Saturday, April 4, 2020

Notes from the Plague Lands

Still asymptomatic over here, though both my kids my kids were sick up till this week with what I'd describe as "feverish bad colds"...probably Ye Old Covid 19, given the state of things, but they're both back to their normal hyper-energetic selves. I'm doing a shot of Umcka every time I feel a sniffle coming on (in addition to the hand-washing thing) and so far life in the cell block continues"normal."

As ever, my apologies for the lack of posting. The wife has been absolutely slammed with work due to the pandemic (she works in communications and is doing messaging and advertising for the government) which means I do "everything else." Okay, not entirely true...she did cook up a pretty good tortilla espanola for our lunch yesterday...but mostly. And juggling the kids and the household has been, well, time-consuming. And exhausting (physically, mentally)...I've been going back to bed after feeding the dogs in the morning, rather than writing. This morning is a little strange in that regard.

I'm feeling a bit of energy today, a bit of spark, and not just because I'm back on the caffeine (the wife and I decided we'd give up Lent for Lent and are back on our various sauces...we're bearing enough of a cross this season). No, I think it's because I've got a new D&D bee in my bonnet, which I wanted to briefly share.

First off, allow me to say that my kids' Dungeons & Dragons education is going swimmingly. Diego finished reading the Moldvay rules a week or two ago, and while his immediate impulse was to draw up a dungeon map (which we only briefly played) the last 3-4 days he's been poring over the book in his spare time and rolling up characters. Self-educating, which to me is a normal step in the process of getting the (D&D) bug.

My daughter is on an even more exciting trajectory, however: DMing. When we've walked the dogs this last week (which we do probably two days out of every three, depending on weather) she has run us (Diego and I) through a dungeon of her own imagination. This is not unlike what I and my friends did back in the first and second grade, not having rules, but knowing there was some sort of game that we wanted to play, and narrating our own adventures the way one does with imaginary play. True, her game is a lot less violent than those of my youth (monsters are inclined to turn small and friendly when defeated, though some die "for twenty years") and she is clearly a "Monty Haul" type DM, giving out millions of dollars in treasure...but she is also taking a firm hand with the Dungeon Mastering, controlling PvP issues that come up, striking down players (usually her brother) with divine wrath for insubordination and hijinks, and generally not being "pushed around" by her players. And allowing her free rein with her creative impulses has made for a very entertaining (if extremely gonzo) style.

But last night was my turn in the driver's seat...our first sit-down D&D session in (probably) a week or more, and I wanted to try something new: OD&D. Yes, the Little Brown Books (which I do own...very dog-eared copies). Making the kids start new 1st level characters, I'm running the game By The Book with only a few exceptions:

  • spells include those given in Supplement I: Greyhawk
  • weapons use the adjustments vs. AC found in Supplement I: Greyhawk
  • while weapons do D6 damage, characters with STR >14 bump up the die type of two-handed melee weapons (to D8) and magic-users bump down dice with melee weapons
  • spell-casters with a prime requisite (INT or WIS) > 14 get one additional 1st level spell to start
  • fighters roll D8s for HD; magic-users roll D4; CON > 14 bump HD up one die type
  • characters start with max hit points at first level and can survive down to a negative number of HPs equal to their level (another Gygax house rule); however, characters at 0 hit points are badly wounded and unable to take actions until healed
  • two-handed melee weapons roll two dice for damage, using the best die roll; daggers always roll D4s for damage, regardless of adjustments; melee piercing weapons larger than a short sword bump damage up one die against large monsters

Aaaand...that's about it. We're rolling D6 to determine (group) initiative. I'm using Jason Cone's rule about monsters getting a +1 bonus to hit an armored character that doesn't wear a helmet, but since the party's fighter bought a helm, it's not an issue. I'm using the same price for a silver crossbow quarrel as a silver arrow...and that really is about it.

Oh, it's not! I'm using weapon proficiencies: fighters get four, clerics get two, magic-users get one. I haven't yet decided what the non-proficient penalty is as no one has tried to use such a weapon. Magic-users aren't limited in their weapon use (though see the damage penalty above), partly due to wanting to emulate fantasy fiction (see characters like Gandalf, Elric, Lythande, etc.) and partly because one could easily game the system using the dual class rules (Book 1, top of page 10) depending on how the rule is interpreted.

ANYway, here's how the kids reacted: they both loved it. My son was resistant at first ("but I want to play B/X! I prefer B/X!" ...ah, warms my heart...) but really enjoyed it by the end of our session. My daughter, likewise, really had a good time despite: A) missing her one attack roll, B) being taken to zero hit points almost immediately (and being unable to take actions), and C) never getting off a single spell (her character is a magic-user). However, her takeaway was as a DM: she wanted to know if she could "rewrite" her dungeon (or make a new one) based on the "new" rules. Already considering how to incorporate things (as she's done with Zenopus)...what a mind!

More on this later (perhaps)...back to the aforementioned bee: my perspective on D&D has been changing and morphing over the last several weeks due to a number of influences, very few of them "blog related." What do I mean by that? It means I've been getting less from the blog-o-sphere lately, neither from my own musings (past and present), nor those of bloggers I regularly read.

But I have been reading...and researching, and studying. I've been listening to interviews with the "old timers" that are still left to do interviews about their perspective on the hobby. I've read Gygax's own book (Role-Playing Mastery) and Rob Kuntz's book on Dave Arneson (True Genius). I've been streaming a LOT of video on (1st edition) AD&D. Reviewing people's reviews of the rules...not as they are skirted or ignored, but as they function and interrelate. At the moment, I'm not ready to discuss what's in my brain, but things are percolating.

Anyhoo...that's the news. Stay safe, folks. And find some way to game.


  1. I want to know what your children think of Ye Olde People you read on the internet.

  2. They have no idea, man. They don’t even read MY stuff. ; )

    1. Aha! Mustn't expose them to subversive writings ...

    2. Assuming for the moment that your comment is something less than sarcasm...

      (I’d hardly call my *own* writing “subversive”)

      When it comes to my own parenting, I find myself often protecting (or “over-protecting”) my children, even as I try NOT to build up bad fallacies in their foundational learning. It’s tough...especially when I myself find myself falling into my own fallacies of thinking (no doubt picked up in my own formative years from over-protective parents) due to sheer laziness or inertia...

      But more than insulating them from subversive writings, the truth is they have very little interest in the things I do (except in so far as they know it is intensely interesting to their papa). When they closed my kids’ school for the pandemic, they were allowed to check out any number of books from the school library. My son took about a dozen+, nearly all biographies (from Sally Ride to Shakespeare) with the rest history books, mostly war related My daughter likes Splat the Cat (she’s only barely reading). At their age, I would have been reading all the fantasy/dragon related fiction I could get my hands on...escapist stuff that I spent countless hours consuming, at the cost of...well, anything practical. I have no idea how they will look back at their time together with me (when they are adults) many ways, the relationship I have with my children is so strange/different from the relationship I had with my own parents. With years and an objective perspective, I’d guess they’d find me hopelessly strange, mostly loving, often “challenging” to live with. But right now they’re just kids with no choice in who their parents are.

      Subversive writings are the very least of their concerns.

    3. Twas a joke.

      Children respond to love. You love them, your treat them well, they will love you and treat you well ~ regardless of what your interests, or their interests, might be.

      You might suggest C.S. Forrester to your son, if he's looking for history and war. Forrester wrote the Hornblower series as well as a host of good historical accounts (his sinking of the Bismarck is a great read). Moreover, Forrester is Easy for young readers; I stumbled across him in grade 4 and ate him voraciously. I'm sorry that I haven't enough of your daughter's interests to suggest something.

      My writing is subversive; and that was the direction of my joke.

    4. Thank you; Forrester is a great suggestion. My son loves nautical stuff, too, having read an abridged Moby Dick (solo) around age 7 and seeing films like Master & Commander and Heart of the Sea. Might have something to do with his father reading him Treasure Island as a wee child...

      My daughter is still finding her own interests; her main passion is music. She’s a bit more visceral (hands on) than cerebral in her learning style. However, she’s much more into fantasy (like her father) then my son ever has been.

      And pirates. She’s a big fan of pirates.

  3. Glad to read that the kiddos are back to normal and I'm glad to read you have energy today. Keep getting better. Peace.

    1. Thanks, HW: yes, they are both doing fine; just wish they could see (and hang out) with their friends.

      Best wishes to you and yours!
      : )

    2. No Google Hangouts? Tim and his buddies use it to hangout and game. They laugh a lot. Or Roll 20. But they've been doing that for years, gaming online.

    3. We’ve been doing “remote learning” with Google Hangouts for weeks; we’ve just started doing hangouts on Zoom. But it’s not the same: my kids are *very* active (my son is a three sport athlete) and they want to physically interact with their friends.

  4. If you're needing a break from taking care of the kids, I'd appreciate you checking out my new 5e solo adventure, The Saint's Tomb: You can play in browser and it should take only 20-30 minutes.

    1. Thanks, Sayeth. 5E isn’t really my thing, but I might still give it a look.