Friday, January 22, 2010

"Adventures" in Town

This post is inspired by Jeff's carousing table in Jeff's Gameblog, which can be found on the right-hand toolbar. His ideas are good ones, but are based around 2e. The author of Playing D&D With Porn Stars (also found below) tried to update this to his 3e game. I like some of his ideas, and thought I'd give it a try for Galadran.

The idea behind this is to help players behave more like adventurers in pulp fantasy literature - which is to say, the same way sailors act when they get off the boat after a few months at sea. They tend to get caught up in boozing and whoring until all their money is gone, forcing them to head out to sea again. This vicious cycle is never emulated by PCs, who tend to act like monks with their money, sleeping in the cheapest rooms (sometimes even doubling up to save money), eating rations instead of fine food, and spending their money only on equipment. These people have chosen a profession based on violence and adventure, yet act like Scrooge in his counting house. That makes no sense to me, and is the result of people not actually living in the setting, and instead treating it like a game to be won rather than a reality to be experienced.

Here's the breakdown:

Whenever a party goes into a settlement larger than a small town (not much of a night life in these smaller areas) they may use gold pieces to gain XP by spending a night on the town. This represents the characters going out to taverns, burlesque houses, opium dens, theatrical productions, banquet halls, or some other activity that has no mechanical benefit but would be considered leisure. This is the D&D equivalent of bar hopping or clubbing in our modern world.

The exchange rate on gp for xp is 1 for 1, but a minimum of 100gp per character involved must be spent. XP gained is split evenly among the group. You may carouse this way once per night.

However, for every 100xp per participant gained, one member of the group (the players must choose who) is considered to have caroused excessively. The excessive carouser must then roll d20 on the Carousing Mishaps Table below. A group member may not be chosen to have excessively caroused a second time until all members have excessively caroused once. Once every member has caroused excessively twice, the night ends, regardless of how much more money the group has.

Carousing Mishap Table (d20)

1. You make a fool of yourself in public. Gain no XP. Roll Charisma check or gain a reputation in this town as a drunken lout.

2. Gambling binge. Lose all your gold, gems, jewelry. Roll Wisdom check (DC 15) for each magic item in your possession. Failure indicates it’s gone.

3. Involved in random brawl. Roll Strength check or lose 3d4 hit points.

4. Wake up in bed with someone. Roll on Wake Up table below.

5. Minor misunderstanding with local authorities. Imprisoned until fines and bribes totaling d6 x 100gp paid.

6. Target of lewd advances turns out to be a witch. Save versus polymorph monster (Caster Level 2+ your character level, Caster INT/CHA 16)or you’re literally a swine.

7. Insult Local Person of Rank. Roll on Important Person table below.

8. You couldn’t really see the rash in the candlelight. Make a Fortitude saving throw (as appropriate) to avoid contracting a disease.

9. Hung over. The next day, your character suffers a -4 to all to-hit rolls and saves. Spellcasters must roll Int check (DC 10+ spell level) with each spell to avoid mishap when casting.

10. Despite your best efforts, you fall head over heels for your latest dalliance. 75% chance your beloved is already married.

11. When in a drunken stupor you asked your god(s) to get you out of some stupid mess. Turns out they heard you! Now as repayment for saving you, you’re under the effects of a geas spell.

12. Wake up stark naked in a local temple. Roll a d6.
1-3: The clerics are angry.
4-6: The clerics smile and thank you for stopping by.

13. Major misunderstanding with local authorities. Imprisoned until fines and bribes totaling d6 x 1,000gp paid. All weapons, armor, and magic items confiscated.

14.Gain local reputation as the life of a party. All future carousing in this location costs double due to barflies and other parasites that join your revels.

15. You ended the night in a gambling house, and lost everything. You gain no XP for the night.

16. Invest all your spare cash (50% chance all gems and jewelry, too) in some smooth-tongued merchant’s scheme. Roll a d6.
1-4 It’s a scam.
5 It’s a scam and the local law enforcement thinks you’re in on it.
6 Actual money making opportunity returns d% profits in 3d4 months.

17. Beaten and robbed. Lose all your personal effects and take half of your maximum Hit Points in damage.

18. You’re not sure how it happened, but you’ve been initiated into some sort of secret society or weird cult. Roll Int check (DC 15) to remember the signs and passes.

19. Accidentally start a conflagration. Roll a d6 twice.
First Roll:
1-2: burn down your inn (or wherever else you are staying)
3-4: Some other den of ill repute is reduced to ash.
5-6: A big chunk of town goes up in smoke.

Second Roll:
1-2: No one knows it was you.
3-4: Your fellow carousers know you did it.
5: Someone else knows, perhaps a blackmailer.
6: Everybody knows.

20. Rougher Night than normal. Roll twice on this table and add the results together.

Wake Up Table (d12)

1. Multiple people. Roll twice on this table. Roll an additional time each time you get this result.
2. Apparently normal attractive member of orientation-appropriate gender.
3. Apparently normal attractive member of orientation-inappropriate gender.
4. Randomly determined other PC(neither remembers anything).
5. Apparently normal unattractive member of orientation-appropriate gender.
6. (Roll again on this table) You're married.
7. Apparently normal unattractive member of orientation-inappropriate gender.
8. (Roll again on this table) You wake up naked in one of the places you visited last night.
9. You awaken alone.
10. Your exact double.
11. Roll on "Local Person of Rank" table.
12. (roll again on this table)The person next to you is dead (PCs may not be killed in this way - they are instead reduced to half of their remaining Hit Points).

Person of Rank Table (d8)

1. Priest of most important local deity or lare.
2. Local monarch
3. Tavern owner
4. Chief of the constabulary/local military
5. Court wizard
6. Court librarian
7. Random local noble, female
8. Random local noble, male

Return to Borderville

This is the first of several "wrap-up" sessions the party underwent while attempting to secure funding for continued work on clearing the mine. By the end of these sessions, they had more work on their plates than they knew what to do with and were in the process of selling the mine to the town guard of Borderville in exchange for a percentage of the profits. Lots happened in these sessions, but most of it was over a long period. In order to bring the campaign up to the current time quickly, I'll be condensing these events into two or three more posts, touching briefly on what happened in each location they travelled to. This session deals with the party's return to Borderville, and the state of the town when they arrive.

As an aside for those reading this that are not part of the regular game, it has been obliquely established that the "town guard" of Borderville are in fact more of an organized crime group than deputies of law and order. The local Lord is a fool and a dandy, and doesn't care about the daily operation of the town as long as he continues to get his tax revenues. This leaves the guards as the de facto masters of the region, and they have used this freedom to establish themselves in all sorts of nefarious businesses. They are both the police and the thieves guild. When the party discovered this in game, it wasn't a plot point I considered important to where I thought the adventure was heading. But, as usual, the players surprised me with their actions, so I'm making it clear now, because it becomes more important going forward.

The fight with the owlbears had proved profitable. Marko and Hinda went to work binding the whelps, while Alaric constructed a series of cages to hold them. Meatwad helped Charles and Kain reestablish camp, grumbling all the time about being "saved" by Alaric, which he perceived as the magic-user stealing his glory, and then placing him in a debt of gratitude. The fighter was more than happy to shed blood with his companions, but Alaric was an interloper, who had lost his own group in the caves and was now trying to weasel his way into this one.

The journey back to Borderville took most of the day, with the party arriving at the North Gate in the early evening. It was not a pleasant trip - it was intermittently rainy, and the storm the night before had turned the paths into mud. There was no member of the group (including Hren) that was not happy to see the walls of the city when it finally came into view.

The most pleased at the homecoming was Alaric, who was interested in heading back to Long Lake as soon as he could. He lacked funding for the ferry, but told Wahleed that he would accept one of the owlbears, a wagon, and a horse as payment for his assistance to the group. Although both Meatwad and Meghan argued that the party had saved his life, and that Alaric should be showing gratitude rather than asking for payment, Wahleed agreed to the terms, provided that Alaric show him how best to break down and assemble the owlbear cages.

Having returned to their home in Borderville, the party dismissed Charles, Kain, and Marko from their service. The guards had served them well, and Meatwad promised to inform the captain of the East Gate of their satisfaction.

Next, the group checked in on their slaves, whom Wahleed was interested in freeing as soon as he could figure out the legal process. But all was not well with them. One of the girls, simply refereed to as "Girl" in the elvish tongue, had had her arm broken by a member of the town guard. Hren was furious, calling for vengeance on the man who had dared touch their servants. But Wahleed calmed her down - the town guard respected and feared the party, and would not have harmed their property without reason. He wanted to bring the matter up to the guard captain before taking action. If it turned out that the guard had acted alone or improperly, Wahleed assured Hren that he would allow the ranger to cut out the man's heart for his transgressions.

The following day, while Meatwad and Meghan recuperated from their wounds, Wahleed, Hren, and Hinda paid a visit to the office of the captain of the East Gate. They learned first that their servants had apparently gotten lost, and found themselves in an area of the city that they should not have been. They had also been witnesses to an event that they absolutely should not have seen. The perpetrators of this "event" had wanted to cut their throats for their transgression, but the guard (who "happened" to be at the scene on "unrelated business") convinced them that killing the servants of the Destrucity adventurer party would be unwise. As a form of compromise, he had broken "Girl's" arm, and escorted the servants back to their home.

On a related note, the captain mentioned that freeing the slaves was as easy as telling them they were free - but they would need to remain as servants in some form or capacity to the group if Wahleed wanted to keep them safe. Landless people with no masters were targets for slavers specifically because no one would miss them. The best way to keep them out of the slaver's hands was to make them servants or vassals. Given the group's local reputation, the girls should be reasonably safe.

The party remained in Borderville for about a week - Meatwad had never fully recovered from his experience with the evil book in the tomb beneath the caves, and a week's rest and recuperation was needed to calm his mind and prepare him for further travels. He had already swore that when next he met with Alaric, he would kill him for his arrogance and smug dismissals of the warrior's skills. Meghan agreed that another meeting with the magic-user woud probably end in violence, for she hated his cunning and shifty demeanor, as well as the way he seemed to hold all those who did not cast spells in mild contempt.

Other than that, the week was spent in preparation for the party's trip to Long Lake. They could not take the ferry for another few days, so the decision was made to make the journey on foot. They would take the owlbears to the markets there and sell them, using the money to fund continued expeditions into the mine. Eventually, Wahleed hoped to sell the mine - he had no desire to become a miner - but first it had to be made safe for workers. The owlbear whelps were the perfect form of start-up cash.

It was also hoped that the group might locate a wealthy patron or two that would be interested in helping them out. Not much was known about the city, and the opportunities for finding funding or assistance seemed remote. But Long Lake was the largest city in Silva until you reached the western coast, so if they were to find help anywhere, it was most likely here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Long and Visual Rant About The OD&D Revival

At its root, the OD&DR is made up of people who believe that WotC destroyed their hobby when they purchased TSR, and have either refused to change systems (remaining with 1st and 2nd edition), or have picked up The OSRIC game, or some other D20 alternative that attempts to turn the d20 rule set into a sort of second edition with skills and feats. Some people new to the hobby have abandoned 4th edition (or never gave it a look at all) and have simply picked up OSRIC or the older books on eBay. It's about the nostalgia of gaming, and these players want a piece of history, even if they weren't around to see it made the first time.

Now, let me be clear that as far as I'm concerned, anything that draws market share away from 4th edition is fine by me. I don't care if you're leaving the game to go play tiddlywinks or GURPS - as long as you're leaving. The disgusting failure that is the new iteration of Gygax's game needs to go broke before the mouth-breathers at WotC will stop tinkering with D&D. My only hope for the future of my hobby is that whatever passes for management at Hasbro will see the failing numbers and cut the "creative" staff free. Even a squad of monkeys with tourettes syndrome would produce a better game system, so almost anyone except the writers of FATAL would be an improvement.

But the OD&DR poses a different sort of problem for me as a gamer. I own all the 2nd edition supplements I was interested in, and most of the 1st edition ones as well. They came out when I was young, before I discovered girls, got a car, went on dates, got married or had children. OD&D was affordable then, and the books never go out of style. I could join this new revolution and be perfectly at home.

But I'm not going to. I've worked too hard on this new edition of GALADRAN to throw it away, even for a older and beloved version. The very existence of the revival makes me wonder at the state of our hobby. The OD&DR's are on the surface another form of gaming purist - for them, there is no D&D but OD&D. They have lost their faith in WotC, and in other gaming companies to produce any alternative to the old game. That would be understandable from grognards like me, but brand new players rejecting modern gaming for retro is surprising. But its not that simple.

Retro crazes are usually predicated on two things - nostalgia and identity. People who lived it once want the nostalgia. Newcomers to a niche genre (like steampunk or gothic style, for example) tend to adopt it as a defining characteristic that separates them from the "mainstream" culture of their niche. It is in essence a way to further factionalize an already small group for the purpose of being even more different.

It can also be a sort of protest move, which is what I think is happening with the OD&DR. It is gaining popularity as a form of protest against mainstream D&D. Protest grumpiness like this was common when the game went from 2nd to 3rd edition as well (I was one of the grumpy ones). But this is less about the game being ruined by people without the original vision (as was the popular complaint then) and more about the game being ruined by the people who "ruined" it the last time. There is no faith in WotC to turn the ship around, and as a result people have just abandoned it for other things. But they want Wizards to know they have abandoned them, and they want to be missed. They keep hoping that their protest will cause WotC to try and woo them back, address their needs, and return things to the way they were. They're like ex-girlfriends.

Wizards did this to themselves. I have never seen a more incompetent advertising campaign than the one I saw for the release of 4th edition - and that includes the abomination that was the campaign for the release of 3rd edition. In order to generate buzz for the new edition of the game, they needed a strategy to entice player away from their current edition. It was decided that the way to do this was to highlight the ease of play and the new features of 4th edition over the older, more complicated edition. On the surface, this seems like a good strategy, and in some cases it was handled well. Have a look at this webclip they sent out to talk about some of the changes in the new edition.

The gnome is the best part, but I got to learn a little about the game too. I was both entertained and informed by this ad. They should have stuck with this. Instead, it was decided to highlight ease of play by casting aspersions on the game already in production. Have a look.

I don't know about any of you, but I had no problem with THAC0 or weapon speed in 2nd edition. I had no trouble with grapple or sunder rules in 3rd edition. Furthermore, I don't know anyone who did. To imply that the new edition is better because the four idiots around that table never read their rulebook insults my intelligence. And I'm personally offended to be grouped together with them. This doesn't make me want to play 4th edition - it makes me hate the people who produced this garbage.

TSR had this problem to a lesser extent as well. Check the Wikipedia article above for examples. Public relations doesn't seem to be a strong point for either company. And that hurts them. The more they try to be clever and innovative with the rules, the more derivative the ruleset becomes, and the more they are forced to defend their innovation. The more they try to connect with older gamers, the more they drive them away.

The OD&D revival is a result of this dissatisfaction. Gamers like D&D, but hate the people running it. They want their dissatisfaction to be recognized, but can't do it simply by refusing to play the new edition (like I have) because that would mean they would be ignored by the gaming community. They want the attention, the bully pulpit, and they want their choice of game to reflect their dissatisfaction.

More than any other reason, that's why I won't join it. I want to build my world, create my game, and DM in peace. I don't want a cause - I want a game. And I have one I like. If D&D never produces another book in any edition, I'll still have my game. And that's all I want.

Creativity, Roleplay, and Authentic Experiences

TED is one of the best resources for thought on the internet. As someone who is learning to become an educator and a roleplayer, I found this whole lecture fascinating. For those of you more interested in the role play specifics, start at around the 19:00 mark.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Last Few Sessions, Part 3

Believing that the remaining wounded owlbear was in all likelihood the last of its kind in the cave, Wahleed urged the party to venture after it. Killing the beast would be the only way to ensure safety for the party. There was another reason as well - this many owlbears in one place suggested that they were a family, and that meant that the possibility for owlbear whelps or eggs existed. Immature or unborn owlbears were highly valued in civilized regions, and the sale of such creatures could help offset the cost of their latest expedition.

Meatwad, for his part, was furious at Alaric for his interference with the owlbear. The fighter felt that he had the situation well in hand, and that the magic-user has needlessly interfered. Alaric was unapologetic, saying that if Meatwad had been in control of the fight, he would have killed the owlbear quickly. Meatwad gave the leaner man a shove, telling him to stay out of his way in the future. With that, he plunged into the darkness, the rest of the party close behind.

The remaining owlbear was found hunched over a pile of mud and leaves with a hollow top - a crude nest fashioned by the clumsy claws of the beast. Within the nest, the party could see feathers and fur moving about. The owlbear had young! The expedition might not go to waste after all! Unwilling to try the frontal approach in their wounded state, Meghan and Meatwad moved to each of the creature's flanks, hoping to pin it down. The enraged creature startled them by rushing from the nest with a protective cry and slashing wildly at the satyxis. It's first attacks were clumsy, and Meghan easily stepped aside, readying her spiked chain for a counter-attack. At the same time, Meadwad advanced on the nest. From his vantage point behind Hinda, Wahleed reminded the fighter that the owlbear young were useless to the party dead. In order to sell them, they would need to be taken alive.

Meatwad nodded in acknowledgement, and prepared to use the flat of his blade on the creatures, when they suddenly leapt from the nest in a tide of fur and feathers. As the startled fighter attempted to gain distance from his vicious assailants, Meghan swung her spiked chain in a wide parabola at the owlbear in front of her, hoping to shatter the creature's skull. With surprising agility, the beast ducked under the whirling chain and sunk its beak into her chest. Blood welled up from Meghan's throat as she sank to the floor, losing consciousness as her body went into shock.

With a startled cry, Hinda rushed forward to help her fallen companion. The owlbear reacted quickly, raking its claws against the cleric's armor, but Hinda held the attacks at bay while she whispered a hurried prayer to her God. Blue light streamed from her hand into the Meghan's comatose form. But on this day, the Gods proved fickle, and while her wounds closed, the satyxis' breathing remained shallow and labored. She would live if she could be evacuated, but was still out of the fight. Not wanting to risk another prayer with an owlbear at her throat, Hinda turned away from Meghan and prepared to do battle.

It had become apparent to Wahleed that he would be needed in this fight, even though his magical power was rapidly fading. With a wave of his hand, the Shi'ar sent shafts of green light into the owlbear. As the light passed through it, the creature screamed in pain, but the agony only spurred it on with renewed fury. With an inarticulate cry, the owlbear savaged Hinda, its claws tearing into the cleric even as it grabbed hold of her. She could only struggle feebly against the creature's grip as it tore at her side with its beak. The world swam briefly, but a surge of adrenaline brought it back into focus. Hinda strained against the grip of the strange beast - if she had any hope of surviving, it lay in her escape.

Meatwad, trapped and outnumbered, began to feel fear grip him - numerous wounds has sapped his strength, his mobility was compromised, and was separated from his allies, most of whom were in a similar situation. Panicked, he attempted to break free of the horde of owlbear whelps. He nearly made it before the pack of beasts pulled him down.

As Wahleed threw more spells at the monsters, he commanded Jombi to get help. Even as he spoke, the whelps turned their attention to him, and only a quickly-timed illusion protected the Shi'ar from their wrath. The Gen fled toward the cave entrance, but it wasn't needed - Alaric, armed with his scroll caddy, began to weave a powerful enchantment on the owlbear young. In seconds they were asleep. For the second time in an hour, Alaric had rescued Meatwad. The magic-user let fly his final spell, sending another flaming sphere into the owlbear that had Hinda at its mercy. The sudden pain weakened the beast enough that the cleric could free herself, but she was still too weak to be of much use. With a final desperate flourish, Wahleed sent what divine energy he had into Hinda, revitalizing her just as the owlbear recovered from its shock. Rising, the cleric swung her weapon into the monster's astonished skull, shattering it.

The battle was ended, and the owlbears captured. Charles and Marko went in to the cave to recover their employers, and reestablish camp.