So this past Thursday, I moved my weekly B/X game out of the bar and over to Gary’s Games for a special “one-night” only demonstration in honor of their 20th Anniversary celebration. Well, the game play was moved out of the bar…about half of us showed up at Baranof’s beforehand to get our drink on PRIOR to moving over to Gary’s. Though, I responsible DM that I am, refused to do shots beforehand (it had been a long day at work and I didn’t want to fall asleep at the table), limiting myself to a couple beers.
And it was just as well I got lubed up…we had a full table that evening. I had been hoping for 5 or 6 players, including Tim (the store manager at Gary’s who had expressed an interest in playing). Instead, I got seven (7) players PLUS Tim (who would have made eight). However as Gary’s was busier than anticipated, Tim ended up playing with the Emerald City Gamefest out front (where he could ring up sales). And I don’t fault him at all, as the ECGF folks are a whole bunch of fun to play with.
And I had my hands full, anyway. Seven people! I haven’t run a game that large since college when I ran a Vampire game in the dorms for a couple-three sessions (a game that was immensely dissatisfying for a number of reasons). And that was close to 20 years ago… This was me running as a Dungeon Master with seven dudes (no ladies), two of whom had never played ANY role-playing games ever!
I have to say up front that it’s certainly a different atmosphere from what one might expect…or from what I expected, anyway. All of us are around the same age (mid-30s). Most of us are married. More than half of us have children and/or are expecting new babies. And I’m the only guy at the table that did NOT have to get up and go to work the next day!
Welcome to the new Gen X “poker night with the boys.” Our wives have apparently given us all Thursday nights off so they can watch Project Runway (I know that’s what MY wife is doing) while we drink beer, roll strange-shaped dice, and pretend to be pointy-eared adventurers.
We live in interesting times, certainly.
As per my standard M.O. we played B/X D&D, with all weapons doing D6 damage. The following House Rules were in effect:
- Two-handed weapons do +1 extra damage
- All classes can use all weapons unless prevented by size (dwarves and halflings)
- Everyone rolled on the Random Hat and Random Relationship tables
Um…and that was it. Despite any optional rules I’ve presented here (or read about elsewhere), I find that uber-simplification helps my game run a lot smoother. And as any fencing instructor should tell you smoother = faster.
Since we weren’t playing B2 this week, everyone had to make new characters. Each character received 75,000XP to start, making them all 7th level except for the Elf (6th). Standard equipment lists were provided (thanks to Vince for writing these up beforehand!) and a pack of 3x5 cards with magic items were distributed amongst all the players (thanks to AB for doing the 3x5 cards); each PC received a total of 3 magic items.
So here’s our Magnificent Seven:
[starting at the DM's left hand and going clockwise around the table]
Vicente (AKA “Vince”): Vince is my brother’s buddy and sometime employer; a former resident of the Hill Top ‘hood of Los Angeles, he looks a bit thuggish with the old gang tats and grim expression. Vince had never played an RPG in his life and didn’t even know what I meant by “roll a six-sided dice” (which one is that?). Vince played a thief named Sly who was armed with a dagger and a crowbar (the latter actually being a standard equipment item from the Expert set, but knowing Vince…). Random headgear roll gave him a mohawk...he and AB's character had once loved the same woman, now deceased. Magic items: Gauntlets of Ogre Power, Leather Armor +2, Potion of ESP. Oh, yeah...and Vince was the only Chaotic party member.
AB (AKA “Ables”): My brother and a veteran of these Thursday night meet-ups. He rolled ability scores that were off the charts (five at 13+!), including an 18 strength, and would have kept crowing about it had I not pointed out the other players all wanted to punch him. Decided to play a rakish fighter named Farnsworth. Random headgear was a Greek-style helm...he and Luke's character were half-siblings, only recently discovered. Magic items: Flaming Sword +1, Plate Mail +1, Shield +2, Wand of Enemy Detection. His sword's name is Blaarthislaarv.
Luke (no AKA): Rolled up a cleric named Alster. Just about the opposite of his half-brother, four of his six abilities are less than 10 (and Intelligence is 10), with Wisdom being his one saving grace. Headgear was a wimple...I don't recall his relationship with Matt. Magic items: Shield +3, Staff of Healing, Potion of Gaseous Form.
Matt (AKA “Matt #2”): I gave Matt a hard time for being dressed like it was hunting season (all camo gear), but he's cool enough to put up with my shenanigans. Rolled a rather pedestrian fighter named Gustav...pedestrian except for his fancy top hat! I don't recall his relationship to Matt #1. Magic items: Sword +1, +3 versus enchanted monsters, Ring of Protection +1, Potion of Giant Strength. Gustav was also a walking arsenal with a battle axe and war hammer in addition to his magic sword.
Matt (AKA “Matt #1”): I think Matt really digs these game nights. He met up with Vince, AB, and myself for a beer beforehand, and seems quite social. His halfling, Brian Leftfoot, wasn't very strong but had a ton of hit points (Constitution 17!). No hat, but a fine set of dreadlocks...his relationship with Josh was that they shared the same horse for years until it recently died (this led to a number of off-color jokes...). Magic items: Bag of Holding, Ring of Water Walking, Sword +1, +2 versus spellcasters (no name).
Josh (AKA “Randy”): New guy and co-worker of Luke and the Matts. He had played B/X D&D back when he was a kid (circa age 10), but his only recent experience has been playing some 3rd+ edition stuff with Luke a few years back. Rolled up a dwarf with a ridged hat named Borgnine (see why the halfling and dwarf could share a horse?). A heavy hitting tough guy (and other than Luke, the only Lawful party member). Magic items: Battle Axe +2, 12 Crossbow Bolts +2, Ring of Fire Resistance.
Randy (AKA “Josh”): Another new guy and co-worker of Luke and the Matts, and yet another guy who had never played any RPGs before aside from the computer variety. As you might be able to tell from the "AKAs," I had a little difficulty remembering which new guy was which, much to my chagrin. Fortunately, it was easy enough to remember their character's names...Randy's elf was named Sweet Tito, for example. Grungy haircut and a Charisma of 7...how could I not remember Sweet T? Especially when his relationship with Vince's thief, Sly, was that the two shared a secret, psychic bond and could hear each other's thoughts. Magic items: Spear +1, Scarab of Protection, Rod of Cancellation.
[I've had this particular telepathic "relationship" come up in play before, though between a PC and NPC character (which is really NOT how the relationship table is supposed to work anyway). Everyone was a little curious/amazed that there even was a possibility that something with such a "practical" application could be rolled up randomly...until I pointed out that this mainly just allowed the players to "kabitz in-character." Plus, since the "ability" came up between the least experienced role-players, no one seemed to resent their "advantage"]
And that was pretty much it...we were set to begin play.
Which is, frankly, amazing. I dare ANYONE to try to to get through a character generation session with seven players creating new characters, five of those players being unfamiliar with the rules (two being completely new to role-playing at all!)...all in under an hour! That's what we managed...and everyone had a name, an idea of their character's personality, a couple relationships to the other PCs at the table, and at least some idea of what their characters looked like (all the characters sketched images of their characters on their character sheets, even without asking...they ranged from stick figure to comic book, but all incorporated their hat in the mix).
That's the power of B/X. We ended up starting a little late, went through a bit of a meet-and-greet and then sat down to chargen...and still ended up being ready to play by 9:20 or so (it was hard to hell as the clock at Gary's counts backwards and has weird sigils on it)...plenty of time to play! Sure, I had a few 3x5 cards with magic items made up beforehand (three from every category in B/X, though for some reason, no one was interested in any of the scrolls...) and everyone received a "standard" equipment list (with a couple bonus options), but still players got to pick their own spells, and even using 6th and 7th level characters, this didn't take long (thanks to the limited B/X spell list).
All right, enough gloating. Let me tell you what happened next...