Thursday 9 December 2010

Low-Level 'Adventures'

Reading this post on Discourse and Dragons, about relatively straightforward adventures that build up to a climactic battle against an archetypal monster, I was struck by how inappropriatethis adventure structure is for low-level characters. And I wondered how other DMs handle low-level adventures. What I mean is, D&D promises players that their characters will be heroes, but the first couple of levels – which if we go by a 3 game session per level rule of thumb, could be quite a long time – are spent worrying that a couple of goblin arrows will kill Hurkar the Strong, never mind imagining that Hurkar the Strong will hack his way through the goblin horde before doing heroic battle with the evil wizard, the bandit king, the Ogre chief… whatever. The low-level adventures that I run are either very short, practically single encounters with a few trailing threads to be explored, or exercises in rest and resupply. Neither of these capture the structure of heroic fiction.
The heroes stagger back to town, again.

Do people start their D&D characters at higher levels? Do they make judicious use of the DM screen to slide the characters though peripheral encounters to ensure that the session generates the sense of adventure and exploration? Or do they run combat-light adventures – the sort found in WFRP, which seems contrary to the spirit of D&D – that reward player characters for ‘sustainable’ adventuring?

Monday 6 December 2010

Flora, Fauna, and Fora

Okay, I'll return with a fairly light posting. It's been a busy time painting hills for my dwarfs shoot their cannons from, and then the dwarfs and cannons to put on those hills. And I paint slowly. Very slowly. So very slowly.

First, here is Head Injury Theatre's guide to the stupid monsters of D&D. D&D has lots of 'stupid' in it, but then D&D does consist of hundreds of books spread over 30 years. Some of these monsters are actually 'bad', in the way that lots of very early D&D was 'bad'. I don't want to have my players explore by routinely tapping the ground in front of them with a 12" pole because deadly traps are that commonplace. There's no heroism, adventure, or cleverness in that. It might remind us of the old days, and despite my fondness of old school RPG rule systems and game settings, the idea of dungeoneering being a series of escalating death-puzzles is about as exciting to me as D&D being World of Warcraft, now with added paper! I want my players to role-play their characters, be heroes (or villians, or snivelling sneaks) and have fun doing so. Which is why this is a bad monster.

It's not that it's stupid, it's that it's bad. Just how are a party of adventurers meant to cope with that. How will the players not feel that they've been 'cheated' when the ceiling drops down on them and kills them. Put The Lurker Above, and its kin, in your game, and you've got henchmen taking point once the players re-roll their characters. Heroes all.

Anyhow, I've been living my online gaming life around the Dragonsfoot (for all my classic D&D needs) and Bugman's Brewery (for my WFB Dwarfs) fora recently, and do recommend that if you interested in these game systems you check out those sites.