THE BASICS OF BX D&D: 25 Answers For 25 Questions From Someone New to BX (Part I)

Moldvay Basic (1981)

These questions were from a Reddit post found here. I thought it would be good to answer them as a way to explore my own thinking on BX D&D. And since they come from someone who was getting into Old-School Essentials, I thought this collection represented a base level of what people struggle with/need help understanding. Perhaps you'd like it to try it too. My answers are in basic red.

RULE QUESTIONS

'1) Number of players in a party. The book states 6-8. I already have a hard time pleasing my five 3.5 players. What is your experience? What would be the ideal number of players for you to be comfortable running the game? What would be the absolute maximum you cannot possibly imagine having at the table?

I think there is some debate as to if "players" mean people or total PCs. I have run satisfying BX games with 2-10 players. When playing with 2-4 players, they really do need extra bodies in the form of hirelings and torchbearers. 6-8 is a good sweet spot. 10+ players require the DM to have good table management: move fast around the table, quick decisions making ability. 

One good mix, I've found is 3-4 players with 2 characters each. It starts to promote that sorta "troup-style" play where players have a rotating cast of characters. And it lessens PC death.

2) I don't mind being limited to STR, INT and WIS to lower when trying to pump up other stats at character creation, but is there a reason it is these three in particular? Perhaps some of you just lower any chosen stat in your games?

The historical reasons behind this one have been recently pointed out by a poster in Grognardia, my take hereThe other aspect is that in ODD, there were only three classes-- fighter, magic-user, & cleric whose prime scores were STR, INT, & WIS.

I really like Delving Deeper's take that you can use every 2 points over 10 of WIS to count toward your prime req when determining XP bonus. It gives WIS scores a little more impact in the game that we IRL ascribe to good wisdom. However, I appreciate the cleverness of Moldvey to just dispense with the Gygxaian complexity and just make the rule basically: lower by 2 to gain +1.

One other reason, Moldvay might have excluded DEX, CON, & CHA from this is because maybe they knew that AC bonus, HP bonus, and high retainer count/reaction bonus were important and really should not be touched (?).

3) Is there a reason saving throws for magic rods or staves are not included in the wand section?

Saves have always been open to interpretation. I've interpreted wands to also be rays emitted from devices aimed at a single target (like magic traps) where rods & staves tend to have more area of effect or passive effects.

I think the best way to think about save-throws is as a way to describe your game. For instance, if you were running a BX game based on a very fantasy gothic interpretation of the Catholic Church-- I'd make your saves the Seven Deadly Sins.

4) Alignment langage. How do you make it work in game? I can sorta get how chaotic people or even lawful people could speak a different jargon (or sign), but neutral? Have you used this mechanic and how to do so?

I use alignment languages as a way to roughly communicate if there is no other common language. But it is very difficult to communicate complex ideas: 

chaotic can only communicate in terms of destruction/change; lawful can only communicate growth/stability; neutral can only express cycle/nature/balance. 

These languages are in part divine and are known when a PC starts with or even switches alignment. Like tuning into a radio frequency.

At the table, I make players communicate their ask to the goblins to me the DM, only in destructive terms for instance. Then make a ruling on how the goblins react or call for a reaction roll. This should make for difficult precise communication that is open of miscommunication & mistakes--- all great role-play flavor.

5) Are the languages written under the demihuman classes automatically learned by the player? It seems very OP to have a total of 6 languages at level 1 (for the dwarf and elf) which is not even counting their intelligence bonus. Have I misunderstood the rules? Wouldn’t it be a little more realistic to give them common, alignment, elvish/dwarf + perhaps ONE of the three extra (chosen by the player)? What do you think or do?

This will only be OP depending on how important you make languages in your adventures and campaigns. I don't find it very disruptive. And there are plenty of other monsters they might not understand. Also at 4,000 XP from level 1 to level 2, elves can have a little extra.

6) Elves being immune to ghoul paralysis. Any reasons for that? Why no other monster paralysis (not even a paralysis bonus in general).

Ghouls are a great low-level threat so will frequently appear in dungeons. This is a little extra protection again losing an "expensive" (in XP terms) character. I am sure there is also a sorta mythological connection somewhere too, although I have not found it.

7) SO much money! For my 3.5 games, I tend to hold back on gold, because magic items + characters' abilities quickly become too OP. Now, I cannot do that for OSE, since the amount of gold is practically equal to the amount of XP they get. At first, I thought that the gold used for XP would be ‘destroyed’, literally converted in experience. But it appears it is not so… So, what do they do with all this money? Basic weapons, armor, and gear (which are relative luxuries at character creation, quickly becomes cheap for a player that needs 2000 gp to get a level. Are stronghold building and hirelings the only end to a PC’s massive treasure? (aside from magic users and cleric who can use money to create spells and magic items). Taxing the adventurer's gold might be a start.

Do tax! You can't walk around in a roughly feudal society with generally no standing in said society and expect people to let you carry around lordly sums. I also use a couple of other nice rules I picked up:

1. PC can pour gold into improving their gear, weapons but if they lose that stuff in a risky endeavor then they gain XP they "banked" in it. So, if the wizard threw their fancy gold and jade studded cloak over a basilisk's head, then they'd gain the 500 XP for the torn to shreds cloak

2. PCs can invest in carousing to convert gold into additional XP at a risk.

3. I do think given people's time constraints you should wait to long to bring in domain play to lower levels. Have clerics build shrines for instance then maintain them for additional benefit. Fighters can seek titles and thieves can seek gangs. Let wizards make wands for 1st level spells at 3rd level or so, but make them expensive.

4. Also try to break, tear, ruin, and sacrifice equipment and also make players qualify where they are sleeping and how they look. This is important for social standing.

5. Here is my downtime sheet which has additional things on it.

8) BTW, I wonder what the magic-user, who cannot wear armor nor use weapons, could do with his starting money if the player gets lucky with his 3d6 x 10 gp. Should I make him pay for his spell(book)s? It does not seem fair for M-U to pay for a class ability, but nonetheless, how much would cost a unique spell anyways? From what I can see, there is no price list on the magic items' menus. The M-U could use money for research, but it is a question I have for every class actually. It does not botter me that much that magic items are not priced in the book: I'd rather have players earn/find the magic items than paying for it. But then again, what to do with all the XP money ?

If a MU got 180 gp on the starting gold roll, I think the best thing to do is get some retainers (OSE p126). And that also goes for other classes as well.

9) Magical research : I like the idea, especially in the cleric’s case, to be able to craft spells. I now wonder how it is to be done. It seems like a hard thing to create ‘balanced’ magic, especially when the OSE spells are not so many (to help estimate the power/level of a spell. Do you have examples of PC created spells? 

I never had PCs do this, but I would just start out maybe asking for altered versions of current spells and build from there. Alternatively, you could just let them go with whatever they want and alter it later if it seems overpowered.

10) Turning the undead. I found it hard to comprehend at first, can you please tell me if I got this right : we roll 2d6 first to see if we are able to turn anything, depending on the monster(s)'s HD (and look at the table provided at page 23), then we roll 2d6 a second time to see how many creatures' HD are actually affected by the turning, right ? And you can try once per encounter?

Yes.

11) Strongholds. I like the idea, of course, but I wonder how it is actually done. Plus, it seems like an awesome mechanic for video games, but here, we have potentially 6-8+ people at the table, all of which may become eligible to build strongholds. Unless they all come together to build a mega keep, how exactly do we help each one create their own little world while still being part of a party? (Especially since it is one of the fighter’s class attribute to be able to build a stronghold from level one if he/she has money). Any examples from your games?

Strongholds are an awesome mechanic and no videogame still does them well. They should be aspirational for your players-- a mark on the world. I have often thought about what I can do to push this aspect of play into lower levels. 

The stronghold can be added to by all players, but certainly one would have to be designated as the lord. However, it could be used as a base of operations to launch other lower-level characters who grow into their own stories. Because by the time players get to traditional domain-level play, they often would retire those characters.

12) Small sized weapons (and armor). What about them? What is an "appropriate to size weapon"? Do you need a smaller sword for your halfling? I see 3 possible interpretations :

  • In 3e, any weapons can be converted in damage and price so that smaller or greater races could use them. Yet, here, no damage or price conversion for that. So I do not see it as the B/X way.
  • In the OSE Advanced rules, in the 'attacking with two weapons" optional rules, it is stated that secondary weapons 'must be of small size (e.g. a dagger or hand axe)'. Thinking this way, halflings would only be able to use actual physical "smaller" weapons, like a short bow or a hand axe, and on the other hand would be forbidden from using longbows or two-handed weapons in general. So it would greatly reduce the number of damage a halfling could do (not so bad, after all, since they are a really strong 'fighter' race to begin with).
  • Perhaps it is up to you to translate a "human" weapon to a smaller size (kinda adapting the 3e way but not needing a conversion table. You would simply take a 1d8 sword and see it as a double-handed sword for halflings, a human shortbow would be considered an halflin's longbow, and so forth

What do you guys do to adapt weapons to the appropriate size?

Yup. Sounds reasonable to me. See already getting the hand of "rulings" over explicit rules.

13) Monsters attacks.

  • The rules state that there are 'alternative attack routines in square brackets', but I genuinely have not noticed any square brackets related to monsters' attacks. Regular parenthesis, yes, but no brackets. Is that a mistake from the book? Or have I missed something?
  • The rules state "the attacks that the monster can use each round", so does that mean that when the book states "2 claws (2d4), 1 bite (1d6)", each time it attacks, the monster deals (if it hits) 2d4 + 1d6 of damage? Or do you roll 2d4 twice, once for each claw? Do you roll for both claws and bite, or do you have a separate roll for each?
If the stat is Att: 2x claw (1d4), 1x bite (1d6), then I interpret it as 3 attacks per round and I will roll for each attack and its dmg. If the word or is used in the attack description, I will interpret it as a choice.

14) Why is movement in a dungeon (per turn) so slow? (I mean, the book gives a reason, but still). Is it specially designed to burn resources? Would it break the exploration balance to change the rate? If PC's are so careful, it makes you wonder how they can still get surprised by wandering monsters or fall into a track pit.

Essentially yes; If you change the rate you are changing the number of encounters and resource burn. PCs are being careful, but monsters are careful too and adapted to this mythic underworld enviornment.

Increasing the rate does alter exploration balance and player decision. Because if adjusted too high, players will realize they can just zip around the dungeon. The decision to go deeper is not longer fraught with peril. Saping the dungeon and game of tension.

15) Searching: if the characters have a base movement rate of x feet per turn (because they are being cautious), does it mean that to search a corridor, they have to take one additional turn, or do we search secret doors and traps 'as we walk', using the base movement rate in feet per turn and rolling during this time ?

Yes, to search is a different action than moving. In ODD the elf character's ability could be interpreted as passive. However it is an important, risk, and interesting choice to decide to stop moving and spend time searching (which can draw a random encounter).

I think the key is don't make searching for secret doors sadistic as in 1 door in a 150 ft long blank hallway. Instead try to place them, say, behind 1 of 4 statues. Have the statue indicate something to the player-- 3 look right, 1 looks left.

16) Evasion : I don't really understand the wilderness evasion table. How does a group of 4+ pursuers have fewer chances to catch up with the fleeing group? Shouldn't that be the exact opposite (the more the pursuers, the more the chance of one being able to outrun the fleeing side, right?). Is it because percentages are upside down? I still have a hard time remembering which lower rolls are better and which higher rolls are better...

Its all roll under and for me it makes sense that if the pursuer group is large, then they start to confuse themselves. Sometimes even chasing their own party members mistakenly.

17) Retainers: what is your experience with retainers? It is a very nice mechanic, but it seems that a party with average charisma may well attract a dozen retainers if not more at their side. Of course, this may not be possible depending on the game/area/dice, but still, the raw rules allow it. How do you manage that many NPCs at a time in a game/dungeon/fight? Have you done it?

I like them and way to encourage their use more. You might attract them, but you still have to pay for them. Either by gold or magic items. As a DM I try to make what they are motivated by at least a little unique. 

Really retainers can be run like NPC monsters (MV, AC, HD, Weapon) and very importantly loyalty rating. They also don't want to just blindly get themselves killed. And if they do die, well maybe someone comes looking for them... maybe that someone could even be a demon looking to gather a soul.

  


18) Encounter balance. (this one is also a rant)So, I know there is no real balance, but still. The dungeon encounter table (p. 204) gives a 2d6 wolf on a 1st dungeon level. 2 freaking d6 wolves ! It's outrageous! That's a potential 12 HD 4+1; twelve 19-hp wolves that can deal 8 damage each turn, killing one PC character each in one round! And don't hit me with the "oh, but they can always run away if they be smart", this is three times a TPK, and that is especially given for 1st level dungeons! By comparison, the table gives 2d4 bugbears on a 3rd level dungeon, or 1) less creatures with 2) less HP than the bloodthirsty dire wolves from the 1st level. It does not make sense at all. And I have not really read the rest of the encounter table, mind you. Rant over.

Seriously, how do you do it? How do you give your world a tiny tad of balance? How do you keep your low-level players alive with such random tables? They cannot escape everything, and OK, they know the OSR games will be deadlier, but having few to no clue as to how to give appropriatish enemies is tough. Do we just look at the HD and consider that a party of x members of Y level is able to kill about x creatures of Y HD?

Ooo! This question could be a whole book!

The first thing is to stop thinking that an "encounter", at some level, must always also be a winnable combat by the PCs. 

Only when faced with overwhelming odds, do players really pull out all the stops. Only when faced with overwhelming odds, do utility spells or gear start to really make a difference; position & environment make a difference; alignment language or high CHA matter because negotiation is a quick way out.

BX explicitly points out ways this "imbalance" is managed in-game (using OSE):

The ENCOUNTER REACTION ROLL (OSE p115): What does it mean if these 2d6 wolves are friendly or wary? What about an Ogre who is "neutral"? The encounter reaction roll helps the DM not initially start off the encounter as the NPC side being aggressive.

But this also requires the DM to make a determination of what these creatures want. Maybe the Ogre wants to get into room #5, but is too large. Can a bargain be struck?

The "BRIBE" (OSE p116): While listed under PURSUIT, there is no reason to think a gift of food, wine, or gold won't go a long way in distracting monsters-- intelligent or otherwise.

Once in combat, the "MORALE CHECK" (OSE p123) provides a way the combat might end due to the first death being inflicted on the enemy or 50% of the forces destroyed. My own house rule allows for a check when the "leader" is killed as well.

But to go back to the earlier point about a DM knowning what a creature wants, this allows combat objectives other than kill everyone as I outlined here.

19) 'Wishing for more wishes: this will result in an infinite time loop, putting the character out if play.' Is the game saying that characters asking for infinite wishes are doomed to an infinite time loop? This is perhaps my english missing the subtlety here, but I'm not sure of what to make of this.

The point is that when players attempt to subvert magic for an unfair advantage- the DM should take their words and actions to the literal worst interpretation. So getting more wishes because you are stuck in an infinite time loop is the worst way to technically get more wishes. 

20) What does ESP stand for exactly? Extra Sensory Perception >> [PART II]

THE BASICS OF BX D&D: 25 Answers For 25 Questions From Someone New to BX (Part II)


PART I HERE 

21) No weapon seem to be actually cursed on the weapons table p.270. Is that a mistake and what would be a good percentage of cursed weapons if we had to roll for it?

I think this depends on the context of the weapon. A weapon forged by demonic hands might not be cursed, but it might seem that way to a lawful PC if all its magic powers are fueled by blood. Good cursed weapons have a great power that tempts players to risk the curse.

22) Is OSE compatible with ADD? What would be to adapt? Yes with some unimportant modifications. Most players back in the day freely mixed the two. 

23) How do you make exploration fun/exciting? I have read many on the sub who seem to enjoy exploration more than anything else in RPG's.

This itself is could also be the subject of a book. But I think it can be summed up more easily than combat: is what you are exploring interesting enough to risk going a little further in? And related, is player choice meaningful?

If the answer to both is "yes" then you have an interesting environment to explore. Might also be good to review this dungeon checklist by Goblin Punch.

24) How do you handle death since it may happen more often than in more recent editions? Do you created many characters from the start/make your players roll for several characters? Do you pick up an NPC from the town and bring him/her to the party? I am considering starting my PCs with family (spouse, children) than may or may not go on adventures if the first PC dies.

Just roll up a new character and jump back in terms of death. But yeah, sometimes players might enjoy 2+ characters because it lessens the impact of one death. The players to look then toward the campaign instead of just at their single character.

25) How do you deal with the 'may attack' on the monster reaction table? Attacking on a 2 only is quite low, and I'm guessing that many monsters would choose to attack rather than parleying. Do you have a moment where everything said or done by the players could start a fight?

Why would they rather attack than parley? Again think about what the creature wants only the really zealous or mindless (undead) fight to the death. A tiger will stop attack ing you if you hit it hard enough or if you make a threatening enough display initially.

THE CRYPT OF THE ST. NEMO the SLEEPER: Super Cleric Bros. Session 6 & A Maybe Dreamer Class


Return to the "super cleric bros. campaign", we left the PC standing in a hallway by the statue of the St. of Sleep (previous session here). And a riddle: 

I sleep behind the sun, setting west ❧ Three guardians east, stand eternal, at my behest ❧ Craving power, these usurpers have bellies distended ❧ They will have no sleep, no rest, & hunger unended

DM NOTE: I was a little worried about this puzzle taking too long being too obscure. I thought it would be good to include demarcations of location and threat. Also, I think puzzles are difficult because I always conceive them at first as something that has to be difficult instead of just something that should spice up play for ~30-1 min.

The PCs first walked west first to discover a bunch of crypts devoted to monks of the past. I had them roll d100 on a table of 100 useful items each representing something the monk was associated with, yielding: pot of glue, pot of alchemical lubricant, dwarven stone drill, diver's suit, and plague doctor's mask (Zyanese). Floating Disk once again comes in handy from their Follower Lunell to load up and carry all the stuff.

DM NOTE: Surprising/unsurprising non-damage combat spells really do amazing work, but only in situations that press movement, resources, and encumbrance. I need to remind myself to create those choices.

Two waves of ghouls are fended off with Turn Undead Rolls. I decided for some reason that all my ghouls should rythm which my players had fun responding like-wise. They ended up back at the staircase they can down the level in. The party moves back east then north once that happens they realize there are three crypts on the right (east) which contain some sorta ghoul-like creatures (pale blue glow to the eyes and blue-grey skin)

Turning left (west) they then realize there are two crypt to the right each with a sun motif. They try the one with the noon sun- no secret door, but a coffer box. Br. Cadfael opens it and receives a poisoning (1 hp; body feels heavy/sleepy roll initiative separately and at a -1) plus several 1000s of coins which they throw on the floating disk.

Moving forward to the second Eastern crypt, they find no coffer, but a setting sun, and when touched a faded blue outline of a moon forms and that's when the 3 guardians made their move. Br. Phelius attempts to turn undead but to no avail. These are not typical- their unlife is born more out of divine punishment.

Br. Cadfael orders the two wizards to the back ranks and barks for Fw. Gersia to fire Magic Missle which hits the first guardian for 6 dmg dropping them instantly!

DM NOTE: But yes, combat magic still in important.

In the resulting series of melee exchanges, Br. Phelius is brought to 1 hp. However, the clerics retain initiative allowing Phelius to retreat and Cadfael to step up in the melee. The cramped quarters serving to help create a bottle neck- along with the floating disk full of stuff. 

DM NOTE: A little annoyed with myself for not having done more prep to make this battle a little more set-piece. In the sense that just as I started with a small puzzle, PCs did some exploration, it would have been cool to end with some tactical combat

Cadfael has the favor of AZLN and avoids several melee exchanges with these guardians while Phelius heals for 6 hp and is able to re-enter the fray! But the cleric lose initiative, yet still, keep to their feet and both land killing blows against the guardians.

Once done, the clerics enter the tomb and recover the body of the St. of Sleep.

PROCEDURAL MODIFICATION as a RESULT of ACTIONS:

Here is the state of the Ossuary Pilgrimage Table or who will come to pray at the Abbey:

Ossuary Pilgram Table (roll 1d6)

1 | MU, St. Ulther
2 | Fighter, St. Ulther
3 | Cleric (zealot), St. Serene
4 | Fighter (adherent), St. Serene
5 | Elves, St. Sleep
6 | "Dreamers", St. Sleep

I might try to make Dreamers some sort of "thief" class. Improved move silently/hide in shadows. Maybe each adventure they can roll on a rumor-like table about their dreams which could be true or distorted (false). Or maybe they see an area like some sorta "treasure" map. Throw some sorta detect secret door as elf owing to a differential perception. Ooo maybe a dream journal, a spell book-like manual, that had random things the sleeper has recorded--- maybe occasionally Sleep, Darkness, and other illusion spells.

If the above table seems mixed up, that's the intent! Religions are weird and often have a mashed-up collection of saints and a lot of revision to make everything fit. I kinda want my players to be just as curious about their own religion-- "What to elves and lions have in common?". I also want to have a lot of gaps to make it wyrd and a little unnerving. Just like the descriptions of Christian angels being all fire, brass wheels within wheels, and eyes.

 


DIFFERENT EXPERIENCES: How Prime Requisite Is Modified by Other Ability Scores

 


I just want to point out this nice post from BX BLACKRAZOR about the calculation of experience based on prime requisite scores. Which is based on another post on GROGNARDIA

Even in the Moldvey/Cook BX, they interpreted it as having to lower other ability scores to increase the prime requisite score.

Certainly one way of doing it, but a possible incorrect interpretation. Here is how a commenter put it for OD&D:

Under Strength:

"For each 3 full points of strength above 9, clerics may consider their prime requisite (Wisdom) 1 higher for the purpose of gaining experience."

Under Intelligence:

"For each 2 full points of intelligence above 9, fighters, clerics, and thieves may consider their prime requisite (strength, wisdom, and dexterity, respectively) 1 higher for the purpose of gaining experience."

Under Wisdom:

"For each 3 full points of wisdom above 9 for fighters, 2 full points for magic-users, or 1 point for thieves, they may consider their respective prime requisites 1 higher for the purpose of gaining experience."In short, In OD&D, high scores in OTHER ability scores could be used to "increase" your prime requisite when determining XP bonus. But because it is written in come convoluted Gygax it is hard to understand.


I've seen a variation of this in the '74 OD&D clone DELVING DEEPER which I also think makes a nice addition to how one can interpret WISDOM in BX:

Wisdom is intuition, common sense, and maturity. Each 2 points of wisdom beyond 10 will add 1 point to the character’s prime requisite for the purpose of calculating experience points earned. Wisdom is the prime requisite for clerics and functions as does intelligence in determining what course of action a non-player character should take. 

HOW DOES IT WORK? 

Well lets say you roll a STR 15, WIS 12, INT 14. Because your STR is the highest score a fighter would be a logical course. But since your WIS 3 point over 9, you get a +1 to prime requisite for the determination of the XP bonus. And because your INT is 5 over 9, you get a +2 to prime requisite for the determination of the XP bonus. 

In total this fighter's prime requisite is 15 +1 +2 or 18! Earning I believe a 20% XP bonus.

PIOUS HANDS MAKE FOR GOOD KNUCKLE BONES: Super Cleric Bros. Session 5

 


A return to the cleric campaign! Previous sessions here.

Try to add DM Notes like this.

The current state of the Ossuary. Each result is the mechanical class (in-game fiction/flavor):

Ossuary Pilgram Table (roll 1d6)
1 | MU (magicians), St. Ulther
2 | Fighter (sailors), St. Ulther
3 | Fighter (fanatics), St. Serene
4 | Cleric (zealots), St. Serene
5 | none
6 | none

DM Notes: So when I rolled 3d6, I got a 5,5,6 (3 actual weeks have passed since we last played) which means that no pilgrims show up to the abbey this time. And I roll 1d6 for each current pilgrim to see if anyone has left on a 1 or 2. None do.

As it stands two MU followers of St. Ulther remain at the abbey ready to embark on any adventure the PCs might have for them. 

I just generate the followers using the Old School Essentials NPC generator here (also good for characters). And Oblate Samuel shaken from the death of his friend Leo, is back to being somewhat normal.

Brother Cadfael from the Cadfael series one
of the clerics takes their name from (I need to watch it)

The clerics'
first decision is what spells they will pray for today. The Reliquary allows a little extra bonus when they pray to various portions of it provide they have placed recovered monks' items there. The portion they have powered allows them 1 save throw re-roll (The BENEFICENCE of AZLEN).

The second decision is to return once more to Dyson's Tower to retrieve a third saint for the Ossuary rounding it out, which will allow a lot of pilgrims, and very much in the Abbot's wishes, who they like.

DM Notes: Since IRL weeks had passed, I allowed the clerics to at least have a standard pack of starting supplies, so they made one last stop to rally both Follower Lunell and Gersia. And after a passioned plea, collected Oblate Samuel.

DM Notes: Also they accused the Prior of being an agent of Orcus. Since time has passed, gossip as spread. The Prior is not too happy. They want to get the hell out of town. 

At the Goblin Camp

The approach to the camp is pretty standard now, they prefer the entrance to the south in order to sneak past the goblin camp. The clerics' aim was to return to the 1st Level and perhaps recover one more saint they sure were buried in the area with St. Serene and Ulther. 

DM Note: Because this area is almost always the start, I think its just better to sorta procedurize it. The PCs just have to have one method of surpassing the goblins on watch and we just make one check. In the furture I might try to alter the weather or add a patrol-- just to switch it up so the PCs never have *perfect* information about what's going to happen. 

The trip back to this location except for a bizarre ankle-deep fog covering the ground. They scrounge the scene of their last battle and fine a set of chainmail and the door leading to hopefully the last saint. But it was not, instead it was a crypt full of skeletons seemingly dumped without proper rites and full of spite for the living. This time, my players remembered their clerics could turn undead and short work was made of these skeletons. With the use of holy water, they scrub the floor clean of the mark of Orcus.

DM Notes: Maybe should have made the skeletons a bit harder to turn since they were in the radius of a mark of Orcus, but whatever. The PCs felt the threat.

Level 2

This level too is familiar ground to the PCs. They decide to bust up a goblin dice game in an attempt to find some information about the location of human saints. Brother Phellius offers up his newly won chain mail and dices against the goblins-- winning. The clerics learn another goblin, Snakesplitter, is being held on some charge and maybe the PCs could take them off the goblins' hands since no-one likes him. They were also warned to watch their back.

After leaving, the PCs asked Follower Lunell to Hold Portal the door.

DM Notes: I need a better quick dice game for D&D other than roll 2d6 who gets the highest. I bet Nate Treme has one.

A turn later they find the hastily assembled baracade Snakesplitter is barracaded in, but the four goblin guard want 100 coin as a "transfer fee". The clerics, being pious men rich in virture, are broke. So Redcap offers to make some new gambling dice out of their knucklebones. A fight begins and ends in the third round when Redcap is beaten by a Brother Cadfael's mace and moral breaks. The remain goblins just make new gambling dice out of his knucklebones.

Snakesplitter offers to come with them simply for beating Redcap to death. And gives them sass about first trying to convert him to being a monk.

Level 3

Snakesplitter leads them down a different set of stairs to Level 3 than before. But before realizing what is happening they are suprised by an ambush/gang/thieves guild of robber flies! Snakesplitter avoids the on slaught as does Follower Gersia, but Follower Lunell, Brother Cadfael, and Brother Pheallius are on the defensive taking hits each. But its poor Oblate Samuel that met his fate-- natural 20 and 5 on the damage roll. Robber fly basically ripped his arm off.

DM Notes: This encounter suprised me with how brutal it was. Also, I think I need to have some standard layouts ready for battle. I really like having tactile set up with objectives and "terrain". But maybe since I have 2 players, I should just got more free form.

DM Notes: Also this is the 2nd Oblate who died. They are supposed to be wards of the Abbey, so someone might come looking for them-- 1:6 they were connected to someone at Stronglaw Keep. 

After a few Cure Light Wounds, Snakeplitter showed the clerics a clue to what they came for-- a statue of the Saint of Sleep.

And because the DM, me, forgot the sheet with the riddle and we were at our 2 hour limit, that was game for the night!

DM Notes: If you get anything from this, then I hope its the idea that a good game of D&D can be done in 2 hours. Not need to pull out 6, 8, or 10 hour sessions. It just requires density of choice to be high. And that is what is nice about this "mini-megadungeon" format.

BUT WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO FOR US?!: Generating actionable NPCs to get players out in the world

 

Michah Ulrich

In my current home campaign, each cleric according to the 90 + 10 Edict must have a sponsor in the Abbey in order to reside there and maintain good standing. Those sponsors are drawn from the Obedientray- senior monks who have additional duties and skills within the Abbey. In-game, this is a way for the Church to maintain further control on its martial component. Out-of-game, it was a way for me to create NPCs the players could go to for help.

But as the campaign as taken root, I've have a couple of problem flower in my head as well.

PROBLEM 1: Since the campaign will be starting its 5th session this week (yeah!), I wanted to make sure that it is not so cleric-centered that other classes could not easily fit in if one cleric is killed.

SOLUTION 1: Open up the world to be more than just Dyson's Delve. This would allow me to throw out other interesting things which could catch the players' attention and provide fuel for other classes.

PROBLEM 2: A. So how do I naturally get them out into the world? "Natural" here means as a result of player choices, not the DM just dropping another plot point in. 

SOLUTION 2: Because the clerics are resupplying through reaction rolls with their obedientaries, maybe I'll just have these NPCs have other wants, needs, and desires out in the world. They can't get to them due to obligations at the Abbey, so they send the PCs.

And because I need a bunch of unique NPCs, I can use Evlyn Moreau's Fabulous Pocket Guild which I've been meaning to use more. So I just draw 10 cards for each obedientary. Then look up some names for them. And I just need to give them a want.

PROBLEM 3: Also, what is this "world"-- is it homebrew or some repurposed campaign?

SOLUTION 3: Lets use Beyond the Borderlands as a setting for this campaign. Its something I already own like the the Fabulous Pocket Guild. Alex Damaceno did a great job expanding upon a will worn classic module. Converting it into six section, 36 hex, hexcrawl. And since the theme of this campagin is linking me, my newphew, and older brother together-- its a perfect fit-- new spin on the old.

RESULTS

Each obediantary is represented by two rows of the NPC cards (top: 1-5; bottom: 6-10). The cards themselves give me basic looks, equipment, and they ooze with personality. People even have pets: sheep, a donkey, floating skulls...

The black hexs represent where their "want" is located in Beyond the Borderlands. And the red text is my attempt at quickly sketching out something interesting between the NPC and a hex feature. Don't want to spend a lot of time because it might not come up. Its just a seed to get me going incase the players say, "Alright will you give us X if we help you with your problem Y?"

I tried to create a range of problems from the seemingly mundane (setting the accounts), to finding special items (a flute that controls animals), to the very personal (lost a piece of their soul).


Beyond the Borderlands- the world
I put Dyson's Delve in hex 4,1 where there are already ruins





SUPER CLERIC BROS: Session 3 & 4

AZLN the Lion of Light

More from the on-going cleric campaign started here.

SESSION THREE

The Abbot still pushing the completion of the Ossuary, but this time the PCs have the help of the wizard Lunell a pilgrim of St. Ulther who has agreed to join the adventurers out of duty to the patron saint. 

And so the two clerics, Cadfael & Phellius, set off with wizard Lunell and the Oblates Leo (bow) and Samuel (sword) to Dyson's Tower.

By mid-day, they had made it to the tower, where they took a wide birth to the southern cavern entrance. With no giant ferrets insight, they made their way up the narrow center tunnels that would lead them past the goblin guards, and at the beginning of the eastern crypts they wanted to explore again.

At the end of this narrow passageway/burrow was a pile of sleeping giant rats (Note: DM rolled a "7" on the encounter rxn roll). Cadfael whose background in animal handling was put to the test and found lacking. Combat began with Cadfael in the center of the giant rate circle and Phellius and the Oblates on the outside. Combat ended when Oblate Leo (2 hp) was turned into a rat buffet after one ripped his throat out (dmg 3) and he was swarmed.

After casting Detect Evil and reinforcing why the goblins marked the doors to the eastern crypt, this holy(-ish) host descended to the 3rd level, cursing the wizard for not learning at least Magic Missle which could have saved Leo.

On the third level after mild exploration, they realized they were caught between a goblin party in a closed room and giant fire beetles milling about a treasure chest. A quick plan was formed: Hold Portal the door to the goblin room closed, oil and set fire to the giant beetles, and load the chest onto a Floating Disc-- then be gone!

Turns out Follower Lunell had useful spells after all and did not for one second let them forget it on the way home. Oblate Samuel's sobs did not let them forget the dead Leo.

The contents of the chest however netted them an ironic 666 XP each.

SESSION FOUR

(Note: I finally started to implement my procedures in this session described here)

Our clerics decided to start off with a visit first to the Abbot who once again implored them to devel the crypt for bones to complete the ossuary. The prior, who believes them filled with avarice and tells them so, implores them to leave the crypts behind, but go to the marshes in search of the lost caravan.

Our clerics think the Prior is trying to get them killed.

Siding with the Abbot they return to Dyson's Tower with only Follower Lunell this time. Brother Samuel was still shellshocked from the loss of Leo (Note: PCs rolled over the NPC's moral according to the PC CHA). Back to the same cave where poor Oblate Leo was turned into rat vittles. This time they head straight for the eastern passages and doors marked by the goblins and slip inside.

They find a plain crypt. A far cry from the one for St. Ulther. But their curious investigations soon awoke the zombie inside, burst forth from the grave. Combat ensures were Brother Cadfeal & Phellius are so consumed by sending the thing back to hell with their bare hands, they forget to even attempt turn undead. This almost proves fatal as only 1 of 3 thrown vials of holy water dash against the zombie, Follower Lunell is brought to 1 hp, and even Brother Phellius is one heavy zombie punch away from death. But at the last second Brother Cadfael's mace finds purchase and the zombie's head is knocked off.

The reward for this effort is the revelation that the curious dagger sticking out of the zombie's chest was in fact a profane dagger of Orcus. The clerics resolve to destroy this foul tool at the Abbey in appeasement to AZLN. Then they find behind that behind a mysterious door is on the south wall of this room is the crypt of St. Serene the Beheaded-- their second saint!

The first order of business back at the Abbey was to destroy the dagger. The PCs approached the Prior who offered to destroy it which made the PCs think he is an agent of Orcus. That and the fact he's never liked them. Instead, they gave the dagger to the Abbot and leveled their accusations much to the shock of the Abbot--- "He's an old friend and a pious man. It cannot be true."