Saturday, March 27, 2010

Dragonsport - Population and Deities

Since it's the center of the campaign right now I thought I would share some details about the city:

-Population about 10,000, 70% of which is human, 10% dwarven, 15% halfling, 3% Elves, and 2% everything else. Halflings are prevalent in some sections of town and consider this "home". Dwarves have a few areas they call their own but are mostly mixed in with the others and the majority are traders or adventurers from the Kingdom of the Iron Crown located in the mountains to the north - very few consider this city "home". The Elves are similarly merchants and travellers from the Greenwood to the east rather than natives of the city, even if they happen to be staying for 10 years or more. The city is fairly cosmopolitan being a center of trade so it is possible to run across a lizardman or a party of sea elves in the streets, especially near the docks.

- Slavery is illegal within the duke's lands, as is slave-trading but there are nearby realms where this is not the case

- The city watch runs about 500 men, divided into five 100-man companies. Standard gear is leather, shortsword, and a spear. On the walls the watch carries crossbows. The duke's personal guard is about 100 men strong, clad in chain & shield with a sword, a dagger, and a crossbow. Note: 500 men is not nearly enough to strongly defend the walls of the city. It is assumed that in the event of a serious threat to the city and a potential siege situation that levies would be raised and that 2000-3000 more bodies could be pressed into service. The city has never been besieged or attacked by a large force so much of this is theory and old plans gathering dust.

Religion - There are two major deities with temples in the city plus the healers of the White Hand

One major deity is Zygag the Lawgiver: Revered as the power that laid down the basic tenets of civilization, codes of behavior, currency, and organization. A Lawful power, he is depicted as a robed and bearded male human of middle age. It is said that he walked the world for a century teaching the ways of order before ascending to godhood in the ruined citadel that once dominated the area and later became the lair of the great red dragon that gave the city its name. His priests wear grey robes and sport facial hair. Often called upon to settle disputes, they carry a staff of office marking them as priests of the lawgiver. In battle, they defend civilization in shining silver armor and wield mace and shield. Their main concern is the orderly functioning of society and respect for laws, though they do consider the expansion of society to be a secondary concern and will adventure to do just that.

The other major deity in town is Nerasoon the Builder, a lawful power also depicted as a middle aged human, clad in black robes. He is said to have been affiliated with The Lawgiver in the early days though they have separate areas of interest. Nerasoon is responsible for teaching man how to build and create everything from buildings to wagons to all manner of crafted goods. He is revered by builders and crafters throughout the city. Priests of Nerasoon are consulted on all major engineering projects within the duke's realm and have a special interest in the city walls and fortifications. His symbol is a black castle (usually depicted as a silhouette). When called upon to defend the city, clerics of The Builder will don heavy black armor and wield warhammers, throwing spells as necessary.

The Order of the White hand maintains 4 outposts in the city - one by the docks and one near each of the north, east, and south gates. They provide their normal services at each of these outposts, have regular contact with each other and often work together to solve larger problems. No one outpost is consider to be superior to the others.

Other religions exist in the city, and many forbidden cults have gathered in dark places beneath the city in years past, but these are the only open, major institutions in the city.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dragonsport - Finance, Coinage and Treasure

- Coinage is minted by the Duke and formally called "dragons", featuring the image of a dragon on one side and a profile of the duke himself on the other. The dragon images are different, so for fakery it is not enough to just change the color of the coin, say making coppers look like gold - someone looking closely would see that the dragon was the copper type, not the correct type for gold. It's not fool proof but it does make cheap counterfeiting a step more difficult. The duke currently mints copper, silver, and gold coins. Platinum coins are infrequently minted but have been in the past and could be again in the future. The coins are commonly called "dukes" by the populace (out of earshot of the duke's officials anyway) as in "that will be one silver duke".

- Copper dukes are the standard coinage of the common man. Most transactions not handled by barter will be handled using copper coins - individiual plain or low quality meals cost a few coppers, cheap homespun type clothing is priced in coppers, very basic tools and dishes are priced in coppers. 10 coppers = 1 silver

- Silver is the standard coinage of the merchant, trader, and craftsman. The standard wage for a laborer is a silver a day (roughly a copper per hour). Good quality goods tend to be priced in silver dukes - a good meal at a decent inn, a glass of quality wine, respectable clothing. A typical merchant or guild-rated craftsman will make many daily transactions in silver, using coppers as "change". 10 silvers = 1 gold (=100 coppers)

-Electrum is an old out of date type of coinage that is not commonly found in day to day transactions. Wealthy families may have a reserve of it and it was more common in ancient days and so may be looted from old ruins, but it is not minted by modern rulers and may have limited fungibility in rural areas unless taken to the money changers.

-Gold is the standard coinage of the wealthy, nobles, and the adventuring class. They tend to operate on a different level than day to day workers and crafters and often seek specialized equipment and luxury goods. The finest clothes have a price that begins in gold pieces as do the finest of tools and most gems and jewelry. Good quality weapons and armor also are priced in gold. A night at a fine inn will typically cost 1 gold duke (more for a special room).

-Platinum has had ups and downs as a coin of exchange. It has never replaced gold as the standard upper-end currency, but it is useful for traders seeking to compact the bulk of their wealth when traveling great distances. Beyond the occasional run of platinum dukes, the other form of platinum currency that is relatively common is the trade bar - this is a 10 platinum piece weight of the metal in the form of a small bar instead of a coin with a value of 50 gold dukes. These can be stacked quite solidly in small chests and will not shift or clink as easily as loose coinage. Originally a dwarven innovation (who also make gold and silver versions), they are increasingly popular among human traders but are not typically used in day to day transactions.

- Loose gems and jewelry are another form of transportable wealth associated with the wealthy , but are not as popular with merchants and traders, being seen mainly as luxury goods. Some couriers will carry them covertly to settle long distance deals. They are also highly valued by elves and favored over large masses of metal coinage by that people.

DM Note: I do not usually make a huge deal out of what kind of coins the party finds in a treasure horde but I do like to throw in complications occasionally. It gives the players a little more to do in town if they have to go talk to a moneychanger (also a good source of news and rumors) or if a scholar gets excited about the huge ornate gold coins they pulled out of a dungeon - "Those are Imrryrrian Golden Wheels - where did you get them? That empire fell 1000 years ago!" That kind of thing. They can be an adventure hook, give me a chance to add a little color to the world when I'm in the mood and it doesn't involve a bunch of mechanical complications or new rules that need to be noted down.

I do like to throw in item quality on occasion - if a character is talking to a noble, if their outfit and gear is mostly used, copper or silver level stuff, they will probably have a harder time than if they have gold-level gear and clothing. It's not an iron-clad thing but it can lead to an occasional penalty or bonus - hirelings are impressed by the jewel-encrusted sword and gold-inlaid helmet to a degree, moreso than the blood-spattered chainmail with a few obvious patches on it. Again it's not a huge part of the game but it does help rein in the total cheapskate player and reward the player who pays attention to the details.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The New Old Campaign - Session 2

One of my players was befuddled by a Twilight marathon for this session so I let the Apprentices take 3 characters each:

Apprentice Red: Horace the Dwarf, Drazier the Elf, Skullduggery II the Magic User

Apprentice Blaster: Apollo the Elf, Logan the Fighter, and Steven the Thief

We begin with the new party coming down the stairs and deciding to go back to the room where they fought the wizard last time as they want revenge for the death of Skullduggery the First.

Breaking down the escape door, they follow a long passage to a circular room where they face a giant snake - Continuing the tradition Horace rolls a 1 for his first blow and drops his axe but the rest of the party finishes off the snake in only 2 rounds.

The snake was guarding a spiral staircase which the party followed up through 1 trap door to a ground level room up in the city, then up through a 2nd trap door into the evil wizard's workshop where they encountered said wizard and an ape that was locked in a cage. Ignoring the ape the party took on the mage and although half the group was webbed they still brought him down in round 2. Fiddling with the cage, and after a brief debate, Apollo decided to let the ape out and when it attacked the party slew it too. Much time was spent looting the room and Skullduggery II was very happy to find the mage's spellbook.

The party eventually headed back down to the dungeon and ended up in the statue room. There was some talk of using the stone to flesh scroll they had looted on the statue but I quickly described it as non-human and they decided not to. Attempting to open the other doors proved frustrating but they quickly figured out that they had to rotate the thing to face the correct door and moved on - and I was pleased at the speed with which they figured this out.

The party next came to Room H, a large stone room with a river running through the middle and a door visible on the opposite side. Here my players really began to shine - debating whether to swim across, the perils of swimming in metal armor, jumping distances, lack of catches for a grappling hook, etc and finally decided to have the thief climb across one of the sides and then retrieve a rope shot over by one of the elves. He then secured it using his body weight as the others stripped off their armor and dog paddled across clinging to the rope. I had them make strength checks to do this without incident and it went smoothly. The magic-user was saved for last as he had the lowest strength, so he simply tied the rope around him and let the rest of the party drag him across. Having successfully bypassed the river, they paused to don their armor again and moved on.

The last encounter of this session involved Room I, the sundial and mask room (Basically if the sundial is made to show 4:00 then the mask will answer one short question per day). Reading the inscription they quickly figured out how to activate the mask and then did so to test their theory, but held their silence instead of asking a question. After a few minutes of debate
(some of which was quite entertaining) they decided to ask "What dangerous evil creatures remain in this dungeon" which I thought was pretty good wording for two new players with very little guidance from the DM. So I told them: Goblins, Giant Rats, Skeletons, Humans, Ghouls, and the Dagger of Pain. I loved the way they handled it so i was pretty honest with the answer. Plus I wanted to foreshadow the dagger - those of you who have played this one before know what I am referring to - and thought this was a fun way to do it.

We were running out of time at this point so we decided to pause in this room and pick up next weekend.

DM Notes:
- I am seriously going to have to dig up a fumble chart for these guys!

- Does Moldvay Basic allow a save vs web? I couldn't see it anywhere! Most spells say if there is a save allowed so I ruled there was no save but I know 3rd ed allowed one, and I think 1st & 2nd ed did, but there's nothing about it in Basic, so I didn't give them one.

- I decided that all magic-users started with Read Magic, Protection from Evil, and 1 spell of their choice, mainly because it came up with the mage's spellbook and what would be in that kind of thing.

- I was very pleased with the way the Apprentices handled the river challenge - they sounded like old pro's, not 2nd-time gamers as they debated how to cross it! This is exactly the kind of thinking I wanted to encourage and it's exactly why I went old-school instead of new-school - under 3rd or 4th someone would have most likely used a few skill checks and moved on. This way they had to think about it as a real situation, not just a die-roll.

- The sundial and mask was more excellent play by my guys. I couldn't have asked for a better effort and it was actually a smart question. After years of having my 3rd edition crew stumped by anything they couldn't buy, charm, or stick a sword into this was very refreshing.

- Apprentice Blaster was keen on finding some were-creatures to use his new sword on. I told him there were lots of lycanthropes around in lots of different adventures.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The New Old Campaign - Session 1

We have 3 players each playing 2 characters, all level 1:

Aubrie - Amelia the Halfling and Dorelda the Cleric

Apprentice Blaster - Apollo the Elf and Logan the Fighter

Apprentice Red - Horace the Dwarf and Skullduggery the Magic-User

DM Notes: I allow multiple characters because low-level D&D PC's tend to die a lot and I don't want anyone missing out. Three characters is pretty tight for most dungeons, and rather than having them track a bunch of men at arms and torchbearers I would rather just let them take a 2nd character. Also, Skullduggery was the only chaotic character and expected to be troublesome based on the earlier practice runs but I allowed it - the best way to learn these kinds of things is by hard experience.

We begin at the staircase down to Zenopus' Basement. The party turns south and heads in to Room B. They showed an admirable amount of caution with the dwarf being very careful about noting that he was using his infravision to check the niches in the room. It still didn't help when he marched a few more feet into the room and triggered the 4 skeletons hiding in those niches to attack. Three rounds later the skeletons are crunched and the party has tasted their first combat. That went well, although Logan was down to 3 hit points due to a vicious scimitar hit.

A bit more exploration (and door smashing) and they ended up in Room G, with the dwarf facing down a giant rat and the rest of the party charging in. The combat that followed was the strangest I have seen in a long time, with no fewer than 4 "1" 's rolled by attacking characters and one round seeing nothing but single-digit rolls by all 6 characters. The 5 giant rats in the room were eventually vanquished, but the dagger-tossing Skullduggery managed to hit Apollo the Elf in the back who turned around ready to off the mage only to roll a 1 on HIS attack roll, tossing his sword at the mage instead. This fight lasted 4 rounds and there were no major injuries.

After a little more exploration the party kicks open the final door of the session and sees a wizard working at a table, an obvious fighter bodyguard, and some statues. Horace the dwarf moves into the room first shouting in common "Do you mean us harm?" (Not exactly a rousing battlecry, and the players erupted into laughter almost immediately). The wizard responds by speaking to his pet fighter "Kill them" and by firing a magic missile back at Horace. Battle ensues, lasting all of 2 rounds. The party wins initiative and the evil fighter is wounded but Skullduggery is unfortunately left in a very exposed position and the fighter moves up and kills him in a single blow. The wizard flees out of a door to safety while the party concentrates on finishing off his minion, which they do. The group pauses to search and loot the room and Apollo the Elf finds Wolftamer, a magical sword and the first serious loot of the campaign.

We decided to stop here and the party returned to the town above to rest and recuperate.

DM Notes:

- So many 1's! I was worried for a little while as the Apprentices were not at all shy about shooting through other characters even after I informed them that a 1 is an automatic hit on your ally in that situation. We ended up with 2 characters shot in the back just in this 1 session.

- I am trying to run this as clean as possible but I am already seeing room for some house rules. The combat sequence is a little messy with 3 players and 6 characters and 20 years of individual initiative coloring my thinking. Moldvay basic has an odd sequence for combat, that being Movement - Ranged attacks - Magic attacks - Melee attacks. Putting movement first means that the melee attackers run up in front of the missile/magic attackers, getting in the way of area effects and opening them up to accidental backshots. My thinking now is to have shooting first, then spells, then all movement, then melee. It makes a little more sense to me as far as making teamwork a little more doable. Shooters would shoot, then they would move towards cover while the melee crew charges in and attacks. I'm not 100% sure yet but I do want to stay with group initiative to try and encourage more teamwork for now.

- The only casualty was Skullduggery and even Apprentice Red himself agreed that he got out in front a little too far. Logan the fighter spent most of the session at 3 hit points and Apprentice Blaster got very squirrelly with him, assigning him to rearguard duty for most of the game but charging him in when needed.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The New Old Campaign begins!

So during Spring Break we finally got the old-school campaign off of the ground. I am using the Moldvay Red Basic rules for this (to begin with) and everyone has their own copy (thanks to ebay).

The players are the Apprentices (ages 11 & 13) and Lady Blacksteel (who also plays in the Necessary Evil campaign). The Apprentices are new to tabletop RPGs though they have seen them played for years now. They have played videogame RPG's and some City of Heroes MMORPG so the idea of levels and classes is familiar to them. The Mrs. played in my 3rd ed campaign for most of a year as well so she is still fairly new but has played enough to know the basics.

Now I had originally tried to start up a game for the Apprentices back in Nov & Dec of last year using D&D 4th edition but I didn't like the way that went. In short I saw way too much of "My powers represent all that I can do" syndrome and I don't want my newbie RP'ers thinking inside the box like that. So I spent some time thinking about it and dug into the old-school movement and decided to go red book basic. We had a test run in December and it went well so I've been working on campaign ideas (as seen on this blog) and with some extended off-time for all it was time to get things started.

(and yes this is just starting with the boys and Lady Blacksteel, but as it continues I expect I may be able to talk some of the other players into joining in as a second group in the same world.)

So we begin in the city of Dragonport, ruled by Lord Sutherland III. His grandfather, the original Lord Sutherland, came to the city about 100 years ago and with some companions defeated the great red dragon which had ruled the area for centuries. (The opening round of this battle can be seen on the cover of the 78 Basic set, with Rogahn and Zelligar doing the honors). The surviving companions divided the treasure and went their separate ways after this, with Sutherland taking over the city, Helmos the Blue settling down in the city (becoming known as a great sage who still lives in his tower today), and Rogahn and Zelligar heading off to the north to establish their own domain.

This area features a good harbor and good natural defenses and has been inhabited for many years. It is said that there was a city here before the time of men, and that it was destroyed before the dragon ever arrived. During the time of the dragon many cults were formed to try and achieve enough power to defeat the beast and they often met in the tunnels beneath the city, leading to many opportunities for exploration without even leaving the city walls.

During the rule of the first Lord Sutherland, the sorceror Zenopus came to the city, built a tower, and began investigating the ruins and the tunnels beneath the city. You can read more here but this is the dungeon from the Holmes basic book and it is where we begin.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Necessary Evil - Session Two, Part 2: Driving Lessons

So the party has jumped into a car and headed out for the Rolling Hills Golf Club to investigate V'Sori activity on the course. Night Terror drives becasue hey, it's his car.

Arriving at the club, they have a little trouble at the main gate until Nissa leans across from the passenger seat and flashes her baby reds at the guard, convincing him that they do indeed have an appointment with the pro-shop manager and that he has in fact already called it in and gotten confirmation. (There was a brief moment of near-panic here as the group realized they had not worked out a cover story ahead of time, but they pulled through.)

Pulling into the parking area the group spreads out a bit and confirms that the activity is centered around the club watering hole the "19th Hole". Not wishing to appear conspicuous, they end up playing a round of golf (won by MegaStrike) both to kill time until it's dark and to give them more time to observe V'Sori activity levels in the area.

Finishing up their round they gather information from other players on the course and in the locker rooms, learning nothing especially revealing except that the course is where Champion once battled the giant robot guardian of The Outsider. Our villains instantly realize that this is probably the target of the excavation. Since it is nearly dark they decide to go ahead and take a look at the site directly.

MegaStrike, lacking all Stealth capabilities, is left in a "reserve position" while the other 3 baddies sneak over to the dig. They note a large hole in the ground, some drone guards, some K'Tharen diggers, and a V'Sori in a lab coat type garment who appears to be in charge. There is also a shuttle parked nearby. Shortly, the diggers back off and the scientist manipulates an anti-gravity clamp, using it to pull an intact giant robot out of the hole, practically rubbing his hands with glee.

Now based on the description of the battle with Champion, the party was expecting robot parts, not an actual giant robot. This is enough of a pickle that the team decides to signal Dr. Destruction to ask for some guidance. (I assume that the comm bracelets are mainly one-way devices but do include a red button to send out a signal indicating the team has something interesting or important - the Doc doesn't have to answer but it gives them an option if they want to try to bring him in. I was clear that it's not a "help me" button).

Dr. Destruction does come online fairly quick. The team describes what they have found and he agrees that they should retrieve the robot and bring it to the warehouse in Southpoint. If they can destroy it then that may have to do although getting the parts away from the V'Sori would still be important. He wishes them luck and cuts off. This was not exactly what the party was expecting, but they realize they can probably take the guards and escape with the robot - they are supervillains after all, stealing is not exactly new to them - so they forge ahead.

The key to the operation is the shuttle, so the plan is to jack the shuttle, load the robot, and get away, smacking down the guards as necessary. MegaStrike is called up to a closer position and the group springs into action.

Night Terror phases out and secures the shuttle while Night Blade goes into super-ninja mode and cuts down several drone guards before leaping onto the shuttle. MegaStrike draws most of the drones to him and works on beating them down with some assistance from Nisavin. There is a moment of uncertainty as the ninja figures out how to fly the shuttle and Night Terror tries out the blaster cannon in the nose, but the ship slowly lifts and glides over towards the robot.

Several drones are gunned down, Nisavin leaps into the back of the shuttle, and MegaStrike continues to occupy half the guard force. Things are going well for the team as they start to discuss how to get the bot into the cargo bay. Then things go badly wrong.

As the scientist supervising the dig screams SHOOT THEM DOWN, one of the drone guards near him manages to do just that! One blast hits a weak spot on the belly of the shuttle, blasting through the hull and cutting all power to the craft. It crashes back in the treeline where the heroes had been hiding earlier. The ship was not at a real height (10' or so off the ground) so the heroes in the ship were not injured but they are down, stranded to some degree, and MegaStrike is outside the ship neck deep in K'Tharen excavators.

This is where Session 2 ended - Session 3 to come as soon as it happens! Spring Break has caused some delays around here but things are getting back on track now.

GM Notes:

- The whole session was a lot of fun as everyone is starting to figure out their characters both mechanically and personality-wise. Night Terror is a little flighty as he phases out as soon as any gunfire comes his way. MegaStrike is the team brick but always seems to get in just a little bit over his head. Nisavin is vicious but is really a jack-of-all-trades - a little bit HTH nightmare, some mind control, some stealth, and is the face of the party as much as anyone. Night Blade went absolutely nuts with his melee skills in the early part of the fight, then ended up being the shuttle pilot.

- The utility of a low-level mind control power is remarkable, especially considering the group has limited social skills. It really greases the skids in some situations.

- The single biggest plot turn was totally random - one of the drones landed a shot on the M'Buna that penetrated the hull - not an easy thing to do. Night Blade who was piloting the ship blows his piloting roll and manages to spin the thing. A penetrating hit also means a roll on the critical hit table and Will, playing Night Blade, felt the need to anger the dice gods by saying "Just don't roll a 12" which he promptly does, which means the ship is wrecked and ends up flipping over and crashing spectacularly. The only thing that saved the crew is that they were only about 10' off the ground when it happened. Totally unexpected and totally hilarious when it happened!

Now I normally hate to end a session in the middle of a combat but it was getting late and we were all tired, the characters were low on bennies, and I decided it was dramatically appropriate to end it there, visualizing a 24-esque multiple panel closing showing the 3 characters inside the ship shaking their heads, MegaStrike surround by enemies looking over his shoulder as the ship flips over and crashes, the V'Sori scientist grabbing a pistol and shouting at his guards, and the motionless robot gleaming in the artificial lights, looming over all.