Friday, September 30, 2016

Return to Dwimmermount: Episode 2

Image result for medieval mercenariesFighters Grimgor and Thanatos joined Maester Coleman the wizard and Luciru the archer in pooling their life savings to purchase a church charter that grants them access to Dwimmermount.

Given the choice to accompany a clerical expedition into the lower depths as guards or strike out on their own from the Red Gates, the four explorers voted unanimously to go it on their own.  It's not clear whether the deciding factor was the fear of what might lurk deeper in the mountain or an aversion to having to share any treasure recovered with NPCs.

They swiftly settled on a marching order with the fighters at the front and rear and the other two in the middle.  

Image result for headless statueAfter being startled by the headless statues in the Entry Hall, Luciru surprised everyone by abruptly dashing off with the only lit torch!  Coleman pondered lighting another until he realized that Luciru was carrying the group's bundle of unlit torches as well ...

"We're gonna get killed."

"He's gonna get us killed."

"Why don't you take a torch from him?"

"I don't have enough space -- I have a sword, a spear and a shield I'm not dropping any of them."

So Luciru, played by a complete novice, gleefully set the pace and direction for the march.  

Not long after passing the foot of a great, headless statue of Saint Mavors, the group (who paused regularly to argue) noticed dim light coming from an open door on their right.

"Light always means bad things are coming!"

"Oh no, I think I know what these are ..."

"I'm going toward the light."

"No way, I'm going left--we can get down to level two that way."

So by only the third room the party was ready to split up.  Maester Coleman asked if he could use his Prestidigitation to snuff out the torch, reasoning that Luciru would then be at his mercy to relight it by magic, and a more cautious course could be chosen rather than racing headlong toward any sign of danger.  However, he didn't get the chance for, as the sounds of something approaching grew louder, Luciru himself ground out the party's only real source of light against the wall of a wrecked laboratory!

"Okay, I didn't see that coming."

In almost any other situation this would have proven suicidal, but as the dice would have it, the figures approaching turned out to be a pair of human "penitents" from an earlier church expedition, bearing a torch of their own, who were doing their best to flee the dungeon.

"You had better run too!"

Luciru alone opted not to immediately follow the strangers as they darted past the party, waiting until he could hear distant howls and other ominous sounds or pursuit.  Only then did he try to sprint across a floor scattered with broken glass in the dark, earning himself a nasty bump and bloody palms in the process. 

Turning aside as the ragged church-thralls fled, Coleman used his magic to rekindle the torch and party came to a set of heavily ornamented double doors.

Image result for spider camouflage on wood

Though the others wanted to go a different way, Luciru, heady with excitement, instead heaved against one of the doors.  A hound-sized spider, it's body perfectly mimicking the hue and texture of the ancient portals where it waited, sprang upon the reckless Luciru.  He batted at it with his torch while it grappled him, and it would have ended badly but for his comrades.

Grimgor quipped, "I can't do anything to help you.  I'm going to open the other side of the double doors."

Coleman, however, despite his best judgement, used his Magic Missile (his only spell) to blast the creature and send it scuttling back into an unexplored chamber where Grimgor managed to finish it off.

The party scrounged some overlooked coins from among some rubble until the sounds of distant pursuit suggested that whatever had been chasing the penitents had turned its attention toward them and was drawing near.

Image result for wolf doorFinally acting in concert, the group withdrew behind the double doors and waited in ambush for the creatures.  Snuffling sounds were soon followed by a tug at the door--some shaggy beast had sniffed them out!

Grimgor thrust clumsily with his spear while Luciru loosed an arrow from behind him, narrowly missing the fighter and striking the scarcely-seen beast beyond.  It fled before this determined attack, and the party gave chase until their fleet-footed foe sped beyond their reach, at which point they returned to the Red Gates and slipped out of Dwimmermount.  Surprisingly all four of the adventurers escaped with their lives!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Return of Strategy Games Club

Today kicked off the return of Strategy Games Club!

Image result for labyrinth goblins gif
34 students (grades 6-10) joined me in the school library from 3:00-4:30 for Catan, Citadels, Munchkin, RISK, and three whole tables of D&D.

While my oldest daughter started a group of 4 through "The Ruins of Snow Lion Castle," her homebrew megadungeon, an 8th, 9th, and 10th grader joined me in a plunge back into Dwimmermount for season 2 in the depths of that ancient fortress.

On a whim, I started my trio with a bit of a Dungeon Crawl Classics-style "funnel" ... each generating two characters.

Image result for medieval flagellantFor backstory, I told them that each of their characters had been convicted of a capital crime (they could decide which crime if they wanted and whether they were actually innocent or not), but rather than going to the gallows, the church of Saint Typhon had commuted their sentences.  Now they each had the status of "penitent" and were attached to an ecclesiastical expedition headed for the deep layers of Dwimmermount.

For equipment, I grabbed a pair of index cards, tore them into quarters, jotted an item on each piece, and tossed them into the middle of the table--whoever grabbed it first got it!  Entries included

  • a battered shield
  • a dirty blanket
  • a nail-studded club
  • a 6' length of chain
  • a rusty knife
  • 3 torches

Gnolls are nasty blighters.
Charged to watch and hold a critical intersection in the Paths of Mavors (to secure the clerics' line of retreat should the expedition need to rapidly fall back) the party was stalked, then pursued by a pack of tall, baying, canid humanoids!

Racing back to their clerical masters, the group was dismayed to find double doors heaved shut ... they were to be the cannon fodder to blunt the attack!  Wisely equipping their best fighter with both the club and the shield, they laid into the shaggy horrors, felling two of them and crippling a third (though one fighter was gashed through his cheek and lost an ear) before the beasts abruptly turned tail and fled back into the waiting dark.

Surprisingly the group didn't lose a single character!

Not a bad first outing for both the club and the campaign.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

My [Current] D&D House Rules

Here are the house rules I'm using going into this year's after school D&D campaign:

Character Generation
    Image result for basic d&d willingham
  • roll stats 3d6 in order ("roll em and weep")
  • stat bonus range of -4 to +4 (3rd edition style), just because it is easy for me to remember
  • race-as-class is the default (but I'll make exceptions)
  • no level limits (not that it's likely to matter)
  • two human classes: fighter and magic-user (all rangers, barbarians, swashbucklers, paladins, etc. = fighters; all mystics, wizards, sorcerers, witches, etc. = magic-users ... players can still call them whatever they want of course)
  • B/X races (gnomes = halflings, half-orcs = ugly humans)
  • 1d6 for hit dice, fighters & dwarves get 1d6+2
  • no weapon restrictions by class (weapons do 1d6, two-handed 2d6)
  • no armor restrictions by class (but metal armor prevents casting)
  • 3d6 x 10 starting money or chain mail and four pieces of gear

  • fighters and dwarves add their level to hit rolls, magic-users do not
  • ascending AC (leather +2, chain +4, plate +6)
  • most shields grant +2 to AC
  • natural 20 always hits
  • natural 20 = double damage, 1 = broken weapon (unless it is magical)
  • fighters can forfeit 5 points of attack bonus to take an additional, unmodified attack

Image result for basic d&d willinghamSaving Throws
  • single, universal saving throw, starting at 15+ for all classes
  • poison inflicts damage (e.g. 1 hp/round until successful save, 3d6 after 2 rounds, etc.)
  • natural 20 always saves

  • no xp bonuses for stats / prime requisites
  • retainers take a full share of xp, but only advance at half-rate
  • 100 xp / hit die for monsters defeated
  • 1 xp / gp spent
Other Bits
  • no skills (roll under stat on d20 or saving throw if vaguely class-related)
  • death checks at zero hp (1 fail = d6 days to recover, 2 fails = maimed/stat reduction, 3 fails = dead)
  • advantage/disadvantage vs fiddly situational modifiers on attacks or saves for things like cover
  • no encumbrance, characters can run and fight while bearing 4 "regular" items, more than that incurs disadvantage 
  • no declaration phase (spells never get interrupted)
  • retainers pass morale check at end of each adventure or retire
  • halfling sneakiness: this is just a Dexterity check.  Most halflings have high Dex.
  • elven door-spotting: this is just a Wisdom check.  Most elves have high Wis stats.
  • dwarf trap spotting:  this is just a Wisdom check.  Most dwarves have high Wis stats.
  • magic-users begin with Read Magic + Int mod random level 1 spells in their books.  They have to go out and find others.
  • magic-users can cast 5th ed. Prestidigitation cantrip at will, no other cantrips exist
  • no "chance to learn" rolls for spells found
  • magic-users have spell slots equal to their level, so a level 3 M-U could cast 3 Charm Person spells or one Fireball (3 hit dice of course) if those spells are in his book
  • magic-users spells include everything from the B/X cleric lists (except Continual Light, which is deleted)
  • Sleep affects 1D6 HD per level slot used to cast it, Magic Missile hits automatically (if you are lucky enough to have it)
  • only magic-users can use scrolls
  • magic-users can use spellbook like a scroll in a pinch
  • metal armor grants advantage on saves vs magical enchantments
  • wearing metal armor prevents casting
  • Raise Dead only works on humans, and reduces the recipient one experience level (Normal Man types cannot be raised)
  • elves have a smaller spell list.  They cannot use scrolls and do not utilize spellbooks.  Instead, elves spontaneously learn one random spell each time they level up.
Elf spell list:

Fear/Remove Fear
Mirror Image
Phantasmal Force
Equipment, Treasure, and Such
  • plate mail is expensive (c. 600 gp)
  • scrolls/potions can be purchased for 500 gp / level (minimum)
  • scrolls/potions can be created for 500 gp / level AND a successful saving throw (rolled when the item is used).  Read Magic or Brew Potion must be cast along with the target spell when scrolls or potions are created.
  • +1, +2, +3 magic items don't exist, but weapons of quality do
  • coins weigh about 50 per pound
  • no flaming lantern oil, but alchemist's fire at potion cost
  • hoards of coins are described by weight, value is determined back in town
Image result for basic d&d willingham
  • d6 for hit dice
  • number of hit dice = monster's attack and save bonus
  • breath attacks do 1d6 per hit die
  • no level drain, instead attacks from wights, wraiths, and vampires cause permanent hp loss
  • only 7 types of "true undead" exist; mindless, animated corpses are merely magical constructs and cannot be turned
  • turning intelligent undead: anyone can attempt to turn (creature gets a saving throw)
Still Pondering ...
  • pondering 1/10/500 values on copper, silver, gold ("silver standard")
  • how to handle picking locks? Dexterity check?  I like the idea of traps, secret doors, and locks having "levels."  Perhaps the lock gets a save?