Friday, September 17, 2010

Getting Crowded at the Baranof

[note to self: this is post #661...I really should think of doing something cool for #666 coming up!...hmmm...]

Last night was session #4 down at Baranof's. I say that like I'm running a campaign or something (like JM's Dwimmermount sessions)...when it's really just been four meet-ups for B/X D&D play with Yours Truly acting as Dungeon Master.

[ahh...just like the Good Ol' Days...]

Well, I would like "the Baranof sessions" to turn into a true D&D campaign...I'm not sure if we have the right mix/chemistry of players just yet. However, I won't say it hasn't been fun, because, gosh darn it, it's been A LOT of fun. Probably too much (next week I am limiting my beer intake...I'm no twenty-something kid anymore...).

Last night saw me GMing my largest game group in ten years: three players, including one completely new stranger.


Yeah, ten years...back before I was married I ran a short-lived Ars Magica saga that included four or five players, and I ran Vampire campaigns in college that had more like eight or nine. Hmm...actually, I HAVE run a couple indie games in the last four or five years that had three players, but GM duties get shared in games like InSpectres and it feels more like "group management" rather than running a game.

I haven't acted as a Dungeon Master for that many players since 2000 or so...though since the last time I had 3 players playing D20 all that happened was we spent the entire GodDamn session making characters, no "play" ever actually occurred.

This particular session saw a lot less action than prior ones as AB, Steve-O, and I all spent time getting to know "the new guy," Luke. A transplant to our fair city from Missouri, he's a computer-savvy guy with Labyrinth Lord on his IPad and a set of very nice Game Science dice. he seemed to enjoy himself well enough (despite achieving yet another Total Party Kill...don't worry, I'll get to that), that he intends to come back next Thursday, and may even bring a friend or two. He works in a tech field and appears to know a lot of "ex-gamers" but he wanted to check us out first to make sure we weren't "assholes."

[I'm glad we passed muster!]

Luke states he's played every edition of D&D, including the 4th (I don't hold it against him), though he has mostly run games as a Dungeon Master himself. It's always interesting to DM a regular DM, and can be a tricky business. He actually reminded me somewhat of how I roll when sitting in on another dude's game...polite, observant, trying NOT to be a rules lawyer but rather asking polite questions when I seem to be "going off the reservation."

For example, he was a little disconcerted that I rolled all the damage dice for the game. I had to explain to him this wasn't a house rule.

Page B25:


If an attack hits, the DM must determine how much damage the attack has done.

Anyhoo, he was a little uncomfortable with this. Or as he put it, "it's usually faster when players are adding their own bonuses and such." Maybe, but I'm used to playing with numbskulls that are new to the game, or extremely rusty.

[yes, I just called my players numbskulls...I guess I AM an asshole]

Speaking of Steve, I did find out that his introduction to the game was, in fact, 2nd edition AD&D (ha! see? I knew it!). His main memory of the game was the big "Monster Compendium" binder. When they got bored with trying to figure out how to play, they just picked monsters out of the binder to work as characters. Steve's was a red dragon (by the way, Steve is a month older than me, so he would have been 16 at the time being DM'd by a 13 year old).


Anyway, back to Baranof's...when last the group met (Friday at my house), we had run B2: The Keep on the Borderlands, killed everyone, and made some new characters: an Elf named Joachim and a Witch-Hunter named Lando. I had planned on adopting my new combat house rules regarding damage...but rather than confuse Luke any further we just stuck to the following:

- all weapons do D6 damage
- two-handed weapons add +1 to damage

In other words, the standard B/X rules except that you get a slight damage bonus for using a two-handed weapon. Or as my brother put it:

"So the exact same as before except you nerfed our two-handed weapons."

Yeah. That's about the size of it.

However, no one was using a two-handed weapon and only Luke's character had any kind of strength bonus anyway.

Oh, right! Luke's character...he rolled up a fairly decent set of abilities and decided to go with a Dwarf. Having spent a bit of time at Ikea lately, he felt inspired to name the character Hensvik (and I confess that although I'm usually pretty good with names, I had to ask for this name again and again all night...I often just called him "Dwarf," which made me FEEL like an asshole, even if I wasn't trying to be one!). Hensvik's headgear: a classic viking helm, which we all felt was appropriate, though there was some debate over whether or not this included horns. I, of course, am big on my Norse lore and pointed out that a viking helm only has horns in Minnesota...however, my players pointed out the entry was a "classic" helmet, NOT a "historic" helmet. Over-ruled, I agreed that it was appropriate to include big horns (the whole point of the B/X Headgear is to get people to identify with their character...I believe this was accomplished).

For relationship to other characters, Hensvik and the witch-hunter had met when both were running in the forest trying to escape wild animals. This was amusing if a little curious, but we didn't dwell on the issue too much.

Compared to the other players, Hensvik had a ton of gold and he invested it wisely while saving out plenty to pay for hirelings. Steve and AB explained to Luke their past problems with DYING and attributed it to their inability to hire enough mercenaries...or "meat shields" as my bro' insists on calling them.

Actually, last Friday AB and Steve had already hired a few such meat shields in the form of Reed and Mac (two man-at-arms from the tavern that they had been unable afford previously) and Lara the Elf chick with her sleep spell (Joachin with his 18 charisma and fay good looks had worked a little "elvish magic" on her previously, if you catch my drift). However, starting in the tavern as we were (this was at Steve's insistence: "Start us at the tavern! Start us at the tavern!") Hensvik was able to procure a 3rd man-at-arms, named Chuck.

[you may not think it's important to remember all these NPC dude's names, but it has some slight bearing on later events]

Hensvik also bought a round for the tavern in an attempt to pick up some rumors and the party was introduced to a theme that would begin to resound later in the adventure: damn, what's up with these prices? Everyone's trying to gouge us!

A bit of kabitzing led Steve to the idea that maybe they should try to hire a local kid to be a torch-bearer, but the rest of us shot this down pretty quick: the Keep was a military installation and the only kids around were family members of working residents who would NOT allow their children anywhere near the Caves of Chaos.

So...armed and equipped and stocked with plenty of hirelings, the characters made the foray back to the dungeon that has spelled doom for so many PCs over the years....

Oh, by the way...regarding the title of this post: after the game Luke said he'd be happy to talk to his friends/co-workers and might be able to rustle up another player or two for the game. ALSO, while playing, one of the bar patrons stopped by the table on the way out and expressed interest in joining (being yet another lapsed, closet D&D player living in Greenwood...sheesh!). He said he might stop by next Thursday.

I don't know how many players I'm going to end up with eventually...six? Seven? All I know is that things are getting all "B/X crazy" up here in the Greenwood 'hood.

; )


  1. If I lived in Seattle, I'd stop by, too.

  2. Agree with Ed

    Just curious, how much do you charge the players to hire an NPC Man at Arms?

  3. @ Harv: Um...what the market will bear?
    ; )

    Actually, in B2 it states the man-at-arms will work for 1gp per day, or 1sp if the party is willing to supply them with equipment and gear. Since the latter is the more expensive option, they've been paying them 6gp apiece, up front (it's a two day trip to the Caves from the Keep, plus a couple extra for the anticipated time spent spelunking).