Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A-Dungeonin' and A-Dragonin'

As a follow-up to last week's post, I managed to get A0 Danger at Darkshelf Quarry to the table last night.

To recap: the intent was to try and run an AD&D module using the current D&D rules. The purpose of this was to show off the simplicity and flexibility of the current system, and to prove to myself that it could easily be done. I define "easily" as: the DM preparing the module as s/he would normally, making up the DCs on the fly (but adhering to the DC scales listed in the rulebook), and subbing out monsters as necessary, as AD&D stat blocks don't exactly transfer over. Pretty much, I wanted to show that the most work one would have to put into running an AD&D module for D&D would be finding the current rules for the monsters within.

Overall, it worked well. I was playing with my usual RPG group, which is made up of four other seasoned gamers, with more than 60 years of gaming experience between us. They'd never played the current version of D&D, and I'd say by the end of it they were impressed, which is another goal I had (the sneaky task of trying to convert my closest gaming friends to my favorite version of D&D yet). They even liked the module, though I had some complaints:

Too Long. I was under the impression that this adventure was written to fall in line with the other tournament modules, but without being a tournament module itself. Whether I was wrong in that assumption or not, it didn't fit within the four hours I wanted it to. I had to rush the ending. One member of my group suggested that I cut some rooms out of the dungeon, as tournament modules were written with the intent to see how far a party might get through the dungeon, rather than make an adventure that gives everyone the experience of an adventure from start to finish (the players also could've ended the adventure in half the time if they went to the guard house instead of into the mine). I think this works well within a tournament setting, but like I said last post, it's just not something I want to roll out for the session I'm going to be running at the games shop.

Too much hackin' 'n' slashin'. I'm not one of those gamers that turns their nose up at a good ole hack 'n' slash adventure, but there wasn't much to go on here other than sword swingin' and arrow loosin'. One of the players was playing a preacher-type cleric, who tried to convert some goblins to his faith, and that was fun to role-play, but another group (especially one made up of strangers, and therefore less-likely to go as far outside the box as my player did) might just as easily start an encounter with the goblins instead.

Not weird enough. If I'm going to run an AD&D-style adventure, I want it to be full of Appendix N nonsense, and craziness. I want eccentric wizards beseeching foul gods for power, and strange groups of monsters committing even stranger acts of terror upon small medieval towns. I guess DCC has spoiled me in that regard, by doing an amazing job of capturing the proto-D&D feel that's been bred out of the game (or recessed).

All-in-all, I've proven it can be done; you can run an AD&D module for D&D with only some monster stat blocks on hand, a tiny bit more work, and some improvisational skills (and the confidence to stand by what you change). I just now need to find a more suitable module.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Slave to the Game

I'm back!

Oh. These balloons are all deflated... Ah well.

This post is about the new D&D, and a game I'm prepping, so if you wanna read about that just skip to the text under the bold, linked, title further down. If you wanna read a bunch of boring stuff about how I've been doing nothing in the last six-and-a-half months, then read on!

So what have I been up to? Well, to be perfectly frank, not writing. I've hit a bit of a phase lately where all I want to do is watch police procedurals on Netflix (if you've never watched Twin Peaks, then you definitely should, and if you don't like Twin Peaks then I really can't do anything for you. Sorry), and play Hearthstone (I can't stand World of WarCraft, but this game is so good). I'm trying to fight my way out of this slump, which is really the only way to do it. Slumps like this can't be beat with time alone. I just regret that it's taken me this long. So what's worth writing about so much that I dusted off this old blog?

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition 

I'm not going to write a whole review here (or maybe even at all), but I have to say this this is quite possibly my favorite version of D&D yet. The rules are so simple to grasp, which is really what I want these days. I just finished a two-and-a-half year long Pathfinder campaign, and I can honestly say that while I'm still willing to play Pathfinder and D&D3, my days of DMing it are over, over, over. It's just too damn complex, and too damn high-powered.

I'm sure D&D will expand the game to a point where characters can turn invisible at will, and remain so forever, or that rangers will be able to fire five different magical arrows at once, but from what I gather these will be, mercifully, optional. The core of the game is an intuitive sword-and-sorcery system, that one will be able to season to taste. I, personally, will be taking a hard look at the rules for feats, before I agree to allow their use at my table, and while I love, love, love miniatures, I'm not running out the door to include their use either.

It's also a bit biased of myself to say that I'm a big fan of DM agency (fancy-schmancy way of saying the DM is always right and can veto stuff), but this edition seems to lean more towards that than 3rd or 4th edition, without going all the way to tyranny. I mean, it's shitty when you have a terrible DM and s/he's surrounding you with nothics like you're at some sort of nothic rave (really, Carmin?), or violating the "yes, and..." rule of improv every encounter, but for the most part, I like the DM to not be constrained by the rules. Whether I was valid in feeling that Pathfinder constrained me or not, it's just how I felt, and how I don't feel now with D&D.

So what next? I'll be running an event at the shop I work at soon that will involve D&D, and I've been wondering what adventure I'll run. Seeing as how Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC) launched me on the classic RPG kick that I've been riding high for the last little while, I thought I'd run an old AD&D module and see how well it converts to the new game. I'm betting my reputation as a world-class DM (and a handsome one at that) that it'll run like a dream. 

I'd be a fool not to give it a test-run, though. To that effect I'll be hosting a game next week to give it a dry run. It'll involve four players who have yet to play the new D&D so it'll be the perfect arena to work out the kinks. The adventure will be A0 Danger at Darkshelf Quarry.

You may be grasping your computer monitor and shaking it with fury. "You simp!" you scream, spittle turning your Linux display into a corona of prismatic light. "A0 is not part of the original 'Against the Slave Lords' arc, but a mere imitator!" Well now, settle down. Sure, it's an AD&D module written in 2013 (and a prequel at that), but it's written by Skip Williams who used to work at TSR in the late '70s, and who's written many D&D modules in the past and so I have the utmost confidence that this adventure will provide the AD&D experience I desire. Besides, unlike the other A-Series modules, this one isn't designed to be a tournament module. I don't have anything against tournament modules, it's just not something I want to run at this moment. Besides, I already bought the damn re-print, and so far I've run neither Jack nor Squat of it.

So what's the battle plan? I'm going to run the adventure as it's displayed in the book, and sub in the monster stats from the new game (which can be found in the Starter Box, and the last D&D Next playtest document). That's it! If anything strange comes up during the game I will take notes, and adjust as I see fit. Great Gygax! How easy does that sound? No more templates or charts that I have to adjust to ensure game balance (a nebulous term for RPGs if I've ever heard one). I'm free, folks! I'm free.

I'll let y'all know how it goes next week.