Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Time in my OD&D Campaign

I was running an OD&D game world when the first three AD&D books were published, and I resisted for a while, but of course made the purchases.

I read the new Dungeon Masters Guide cover to cover more than once while planning my new campaign world.  The section on Time, found on pages 37 and 38, struck me as especially important.

The subsequent seven paragraphs elaborate upon the subject, including examples and advice on calendars.  When I finally scrapped my OD&D game and started a new campaign world using AD&D, I started the game calendar on the 1st day of the year 1000.  I'm sure it was NOT a coincidence that this mirrrored exactly the example given in the DMG!   I used 30 day months, but kept real world month and day names.  That campaign was played throughout high school and on visits home from college, but it ended when I went on active duty in the Air Force.

During my first AF assignment, I convinced my wife and some friends to play, and I started a new campaign world using mostly 1e but with the 2e PHB and DMG.  This time around, I created a calendar from scratch.  I've been searching for the notes I put together when I devised this calendar, but have been unable to find them.  All I've got right now are two excerpts from the Primer I wrote for my players at the time:


The campaign calendar started early in 1989, and most of the events in this list were triggered in one way or another by the PCs.

Between the two, I have all the month names:  Elonar, Ornvar, Tovar, Vannar, Dinvar, Kervar, Lattar, Otvar, and Nassar.  Sadly, I don't have enough of the days to reconstruct the rest, but I still hope to find my old notes someday.

When I decided to run a new OD&D Campaign for my son and his friends, I knew I had to track time, and I even started doing session reports on Exploring the Outside Inn.  I dropped the ball on the session reports but have kept notes and a spreadsheet from every session.  I've run between 63 and 73 sessions in my OD&D campaign world so far, between two active groups of players, but clearly I haven't done as well as I should have with timekeeping.  I start each session telling my players the season, the current weather, and how long it's been since they last adventured, but I really need to go back through my notes for each session and put together a clean timeline, and a new calendar!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

House Rule Updates for my OD&D Game

Back in February, I presented my players with some updates to my house rules.  I handed them a paper at the start of a session and asked everyone to read it before we started.  I did this for both groups, and nobody had any issues so we implemented immediately.

For ability checks, I’ve been using d20 against the appropriate stat.  From now on, we’ll use a number of d6 based on the difficulty of the task against the appropriate stat:

Trivial - 1d6
Easy - 2d6
Average - 3d6
Tough - 4d6
Gruelling - 5d6

For every 5 levels you've attained, you may subtract 1d6 before you roll.

For experience, I'm updating the method.  I've been using this:

10 xp for each point of damage caused to the individual who caused it.
20 xp for each point of damage sustained, to the person who sustained it.
20 xp for each point of damage sustained (by everyone) divided equally by all

I'm changing it to this:

5 xp for each point of damage caused to the individual who caused it
5 xp for each point of damage caused (by everyone) divided equally by all
10 xp for each point of damage sustained, to the individual who sustained it
30 xp for each point of damage sustained (by everyone) divided equally by all

And we'll retain the 1 xp per gold piece value of treasure brought back from an adventure, divided equally by all PCs.

Since then, I've heard from one player who isn't happy with the experience change.  He pointed out that this directly impacts the draft mechanic on "growing" magic items, slowing down the process.  He is correct.  It cuts the rate of advancement in half.  I'm sticking to it though.

You may recall I borrowed this directly from Alexis Smolensk, and his blog "The Tao of D&D."  I still really like the idea of experience being based on combat damage (both caused and sustained), but found that it was leading to some players going against type in order for their PCs to earn more experience.  With the change, the distribution of experience is leveled somewhat, taking it closer to the OD&D baseline, which of course is an equal division of the total earned by the entire group.

As for the change to Ability Checks, you need to know that for character creation, I've stuck strictly with 3d6, in order, for character stats.  This makes the even distribution of results on a d20 a lot tougher on the PCs than if I allowed 4d6 drop the lowest, or some other method of character generation.  So far, the new method has worked admirably.  Definitely a keeper.

The next change I intend to make is to update Critical Hits and Misses.  More on that in the near future.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Da Bonz

Last week, in one of the Facebook Groups I belong to, Jonathan Songe Scott offered to send free copies of his Mini-Adventure "Da Bonz" to seven people in the group.  I don't recall his exact words right now, but at the time I thought, "that'd be cool, but I don't qualify."  A day later, I noticed he still had some, so I put my name in, PM'd him my address, and got word it would soon be in the mail.

It came on Saturday, and I eagerly read it.  I just wasn't sure how soon I'd get to run it, since my weekly group had several other things going on.  Monday night came, and while the party was deciding what they wanted to do, the Mage headed to the bar they frequent in order to fill his wine skins for whatever journey they decided upon.  (AH HA!  I couldn't have asked for a better set up!)   The bar was empty, and the bartender complained that his regulars were all "at that new place down the road."

The Mage went alone and found himself at Da Bonz.  He surveyed the establishment, bribed one of the NPCs who appeared to be taking notes, and learned enough to know that the rest of the group would be interested.  And they were!

Da Bonz is a mini-adventure, a prop and a magic item, and can easily be slipped into any fantasy game.  Included is a map of the building, a key that describes the map and the various NPCs found there, a small pouch and 4 dice, as well as a chart to allow the DM to locate the named effect, and several pages of detail about said effects.

PCs pay for admission and then for a chance to roll "Da Bonz," the set of 4 dice that came with the set.  3 of the dice have rune-like symbols denoting the numbers 1 to 6; the 4th just has two:  one represents fortune, the other, misfortune.  Less powerful than a Deck of Many Things, Da Bonz nevertheless can have quite an impact on the PCs, both for good and for ill.  Most effects are categorized both by type and strength and the descriptions include both a fortune and a misfortune.

Each of the 5 PCs in Monday's game chose to roll Da Bonz; and two of them rolled a second time!  When they finally decided to leave Da Bonz and head out to explore, they ran into an NPC they knew, who was now down on his luck.  The Mage offered to buy him a roll of Da Bonz, and they went back inside.  Sadly, this resulted in "Fortune (Abysmal)" for the NPC, who only THOUGHT he'd been down on his luck before.

The booklet itself has a laminated cover, and is almost the same dimensions as my OD&D LBBs... I think it's A4 folded in half.  Inside the front cover is the map, inside the back cover is the chart of effects.  In between are 12 pages including a table of contents, an introduction, the effects descriptions, details of the various locations depicted on the map, and more.

I liked the writing, I liked the map, I liked the dice!  I'm now trying to decide how to get my other group to visit Da Bonz (same campaign world, different city), because I know they'll like it too.  (Of course, several of them read this blog, so I shouldn't have to try to hard; they'll ask me about it!)

The only issue I had running it was that I only read it over once beforehand, foolishly thinking "it's only 12 pages, I got this!"  True, but they're packed with information, and the first few rolls of Da Bonz had me scrambling.

My only issue with the product itself was the font size used.  The margins were big enough on most pages that increasing the font size a pt or two wouldn't have affected the layout, but would have made it easier on my old eyes.

All in all, I enjoyed Da Bonz immensely as did my players, and will keep an eye out for other game aids by Jonathan Scott!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Where has the time gone?

Too much time has passed since my last post, so I figured I'd just share this awesome video about time!

H. P. Lovecraft fans rejoice! Check out this animated short of 'The Shadow Out of Time'. (Video)

I need to start posting regularly again.