Sunday, October 11, 2009

First Character Death (Sort Of)

Yet another thing I realize I haven't mentioned (jeez...where's my head been at lately? maybe preoccupied with the health of my home team quarterback; Hasselbeck will be playing with two broken ribs least we're playing at home) IS the play report from my most recent B/X D&D session with my teenage nephews.

Just by the way, they love D&D, though perhaps not their favorite of the ones I own. They REALLY like Warhammer. For Z, this is because he loves the "army construction" part and because he enjoys the tactile nature of miniature wargaming (if I used miniatures in our D&D games, I think it might bump WH into 2nd place). For S, he likes WH because it is the one game where he routinely beats his older brother...he also gets really excited when he's rolling handfuls of dice.

Regarding the latter, at times it DOES feel anti-climactic (to me anyway) to roll singular dice in D&D. "Everything comes down to this roll" again and again and again...and regardless of probability it feels as random as flipping a coin at times (especially when the roll comes up a "1"). At least with multiple dice you get a feeling of the "degree of goodness or badness;" which is probably part of the appeal of games like Shadowrun and White Wolf games.

[that's a note to self regarding game design folks; I know it was purposeful in Ron Edwards' Sorcerer game]

ANYWAY, we played a couple sessions of the old solo module M1: Blizzard Pass, which I love for a variety of reasons. As I've mentioned at least a couple times, I really dig any kind of arctic environment for an adventure...and a snow-capped mountain pass is as good as a lost city on a polar icecap for this purpose. Describing the cold, the snow, the blizzard itself (which is part of the adventure background) is all great fun and really helps to set the players' perceptions of the game. Although it served no game purpose, they were always making sure to use blankets (available in the Labyrinth Lord equipment list) and build fires when they set-up camp.

Because there were only two players (they begged and pleaded with my wife to play with them, but c'est la vie...), I allowed each to create and control two PCs. Attributes were rolled in standard fashion (3D6 in order) and created surprisingly viable characters, all sporting at least one or two 13s or 16s. I gave them the choice of playing two 2nd level characters or a 1st and 3rd level character. Z opted for the former and started with a a 2nd level elf and a 2nd level thief. S went for Option B and had a 3rd level cleric and 1st level dwarf.

Another note to self...playing one-off games like this with new characters of low-level, no one has any interest in playing a magic-user. Until 10th level, an elf has the exact same magical ability and is otherwise superior in every way to the MU. The "more XP needed to level" doesn't matter when the characters are changing each adventure OR when the rate of XP gain is so slow (that really is a topic that deserves its own post). But as it stands, if one is playing B/X D&D or LL at low levels, there is absolutely no incentive to play a magic-user. Which is kind of sad, in my opinion...certainly it needs some further review/thought/discussion.

The thief was actually a chip off the old Conan as thief block...he had a 16 strength and a 13 dexterity, and I purposefully described him as burly. Z loved the whole idea...and since he was 2nd level (and ended up with 7 hit points) he didn't feel like some sort of weenie urban scoundrel. 'Course he still fought with two-fisted daggers (Z's idea) so the Conan image wasn't totally the same.

Once again S. went for the cleric option...he really liked playing one earlier and once he had the option of playing two characters (so that he could try out one new type o guy) he jumped at the opportunity to play once. It didn't hurt that he had a high wisdom, too.

This time we also got into the discussion of what weapons a cleric can use (as I use my own alternate damage by class rules) as they understood clerics only use blunt weapons. It turns out Z and S HAVE been playing Labyrinth Lord at their house (when I'm not around), but they prefer to play with me as the DM. And NOT because Z (whose been acting as DM) is terrible. It's because it's more fun to play with more people and is not as much fun playing the one DM/one player paradigm. I asked why they didn't include some of their other friends in the game, but they just said their friends didn't play these types of games.

The thing is, for all my "cool uncle" status, the kids still attach the "nerd" stigma to most of this stuff. These are cool kids, fairly popular in school (especially Z who's acquired a bit of the "lady magnet" rep over the last couple years); when they're with me and my wife (or at home by themselves) they feel free to indulge in their "inner nerdiness," but they don't feel this same kind of freedom when they're with their peers.

Which I understand, having lived through that myself, but dammit! I've been trying to cure them of this particular perception. I mean, I can see how there's nothing inherently nerdy about having good harmless fun while you're a kid. I know how little the BS of your school days will really impact your life down the line (at least in my experience: not very much at all). I understand that life is too short to not be true to yourself and that reading books for godsakes is kind of a practical thing compared to say, shooting people in Halo 3.

And I have communicated this to them, and they ARE bright and they DO get it...but it's just difficult for them...ah, well.

SO, back to the game: the brothers did both better and worse than I expected they would and one character died in a heated battle with a hated racial enemy. By getting the drop on the ogre door man (a good surprise roll) they were able to Charm an ally to help them, and the first major battle with wolves in fighters was tough, but winnable, despite neglecting to fire off their Sleep spell. The elf got very much into his role as a combat machine as a plate, shield, and a high dexterity meant he was almost never wounded in battle. But others were (the ogre was gnawed to death by wolves) and the party decided to retreat from the cave.

S. as cleric had once again prayed for non-curing spells and once again found himself wishing he hadn't. At these low levels, cure light wounds is just the most useful clerical spell...more than anything else in the spell book. Sleep and Cure Light's amazing how they so out-weigh their counterparts.

It was the second entry into the caves that led to one party death. This time, attacked by goblins and a single fighter, the party remember its Sleep spell and knocked out the majority of the opposition. However, it still left a 3rd level fighter and a goblin war chief to contend with.

The dwarf and goblin chief went toe-to-toe and the goblin smote the dwarf...poor Gimli!...before the rest of the party could take down the monster. This was a very exciting part of the battle, as I really played up the dwarf-goblin rivalry (Gimli the dwarf was the only character that spoke goblin language so they were yelling back and forth at each other). But he was only 1st level and the goblin chief had three hit was a tough fight despite his 9 hit points and plate mail.

S. took his first character death pretty well. Surely, having a 2nd character helped...but he was also pleased with HOW the dwarf died; his death felt meaningful. The party did bury the dwarf with his enemies weapons (after slaying all the sleeping goblins I might add) outside the cave, leaving his axe as a grave marker. I think if his cleric had fallen instead, S. might have been more upset (but that didn't happen so it's hard to say).

Anyway, that's pretty much where we left off and we didn't return to the adventure, being preoccupied with other fun games. But there was certainly things to take away and incorporate into future game sessions.
: )

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