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Friday Night's D&D Game
Friday night I finally got to run my sit-con D&D game. I think it actually went very well. Here's some quick high level thoughts on the game in port-mort style. I may likely expand on a couple of these in future posts.

What Went Right

PC Backgrounds
I tried to strike a balance between having completely disconnected PCs and ones with elaborate backgrounds that tied them into the setting. What I came up with was a pile of index cards each with three facts that I handed out to the players and asked them to incorporate into their characters. I think this worked pretty well, giving most players a direct connection to at least one other player and some adventure hooks to explore, while still allowing each player to personalize his character. I think pretty much right away every player had a very amusing character to roleplay which they did right from the get-go.

Adaptive Plot
The plot was a basic rescue, though I was trying to incorporate a sand-box feel to the game. I created several locations, any one of which could be where the missing girl was, and I had not one but two girls go missing. Thus I was able to invent what had really happened as we played. The players started by seeking out a group of slavers, so I decided the slavers had in fact kidnapped the girls and already sold one (the one the players were searching for) to an evil necromancer (necromancer's tower was one of my other locations) but still had the other girl. This decision was based pretty much solely on the actual clock, which showed we still had a couple hours to play, so having the main rescue target here would have ended the game too early.

Turn Counting
I used my turn counter, but only when the players were exploring a location. When they were interacting with NPCs or travelling I ditched in, in favor of a looser means of tracking game time. But when they were exploring a location, I found the turn counter very useful for determining when to roll wandering monstesr, and for tracking spell durations. It was pretty handy to be able to look up at the turn counter showing a big 12 and tell the player who just cast a spell that it would end when the counter hit 20. I think the players also enjoyed seeing the real times on the counter, hitting on the fact that by the time they left the slaver's den it was very early in the morning and giving them a good excuse to go home and sleep rather than going directly on to the necromancer's tower.

Morale
I love the Morale rules. I don't use them as rigidly as they are detailed in teh book, deciding on a case by case when to roll morale. But I love the fact that many enemies will run or surrender rather than fighting to the last man, and I love even more that it's not entirely up to me how they make that choice. In this case, it led to the introduction of a very funny NPC who would be promoted from enemy to hireling to player character.

Inventing NPCs
In a couple cases I had to invent some NPCs on the fly. I had the slaver's den mapped and stocked, but never put much thought to who their leader was. When the players wanted to arrange a meeting with the fellow, I scanned my sheet of random names for something dark and thief like, and saw one that actually had the first name 'Mongoose'. I warped this to just 'The Mongoose' and suddenly we had a realy interesting NPC villian. When the players met with him, it was trivial to take the group's stats and up the HP and AC of one to make an appropriate boss for the group.

The very same group also generated the player's hireling, Frederick the Bastard, another awesome name off my random name list. The playes took him prisoner after defeating the other slavers and forced him to lead the way through the rest of the slaver's den. During this the character started taking on a pretty funny personality, invented by the group at large as I and the other players took turns speaking for him. The players decided to intice him into their group as a hireling, and when one of the player characters died towards the end, the player was more than happy to take on the role of Frederick the Bastard. If I had planned ahead of time for a backup PC should one die, there's no way it would have been nearly as satisfying.

What Went Wrong

Before I pick a couple specific things, I'll point out it's been pretty hard to come up with anything really bad from this game. If subsequent games I run go as well as this one did, I'd be exstatic. But there's always room for improvement, so...

Needed More Character Hooks/Relationships
Some of the characters didn't have a direct adventure hook in their own list of facts, but relied on a relationship with another character to draw them in to the plot. Other characters had plot hooks but their relationship with the other characters was tenuous or even non-existant on one case. All characters had no more than one pre-existing relationship with another PC, and for the most part they tended to pair up.

I think it would be better to try and give out potential adventure hooks to every player, even if some of the hooks are the same hook just coming at it from a different angle. I'd definitely like to make the group have more intertwined relationships with each other, at least so if player A is going to follow a lead he perhaps knows player B well enough to ask him to come along, who in turn knows player C very well, etc. As it was, the players did eventually form a cohesive group, but it felt just a little forced.

Needed Less Pre-written Plot
While I was trying to leave the plot adaptive, I still ended up writing more than I really should have. I had a timeline indicating who had the girl when to start, and had written in detail how her abduction had gone. Fortunately, during play I had the good sense to chuck some of it. I think it would have been better if I simply hadn't even plotted it out to begin with. If I had known only that two girls were abducted, and that the location included a corrupt guard, a lecherous priest, and a band of slavers, that would have been enough to adapt into background as we played.

Perhaps if I do feel the need to have more background to go on, it would be best to create several alternatives each plotted out only very loosely. Then I could choose during play which best fit the direction the players were taking it and run with it during play.

Low Engergy
I was pretty tired when we started playing, as it had been an extremely busy week. Also, I didn't realize it, but I was on the verge of getting sick. (My apologies to anyone I may have unwittingly infected at the table.) There's no way to plan for the latter, but for the former it perhaps would have been wise to skip some of the other activities earlier in the week to ensure I was well rested and ready to play this game on Friday. Ultimately though, life happens, and it seems unlikely I could have done anything to avoid this, but I do lament the fact that I was lower energy for this game than usual.
July 19th, 2009 - 09:40 am | Comments (2) | PERMALINK

LL vs BX Update
I have updated my post on the differences between Labyrinth Lord and D&D BX to include the attack charts and saving throw charts. I realized I forgot to check those and it seemed better to keep the differences in one place rather than spreading updates out around several posts.

I continue to waffle about LL. At Friday's game we had both BX books and LL books at the table, which is how I realized I forgot to compare those tables. It strikes me that it would be preferrable to pick one book, and then house rule in the changes from the other books that you like. I'm not sure which would be easier to do, though I'm tempted to side with LL here simply because the book is easier to get a copy of and better laid out. On the other hand, the nostalgic feel of the old books really is something special.

Bah, clearly I still can't make up my mind on this.
July 19th, 2009 - 11:22 am | Comments (0) | PERMALINK

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