Two thursdays ago, my brother and I played B/X D&D at one of the perpetual fixtures of Greenwood (Seattle)...the Baranof restaurant and bar. This last Thursday I asked AB (my brother) if he want to play again.
So instead of hanging with the local Greenwood game group (the Emerald City Gamefest, who indeed were playing some form of house-ruled Dungeons & Dragons that night), AB and I went straight to Baranof's, ordered a pitcher of beer, cleared a table in the empty and closed restaurant, and pulled out the ol' D&D books and dice.
Those who followed the earlier posts know that I was running a modified version of B1: In Search of the Unknown. I'd adapted it for levels 5-7 (with appropriate strength monsters) and reversed all the rumors (so that the false ones were true, and the true ones all false). My brother's character...a 7th level fighter with 18 strength named "Meaty"...had his back broken by an owl bear at the end of our last session. Honestly, I wasn't sure what we would do this particular evening...I brought Death Frost Doom along, thinking we might start a new adventure...but ABles wanted to pick up where we'd left off.
The middle of combat in other words.
There were only two owl bears left, one having been reduced to smoking ash by Zaras the Magnificent's lightning bolt. Between the four party members remaining, including Grouch the (literally) naked dwarf, I wasn't able to kill any of the other party members, and they finished the beasts and looted their nest for 1000 gp worth of coins and small gemstones. Satisfied to loot the body of their fallen comrade, they went back to town to find a "new leader" (i.e. my brother wanted a new character to replace Meaty).
Rolling 3D6 in order for ability scores can definitely be 'hit or miss.' Personally, I've learned to really work with the "less than optimal" characters this method creates, and enjoy the challenge of playing 'em. However, the first two sets of attributes were even LESS "less optimal" than normal, and my brother doesn't have quite the tolerance for this kind of thing as me. "Yeah, we're not going to hire those guys."
Well, there's only one more individual in the tavern that's 'adventurer caliber,' says I, meaning: you get one more roll. The last guy was likewise not-too-great, but my bro' took him like a good sport. With only a 7 Constitution, the options of Halfling and Dwarf were out, and he was a little peeved that the character's 13 strength suggested only a Fighter...and a lesser one from the burly Meaty to boot.
'You know that you can be anything else, right? You could be a magic-user with that 11 intelligence, and all it would mean is that you don't get a bonus on earned XP.'
High intelligence doesn't do anything mechanically?
'Besides adding languages and giving magic-users an XP bonus? No.'
All right, I'll try a magic-user.
He still ended up dropping the strength to 9 and boosting the Intelligence to 13 (some XP bonus is better than none), and he created Shmutzy the Sorcerer (7th level magic-user). Spells were rolled randomly, but I allowed him to change any one from each level. The only change he made was to switch Hold Portal for Shield, though he spent all three of his 1st level spell slots memorizing Magic Missile. His last 1st level spell was Read Languages, not Sleep, which was only briefly considered before being discarded...Sleep really is more useful in the beginning levels than it is at mid-high levels (it would have done zilch against the owl bears, for instance).
Shmutzy's randomly determined magic items included a wand of fireballs, a ring of spell turning, and a helm of teleportation. Since we were still using my B/X Headgear tables, it was decided the "helm" might take a different appearance from a standard helmet...and it certainly did! After several dice rolls it was determined he had a long tasseled hood, multi-colored (albino white and dark brown), with a figurine ornament. AB suggested we scan his character sheets so you can see his illustrations, and perhaps I'll do that when we get back from Yakima.
Finally, we decided Shmutzy had a prior relationship with one random member of the party. Turned out it was Lady Troy (or Lady Troya, as we started calling her) the cleric. Rolling we found...they were married!
This provided us both with a pretty good laugh considering the prior week's adventure, where Lady Troya had gone off on an adventure with her ex-fiancee. We decided they had argued a bit, perhaps over the inclusion of "Meaty" in the party, and Shmutzy had decided to sulk in the tavern while his wife went off on the adventure. Now that Meaty had "met his destiny," Shmutzy was willing to re-join the group...though not without giving them a hard time for their "pathetic mapping" (AB had decided he needed to re-map the dungeon as his previous napkin scribblings was less than satisfactory). We decided there had been a long-standing rivalry between Meaty and Shmutzy, though the magic-user's brains and charm (Charisma 14) had won over fair lady despite a shaky constitution and serious muscle deficit.
Re-stocked with manpower, the party was now ready to re-enter Stronghold Q in search of adventure!
[a few notes...folks may be un-impressed with the use of random charts to develop intra-party relationships/backgrounds, and I understand that. After all, experienced role-players and/or ones that have long relationships with each other at the gaming table often develop these kind of "back stories" on the fly with no problem. My brother is NOT what I'd call an experienced role-player...he played D&D, Shadow Run, ElfQuest, and the usual TSR RPGs as a kid (Gamma World was a favorite), but never with any great "depth." For him, role-playing was a fun game, not an exercise in method acting, nor a creative writing exercise. However, he is imaginative/creative...once we use these random tables, he is totally able to riff off them and collaborate on working out character backgrounds. Not that we spend a lot of time on this...I don't think ABles is really interested in character immersion of any depth...but having this info available gives a backdrop to work within, and makes the actions taken - and the consequences thereof - more meaningful, and often, more entertaining!
While it appears the Thursday night gaming at Baranof's is becoming a regular excursion, I'm still treating this as a "one-off" game, NOT the beginning of a campaign. In thinking about this now, I'm probably making a bit of a mistake if I DO plan on turning these sessions into a long-term campaign. Should "Shmutzy" (or whomever) survive more than 1 or 2 sessions, AB may very well want to "continue" with this character rather than "start from scratch" in a new campaign with a new character. However, that's a bridge I'll have to cross once I come to it. Right now, it's enough for me that I've got a Thursday night D&D game going. Heck, Steve is supposed to be joining us this week. We'll see if that actually occurs.]