Sunday, October 19, 2014

Home at Long Last

Yesterday afternoon marked the first of many (I hope) home games.  Finally, I was able to transition from one-off sessions at the public library with semi-strangers to a weekly campaign at my house with people I barely know (and one good friend I've known since college)!

Why did I stop running games at my house last spring?  A combination of wanting more family time and summer activities on weekends.  Mostly, my wife needed a break as she's the one watching the kids just like almost every week day I'm at the office.  Plus, the old home game group needed some shaking up... needed new blood.  And what better way to find new players than offer to run Meetup sessions?

Anyways, four players assembled at my place for pizza (one abstained), drinks (everyone had water except for me - I had a soda), and conversation (too random to pin down).  However, towards the end, I asked everyone if they had a preferred system.  This was to be Dungeons & Dragons, more or less, but I was hard-pressed to pick a favorite D&Dish RPG.

The adventure I "prepared" and showed them was A4: In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords but that could be run with any of the following: Dungeon Crawl Classics, Basic D&D, AD&D, Fantastic Heroes & Witchery, Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, Swords & Wizardry, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, plus I'm sure I have a few more in PDF form...

Melanie suggested 5th edition.  Daniel wanted "rules light", something easy to play without needing to learn a lot of special rules... I think everyone agreed with him.  Harold didn't have a preference but was intrigued by the "crazy character classes" he heard me talking about regarding Fantastic Heroes & Witchery.  Ben didn't have a strong opinion but had tried and liked FH&W a couple weeks ago.  Since it was fresh in my mind, an intuitive collection of previous editions of D&D, and just plain awesome... I was happy to run FH&W.

Prior to diving in, the FH&W veterans, Ben and Melanie, mentioned the "broken" tiefling sub-race or racial template that gave you three valuable demonic powers.  However, knowing that, everyone resisted the temptation to go down that familiar and tempting road.

Because there are so many race/class options and I have only one rulebook, everyone agreed it would be interesting and speedy to mention just the race and class names, have everyone choose, and then go into detail about what the benefits were for each of the chosen few.  This is what they ended up with...

  • Harold played Verdilo, a gnome trickster.
  • Daniel played Sir Basil Werner, a human paladin (though he did consider the anti-paladin).
  • Melanie played X'fritl (forgot to ask where the hell she came up with that one) the witchling scary monk (one of the things I appreciate about Melanie is that she's not afraid to pick something outside the box - especially if it sounds dark and weird).
  • Ben played Sechaveh, an exotic human (he's basically human but from another world, the food here is almost inedible to him and there's also something strangely pleasing about him - some recognize he's part of this new world's prophecy) assassin.

All were 3rd level, except Sir Basil who was 4th - the level at which the knight character class could transition into paladin.  Opting for a pure human (the most boring choice possible *), he was rewarded with extra experience points.

I also like how FH&W doesn't make you wait before characters can use their cool class abilities like death attack, unarmed attack, and believable lie.  In that regard, it's more like AD&D 2nd edition, 3rd edition D&D or even 5e.

Not having a ton of preparation time, I altered little bits of the module as I deemed fit. 

I allowed everyone a saving throw to see if they could resist the sleep gas.  Two did.  Sir Basil played possum while X'fritl hid in her cell, waiting until the guards came to take them away.  She managed to escape while Sir Basil bided his time (due to the 8 reptilian guards).  Eventually, they all ended up at section #1 of the map. 

I added the Grell from Fiend Folio.  After a failed assassination attempt, X'fritl smashed the top of a small barrel full of fish oil and doused the abomination before lighting it on fire.  She also dealt it a karate-chop death blow a couple of rounds later.  

Rather than make the will-o-wisp just another monster to fight, I presented it as a curious, alien-like thing to interact with rather than destroy.  X'fritl communicated with it, eventually making it a friend and ally.  True to my love for old school play, I opted to let her try a few things instead of having her simply roll a check to make contact and glean information.  Now, the party had a light source and a yes/no/maybe "magic 8 ball" they could ask for information.

By the time the session was almost over, the PCs acquired a decent amount of loot.  A sack of 2d30 gold pieces resulting in a ridiculous 3, so I changed it to 30 silver pieces.  They also had a magic short sword, long sword, cloak, and ring.  

The adventure's roper scored two critical hits, nearly killing two characters.  Thank the gods for the racial HD, as well as, character class HD!

Earthquakes shook the cave system, utterly collapsing just after the adventurers escaped to the open air.

One last thing, I like the idea of inspiration from 5e but didn't want to distract the players and constantly interrupt the game with awarding it each scene for appropriate roleplaying opportunities.  Instead, I gave everyone a point of inspiration, luck, action point, or whatever you want to call it (physically represented by a little yellow stone).  Spending it gave you a the chance to re-roll a d20.

Daniel and Ben made use of the point when their characters rolled a natural 1.  Hilariously, Daniel's re-roll was a 3 and Ben's was a 2.  At least they avoided the critical failure.  FH&W has a table for that, too!


*  After giving it some thought, at least one human in the adventuring party feels right... even natural.  Practically every fantasy/scifi TV show and film ever made has a human character (sometimes more than one) with which the audience can identify.  Doing away with this "realism anchor" could have a potentially negative impact on the overall campaign.

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