Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Dawn Patrol and 2nd B/X Game in 12th Century Cornwall
On Saturday I went and set up a new Dawn Patrol campaign with my old wargaming mentor Big Darryl, AKA Darryl Sr. and his son, my longtime BFF Darryl Jr., AKA Little Darryl, although that's become an ironic nickname, since now he's much bigger than his dad. We spent about half a day refamiliarizing ourselves with the Dawn Patrol rules, which I think I haven't played rules as written, since I was maybe 14 years old, and creating a "stable" of pilots for each of us; the player characters of Dawn Patrol, such as they are. We each created a couple of British Pilots, a couple of French Pilots and three German pilots. Since there aren't any character stats in Dawn Patrol, it all comes down to "flavor" stuff, like where exactly you are from, one of my "French" pilots is actually Serbian for instance, and previous experience your pilot might have, number of missions flown and possible kills; this can give you a slight mechanical advantage in the game over a total newbie pilot. Dawn Patrol is essentially a wargame after all.
We deferred to Big Darryl's judgement in pretty much every aspect of setting up the campaign and the squadrons, the man knows more about World War I aviation than anyone else I have ever met, and I have met some people that know quite a bit, I'm no slouch myself as an interested hobbyist, but he may as well be an expert in the field. Much to my horror, since I have always been worse at air games than either Darryl, Big Darryl decided to randomly select who would be on which team and what the missions would be, and I got stuck by myself against the two of them as the Germans on a reconnaissance mission fairly deep behind allied lines, they were a fighter patrol. Now, on the plus side, I outnumbered them, I had a pair of two-seaters and a fighter to escort them, all three of my German pilots would see action, as well as two NPC observers. The down side of this was, of course, that I had to fight against both Darryl's, who both have a consistent record of victory against me in aerial combat games, and that they were both flying fighters, Sopwith Pups, to be exact. I don't actually remember what my planes were, I am better with allied aircraft of the "early" period in Dawn Patrol, we started on February 1st, 1917; one of my two-seaters was a Rumpler and my other may have been a Roland or an Albatross, or the fighter was. I think those were the planes I had on the board anyway, I can't find my copy of Dawn Patrol at the moment to check which German planes start in February of 1917.
When the game started they had altitude on me by almost 2000', but didn't get surprise. The entire game went something like that, we traded good and bad luck, so it pretty much evened out. I never got the initiative for the entire game, except once, when I rolled by accident when I didn't need to because I was tailing little Darryl. Big Darryl's gun jammed the 2nd time he fired at me and he spent most of the rest of the game trying to clear the jam and avoid getting shot at by my observers while still staying close enough to the fight to be relevant when he did clear the jam. My fighter took a critical hit to the tail and had jammed controls, so it could only fly straight and level for four turns before I fixed that. Little Darryl took advantage of that and nearly shot down my fighter, he was one tail hit away from going down when Darryl's machine gun finally jammed. He kept up the pursuit for another turn, but my two-seaters were on him by then and filling his plane with lead. My two-seaters kept making lucky long range shots from their observer's guns and scoring good hits. In the end I had completed my mission, but my fighter was pretty badly shot up and the pilot was wounded. Little Darryl's plane was moderately shot up and his machine gun was jammed. Big Darryl was a little far from the action with little or no damage and had finally cleared his jam, the British decided to break the engagement and let us Germans run for home.
I don't think things would have ended well for the allies if they had stuck around, the 360 degree firing arc of the observer's machine gun is a pretty nice advantage, despite all their shots being deflection shots; the only good way to approach a two-seater is from underneath. That said, the Pups are better dog-fighters because they can turn at speed and none of my planes could, which sucked. What also sucked was that my fighter pilot, Ernst Grolsch, native son of Bavaria died in a crash landing upon returning home. Preliminary plans are in place to play again next Saturday, I hope to play my French pilots then, as they have Nieuport 17s.
I do have a couple of observations about Dawn Patrol that I either forgot or had completely eluded me when I was a young teenager playing this all the time. First, "winning" initiative is bad, going first sucks, because all firing takes place AFTER the end of all movement; so, if you move first and set yourself up for a shot on an enemy plane they're just going to move out of the way. You are much better off moving away from combat if you "win" initiative in Dawn Patrol. Second, I should not have dreaded playing against both Darryls nearly as much as I did; despite the inconclusive dogfight and the crash landing death of one of my German pilots, I did actually complete my mission and return to base while inflicting moderate damage to one of the enemy fighter craft, technically that is a win for me against the two guys that I thought were just both better at this kind of wargame than me; and it didn't come down to luck on anyone's part, we all shared pretty much equally in bad luck and good.
Sunday had us once again in 12th century Cornwall, the date was March 3rd 1139 AD, and 2 replacement members of the party were found as captives of the Bandits in the castle on Bodmin Moor, a Dwarf and a Magic-User; which I retconned from last session where it was Lee's new PC Fighter Lyanna of Thanet, bring both Dalton and Ashli into the game, back into the game in Ashli's case. Lee couldn't make it this week because of work. Lyanna of Thanet will be joining us at some point in the future when Lee can make it, hopefully next game. The party moved right along and encountered the Kobolds in the next room along the way, the new Magic-User cast a Sleep spell on them, perhaps unwisely, since two of the four Kobolds were killed before the Magic-User had the opportunity to cast, but these things happen.
Now, I am not real partial to Castle Caldwell as an adventure, but I have run it on several occasions, so it was easy for me to place into this fledgling B/X campaign. One of the things that has always bugged me about it was the interior layout of the castle not being terribly like a real castle, I guess that's really my problem though because the players didn't seem to notice, or if they did they didn't mind. After the party killed the Kobolds they decided to clear the west side of the castle, it was a meat grinder and three PCs died, including both party Dwarves and the party Magic-User. Then they decided to tactically withdraw to the nearest town for reinforcements, which included the new PCs of Dalton and Lance, both Fighters, Dalton's a local lad named Tristan and Lance's a German mercenary named Friedrich von Hussen. Ashli made a Fighter too, named Agnes, but she was in need of a nap by this point and didn't immediately rejoin the party for the foray back to the castle on Bodmin Moor to finish off the bad guys inside and earn the rewards promised.
The party spent two days resting in the no horse town just away from the castle to get their strength back, but I hand-waved any reinforcements to the castle garrison, since the only dead bad guys so far were a few unreliable humanoids, their pet wolf and some vermin. As soon as they got back to the castle, the party were all business and they methodically went from door to door, searching for traps, listening, opening and killing any occupants. The Bandits never stood a chance, although Tristan took their "magic" sword for his own right away. The party had some fun with the Chaotic Acolyte in the Chapel, I decided that she must be an adherent to a Satanic cult, because the Lawful Clerics are all Catholics, so I played up that whole angle kind of campy. The party Elf, my wife Mona's character charmed her right after the battle started and defused the whole thing, pretending that she had converted the entire party to the worship of Satan, including the party Cleric Sister Mary Jane Sledgehammer. They talked for a while and found out what the plans the bad guys had for the castle were, up to a point, which I made up on the fly, and then the party Thief Astrid the Norwegian, my daughter Ember's character, back stabbed her and started combat all over again because she wasn't sure how long the Charm Person spell would last. Tristan finished her off with his d30 roll for the day, because he wasn't sure how tough she was. Just for fun I added to her treasure several pages of fan-girl erotic poetry about Satan with illustrations in the margins.
The party finished the adventure pretty quick and easy after that with no real incident, although John's character Brocc wasted his three questions with the statue pretty much, only asking the one relevant question about the Wizard Locked door. The party then returned to Endelstow to receive their reward, which they did and we broke for the night.
I also recently got these miniatures in the mail.
These guys I thought were particularly appropriate to the current campaign.
These ones less so, but still good to have.