Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Goblin Wars Update

For all my players: the game is ON this Thursday, as usual.

Much as I'd prefer to continue waxing about Star Wars or space opera or some other non-D&D subject, I'm feeling like I own my readers a bit of an update on what's been going down at the Baranof of late.

We'll see how much I can get typed up in the next 20 minutes.

To be brief: I wrote up a simple adventure to go with my rather complex campaign setting in the hopes of kicking off "something good." The first session went pretty well, and certainly easy on the party...they found their objective site-based adventure location after a minimum of wandering around, and got through a couple encounters without a single casualty (plus they made a hefty haul of troll loot). The second session, however, ended in disaster with seven of eight PCs killed (one player losing two characters over the course of the evening).

Matthew ("Cod Sandwich") re-joined us for the 2nd evening (he was the one who died twice...not the greatest Welcome Back, I'm afraid) so we had seven total players, but even if we'd had more, I'm not sure the PCs would have come out any better. I'm starting to think that Edwards's analysis of D&D (the "extreme crunch" of play at low-levels) is right on the money...survival really seems like a crap shoot at 1st level, unless all you do is lob soft balls at the players or fudge dice rolls (both things I'm loathe to do).

And yet, I was going with the standard "adventure set-up" of the Moldvay rules. Including empty rooms (which, by the way, are difficult to make interesting or exciting). I'll outline the encounters that did the PCs in:

- approaching the cave entrance (several days after their initial foray...they spent time between sessions healing up their fighter who took a bunch of damage), they were surprised to be on the receiving end of goblin arrows...apparently, leaving a dead wolf pack in their den is a tip to goblins that someone's been poking around their base of operations. Charging the cave like a Nazi pillbox (and wishing they had grenades) Matt's dwarf took an arrow in the head and went down. Fortunately, he'd brought his younger brother along. Yelling something about "unleashing the dragons" the PCs were able to bluff the gobbos into blowing their morale roll and retreating.

- wandering around the caves, they stumbled into an unstable tunnel (one of only a couple traps in the dungeon). Although they weren't taking any 10' pole like precautions, I gave all the dwarves and sharp-eyed elves (four of 'em) a 2 in 6 chance to spot "bad news." Then I gave everyone else (except the thief in the very back rank) the same chance. Every single roll was blown by the party. I then gave them all a chance to save versus paralysis to see if they could avoid being crushed by falling rock as the tunnel collapsed. The cave-in only did 1D8 damage (or half with the save) and all the PCs had maximum hit points for 1st level, but both elves still ended up getting crushed to death, and three others were battered and bruised (only the dwarf and thief in the back rank escaped unscathed...the magic-user was down to 1 hit point).

- the party decided it was time to cut their losses and retreat. On the way out, someone (probably Matt) asked if I thought the goblins would come back. "Good question." I rolled for wandering monsters and the dice came up a "1" so a patrol of (random roll) five goblins attacked them at a crossroads as they tried to thread their way out of the labyrinth. As the elves had been the only characters with sleep spells, the PCs were forced to fight. Kvarkel the mage did attempt his charm person spell, but the goblin saved with a 20, and the party was butchered in fairly rapid fashion. Only one wounded warrior (Vince's dwarf prince, Gordon) survived. He grabbed two backpacks from his fallen comrades and hustled his ass out before more goblins could arrive. Only one of the backpacks had treasure in it unfortunately (the other one belonged to Matt, who hadn't been with the party in the prior session and was flat broke).

When we left off last Thursday, I was strongly considering doing up a new, EVEN EASIER, adventure. But I'm pretty lazy...maybe we'll just run it again. There is, after all still treasure in them hills.

Unlike my White Plume Mountain one-off, I'm not so interested in killing all the PCs. Here's the thing: even without that, killing 1st level characters is too damn easy. The players were saying, they would have had a better chance of survival if I'd allowed them to buy plate mail (they still had AC 4 or better except for the MU and thief), but it really wouldn't have helped with the way my dice were rolling that night. Ugh.

Well, we'll see what happens this week. We ARE playing, after all.
; )


  1. Yeah those early levels are full of repeated character deaths. Nobody does anything wrong, the game is just super lethal at first (and second) level.

    I've had seven sessions so far and one of players is within spitting distance of second level. They've brought in tons of hirelings and dogs to help even the odds, which helps a little.

  2. Why would they charge a goblin emplacement? That's asking to be slaughtered.

  3. Give them the 4 hit points for being exceptional zero-level characters/normal human. Then their hit points for 1st level.

    I'd make them roll the first level, but let them reroll if they want, have to take the second roll. Maybe let Ftr and Dwarves roll two dice take the higher roll for first level.

  4. Why did you eliminate platemail for the campaign setting? Not a criticism, just a question.

    I have never run a game of B/X without allowing re-rolls of 1's or 2's for starting HP...maybe I'm just a massive pushover.

  5. @ Andrew:

    I wanted a more medieval/primeval flavor to the setting. I did not want firearms to be a part of it, so I felt tech would have stopped at plate mail. I wanted to try helmet rules (15gp = AC +1). I wanted to leave open the option of "weapons development" by the dwarf species.

    All characters are starting at maximum hit points. If you're a 1st level fighter, you receive 8 plus your CON adjustment (if any). It's still not enough.

  6. Ah, I love the sound of gamers gaming! Sounds like...victory! Great to hear that you're still rollin' at the Baranof (I will try to visit if my dream of visiting the Pacific Northwest ever comes true) and having fun with near-TPKs! GAME ON!

  7. plate mail wouldn't have helped in the case of the collapsing hallway. Only a higher CON might have saved poor Choda the elf, since he took 8 points.

    @ Matthew Slepin: only the guy with 6 INT was actually charging the emplacement. The rest were trying to reach the cover at the edges of the cave, since we were out in the open and taking fire. That part actually worked out pretty well, aside from the unfortunate Normandy Beach incident right at the start. It was walking down a tunnel that did us in.

  8. @The Iron God-Invest in a couple of Mantlets. Large (like the top of a picnic table) shields on wheels. Push one ahead of the party, Drag one behind. Instant cover.

  9. @JB-Maybe CON as hit points for starting characters. If you're using max HP @ 1st level and 1d6 damage, a sword (unless wielded by STR 15 or up) won't kill a Fighter or Dwarf with one hit anyway, so that isn't an argument against the 10-11 average hit point for starting characters.