Steve has played D&D before, though not with me. Since I didn’t get to know Steve till ’88 or ’89, and we didn’t game together till 1990 or ’91 I would guess Steve-O’s first intro to D&D was either Mentzer or (more likely) 2nd edition AD&D. Steve was never a “Dungeon Master” himself and didn’t own any of the game systems or books (with the exception of SpellJammer which he handed off to me years ago). Steve IS and always has been a voracious reader of fantasy and science fiction, and losing himself in another person’s fantasy world was always more fun (for him) than trying to create your own.
I also know the kids he played D&D with…they were neighbors of his who eventually went to the same high school as Steve and I. As they were at least two years our junior (both were in my brother’s class) this as much as anything leads me to believe they were NOT playing 1st edition AD&D. And I doubt it was Mentzer since I remember Steve-O telling me he’d had a penchant for rangers.
Anyway, it took him a little while getting used to the whole B/X vibe…I ended up “setting him straight” on a few issues:
- Two-thirds the way through the character creation process he said: “Wait, I just remembered! You forgot to ask us what we are!” What do you mean...you’re a barbarian right? “No but I mean like an elf or a dwarf or whatever.” Cue discussion on why alien species are not human and don’t have various occupations (and why dwarves aren’t short Norwegians or any other stereotype), and he got it.
- While writing up his character: “Don’t I need to pick skills or something?” You have all the skills you need. What, do you want boat-building or fire-making or something? You’ve got it. “But don’t I get more skills as I go up in level?” Your abilities like Climb Walls goes up…other abilities are based on your class or ability score. “Ok.”
- While choosing equipment: “What are the differences between weapons?” Two-handed weapons strike last in combat, but add twice your strength bonus. “I don’t get it…so what about a two-handed sword?” AB explains: they all do the same damage, but if you’re strong you can hit for more power with the two-hander, just slower. “Well, why would anyone buy a two-handed sword?” I explain swords carry more status and prestige. Steve: “Screw that. I’ll buy the two-handed staff…it’s only 2 gold pieces and I’m poor. Oh, wait…but then I can’t use a shield!” You can buy a back-up weapon that’s one handed. Steve buys a club, and Thundarr is a mohawked caveman.
All of this was quite entertaining, to say the least. We decided as a group that Thundarr’s “staff” was actually just a two-handed piece of hardwood, wrapped and banded as a great club. He was so broke (he had very little coin and spent most of it on chainmail and shield) that he couldn’t afford a backpack or rations, but he did get a small sack “for carrying any game I kill” along with a water skin and a dagger “for throwing” (‘Is that a separate skill?’ No!).
Unlike past groups’ expedition to the Keep on the Borderlands, Cain and Thundarr took no interest in the menu at the tavern (yes, it was the first place they went and, yes, they were attempting to hire mercenaries)…mainly because they were almost flat broke (Cain had 1 or 2 gold pieces and Thundarr had zero). After completely failing to hire any of the local men-at-arms looking for employment, they made the acquaintance of a halfling named…oh, I don’t remember his name. He was fairly well-off and had plate mail with an expensive, tassel-adorned greathelm. He also had a strength of 5 and a dexterity of 7 and had been left behind by his prior adventuring party who didn’t think he’d be able to pull his own weight. He was looking for buddies to adventure with and readily signed on with Cain and Thundarr, even treating them to a tasty meal and flagon of mead with which to toast their success.
The next morning they set out. The two day journey to the Caves of Chaos was uneventful, and I read the setting description from the module as the sun began its descent behind the western wall of the canyon. Steve pricked up his ears at the description of the carrion bird sitting in a tree. “Can I hit it with my dagger?” You want to throw your dagger at it? “Yeah, is that allowed?” Of course, roll to hit. Thundarr rolls a strike, skewering the vulture with a deft over-hand throw. The halfling and bounty hunter gape at the barbarian’s casual violence. “Hey, we have to eat…and I couldn’t afford any rations, remember?”
Steve asks if he has skill in “skinning” the bird and readying it for the cook fire. Sure, I say, you have “pluck and dress game” at 75% and “smoke meat” at 55%...write it on your character sheet. Steve does…maybe he’s played too many MMORPGs or something. AB just laughs. Both the bounty hunter and halfling decline partaking of the vulture meat as they have plenty of iron rations. Thundarr uses the grease and fat drippings from the bird to keep his barbaric mohawk in place, ties off a few feathers and attempts to preserve the extra bird meat as jerky…in his small sack. The party assigns watch shifts for the evening and then settles down for the night.
The next morning, Thundarr scales the cliff to one of the lower caves and, using the bounty hunter’s rope, hauls the other party members up. After arranging marching order and light sources they begin exploring the complex, first taking the right-hand corridor and then (at a second intersection) the left. “From now on, we should ONLY take left-hand tunnels so that we don’t get lost.” I don’t remember who suggested this. AB was NOT mapping that day as he had with Castle Q, content to allow Steve-O to lead while he illustrated the player characters.
The left hand tunnel curved around to the left again and ended in a dead end. “We search for secret doors,” says Steve. “And traps!” says ABles. There are neither present but I roll anyway. Steve: “We keep searching until we find something!” Reviewing the module notes I see there’s a pretty darn good chance of running into a random goblin patrol and I start rolling for them. They show up immediately…fortunately the party is NOT surprised.
“I throw my dagger at one!”
This time Thundarr’s knife does minimal damage, and he draws his two-handed stick. The nameless halfling (he had a name at the time…Rupert? Maybe) lunges forward at the goblins. The goblins need a 19 to hit Rupert and one manages to do just this, rolling maximum damage (6) and killing him as it hews his leg from hip with a wickedly curved blade. Cain kills the wounded goblin with a well-thrown blade of his own and Thundarr blasts two with a single attack roll due to my “follow-through” damage rule.
The following round the goblins break morale and flee. Thundarr smites one from behind and charges after them! Cain decides he wanted to hang back and try hiding in shadows with the hope of ambushing someone.
The two fleeing goblins lead Thundarr down the corridor…into a guard room with six more goblins. Un-surprised they attack, piercing his body with several spears. Giving a barbaric cry of rage, Thundarr swings mightily and fells three with a single blow! He was a savage Heracles whose club would long be remembered in goblin lore.
Caindong, following a little belatedly, sees the bloody melee and decides discretion is the better part of valor. However, he couldn’t remember the way out of the caves! “I flee down the right hand path!” This leads back to the dead end and Rupert’s mangled body. Cain decides to loot the halfling’s corpse of valuables.
Faced with the decision of drawing his shield and club or continuing to attack last in combat, Thundarr chooses to go with the Big Stick. The goblins pierce his body with spears, puncturing several vital organs. The barbarian died with a curse on his lips…a curse for the desertion of his companion who failed to back his play!
Cain, listening as the echoing noise to fade to silence, decided it was time to sneak out of the cave. Gathering what loot he had, he gingerly made his way back to the t-junction, this time taking the right-hand passage (which would have been the left-hand passage when previously fleeing). He blundered into two wandering goblins coming back from the cave entrance (where they had been searching for the barbarian’s missing companion). Achieving surprise over the hapless bounty hunter, the goblins lance him with spears ending his adventuring career almost as soon as it’d begun.
[a few notes: Steve did crumple his character sheet upon death, although again he wasn’t upset at me personally, just at dying in general. In fact, he was MORE peeved with my brother for failing to back him up. “We could’ve had those guys if you’d helped out!” “You seemed to have things well in hand,” AB lied lamely. Both wanted to immediately roll up new characters and go back into the dungeon. Unfortunately, I had beagles to walk and bathe before dinner. They DID manage to wheedle me into playing “just fifteen more minutes;” long enough to roll up new characters and do some hobnobbing at the Keep’s tavern.
Steve-O’s new dude is an Elf with a metal skull cap…another broke-ass dude (only 50 gold pieces!) he bummed 10 gp off AB’s character for a shield to go with his chainmail and sword. The elf’s name is Joachim, he has a strength of 12, an intelligence of 9, and a constitution of 7. On the other hand he has a dexterity of 13 and a charisma of 18! Oh, boy! His randomly rolled 1st level spell was Charm Person…let’s hope this lady-killer survives, as Steve-O already likes him twice as much as Thundarr.
AB’s new character is a 1st level Witch-Hunter named Lando who looks like Billy Dee Williams and sports a helmet like a Roman Centurion. His relationship with Joachim is “bitter rivals from a young age wanting to make each other look bad.” AB asked, why would I buy him a shield then? I explained he didn’t want Joachim to DIE…if the elf doesn’t survive you can’t show him up or compete with him anymore! That made sense to AB.
In de-briefing, Steve still had a tough time with ‘all weapons do the same damage.’ Shouldn’t a big sword do more damage than a club? I explained that all weapons were designed to kill and it didn’t matter whether your throat was torn out with a knife or a hand axe…which made sense to him. Though he DID see my “variable damage by class” as a more viable and representative option (to model how a knife in a fighter’s hands was more dangerous than one in a wizard’s). For now, he’s content to go with the D6 thing…we also talked about trying out the “dual wield” rules from the B/X Companion seeing as how his Elf has a high dexterity and two daggers would be cheaper than a sword. “But then, what would I do with my new shield?” We’ll just have to see next Thursday at the Baranof.]