"Black Dougal gasps 'Poison!' and falls to the floor. He looks dead."

Monday, March 29, 2010

Cal-Con: A Tale of Two Conventions

Cal-Con, the local gaming convention, was this past weekend. After much deliberation, I finally settled on the old school game I was going to run. I chose to use Spire of Iron and Crystal using Original D&D (the first three books only).A couple of months ago, I was also asked if I could help out with DMing a couple of sessions of a 4E tournament.

I had sent numerous emails to the convention organizers following the request to help with the tournament in order to get more information. However, all of these emails went unanswered until the wednesday before when I received the tournament adventure. I spent the next two evenings reading and prepping the adventure.

I was excited. I had a great time at the convention last year and was really looking forward to going again this year.

Saturday - I was scheduled to run an OD&D session at 9:00am and then help out with the 4E tournament in the afternoon. After arriving early I stopped at the ticket desk I learned that 5 of the 6 tickets for my session had been taken. I then went to the gaming room to stake out a good table. Unfortunately, only one of the five showed up. After chatting with the fellow and trying to wrangle up other players, I talked to one of the RPGA guys and found spots for myself and the other fellow at some 4E Living Forgotten Realms tables. After the 4E game I tracked down the gaming coordinator and discovered that my efforts were not needed for the 4E tournament.

While I had fun playing in the LFR game, I was disappointed with the day.

Sunday - I was scheduled to run an OD&D session. Following my disappointment from the previous day, I had also prepared a character for a Pathfinder Society game that was scheduled during the same slot. After staking out a good table I again waited. This time I was approached by a group of seven people. Some of them had seen me DMing the OD&D session last year and decided that they wanted to play.

I had a great time and they all seemed to really enjoy it. Some well placed spells had them explore most of the first and second levels of the Spire. As time was winding down I had them find their way down to the bottom level and face the BBEG. The party won initiative and got a Fireball and Lightening spell off. Two failed saving throws and the BBEG was down to 1 hit point! However, the next round the BBEG got in his own Fireball spell and half of the party were charred bits. A few rounds later the remaining party members were victorious.

Day two left me much happier than day one.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Compound Magic Items

Just for fun I pulled out my copies of Monsters & Treasure and Supplement I: Greyhawk. I had the idea to roll twice on the magic items tables and try to combine the results into a single magic item. Here are three magic items I cam up with:

Armour +1 + Rod of Beguiling =
Armour of Beguiling
This armour subtracts its bonus from the hit dice of the opponents of the wearer. The wearer of this armour is also able to beguile all enemies in a radius of 20' into believing that the wearer is their most trusted friend or respected mentor. Each use takes one charge and the armour has 4 to 24 charges. Beguilement lasts for 4 to 16 turns.

Ring of Contrariness + Scroll Protection from Undead =
Ring of Attracting Undead
When this ring is put on it cannot be removed without a spell to Remove Curse, and the wearer will not wish to remove the ring. It makes the wearer absolutely contrary and he will act in the opposite fashion of normal/requested. Each day the ring has a 2 in 6 chance of attracting undead. Roll on the Undead-Types table from the Wilderness Wandering Monsters table in Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry to determine the type of undead.

Sword +1 + Drums of Deafness =
Thundering Sword +1
This sword will seem to every test to be a normal sword +1. However, each time the attacker rolls a 20 for their attack roll, the sword will cause a peal of thunder which will deafen the wielder of the sword as well as those within a 6" radius, and this deafness will last until Remove Curse spell is cast upon them.

Monday, March 8, 2010

My So-Called Life

My self-imposed exile from the real world is about to come to an end.

Over a year ago, I quit my job and have been hanging out with my kids ever since. My staying at home dramatically increased my free time which I spent on playing with my kids and my hobby of gaming.

This is about to all come to an end as I have decided to re-enter the real world of employed adults. Happily, the whole job hunt thing went pretty painlessly and I was able to find a position with a company that has a great reputation with employees and the position fits very well with my background and previous work experience.

Unfortunately, this will impact two things that I am slightly regretting. The first is it will decrease the amount of time I will be able to spend with my kids. I have been very blessed to be able to spend this time with my children. The second is it will decrease the amount of time I will be able to spend gaming, thinking about gaming, talking about gaming, etc.

I am planning to keep my 2E Rise of the Runelords campaign going, I am hoping to continue playing in a 4E game, and I am planning on doing more Red Box Calgary games. The other games that I currently DM or play will continue for now but their ongoing status will be in question.

Seeing as how my posting here at Ode to Black Dougal seems to come in fits and starts anyway, we will have to see how it is impacted.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Saying Yes Is More Fun

I DMed another session of my 2E campaign a couple of nights ago. It was a long session by my now near-elderly standards lasting 7 hours (my wife has been teasing me about my advanced age since I turned 38 a couple of weeks ago). I had a great time but was wiped by the end. As everyone was packing up I did what I always do at the end of a session and asked, "So, what did you think? Is there any feedback?"

The response from one player was what I consider a great compliment. He replied, "you are one of the fairest DM's I have ever played with."

Now, in all honestly, I think that his perspective is because I nearly always say "Yes". It might be, "Yes, but..." or "Yes, and..." but I do always try to say "Yes" if they ask me if their character can do something - it might take a roll to see if they succeed but "yes" they can try. His character was trying to do something a bit different and maybe a little far-fetched earlier in the session and I said, "Sure, roll a d20 and..."

Something dawned on me a while ago. Saying "yes" won't break the game. By "break" I don't mean wreck the mechanics or balance or other more contemporary gaming issues. Instead by "break" I mean break the fun.

"Your fighter wants to try to leap a 50' wide chasm while wearing platemail to flee from the demon? Sure you can give it a try. Roll a percentage for me. If you roll a 99 or 100 you somehow manage to catch an updraft or something and grab a protrusion on the far side of the chasm. I will then roll 1d6 times 100 to see how many feet you fell before you grabbed on. You will take half damage from the fall of that distance. If you roll anything other than a 99 or 100 you fall to the bottom and take damage for falling 1,000 feet. How does that sound?"

That is more fun than being told, "No."

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Taking Old School to the Calgary D&D Meetup Group

I have been to the Calgary D&D Meetup Group maybe ten times. I always had a good time even though most of the participants are interested in 3rd edition. I played and ran some 4th edition games and always found everyone to be very polite.

I have tried a couple of times to start an old school game at the meetups but to to start a game you must:
1. Consult with the Organizer who retains the right to approve or deny any requests;
2. Post the game on the message board to try to drum up interest; and
3. Receive feedback of interest from enough people to fill the table.

My experience has been that the Organizer is more than happy to have someone propose an old school game. However, I have never received the required interest to get a game started. Which led me to try Red Box Calgary. However, I still have a desire to try to get an old school game at the meetup. I would love to try to expose that group to the benefits of old school play.

So I have decided to try some undercover recruiting. If you are in the Calgary area and would be interested in playing in an old school game (B/X, OD&D, 1E - likely by way of LL and the AEC, etc) at the Calgary D&D Meetups, please get in touch with me - either in the comments below or through my email address on the side.

If I can get enough interest outside the meetup group, we will then have everyone join the group. I will then propose a new old school game to the organizer when I know I have enough interest "in the bag" so to speak.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Northern Marches Table Map

Here are images of the players' Table Map and how it evolved during my old Northern Marches campaign.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Wilderness Encounter Tables

I have been emptying out my Northern Marches binder so that it may serve as my Borderlands Binder. I found the table below in that binder. It was the wilderness encounter table for a small coastal mountain range called the Goblin Teeth.

Roll d6:
1 & 2: Encounter (roll 2d6):
2 - roll twice
3 - Griffons
4 - Giant Hawks
5 - Mountain Goats (see Antelopes)
6 - Black Bears
7 - Goblins
8 - Hobgoblins
9 - Mountain Lions
10 - Brigands
11 - Neanderthals
12 - Roll on Dim Forest Encounter Table

3: Obstacle (roll d6):
1 & 2 - Coastal storm (rain, snow, low cloud, freezing temperature, etc)
3 - Rock slide / Avalanche
4 - Box canyon
5 - Goblin snare
6 - Crumbling ledge

4: Clues / Signs (roll d8):
1 & 2 - Goblin totem
3 & 4 - Hear goblin drums
5 - Griffon feather / abandoned griffon or giant hawk nest
6 - Hear griffon or giant hawk call
7 - Goblin trail
8 - small forgotten shrine to (d6) 1&2 Orcus, 3&4 Zeus, 5 Ares, 6 Demeter

5: Special (roll d6)
1 - 15ft tall statue of (d6) 1&2 Orcus, 3&4 Zeus, 5 Ares, 6 something bizarre
2 - Stone stepped pyramid (stock as dungeon, level = 1d4)
3 - Statue of Athena - will answer 1 yes-no question per day, asker will be struck by a 6d6 lightening bolt of question is not a yes-no question
4 - Pile of rusted goblin swords, spearheads, etc
5 - Small 3-level tower (stock as dungeon, level = 1d6)
6 - Abandoned climbing gear

6: Good fortune (roll d6):
1 to 3 - find enough wild food to eat, don't have to use any rations for next 1d4 days (10% poisonous)
4 & 5 - Find hidden cache of 1d6 items of normal adventuring equipment
6 - Find medicinal plant that will cure poison (1d6 doses that will keep for 1d6 days)

Castles in the Wilderness

I have been reading my OD&D books again in anticipation of receiving my Swords & Wizardry White Box in the mail - it still hasn't arrived yet = {

I have also been browsing my B/X rulebooks for the Red Box Calgary game.

Each of those versions of D&D have information and rules about encountering a castle in the wilderness. This is another one of those "gameist" things about early D&D that I love.

In the OD&D books, the text specifically mentions the Outdoor Survival playing board and that ponds indicate castles.

B/X doesn't have the same relationship with a board game so I have always used the random wilderness encounter tables to indicate when a castle is encountered. The B/X wilderness encounter tables give chances to encounter "Fighter", "Cleric", and "Magic-user" in addition to "NPC Party" and "Adventurers". When the result was one of the singular I would often use that as a castle encounter.

The part that I like best is that each of these editions has a very simple table to determine what happens. I actually somewhat prefer the OD&D tables as they are crazier that the B/X versions.

The OD&D tables give a chance that the Lord or Necromancer or Evil High Priest (EHP) that owns the castle to have retainers such as Giants or Manticores or Vampires.

The B/X tables are much more boring in that they just list the horsemen patrols. It does give a suggestion that the "rest of the force" may include trolls or superheroes mounted on Griffons but I like that these types of things are the default in OD&D.

I also love that the OD&D rules say that Fighting Men will demand a jousting match and will demand the loser's armour if he wins. Magic-users are complete dicks and send passersby on errands by using Geas. And Clerics demand tithes and use a Quest spell or just try to kill the passersby if they are unable to pay.

The B/X rules are more staid with the castle owner either chasing the party off the lord's land, ignoring the party, or being friendly (either feigned or genuine).

Of course, as with all things in D&D (especially older editions), the imagination of the DM and the reactions of the players are the only limiting factors to these types of encounters but I love the fact that the default setting of these early editions includes this kind of stuff.