Monday, March 31, 2014

Campaign Diary: DCC in the Wilderlands (Session 3)

Session 3: Dungeon Delving 101

The party finds out that the dungeon has been repopulated. They carry on, using a (phenomenally tough) wardog named Gromit and charmed monsters to take the point. A major fight with giant beetles leaves two PCs dead and another (plus Gromit) unconscious. Things almost turn into a Total Party Kill (TPK). After some dealings in town, the party eagerly returns for a third foray. The players are getting the hang of dungeon delving and spot and neutralize a deadly spider, look in the right spot for a secret door, and leverage the movement rules to fight zombies without risk. W00t!

  • Everyone forgot about DCC's Luck mechanic. The two dead PCs might be alive if we hadn't.
  • There was a lot of heroism. CW has her (tough but injured) character attack with only 1 hp left and she dies. CD sends his character to the front line in order to match CW's courage. His character dies, too.
  • CW names her second PC "Secunda" and seems resigned to quickly lose her and all future characters. The new PC has poor-to-average stats, too, which visibly impacts her motivation.
  • I announce compensation for poor stats (50 gp or XP per total negative modifier or 100 - that is the question now...).
  • Reacting to player input, I introduce a new rule to make armor offer protection against poison needles and the like (i.e. in situations where no attack roll is involved).
  • I allowed the Charm spell to include low-key telepathy to enable communication with charmed vermin. This was a mistake. I was being soft on the player. Also, the spell is powerful enough as it is. I will rule that this is (a) limited to vermin and (b) specific to this character only. Fortunately, this perfectly fits on account of the mercurial magic roll for this spell.
  • I changed one (harmless) monster power on the fly: A ghost caused unconsciousness rather than fear. I don't like fear effects, as they are humiliating and take away agency. On second thought, however, the fear effect could and should have been described as magical, lessening the humiliating aspect. Also, this was a mistake as I violated my principles. I should not change the powers of monsters (at least not like this, i.e. on the fly and for dubious reasons).
  • Random rolls were really tough this time around: The dungeon was restocked with plenty of very dangerous monsters and the beetles' random reaction was "hostile". I fear that the dungeon seems insurmountable and video-gamey as a result.
  • The Barrowmaze has monsters popping up all over the place (due to the restocking rules) or waiting in isolated areas without exits, rhyme or reason. I do have an explanation for this but I'm afraid none is visible to the players at the moment. I'm afraid that the dungeon must seem very artificial and video-gamey as a result (and Philotomy's "Mythic Underworld" aesthetic is an acquired taste).
  • The zombie ploy should not have worked quite like this. I forgot about the maneuver "partial charge". Fortunately, the zombies rarely had the room for that so in this case the outcome was unaffected by my oversight. I will inform the players and/or change zombie tactics to "overrun the enemy regardless of opportunity attacks".
In a nutshell
An enjoyable session with lots of mistakes behind the scenes. I need to get my act together.

Campaign Diary: DCC in the Wilderlands (Session 2)

Session 2: First Blood

The party manages to close the door with the rats still behind it. They explore several rooms and run into traps and zombies. 4 out of 10 PCs die and are replaced on the spot (i.e. another tomb raider rounds the corner to help out with the still unfinished battle). Perseverance and a hunch lead to the biggest treasure yet.

  • The characters of two absentee players died. Both were particularly cherished (having survived a funnel adventure in spectacular fashion and sporting a natural 18, respectively). The deaths were brutal but okay, but it sucks that the players were not present.
  • The players were disappointed with the treasure. The payout was 70 gp per character so level 2 (at 1000 XP) seems a looong way off. As I have read this complaint about Barrowmaze before, I will double all treasure values in the main complex.
  • I dropped my plan to use vague prices (for mundane goods) after only one session and gave the exact listed prices instead.
  • I had all random encounters materialize near the PCs, i.e. I rolled, got zombies, and had nearby corpses rise as said zombies. This was a mistake as it circumvents the rules for encounter distance (to be established randomly).
  • After the game, the players talked about establishing depots of oil etc., bringing a ladder and developing safety measures (e.g. securing characters with rope). They are rising to the challenge.
  • Via e-mail, the players further talked about establishing procedures for splitting the loot, unrealistic rules, and handling the PCs of players going to sleep during the session (one player's a kid, another a very busy working mom).
In a nutshell
Sitting back, just playing the world and not knowing how things would turn out was great fun.

Campaign Diary: DCC in the Wilderlands (Session 1)

Session 1: To the Barrowmaze!

The newly created party meets up to plunder the recently discovered Barrowmaze. Play begins on the road. The characters travel from Zerthstone to Ottergild, buy some equipment and continue to Hirot. After checking in at the local inn, visiting Hirot's only temple and Ekim's Extraordinary Emporium, they start their first expedition into the Barrowmaze. After a couple of empty rooms, they open a door to encounter a swarm of huge rats. The session ends with a cliffhanger.

  • Character creation took two hours (twice as long as I estimated). I hope that the players will eventually learn to roll up a new character in five minutes.
  • Keeping track of encumbrance and rolling for (wilderness) encounters felt a bit tedious, but I think it is important to establish these key procedures.
  • The players scoffed at D&D's economy, specifically the gold standard and certain prices. I am considering switching the economy to Adventurer, Conqueror, King System (ACKS).
In a nutshell
A slow start but hopefully laying the groundwork.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Campaign Diary: DCC in the Wilderlands (Pre-game Notes)

I've finally started a Wilderlands campaign using my heavily house-ruled version of Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC). My goals are to provide challenge-based sandbox play in the mold of Ben Robbins' West Marches campaign and especially Eero Tuovinen's D&D campaigns (a huge topic you'll have to google by yourself if you are interested). To get the hang of the rules in practice, I've settled on the acclaimed Barrowmaze as a starting point. I plan on opening up the Wilderlands world as the game progresses.

DCC, especially in my version, offers fast character creation (to make a lethal game viable), fast play (to get lots of stuff done), high lethality (to make choices and die rolls matter) and its trademark unpredictability (to protect against lingering habits to railroad and to generate an Appendix N-feel).

The Wilderlands offers just the right ratio of inspiring detail and white space on outstanding maps. I'm using the excellent if somewhat verbose Necromancer edition. Of course, I've heavily modified the setting, too.

I plan to provide the first couple of session reports soon and to then switch to a more regular schedule.