Sunday, July 26, 2009

The 2nd (and 3rd!) Expeditions to the Caves (B/X Weekend Part 2)

B/X is just a great game.  

Take two teenage kids who've never played a pen-and-paper RPG with multiple polyhedral dice (they'd never seen or held a D20 or D12 before), give 'em paper and pencil, give 'em the barest challenge of a plot, and even after getting their asses kicked, they're raring for more.

And it's so easy to get the hang of the game!

Figuring to preserve their cash for hirelings, they decided to sleep in the common room after their less-than-triumphant return to the keep (I'm half surprised they didn't pitch a tent by the village well). The next day they propositioned the three men-at-arms in the Tavern. Rolling a 12 for the mercs reaction, the PCs were pleasantly surprised by the vehemence with which the fighters hired on.

[totally off-topic note: Mexico has just scored its third unanswered goal (in ten minutes!) against the USA in the Gold Cup final...the f'ing route appears to be on]

Turns out "Tim, Bill, and Biff" were buddies of Bud, and they wanted some "pay-back" for his death at the goblins' hands.  So they gave 'em the same deal (3 gold down, 10% of the take) and off they went.  

This time they went in the same cave, down the same corridor and came upon a guard room filled with goblins. Mutually surprised everyone had a chance to arm up for the big brawl, and then it turned into a slugfest.  Losing initiative again, the party leaders (in plate mail) managed to withstand the initial onslaught, and then a terrific set of rolls allowed the party to wipe out the goblins in two rounds.  Because of the speed and suddenness of the fight, the gobs never had a chance to entice their nearby ogre buddy to join the fight. They died to a man.

Meanwhile, the party, not realizing how close they'd come to meeting a "big bad" was giving high fives all around.

They were even more stoked when they searched the entire room, including the goblins water barrel, and found a sack of 250 gold pieces in the bottom!  Along with that and a barrel of spears they figured they could sell (how do people think to do this? when I ran this module as a kid, PCs never looted equipment for cash).

Realizing they had picked up quite a haul (along with the silver from the gobbos corpses), they head back to the keep to divide the booty. With their 10% and the "bonus" the PCs bestow, Tim, Biff, and Bill all purchase chainmail. Z and S are super excited that their hirelings are getting "buffed up."

[meanwhile, my Mexican wife is ecstatic with Mexico's 5th goal. 5-0...crap. dammit USA, play for some PRIDE at least!]

And so now, well equipped, the players made their way back to the Caves for their third expedition.  Through the empty guard room, down the hall, and into the goblin common room

['s over finally. 5-0 Mexico over the USA with a new record being set for most goals scored in a Gold Cup final...and the first shut-out in its history...and playing in New Jersery, too!]

...where they encounter men, women, and children (goblins, that is).

And, here, the kids come face-to-face for the first time with the "questionable morality" of D&D. After all, you don't usually kill "young" monsters in WoW, do you? Neither are you assassinating non-fighting civilians in Splinter Cell (at least I don't think you do, I've never played it).

Both PCs had chosen to be of Lawful alignment, and they really didn't want to attack the goblin families.  Fortunately, they had an out...with their Sleep spell!  The Elf "sleeped" all the attacking male goblins and the women and children (who do not fight, per the module) surrendered. Then...check this out...the PCs used their only length of 50' rope (which they always made sure to pull up from the cave entrance) to TIE their prisoners!  No slit throats!

Ha!  I loved it. I don't judge sentimentality...these kids want to be heroes and good guys, and I salute that.  They are also the kind of kids that the US military likes to recruit and who come back from over-seas with PTSD after massacring civilians and blowing up houses (even if only "collateral damage").

MMm...ANYway, right now they're still learning to play D&D and they serious qualms with slaying unarmed and helpless foes; good role-playing from some folks' point of view, TO ME it says they chose good alignments that actually reflect their personalities and play-style. 

However, it did leave them with the dilemma of what to do with their prisoners.  Rather than come to a definitive decision (at one point they considered selling the goblins as slaves to the Keep) they decided to leave them tied and explore the rest of the cave complex.  They took one prisoner with them:

"Take us to your chief!"

The elf was doing the translating of course. So, at sword point, the goblin led them to an oak door. "Open it."  The goblin bangs his fist against the door several times. "Hey chief! There's a bunch of armed intruders here to see you they've taken the other goblins prisoner!"  No answer. Knock-knock-knock! "CHIEF! There are these humans with weapons! Open the door!"
No answer. "Maybe he's not home?" suggests the goblin prisoner.

Realizing they may have made a slight tactical error, they take the goblin back to the other prisoners and tie him up before returning to the door of the goblin chief.  They ready their weapons; they kick in the door.

Behind it, the goblin chief and his bodyguards have drawn bows and they let fly.

One of the PCs takes a slight wound. Bill takes an arrow through the eye and dies. "Retreat!" Yells the PCs.  They flee, pursued by goblin archers. As they run through the common room, another arrow hits Biff in the throat and he falls. 

The PCs pass through the guard room and then out the cave entrance, scrambling down the side of the cliff. They make it back to the Keep (with Tim) and breathe a sigh of relief.

And then I stopped the game 'cause it was after 3am and I had stuff to do the next day (including another B/X game as a player!).

All in all, it was quite fun and as I said, the kids had a blast. They really wanted to play more or, barring that, come back next weekend to play.  It does my heart good to see them so excited about a game that I hold in such high esteem.  It IS fun, and it didn't need any cool computer graphics to make their imaginations work, or any skill rules to show them "what was possible" to do with their characters.  Combats were quick, I provided them with some vivid descriptions, they got to roll dice.  That's what D&D is all about.

At least, at this level of play.

(this is just a play report. I have some new observations about B/X and specifically the Keep on the Borderland, but I'll save them for later posts)


  1. Very cool.
    --I just gave a boxed set of Tunnels & Trolls 5 (plus a few extra solo adventures) to a wonderful boy of 10, and the report was that he was simply awed by the gift.

    Sweet. :D

  2. Reminds me of a year or two back when I ran one of my daughters (age 12) with B/X. I used the module in the back of the book, and it cracked me up how she constantly was trying to take care of the different "baddies" that she met. "Awww. I tell the giant rat that I have a way to heal it." Keep making the memories with your nephews!

  3. Right on folks.

    Thing is, these kids ARE kids. Sure the older one is getting into girls, and both are practicing the football this summer in prep for the coming year. But they ARE kids...and they like to play games. I'm just happy I can introduce them to something other than just shooting nazis or zombies or whatever.

    The older kid, Z...he said himself that he wants something more gritty or "serious" than what WoW offered in game play. On the other hand he says his favorite part was RAIDING and working as a team, helping to coordinate, being tactical. D&D, especially the older editions, can really challenge a kid to think depending on how open the setting and how devious the DM.

    I used the Keep for this first excursion, but I may be switching up to something a little trickier for their next outing.

    And by the way...I already intended to give them a copy of Labyrinth Lord (with dice), but I want to give 'em one more go with the regular B/X rules first. Just waiting for the game shop to re-stock the shelf!
    : )