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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Samurai fever... Broke?

I don't really know what happened to blogger here, but my fairly long post about my Samurai campaign was eaten when I tried to post it. I was under the impression that blogger saving my posts once per minute would prevent this sort of accident, but apparently not. It had a commentary about how my game was getting just one more chance before I pull the plug and go back to "standard" AD&D1. It also had a long tangental discussion about minis, the new ones I bought for OA, my love/hate of the WoTC D&D line, my irrational hatred of Games Workshop for causing both scale creep and ridiculously sized weapons, and my nostalgic love of Grenadier's AD&D line (and consequently the story of Lance-the-lucky). I also briefly discussed old D&D computer games. I worked on it for quite a while and now I have no desire to run across that ground again. Sorry, blame Blogger.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

2nd TPK

I wiped out the party again. Fortunately they were considerably quicker to generate Ruins and Ronin characters rather than the AD&D Oriental Adventures type I killed off last weekend. I am having a hard time figuring out exactly what went wrong here, but I suspect it comes down to two things.

First, the party failed to hire any hirelings of any sort. The reason for that is that AD&D players were discouraged by the AD&D rules from bringing along too much help because of the expense and the XP drain, both of which are absent from OD&D/S&W/R&R, but the attitude is hard to break. OD&D characters are basically the officers of their party of soldiers not really stand alone adventurers. AD&D characters can not afford to hire help at level one and are significantly tougher, so they don't really need to as much.

Second, I think they made a pretty big mistake after their first battle when they didn't retreat to safety and instead pressed on ahead. They had won the battle but got pretty hurt in the process. They looted the corpses and kept going. All of their Bujin were pretty hurt and the Shugenja used her only spell. OD&D, and by extension, S&W/R&R are much more games of resource management than AD&D because AD&D characters have more resources to work with, like 1st level clerics having at least one spell which the Sohei does not.

When I suggested that they should have retreated to my wife after the game she got kind of mad at me and said that every time they have previously retreated in my games I have punished them, either with pursuit or restocking the dungeon or both. This is true to a point. I have pursued retreating parties when they were running from encounters, and I have generally restocked dungeons when I found it likely to have happened. I have also done the opposite of both cases when I thought it logical to do so, so I don't really know what the problem is here except that Mona might be trying to read me for hints as to what to do too much maybe.

Last week the party died partly based on the fact that Mona did as I suggested through the village headman Gobo. I suggested it because I was thinking of what Gobo would do, trying to get in his head and play the role of Gobo- a peasant farmer responsible for the well-being of the rest of the villages farmers. I figured the last thing he would want was a big fight in his village where the people he was responsible for could get caught in the crossfire or punished by the Black Riders for getting help from the PCs. Deaths, property damage and worse extortion were on his mind and it caused him to beg the samurai to hide until they left.

Mona also said to me that, if the adventure is going to be tougher than I think they could handle, she expected that I would supply back up NPCs to give them extra firepower. I actually was hoping that they would try and hire on some 0-level help for the adventure, but I didn't suggest it. Maybe when I play old school I try to be a little more like an impartial referee and less like the guy trying to help the party along? I don't know. I just know that I want the party to start coming up with ideas on their own instead of having Harvey the helpful NPC suggest stuff to them (or have noticed the clue, or had a handy healing spell memorized, or whatever). I also have been rolling all of my dice in combat out in the open to stop myself from feeling (or acting upon)the urge to fudge the rolls in favor of the party. I really want all XP to be earned here.

I know they can do this, but I can't help feeling that I have coddled my players for years now with all of this later edition stuff and the advice I read about advancing story lines and making sure everyone is having fun and making death rare and memorable and not punishing the players for having bad luck. I have now torpedoed my own dream campaign two weeks in a row to show that I am not afraid to let the dice fall where they may and that caution, thinking and planning are more useful than excellent AC or a ton of stat bonuses (although I did alter the universal stat bonus to be in line with later editions of D&D).

Saturday, December 25, 2010

New Look

I have been meaning to update the bare bones look of my blog for a while and add some of those cool widget thingies. So in honor of my new campaign I decided to go with a Japanese themed background and otherwise spruce things up a bit. Ruins and Ronin instead of OA? I decided it's easier to add stuff to a game than to take stuff away. It's actually R&R with a fair bit of OA thrown in for my AD&D fix. Variable hit dice, variable weapon damage and a couple of other tweaks. I'll be trying it tomorrow so let's hope for the best.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Some thoughts.

I have a few issues. First I have said that I prefer 1st edition AD&D many times and that 1st edition AD&D OA is my preferred form of OA- That is a lie. Looking back on it it is an unintentional lie. I started playing D&D with Holmes Basic, moved to AD&D shortly after and added in Moldvay's Expert set when it came out too. I don't remember the order of me getting the books and it's not really important whether I had the DM's guide or the Expert set first; the important thing is I have never played straight AD&D. Ever. I am also not such an old school purist that I am allergic to the good ideas from later systems. I like the way 2nd edition thief skills progress. I like 3rd edition's 3 saving throws and attacks of opportunity (in theory anyway, in practice they make players move in bizarre ways across the battlefield so as to avoid them).

In playing OA yesterday I am struck by some of the clunkiness of the system. The stuff I like about OA is great, the stuff I don't like about it kind of sucks and there is a bunch of stuff I am kind of ambivalent about. I like the classes (mostly) and the races. I like honor, but I think it could use an overhaul. I like families and ancestry and birth rights, they make for some interesting, if occasionally lengthy, character generation. I don't really like the non-weapon proficiencies, I never have liked the idea of using dice mechanics to handle social interactions and I don't like the idea of limiting a character arbitrarily because he hasn't taken, say, calligraphy yet. Many of these things could be determined by a characters background, which is why I liked secondary skills in the DMG. Some things should be fairly obvious by class- Barbarians probably all should have a shot at, say, fire building (as should probably everyone else only maybe at a penalty). Anyway, without ranting too much more here, most of the non-weapon proficiencies could be simulated with just an intelligence check or a dex check or a saving throw vs. whatever.

I really want a game that is a cross between Ruins and Ronin and 1st edition AD&D Oriental Adventures with a dash of later edition simplifying rules.

Birth Rights were kind of a pain in the ass for the first time ever in my experience. They need to be somehow tailored to class to avoid giving randomly wildly inappropriate things, like ninja weapons to samurai characters. I altered the item tables on the fly to give out more appropriate things, but it was annoying. Partial armor has got to go to. It just plain sucks to get something like a shin-guard of quality for your birth right. I intend to get rid of partial armors entirely. They can join non-weapon proficiencies on the scrap heap. For my campaign non-Japanese equipment needs to be weeded out since I am using a fantasy Japan setting.

Classes can be weeded a bit too. The OA Ninja as written (a split-class) needs to go. The Yakuza kind of sucks as written too. I understand the desire to have a "Thief" class, but they really don't work as a player character class. They make some decent NPCs though. The Monk I am not sure about. On the one hand they make more sense here than in "regular" AD&D, but on the other hand they made them more fiddly and complex with all the martial arts maneuvers and no one ever wants to play one anyway. I'd ditch the Shukenja, but the Sohei doesn't get spells until 2nd level like earlier edition Clerics- which is what they essentially are. Shukenja are kind of superfluous and apparently poorly named too since the Oriental "Wizard" class picks up that name in 3e. Wu Jen are just AD&D Magic-Users with some Asian flavors added, and are the only class not named in Japanese; I am all for changing their name to Shugenja and ditching the Shukenja and calling it a day for spell casters leaving them with the "new" Shugenja and the Sohei. For my beloved fighter types I am torn. The only reason I ever see anyone play a Bushi is because they didn't get high enough stats to be a Samurai, so I am tempted to go the Ruins & Ronin route of 0e D&D and just make on Bujin class, but the Samurai are the heart of every campaign I have ever run, except for one that was a 1-on-1 Kensai campaign. Kensai are cool, but need some work to make them really work. Not being able to use a magical version of your preferred weapon is just kind of lame, and the name should be Kensei, it bugs me that it is consistently misspelled throughout the OA book. Anyway, more research and brain-storming are necessary to fix the Kensei. The Barbarian is way more broken than any other class in OA precisely because it is, with only cosmetic differences, exactly the same as the Unearthed Arcana Barbarian, one of the worst munchkin classes of all time, topped only by the UA Cavalier (which the OA Samurai is a sub-class of but manages to avoid all of it's excesses).

More later.

TPK- Doh!

I ran OA yesterday. We started late partly because Ashli's boyfriend Victor wanted to play and needed to make a character and partly because of the general slow moving and procrastination associated with socializing here. D&D is a social activity after all. After Giving them a brief background (they all are retainers of Lord Yabu) I opened the campaign in classic fashion with the Black Riders assaulting the mura of Gobo. Now there were only 4 characters and I may have over role-played Gobo into convincing the samurai stay hidden in his house at first, but I have never seen this fight go down like it did here. Ashli's Akiko nearly one-shotted the leader when she kiai shouted and attacked (the riders were going to take her horse as a "tax payment"); Mona's Midori did one shot the rider that entered Gobo's house to investigate after Akiko charged out of there. Ashli's surprise round and the next round went really well for the party (except John whose character Ryuuro never hit anything)after that though things went south for the party fast. Akiko's surprise round and the party's first round dropped the leader and 3 riders, they would never hit another target and 3 rounds later they were all unconscious and bleeding (except Ryuuro, who at zero I ruled was merely gravely wounded and immobilized).

Now, I have decided that the temple lackeys would take these samurai as prisoners back to the temple for their superiors to decide their fate. This is nearly as bad as dieing for the samurai and not much better for Victor's Bushi Shin. I also decided that it might be better if we had the NPC/back-up PC's that we had talked about earlier. I was a little worried about the party's total lack of magic, particularly healing magic, going into this game; but everyone wanted to play fighter types. I dropped the ball by not having an NPC Shukenja for the party's use.

That said, the party really made some poor tactical decisions (indecision about whether or not to attack the riders to start with, Akiko launching a surprise round on her own when the entire party could have charged out from hiding at once) along the way. However, I think their luck turning bad was the real PC killer here. Also, maybe, me not rebalancing the encounter for fewer PCs. I hate doing that though, it rankles my old school sensibilities to alter an encounter just because they came with 4 PCs instead of the recommended 6 to 8.

Monday, December 13, 2010

New Game Starting Up

After months of no gaming going on here I took the step of starting a Sunday game again. Of course this being my house and having the personalities involved in this game nothing went as planned. The plan was that I would start an Oriental Adventures game (hereafter referred to as OA)with just Mona and Ashli as players and a couple of core NPCs to fill in any perceived holes in our party. We would make characters during the week preceding the game (because making OA characters is more involved than "standard" AD&D 1st edition characters) and jump right into gaming on Sunday. Ashli is always busy with school and had a drill team meet in Connecticut on Saturday, so we did not get her character made pre-game day. Mona and I didn't get around to it either, despite her being out of work this week, because other projects and procrastination took up all our spare time.

So Sunday rolls around and I have a firm 11:00AM start time get blown out of the water by breakfast turning into brunch and the clean up taking way more time than I would have thought it could. I also realized that I was getting sick. A cold I think but a pretty bad one. Anyway, at roughly 2:00PM we finally got everything squared away and started on characters. During this time both of the other kids stated a desire to play. John actually sat down to make a character, Em hovered around kind of interested but reticent to actually do anything more than roll dice for character creation she lost interest in playing. Eventually she made herself helpful by finding a list of Japanese names with their meanings (and the Japanese characters for the names).

Despite having 2 OA books at the table character creation went pretty slow. I was the only one well versed in the extra bits of OA character creation, so I had to help each of them with Family, Ancestry, Birth Rights and Honor. John was also confounded by the monetary system and it's lack of decimalization.

All told we broke the session sometime after 6:00PM with most of character creation completed. John needs to finish buying equipment and Mona needs to start.

I had been hoping as late as Sunday morning to be able to get through character creation and run a small introduction to the setting, but it just was not going to happen yesterday.