to know move/round as I as DM can times by 3 myself and work that out. I am using 5' per square inch on the gaming mat.
4. Give retainers to the players to handle in combat so I have one less job.

I am not sure how I can get in closer to the gaming mat, to more easily move the monsters as I am often needing to refer to my DM screen to look at to hit tables and am also crossing off hit points.

Where do you DM from when sitting at the table? An end or along a side?

Other suggestions for miniatures gratefully received.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Best Star Wars Making of Documentary I have ever seen

Check it out - awesome, intriguing, amazing fan dedication. There are multiple parts and I clearly can't embed properly but it's called Star Wars Begins by jambedavdar.

here for you tube link.

Monday, 14 February 2011

KoTB Campaign Report Part 1: In search of chain mail armor

Well the week since my first DM session in 17 years has flown by. Sadly, nothing to do with gaming. So let's get to it. What happened. This will also serve as the players and my record of events.

Character Creation
5 novice players was an awful lot to undertake. As I said in my last post my character creation sheets helped. I went with 3d6 reroll 1 (no trading or exchanging ability scores, you got what you got) and we had ability scores ranging from 6 (charisma) to two 16 (Int and Wisdom).

I used B/X Blackrazor's 100 reasons characters might adventure together and this is what we got:
Kate a Templar Cleric (Str13,Wis13,Con8,Cha13) is Cousin to Marvin the Magic User (Int14,Con14)
Kate met Bob the Fighter (Str13,Wis16,Cha6) in a Temple Shrine praying.
That's because Bob had just got out of prison. In prison he had met Ziplok the elf (Int16,Wis15). He already knew Marvin the magic-user (mutual acquaintance) who had introduced Ziplok to the surprisingly witty and entertaining dwarf Lando Smallrisian (Str15,Con14,Cha14). Lando and Marvin were hired muscle for a crime lord. It was through this acquaintanceship that Ziplok had ended up in prison.

The relationships didn't feature again but it did immediately inform the party that they were one step ahead of the law and crime lords, and none doubted why they had headed into the borderlands to seek their fortune. They knew that up in the mountainous borderlands old dwarven mines and homes could be found, filled with treasure. Treasure hungry rogues seemed to fit, with Kate along the road owing to her relationship to her cousin Marvin and a desire to support the 'apparent' repentance of ugly Bob.

DM note: Despite the difficulties of starting novice players B/X rules and my preparation paid off. Spell descriptions were printed on small pieces of paper which the players could keep their chosen spell next to them. 

Arrival at the Keep
As they approached the keep they saw a strange procession entering the keep ahead of them. A ragged march of around 40 soldiers and 10 walking cavalry soldiers, bringing many dead upon their horses. Dwarves were with the procession.

The Keep gate was closed upon their arrival and the party had to give reason to the guard to allow their entry. The players struggled, understandably, with their first role-play moment.
They entered after a few strange responses and were met by the Corporal of the Watch, Corporal Sten. He took an immediate shine to Kate. He explained to her (and the others) that the procession they had witnessed was the victorious Castellan leading his men back after a sortie with the hill giants. The Castellan had won but at heavy cost. With winter drawing closer it was expected that the Keep would be closed off within a month and then the giants often attacked in force. It was hoped this pre-emptive strike would be enough. He then welcomed them to the Keep and then warned them that the penalty for thievery and murder was execution. On that cheery note Corporal Sten introduced the party to 12 year old Jimmy the Stable-boy who bargained with them to show them the keep. The party gave him 2 coppers for the day, which he was pleased with. He took them straight to the Tavern. The party felt that any missions would be found in a tavern. They did debate whether they should look for supplies first in case their mission started immediately but decided they needed to know the mission first.

DM note: the KotB module has way too many soldiers and doesn't seem to have an active purpose since the Castellan let's monsters make homes right on his doorstep unmolested. I am not the first to think this, am I? Inspired by Gaz 1, Karameikos and the Keep's location in the Altan Tepes Mountains which says 'Frost Giants' I decided to give the Castellan and Keep a real job. Fighting giants - and it also depleted the stock of men at the keep, gave them a one month time limit and set up the Keep for a return trip one day - a B/X G1,2,3 perhaps. Orc, goblins on your doorstep - who cares when the high walls of the keep are designed to fight off giants. Giants who drove out the dwarves but perhaps can't reach into the smaller treasure filled dwarf homes?

The Tavern
Jimmy waited outside (why I wonder now?) In the Tavern they met Barkeep Malek. Spending their wealth (silver based economy, mistakenly I gave the conversion as 100cp=10sp=1gp; starting silver 1d6+charisma bonus *10), which was not much, they bought Malek some 3sp Honey Mead, his favourite. Blatant bribery but he took a fondness to the dwarf Lando. Malek introduced the party to Frak the dwarf. He had lost a companion to goblins but didn't know the way back as he was surprised when they were attacked. He offered his services but the party declined to hire him. He told them that there was a guild house of dwarves in the keep but they wouldn't let you enter, even if a dwarf, unless you knew the name of your grandfather's grandfather. They met Thena Captain of the Watch and admired her plate mail. The party only had leather and even the soldiers looked good in chain. Finally Malek directed them to Relag, the Jewel Merchant's guard. The Jewel Merchant, Brade, was looking to hire some adventurers to search for dwarf gold for him and he knew the way to where it could be found. The party suggested that if Relag could bring his master back to the Tavern they would pay for a meal for him. Brade came quickly and eagerly to them but when he saw the poor offerings the party could afford he lavished the best on them. He told them he wanted dwarf gold. He offered to tell them where it could be found and send Relag and his war dog to assist them and protect his interests. The party could keep all the rest of the treasure they found. He just wanted dwarf gold. After bargaining he offered them 1 gold each (10sp) and to pay for 1 weeks rations and 1 weeks accommodation in the inn. The party agreed and said they would set off the next day, which pleased him. The party was still rock poor and disappointed when they learnt that chain mail costs 150sp, way outside their price range. Lando bought Malek the innkeep more honey mead and after much singing (not role-played) and bonding Lando asked if Malek knew where the dead soldier's were taken that they had seen entering the keep, particularly where their chain mail was taken. Malek told Lando he was out of his mind that the armour was either in the Inner Keep or with the armorer and it would be death to attempt it.
With this warning the players asked Jimmy, who suggested they talk to the new priest who had moved in next to the Jewel Merchant a few days ago. He seemed to have money and armor. His two acolytes were very pretty he informed the party.
So they went to meet Bacchus, who was outside his accommodation drinking (not surprisingly) and smoking. He seemed in jovial spirits.  He had two chain mail armored acolytes with him, both were female and attractive. The party explained their predicament and laughingly he agreed. He told one of his acolytes, Themyscira, to take Kate the Templar Cleric indoors and swap her chain for Kate's leather. He said he gave it as a loan, one cleric to another. And he wanted it back, whether the owner was alive or not. The party gained their first chain mail armor.
The male party members were upset that they couldn't see the two women exchange armor but Kate learnt that Themyscira couldn't talk, and not from having her tongue cut out as she had assumed. Bacchus told Kate that both his acolytes had taken vows of silence.
The party rested for the night at the Inn, whose owner Raul was an identical twin of Malek but he hated his guts. Before they said good night to Jimmy he offered to come with them as a torch bearer. He was 12 so the party refused.

DM note: the lack of starting money sure made the party hungry for more and very aware of their leather armor compared to all the better armored people around them. I was very pleased with this development until the party started contemplating an attack on the keep. Cyclopeatron's downloadable fillable henchman card PDF using meatshields programme to generate names and ideas worked very well for me as DM. I would never have thought I would allow Bacchus the priest to go with the armor swap idea. It seemed the right idea at the time, and the night was moving on and we still hadn't got to a dungeon!  

Provisioning and setting off
The next morning the party was still keen to prepare, though there were some calls to just get on with it. They went to the Provisioner with Jimmy's renewed help for another day. She was a young woman called Siana, also know as the young widow, she had a 2 year old on her hip. She had pre-prepared adventuring packs she was very proud of (as was the DM - adapted from BFRPG See here.). Basic Pack - backpack, torches, sacks, etc; Essentials pack with grappling hook, Be Prepared pack (10' pole no one could see the point) and a Ready for Anyone Pack (silver dagger). The skint party bought one basic pack to share - yep that's all, but demanded they get a reduction for rations as the Jewel Merchant had supplied them with one week of rations already.
As they left they immediately met a 16 year old boy called Deris who said he wanted to be their torch bearer so he could impress a lady. He offered to arrive with a lantern and oil. Asking no questions and wanting to get to the dungeon they said yes.
They met Deris outside the gates with Relag and his war dog. Deris was awkwardly wearing chain mail armor, and carrying a lantern, shield and spear. Lando the charismatic dwarf suggested that Deris would be more comfortable and safer in leather. Amazingly Deris agreed (double 6 reaction roll!) and since he was only 16 Lando the dwarf could fit the armor. Deris got leather. Two party members with chain mail.
The party set off....

DM note: Delta suggested when I last posted that I was ambitious to start novice players in the Keep. Too much choice, so little direction. I agree entirely now. It felt like a computer game. Talk to this person, get this, go there. This is no disrespect to my players, I was thinking the same as them and designed it that way. One player later asked me, "Could we have got more out of the townspeople?" And here is the true genius of role playing - I don't know. I would never have designed it that the priest would give the party some armor - but it felt right at the time so I did. Deris swapping his armor - that's random chance for you - only in a RPG.
But on reflection I wish I started them just outside the dungeon door, as Delta wisely suggested. They were hankering for the dungeon and we only had 60 minutes of playing time left. Next post I'll relate what happened.

The well known image above I found from google images as I write and sources from
This is a blog I didn't know existed. The blogger seems to have an obsession with KotB. And there ain't nothing wrong with that.

Can I just welcome as followers (I'm a bit lost where I am up to with this but feel it is only right to do so, especially as a minnow blog): Delta (I'm honoured), Shane Mangus (different site I enjoy dipping into it),  Paul Gorman (D&D blog pending it seems), A Paladin in Citadel (I'm honoured), Rahrahrah (and Rah) and my latest Tommy. Thank you all.


Saturday, 5 February 2011

Back in the saddle after 17 years

And it was plenty painful. At least for me.

Keep on the Borderlands for my friends (five of them) who had never played before. Well one had once, when he was 12.

They left my place 10 minutes ago, as I start to write this.

I'll find out tomorrow whether they enjoyed it or were just being polite.

Initial impressions........

My starting character creation sheets helped. They can be downloaded here.

My character sheets were helpful but with 5 novices it was never going to be easy. See My Stuff (though these are older versions). Weapon damage by class was simple enough because it was on their class based character sheet. Did I gain anything over 1d6...ummmmm?

I baulked just at the last minute regarding ability score dice rolling. I was going to have 3d6 in order (reroll ability if <6). But at the last second I thought, who wants a duff character as a novice. My worst fear was that someone would be so unhappy they would purposely try and kill their character. So I went for 3d6, reroll all 1s. Highest score was a 16. Lowest a 6.

My silver based economy worked fine. Though I somehow said that 10 copper = 1 silver rather than 100:1. But hey it can stay that way. The starting funds per character of d6+cha bonus *10 silver pieces with my beefing up of chain mail costs kept the party very hungry for armor. They even contemplated casting a sleep spell on some guards of the inner bailey and stealing their armor - that would have been a TPK very soon! The party finished the night with about 500 silver, just enough to buy one of them 1 suit of plate mail.

My starting class based items and equipment packs, adapted from Basic Fantasy Role-playing, worked well. See here.

The keep seemed to work as a living place with personality but I was rail-roading despite my desire to give greater freedom as my players wanted to see combat. And they didn't want to talk to every citizen to make a new plan. They concluded their options were to join the guard - not great for an exciting night's out entertainment, wander aimless in the wilderness, or go with the quest presented. They went for the quest presented.

We were in the caves of chaos after 90minutes. We had one hour of dungeon time, 3 combats. Then it was after 2230, we were at a natural end so we stopped.

Miniatures helped at times and were annoying at others. This was my first experience and was mixed.

Both red shirts died - a torch bearer teenager and the jewel merchants guard (his war dog survived).
Cyclopeatron's downloadable fillable henchman card PDF using meatshields programme to generate names and ideas worked very well for me as DM.

No player's died. yep - nil.

They were lucky. They used their sleep spells early and then their next battle, where the two NPCs died, occurred right next to the hobgoblin cave entrance and they could make their escape after the remaining hobgoblins broke and fled.

They were going to kill the hobgoblin children - one player objected and the children survived - just.

And I think I survived the night, just, as well.

I'll blog some more after some sleep and some reflection.


DM Advice?

Does anyone have a game mechanic for noise in dungeons. How do you decide if other monsters are alerted and come to investigate? DM fiat?

I am less interested in whether the monster physically hears the noise; what I am interested in is deciding if the noise they hear is worth investigating. Some dungeons might have lots of noise and in-fighting may be common.

I was thinking of:
Starting chance of being alerted by noise is 6 in 6
For every 20 feet reduce by 1 in 6
For every door or corner reduce by 1 in 6

This assumes the monster can't see the combat, where the chance of being alerted is 6in6.

In hyperalert states (monsters recently attacked) this could reduce to every 10'. Relaxed unalert states 40'.

Thoughts? Too cumbersome?

Whatever the case - wish me luck. I DM Keep on the Borderlands tonight. It's why my blogging has slowed as I prepared.

My first DM attempt in 17 years, to a group of aged novices. I may need more than luck!