Sunday, May 15, 2011

Hey, Jackass!

So I realize that some of my players' ire vented at me on Friday's post was not so much a reaction to the game as a reaction to the post itself, in which I appear to be saying the players are lazy, stupid, cowardly, incompetent, or some combination of these things.

Um...yeah, I don't really think that.

My players are very bright, often brave, and generally extremely patient with me and MY particular "style of play" (whatever that means). Let me just for the record say that any failing of PCs going after a "big score" is due to ME not presenting them with one. My anger was for my own lack of giving them bigger fish to fry...if I implied that it was their fault, well, I was simply projecting my own failings onto them.

The players can only take what the DM gives them after all.

I don't want my characters to resort to becoming mustard farmers to level up to from 1 to 2. That's a pretty ridiculous way to play D&D in my not-so-humble opinion (besides, isn't there still Farmville on Facebook for that kind of action?).

So here's The Real Problem:

I've been lazy.

That's what it boils down to, really. I want to play a game where the monsters play for keeps, the spears and traps are deadly, and mortality doesn't get fudged or "shields-get-splintered." That's a fact.

At the same time, I want my players to be richly rewarded for entering my particular circle of Role-Playing Hell. If they are going to fight and die in MY arena for MY amusement, they should at least get paid something for the trouble.

And yet (here's the lazy bit) I continue to use B2: The Keep on the Borderlands as the adventure of choice...oh, except when I send them through the Tomb of Horrors, of course.

Here's the thing about's a TRAINING ground for new players. It's an 11 level dungeon designed to be explored at leisure over a long-series of sessions. It's designed for new players of the game to "learn the ropes" of dungeon-delving...a copy of the module was included as an introductory adventure with each version of the Basic set: Holmes, Moldvay, and (I assume) Mentzer.

B2 does not adhere to Moldvay's admonishment, "If no one has reached the 2nd level of experience in three or four adventures, the DM should consider giving more treasure."

[remember that, per Moldvay, one "adventure" equals one "game session"]

Instead, B2 is set-up almost as a random dungeon. The number of monsters in each cave complex is within the average for a "lair" for each particular type of monster, as is the treasure found in the lair. Goblins, for example have number appearing (per the Basic book) of 6-60 in lair and Treasure Type C (average hoard value of 1,000gp, per B/X). The goblin warren in B2?

Total number of (fighting) goblins: 38. Total treasure value: 1060gp.

[I'm not counting the pocket change or the sack of gold that gets tossed to the ogre...that's part of the ogre's hoard]

Per B/X, kobolds' number appearing "in lair" is also 6-60, but their treasure type is J (average hoard value: 25gp in assorted silver and copper). They also share the warren with 18 giant rats (3-30 average, Treasure Type C as goblins) and a trap ot . The kobold warren in B2?

Total number of (fighting) kobolds: 63 (double average). Total treasure value: 1819gp (including stuff with the rats).

Per its introduction, B2 is intended for six to nine players of 1st level. Now on average, B/X player characters require 2200xp to get to 2nd level. That means an average sized party in B2 would need about 16,500xp total (7.5 x 2200) to level up. Assuming B2 uses Moldvay's maximum rate of 4 adventures (i.e. sessions) that would mean the PCs would need to acquire 4125 experience points per session to meet the timeframe specified by Moldvay.

The goblin caves and kobold warrens added together produce about 3579 total. That's including XP for all monsters being defeated (with chieftains and such counting for more). It took two sessions just to clear ONE of those warrens.

Totally unacceptable. Perhaps B2 suffers from being originally written for inclusion with the Holmes edition of Basic, but it just doesn't stand up to the Moldvay standard for rate of advancement. I think my players have learned just about all they can from B2 (i.e. how to die in a dark, stinking tunnel for a handful of silver pieces). It's time that I stopped being lazy and wrote up a REAL B/X adventure for them.

Ugh. I hate drawing maps.


  1. Or steal a map from a module and populate it yourself. I always liked the Silver Princess or the Lost City.

  2. I don't think B2 did get bundled with the Mentzer Red Box; I seem to recall a proto-One Page Dungeon set in a wizard's lair. The later Expert sett did come with Isle of Dread however.

  3. @ Kelvin: While I've purchased a copy or two of Mentzer's Basic in the past, I've always got it used, so I just assumed the module was missing. The Mentzer Expert set did come with a copy of X1 (albeit, with a new cover).

    @ Deinol: Yeah, I might just do that...
    ; )

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  5. If you check the acaeum you will see that the 6th and 7th printings of the Holmes basic set included B2 instead of B1. 8th to 11th print have the Otus cover and also include B2. 12th to 14th prints have the solid Red Cover and include no module.

  6. definitely steal a map. if you don't like drawing them, why waste the valuable prep time? That's why we buy all that stuff!

    Also: don't knock "Shields Shall be Splintered"! That's like the best house-rule since ...forever.

  7. There are two things I plan to do different if I ever run B2 again.

    1. Make the goblin and orc lairs more interesting. It takes too long for the typical group to get to the interesting parts of the caves.

    2. Provide more “patrons” and missions. Some players like to have some specific goals set before them. This can be because their own goals are less specific or because they haven’t formed their own goals yet.

    I think, for me, the slow XP gain would be less of an issue then, but we’ll see.

  8. I'm keen to try X1, after taking my newbie players through B2 and play with some travel and wilderness rules. Maybe with another temple in the centre from an adapted AD&D module. Cook I1 perhaps?
    Hopefully soon, worse luck, maybe next year.

  9. There's a whole slew of new one-page dungeons that just came out. You could gank one of those.