Thursday, December 27, 2012

Fumblin’ around with The DMG – character creation

Dan Dan The Power Game Man™ has been scratching to get out of the house. His wife just had another kid last week, and his Mulholland manse is chock full of relatives from around the globe. After a hard partyin’ Christmas weekend, I was not totally up for a full game of any kind. But with only Dan and Andy available anyway, I thought why not sink some Newcastles and do character work for the new campaign, and maybe a little combat encounter or two.

With a return to more BTB game play in this 1st edition campaign, I wanted to be strict with the character creation. Strict for me, anyway. Racial stat and level limitations were in play this campaign, and with none of us being DMG experts (despite my recent ongoing efforts), there was quite a bit of fumbling through the beloved tome to try and make sure our bases were covered. I have a pdf of OSRIC I printed and bound to serve as a backup play aid in this campaign, and it was a little useful. It would have been moreso, but here’s another book I need to read and familiarize myself with. It’s better organized than the DMG, but it ain’t perfect when you need a particular piece of info. Nothing I wanted to look up in OSRIC was listed and easily found in the index's, but that may have been more bad luck than anything else. I am going to take a better look at it though (it is, like, a 400 page thing).

Before delving too deep, we did that stat rolls so they could start formulating ideas on what to run. So I had them both do up three full sets of stats, each with roll 4D6 use best 3D6, in order. This is a tightening up of my usual assign to taste preference. There would be no stat dumping here. You get three full sets to make a choice from, and that still seems fairly generous. I allowed only very minor tweaking, and only in cases I suggested. I took ZERO player suggestions on stat swapping and such. Nope. Mr. Tough Guy. Despite that, they came out pretty above average in most respects. Dan even got an 18 in strength for the set he chose.

So harsh restrictions in the book popped up only once or twice to burn players. Mostly in Dan’s case. He wanted his fighter/MU/cleric to be a full grey elf, but the rules say he’d have to be half elf. He was fairly disappointed for some reason he could not be the full elf, and I almost caved. But Andy chimed in and kept me on the straight and narrow. I’m happy for that, because hell, full elves are these immortal dudes. There should be reasons to make it harder to be one. Despite being all over the place, 1st edition does have some balancing acts going on, and I don’t want to do my usual willy nilly houseruling to mess with it. So it’s a half-elf for big Dan.
So after fumbling around to get characters properly created by the book, I set them up with a little giant rat killing at a city tavern to stretch the combat muscles for the pair.
New characters getting done up is always big fun for me, and I’m glad we’ll get to stretch it out when the other players are there to roll up. I had to admit, it was kind of refreshing to “go by the rules” for character creation. We’ll soon hopefully see how that goes for long term gameplay.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Rereading the DMG is gonna be a bitch

I can’t remember if I ever read the DMG all the way through when I first got it as a kid. Logic would say that I would have. It had to be an exciting thing, getting this tome. I just don’t remember it. I certainly never made a study of it. I’d say more than half my handwaved houserules came out of my not wanting to look shit up (the rest because, well, I thought a lot of stuff about the rules sucked). So I never came anywhere near to mastering the “official” rules of AD&D 1st ed.

Well, I have kind of decided to make a cover to cover reading of it. For one thing, I want to weed out some of my more arbitrary houserulings (many of which are just in my head and fuzzy sometimes) and get back to being a wee bit more by the book. This is something I should maybe have done when I started the group 4 years ago. In contrast to the many noobs I introduced to the game back in the 90’s (in the 80’s most of my players wanted to be experts), these guys were fairly seasoned players, and in at least one case knew the DMG much better than I did. So I had to sometimes fight tooth and nail with players over some of my “lazy” changes. So for sure to not have to go through that struggle again, and some other reasons, I am going to get more familiar with things in the tome. So I thought a cover to cover read would help. Even if I'm not as excited about it as when I was a kid, and its more like work.

After around a week I am not all that far into it. 30 pages or so. But in that short amount of time I remembered how disorganized the book is. One page I’m reading about spells, the next henchmen and homestead upkeep, and back again. Maybe this will, at the very least, make me more educated on what all is in this book I’ve had several copies of for well over 30 years. More thoughts to come.
And a happy Christmas to you!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Player characters – Divide and sometimes Conquer

I’m not talking about making PC’s squabble, which in itself can be fun and rewarding for a DM. I’m talking about giving characters their own little encounters outside of the usual group encounters. I did this in the last KOTOR game. Andy’s Mandalorian bodyguards for the major NPC Solomon, who visits the Coruscant University from time to time as an alumni. So I had him attacked in a student lounge area near the massive library, by the Sith brother Phade (see last post) whom Mandalorian had ticked off in a previous encounter. Also in the same game, I had NPC Solomon have the female Jedi, Lucia, watch his back as they entered a gang bar on a rescue mission of a young lady; it ended up in a nice big fight.

This is an example of something I have long since done in all my games periodically, including D&D. Give characters a life and encounters of their own from time to time. This is especially useful when you only have a couple or three players for the night, like I did. And they are a snap to design for. If you have decent characters to work with, they will have backgrounds and previous encounters that can give you good ideas for solo fights and you can pretty much just wing it. Old enemies return for an ambush, new enemies attack when character friends are doing their own thing elsewhere, or just rescue and escort missions depending on the character. This really helps flesh them out for me, rather than just constant group experiences.

Once again I firmly blame my comic book collecting background growing up. The example is right there in members of groups like the Justice League or The Avengers; big group-related donnybrooks, but the individual heroes also have their own comics with their own headaches.

You don’t want to make other players wait too long (sometimes I miscalculate, which is the main drawback of this kind of thing – but if it happens you can promise the offended player their own beefed up solo encounter in the near future to make up for it), but if you put some thought into it the players can really dig getting their own licks in without other characters getting in the way. It really helps bring them to life.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Star Wars – the Brutality of Force Powers

We had a very rollicking session of Knights of The Old Republic this week, one that stood out mostly due to the very high amount of force powers being tossed around the battlefield.

Most of the display of force powers so far In the campaign has been the Jedi characters, most specifically the male Jedi whose powers have been chosen for maximum combat usefulness (the player of the female Jedi has chosen powers and abilities that she liked over any sort of power gaming), making him a terror to lesser villains. He crushes and slams his way across a battle area, aided and abetted by things like negate energy (stops energy attacks), deflect, and block to keep the personal damage total to a minimum.

I got the chance to do some force power use of my own in a game earlier this year when the party took on a lichy undead Sith Lord aboard a haunted space station, but in the game this week it got way more hairy.

The party is travelling with a young, red-haired NPC named Solomon, who has for some reason or another (some prophesies have been attributed to him) has garnered interest from the Sith who want to find out what he is about, and another arcane group with great resources that seem to want him dead.

So in the campaign so far the party has been tailed by a pair of young brother and sister Sith Students, and in this last game it was revealed that they are actually working for their mother who is a Sith Witch. The witch, her kids, and almost a dozen other Sith students (actually young Fallen Jedi being tested) travelling with them confronted and ended up attacking the party in a rundown factory area of Coruscant. The male Jedi of the group was in a speeder hidden nearby, so most of the party was deprived of his strong force powers in their fight with the larger group. This Jedi was attacked at his speeder by a small number of Sith students, but did not end up in combat as one of the Sith was a former Jedi who grew up with the PC Jedi at the Coruscant Temple, and she recognized him from going up around him and stayed her hand, telling her companions to back off as well.

As a matter of fact, the Witch leader and the rest didn’t really intend to kill them. Obviously they were trying to get Solomon to come with them so they can investigate him further, but also with Coruscant being basically the Jedi capitol, it would be unwise for them to slaughter people planetside, especially involving killing of Jedi. But what they did want to do was show Solomon their strength, impressing him by beating the shit out of the other characters. Which in this case ended up being the two strong fighers.

These two characters are a Wookiee outlaw, and a Mandalorion veteran from the recent wars (that lead up to the current Jedi Civil War). Normally they dominate a battlefield, but they were facing strong, mid-level Sith warriors (almost all former Jedi) and all with force powers in addition to lightsabers.

And now, with me finally being able to cut loose with multiple force users of my own, it was my turn to dominate these two often bullyish fighters. And let me tell you, these powers are bruuut-tal! With the Mandalorian in full armor flying around in a jet pack, he got hit by Force Grip (one of the more strong and somewhat broken force powers), and a couple of other powers including a thrown lightsaber that did damn good damage (that surprised him, though he is a Mandalorian War veteran who would have faced Jedi in combat in the past). Pretty close to taking him right out. As for the Wookiee, he got hit by force lightning that was not only damaging, but severely knocking down his condition track (you get minuses to everything when your condition goes down). With several lightsabers coming at him, powered by decent skill and Dark Rage power, things looked bad for the Wookiee as well.

But the Sith had made their point, and backed off. I was actually a bit torn at that point, and put it to a secret dice roll as to whether they might try to kill the party. The Sith Witch and her two children were not involving themselves in the fight, but the characters chose to throw some attacks their way. I felt it was kind of foolish, going for honor shots on the leaders instead of focusing on those attacking you. But that’s overconfident players for you. Lucky for the characters that they backed off anyway, as it probably would have been the end of them. It actually would have been kind of cool to end things in a TPK.

See, even though it’s fun and I love the KOTOR setting (initially sparked by the KOTOR XBOX game), I kind of need a break from it. We actually don’t play it as much; our first game was around a year and a half ago, and we’ve probably only done fifteen or so sessions of it since. As it’s getting higher level, the foes need more detail over the cannon fodder the PC’s have been wading through so far. I was using over a dozen force users on the battlefield, all with differing powers and abilities. I even went so far as to have to put numbered bits of paper under them to keep track of the individuals better. This is a lot of work for me. Not like D&D which I can basically phone-in and still have a fun session.

So I think some D&D is in order to run some more relaxing sessions. A new campaign. It’s been a couple of years or so now since I finished my Night Below campaign, and I think I have recovered enough from that to get on the Dungeon train again. So I think KOTOR goes on the backburner for awhile, and I’ll get on some good ol’ D&D as we get into a new year.