Wednesday, June 24, 2009

“15 minute adventuring day”

Grognardia James blogged this week about the “15 minute adventuring day.” In a nutshell, it’s a term that refers to a party of dungeon delvers who leave the confines of the labyrinth very regularly (every day it seems in Dwimmermount) to purchase supplies, heal, and regain used spells.

James is running an old school style game, with a megadungeon as the focus, and a town and city somewhat close by for said supply runs. Dungeon, supply shop, temple, and tavern. There you have it. You don’t need much more than that for the characters world in this type of O.G. game. Not a knock at Grognardia, of course (my occasional attempts at humorous pokes at James usually fall flat). James is an important blogger of the old school, and he should be involved in running something similar to the ideas he writes about.

Personally, I abandoned frequent dungeon crawls in my decades-old game world sometime in the 80’s. Growing up on comics probably had a lot to do with my coming up with lots of outdoor and city situations. A fight in a crowded city street, or back alley of temple row, or even a rooftop just seems so much more fun and cool than a claw-sword-shield slugfest in a corridor underground.

I started my current campaign planning for the party to travel with a merchant caravan for awhile, until they reached a certain dungeon. I do want that old school dungeon experience again. But the players have found so much to do on the trip, and I had so many ideas for outdoor encounters and events, it has been around 16 games and they are still a couple of sesson away from the dungeon. I originally planned to have them at the dungeon doors in 3 or 4 games.

Micromanaging supplies has not really come up. The party is travelling with a merchant caravan through mostly populated areas. I just tell the players to throw some coin at meals and drinks here and there. The closest we have come to equipment management was a player asking me at the last game if he should be keeping track of arrows or not. I just told him he had about half a dozen left, and to buy a new quiver at the next town. There’s yer supply management right there. It’s also good to remind players that it is no fun getting money if you don’t track it and spend it. Small potatoes should be in the players hand. I’ll do some of the financial analysis when they want to buy a ship or a house or something.

Now the issue of regaining spells has come up in the last few games. A player important to the main quest has been missing for three games, so I just did a bunch of little outdoor/abandoned mine combat and exploration encounters to eat up those games until she came back. By the end of the second game, the spellcaster had used up all her good spells. The player complained a lot about needing to rest and regain, but the party was in a mine under an unstable hill (with an earth elemental going berserk in a cavern there) and had to keep moving. It was nice to have a game where the spellcaster (also a fighter) could do something besides cast the same three spells as she does every fight.

Getting low on spells and resources should not be a bad thing. Parties running off every few hours of game time and travelling two or three days to get a bed to heal and pray in is just tedious and monotonous to me. I don’t want that for my precious game time.

If it is a “mega-dungeon,” why not have some resources in there? Empty rooms to rest in, a nearby water source (the most important of resources, but probably the least kept track of or worried about), and maybe a non-hostile mini-temple with a cleric for healing (for a modest fee, of course). Anything but this constant cycle of dungeon – town – dungeon – repeat. To me that just seems to either have a weird flow, or no flow at all.

In a campaign I ran years ago, I had the party shipwrecked on the Isle of Dread. Talk about supply management challenges! Sure, there were natives to trade with, but the guys with non-magical armor and weapons had to face the fact that arms maintenance was a no-go. A couple of fights with some unfriendly cat-people and the odd T. Rex, and the paladin had his plate mail hanging in parts. Chainmail and leather quickly got tore up, and in a matter of weeks characters were starting to look like they had “gone native.” I loved that so much I want to do it again.

I don’t want to say how somebody should run their game, but I just don’t think any game should rely too much on players constantly having to retreat to a safe zone. Some great games have players at the end of their resources, and at their wits end. That is one way dramatic, memorable adventures can be mademade.

1 comment:

  1. My northern marches game has characters having to return to safety by design. It is specifically designed to accommodate a varied group for each session pulled from about 12-14 players. By having the PCs return to safety by the end of every session the entire roster of players is available for the next session.

    To encourage everyone to return to safety at the end of the session, anyone not back to civilization rolls on Jeff Rient's Triple Secret Table of Probable Doom.