Friday, August 13, 2010

New 1E Greyhawk Campaign House Rules

Looking at 1E again I do have some decisions to make about character generation, level limits, and combat. 

Character generation: 4d6 drop the lowest, in order - that should be forgiving enough but the in order part will feel very old school to my newbies. 

Max HP at 1st level - Yeah I'm a softie.

Races, Classes - right out of the PHB

Demi-Human level limits - I always thought they were too low so I'll probably use the limits in Unearthed Arcana or 2nd edition as my baseline. 

I'm not using the zero-level characters option - you spend enough time at low level as it is. I don;t think you benefit much from extending it more.

Combat - I've been running Basic D&D by the book and I like it, but AD&D is different , especially when it comes to initiative and I don't really like that part of it. I always liked how 2nd edition handled initiative (d10 -dex adj + weapon speed or casting time or a set number based on item/action, lowest goes first)  so I may use that. Or I may go with the very simple d6+dex adj highest wins. I'm not sure, but I'm not thrilled with it as written.

I'm not going to introduce UA at first, and I will probably never use the classes and races in it at all - I know how overpowered they are. I do like the spells, magic items, and equipment though so those may turn up along the way. 

I will use Dragon articles. The CD-archive from  a few years back is an old-schooler's dream and I love mine. There are a lot of good ideas in there if I run into problems. 

If all else fails and I run into something I just don't see a good answer for, I can always consult 2E and even Hackmaster. Lots of options with those as well.

The plan is to stick to the adventures I mentioned in the last post so I shouldn't need much more other than the occasional fill-in adventure or wandering encounter. Ebay has provided additional PHB's so everyone now has their own. Now I just need to find some decent character sheets and a good day to start running this and we're all set. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A New 1E Greyhawk Campaign

So I've written all this stuff about adapting 4E to Greyhawk (see what I did there?) and now I turn around and start a 1st edition AD&D game in it instead? Why would someone do that? "Because he finally came to his senses" I hear some of you say  - no. I have several motivations:

1) These are my gaming roots. Granted, I started with Basic, but that $12 Player's handbook was an object of desire for well over a year and for most of the 1980's when someone said "role-playing game" that picture above is what was in my brain. AD&D was the center of that universe and even now it's the one that's burned into my brain - levels, weapon damages, spell effects, magic items, 88hp Huge Ancient Red Dragons - I still recall much of this as if it was yesterday. I don't expect to recapture the magic of being 13 and finally getting a +4 Defender for my ranger, but I do want to take a tour of it again and see how it works now. 

2) The next generation is here and learning about everything from Atari and Intellivision to Warhammer 40,000 to D&D. I have kids who are interested in these things to differing degrees and in different ways and I want them to feel like they know about as much of this stuff as they care to learn. I have a vision of taking them to Gen Con and entering in an AD&D game one day and a 4E game the next and having them able to talk Keep on the Borderlands, slaying Snurre, fighting the crab in White Plume Mountain and dying in Tomb of Horrors with the greybeards like me, while still being able to talk to kids their own age about laser cleric builds and fighting the kobolds in Keep on the Shadowfell. My interest in games and my interest in history are combining here in a powerful way and I can't really resist it. 

3) (Combo special) It's fun, it's easy to run, and I have a ton of material for it, much of which I have never run all the way through. All of the classic modules - A series, C Series, D Series, G series, S Series, U series - I have all of those! And I have people to play them! Living in my house! It's awesome!

Besides these my wife started late in 3rd edition and a couple of my players started with 2nd and never got to do some of those touchpoint adventures from 1st, so I'd like to let them experience them in their "original language".

Some of this interest sprang from a blog entry by Bullgrit here  where he analyzes the old adventures and figures out that hey, they actually did work pretty well mechanically as far as treasure and advancement.

So how will this work? The 83 boxed set will be my primary reference for world material. The current plan is to start with the Temple of Elemental Evil. I've never run the original and I want to try, and I don't want to do it via conversion. It's a classic, and I want to give it a shot. That should end at roughly 8th level and will lead into...

...Against the Giants, another classic. I plan to run them in order as written, which I have never gotten to do past the second one. Once this is finished they should be around 12th level and ready for the D series.

D1-2-3 in order, as written, is another set that I never ran. I played through D1& D2 and into D3, but never went beyond. I know they are fun and I still have stories today of some of the stuff that happened in those things. 

Then finally, Q1 to wrap up the whole thing. Never played, never ran it, know it's a little weird compared to a traditional dungeon module but by this time they should be up to it. They should finish up around 15th level which is pretty damn high in AD&D. 

There are other modules I would like to use - N1, the Saltmarsh series, the Slavers series, and the S modules - and I will if I get the chance, but this is the core path I have chosen for the backbone of the campaign.

 Now the continuity part - some of these have already been done in my Greyhawk campaign. Should I start over? Should I change it? Should I even care? I have several thoughts:

1) Stat over with a clean slate, CY 576 welcome to Greyhawk hope you enjoy your stay. This is pretty easy to do and the kids won't know the difference. 

2) Rewrite - just replace the old limited notes and memories I have of these ancient occurrences with the new ones as they happen. Not a big deal.

I'm not totally satisfied with either of these so I'm leaning towards option 3: Timejump/Retcon

Greyhawk was created in the 1970's and the campaign dates in the booklets go up to the 570's with most campaigns taking place in the 570-580's game time and the 1970's-1980's real time. 


What if 1980's = 580's, 1990's = 590's, and 2010 = 610? Now when I say "that happened 25 years ago" I mean it in both senses - real time and game time. I think it has a lot of possibilities. Old characters largely aren't adventuring any more because it's been 20 years. Old threats creep back in as people forget and new generations arise. Maybe the Hill Giant chief isn't the one my ranger killed, but there would be a new one and if the drow are up to their old tricks again then who's to say the same plot is being attempted? We ransacked the spaceship in Barrier Peaks but what if more than one section of the ship fell to Greyhawk? I never ran or really even played much of the TOEE so I don't have a problem there (except that TOEE will be following the RttTOEE in my Greyhawk - oh well, it still works) and the rest of my planned adventures are reasonably likely to reoccur so this works pretty well. The famous (in my Greyhawk) "Dyvers Thieves' War" now happened 15 years ago, avoiding all kinds of weird conflicts since one of my current players in my 4E game helped start it!

I actually experimented with a smaller scale version of this during a 3rd edition campaign. In 3E the PC's need time to craft magic items if they choose to do so as it can take days to weeks to craft things. I ruled that whenever we stopped in a town or other safe base type area that real time between sessions = game time passed in town. This allowed them to use some of those crafting feats without slowing down the game for everyone, and it stretched out the campaign time too as I had a problem with someone going from level 1 to level 10 in three months which is how it was going at that point. I like it better when it's more like a year of game time, even if the number of actual sessions stays the same. It also helps with the role play opportunities as even if you only met this NPC bartender 3 sessions ago, if it's been a month of real time then you've known him for a month and he might let you in on something  he wouldn't tell a stranger. It worked well in that campaign so I will use it in this one too.

 Next: The Rules

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Greyhawk, Campaigns, New Editions, and Continuity

So I have multiple problems. I have a fairly good run of continuity over about 30 years in Greyhawk. I have a new edition of D&D that really doesn't fit with the world as we know it. I am also looking at a "Return to 1st Edition" campaign that I want to run in Greyhawk.

Now I've talked about one way to use 4E with Greyhawk here. I still like that idea and I may still use it., but I've thought of another since then: Instead of trying to make Greyhawk fit 4E, make 4E fit Greyhawk. Cut ruthlessly from the available races and consider cutting the available classes. 

Race-wise the Dragonborn and everything from PHB 3 are out. I would consider leaving Tieflings in due to GH's history of demons & devils mixing it up with humans -see Iuz, see Alu-Demons, see Iggwilv/Grazzt, etc. I would change Goliaths to half-ogres. I would probably dump Devas but I could be talked into leaving them if someone really wanted to play one. Eladrin might have to go or maybe leave them in as Gray Elves, I'm not sure. Shifters might be OK to keep but they are not a major race in any world anyway and I kind of like the idea of the Rhennee having a bunch of shifters in their ranks as a kind of racial secret. Otherwise, Dwarves, Elves, Halflings, Humans, Gnomes, and Half-Orcs are the available races, period. 

Class-wise the proliferation of classes might be alright. I would probably ban the PHB3 psionic classes but then again, there is a precedent for psionics in GH so maybe it's OK after all. Having a lot more class options (PHB1 + PHB2 + Power books) and 4E's multiclassing, Paragon Paths, and Epic Destinies does make it easier to explain some of the wilder NPC writeups like Murlynd and Kelanen and some of the entries in the Rogue's gallery. 

Even power sources can be a factor here: Dwarves in 1E can really only be Fighters, Thieves, and Clerics. To replicate this in 4E, just make it a campaign rule that dwarves can't take any class with an arcane power source. You could make up a nice little chart with races down one side and power sources across the top like this:

Source   Arcane Divine Martial Primal  Psionic Race


X X X Elf X X X Half-Elf X X X X Half-Orc X X X X Half-Ogre X X X Halfling X X X




Gnome     X                             X                             X


Humans are the most versatile, Half-Elves and Half-Orcs are almost there, and everyone else gets to pick from 3 of the 5 sources. If you included Tieflings I would give them Arcane/Divine/Martial and if you used Drow I would probably give them the same as Elves. If you aren't using the psionic source I would probably switch Elves & Drow to Arcane/Divine/Martial because hey, you need those Drow Clerics right?

Now unlike the Time of Legends idea this is definitely going to be a subset of 4E and may not be "fun" for hardcore 4E players, but I suspect older D&D players would like it just fine. I know I would be willing to give it a try. We also now have a WOTC precedent for it as the new Dark Sun campaign pretty much eliminates the Divine power source altogether and no one seems terribly upset by this. 

For the gods I would use the standard Greyhawk deities. Your divine players should be able to adapt pretty easily. 

Magic items: This could be a problem as 4E assumes a fairly high rate of magic item acquisition and disposal, higher than some may like. I don't have a huge problem with it because I can tell you that my 7th level fighter in 1E wasn't running around with a +1 sword, so I would probably just use the standard 4E approach and control the flavor of what items I included. For others though, the DMG2 has a good section on page 138 that describes how to go with a low-magic game and not wreck the mechanics. I like it and when I eventually run a 4E Greyhawk game  I may go with it just for the novelty to make sure GH feels different than the Realms.

For monsters, well between the 3 monster manuals out as I write this, you should have no problem recreating old favorite adventures. 

The only tricky area is almost a metagame one and that is planar cosmology. The new game has a simpler layout for the planes and it eliminates the Ethereal, Elemental (and para-elemental), Positive, and Negative material planes. However, this is not as drastic as it might seem.  We may have lost the + & - but we have gained the Feywild, a place where life is abundant, and the Shadowfell, the dark place that powers undead - sound familiar? The Astral plane is still the cosmic sea that everyone uses to get to the homes of the gods, and it's still patrolled by Githyanki and Astral Dreadnaughts. There is still an Abyss and a Nine Hells. Instead of distinct elemental planes there is the Elemental Chaos which is a mix of all of them - perhaps mortals have had an imperfect understanding of how these things are laid out all along. I don't see this as a real problem once you take a look at it and dig in a bit. If it helps a bit then just use the traditional names from 1E and the descriptions and mechanics from 4E and you should be fine.

Continuity - how would I handle this? Probably with a small timeline jump. Campaign currently in the 580's? Well after the events of Vecna Lives, it turns out the super-lich demi-god has been interfering with the normal flow of magic in the world for quite some time. After his defeat (not a bad way to close out a 1E or 2E campaign) magic gets a little stronger which explains where some of the new classes come from. I'd start things up 10 years after that and let your players move forward. Maybe just jump it up to CY 600, say the Great Kingdom is reunited and call it The New Era. Heck, start a new calendar and make it Year 1 of the new Era.

So there it is - after looking through some of the old-school material as I prep for a 1E game and having a lot more 4E experience and resources than when I started, I now think it's possible to run a good, fun, 4E game in the traditional Greyhawk time period. With a little editing of the options, you can make the rules fit the world you want to use rather than trying to shoehorn it in the other way around.

Next: Now how do I fit a 1E campaign in at roughly the same time?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Greyhawk, Campaigns, Game-Time, TPK's, and 30 Years of Rough Continuity

A while back I looked over some of my notes and did some rough estimating and figured out that all of my campaigns in Greyhawk since 1st edition only add up to about 5 years of elapsed game time. It struck me as a little odd that if everything had unfolded in linear fashion the calendar would only be at CY 581 or so. Of course this isn't the case exactly as there were some timeline jumps in there, particularly with 3rd edition. A quick run-through:

My early AD&D games were mostly one-shot run-throughs of the TSR modules and some of the adventures from Dragon. These were the days when a coherent, serial campaign was just not going to happen as I played with at least 4 different DM's across 3 states, none of whom really cared about making a cohesive world. Back then the DM said "I got Bone Hill and it's for levels 2-4 so bring a character for it on Saturday" and that's what we did. Even then though, my guys were based in Greyhawk.

Once I started DM-ing part of the time, I set everything in Greyhawk, even if it wasn't originally set there in the module - Isle of Dread, "Chagmat" and "Quest for the Midas Orb" from Dragon - all of these went somewhere on that Darlene Map. Even if the PC's weren't all placed in my campaign, the history of those modules became the early history of MY Greyhawk. Altogether it only covered about 2 years of game time (I made my own calendar and made notes on when things happened) even though it was played out over almost 10 years.

For 2nd edition I ran PC's through the different parts of Fate of Istus. I didn't have a lot of Assassins or Monks in my game so it didn't matter so much that they were going away, but I thought it was a cool idea to have a world-hopping adventure like that. Not all of it was great, but I liked it at the time. Coherency didn't really matter either as the characters changed almost every session anyway, but the players knew it was part of a big storyline at least. 

I prety much ignored the Greyhawk Wars, and I didn't own From the Ashes during this time, so I just let rumors of impending war fly in the background (using some of the old Events from the World of Greyhawk column in Dragon) and continued with the looting and slaying.

Unlike 1st edition, most of my 2nd edition adventures were homebrew affairs. I used Dyvers a lot as it was the undetailed city that was a rival of sorts to Greyhawk in my mind. I had it splintered by rival thieves' guilds and had PC's choosing sides and going to work for the guilds or the city government. I suspect a little Shadowrun was rubbing off on my D&D game  but the players' liked it. There was also a trip to the Bright Desert to capture a blue dragon hatchling with a set of Iron Bands of Bilarro that my players still talk about to this day. All of that covered only about 2 years of game time even though it also happened over almost 10 years of real time. We did trade off games a lot - I played a fair amount of 2nd edition in the Forgotten Realms while running exclusively in Greyhawk - so maybe that's what spread it out so much. 

For 3rd edition, I started it off by running it in Greyhawk (Sunless Citadel) and ran 3E from the fall of 2000 right after the books came out until the fall of 2009. Now during this run I did not stay exclusive to Greyhawk. Kalamar and the Scarred Lands were other campaign worlds I ran for big chunks of that time but We made 2 big runs through GH during that time. Both involved Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, so I retroactively jumped the campaign forward about 10 years into the 580's to put an appropriate distance between TOEE and the Return. We played for 18 months in the first stretch, which was only about 6 months of game time, and ended up with a TPK in the Crater Ridge Mines. We took a break for a while, then the Players wanted to come back to finish the job. I decided a month of game time had passed and various powers wanted to know what had happened to the first group, so they sent a second band of adventurers (some of whom were related to the members of the first bunch like Party #2's half-orc brother of Party #1's elven cleric - it's a long story) in to find out what happened to the first.  I partially restocked the emptied section of the mines and we picked up back in good old Verbobonc. This ran for about 6 months of real time, only about another 2 months of game time, and ended with another TPK. Sigh. RttTOEE can be a very unforgiving adventure in places.

At this point they decided they didn't care about finishing the adventure, they just wanted to move on. Now this is a problem because the adventure deals with a world-spanning threat and if no one does anything then the multiverse is destroyed. I couldn't have this loose end hanging out there...if nothing is handled then GH ends in the 590's and I wasn't ready for that. I liked my rag-tag continuity.

I had been reading another group's log of their handling of the adventure on EN World or some similar site so when they finished the adventure I noted the highlights of their campaign and used it for my own - this 3rd party had finally managed to end the threat of the Elemental Evil and I added their names to tavern talk notes for that time, in case we started up another GH campaign - there would be no more Returning, we were past that one. New campaign = new adventures. Plus I thought it was a little funny that there were players who were part of my campaign who didn't know it and whom I had never met. 

So now we come to 4th edition. I've been running my first 4E campaign in the Forgotten Realms (yes I know but it works well and I had a solid concept that fit there the best) and my Greyhawk game has been dormant for about 4 years, but I like the idea of using it for the new version in some fashion. .I am also planning to start up a 1st edition AD&D game soon and run through a bunch of old classics in their original flavor, so of course Greyhawk must be the setting. How to handle both of these and still keep some kind of continuity? More tomorrow.