I bought a new printer a few months ago that lets me print double sided. Shortly after I started printing my own little booklets. A lot of RPG material is available online, formatted to be made into digest sized books. I find making booklets relaxing.
Lacking a long-arm stapler made the process tricky. Normally I would fold all the pages in the booklet and then bind them together. For thicker books I would saddle stitch them with some waxed thread. For thinner booklets I would punch holes for staples and then push the staples down by hand. That worked reasonably well.
A couple weeks ago I stumbled on the MAX HD-10V Swivel Booklet Stapler. It's a fancy stapler from Japan whose shaft swivels 90 degrees. This lets you staple the spine of the booklet from above and below the book, rather than the side, using what amount to a pretty small stapler. It works incredibly well. What's more, the stapler is much cheaper than your typical long-arm stapler. If you print your own D&D booklets there is no reason not to own this stapler.
I wrote this several months ago, but for reasons I don't recall never posted it. I suppose I thought another play report would be boring. Now its an annotated play report.
My friends and I have been a bit disorganized with our 4th edition home game, so it looks like my participation in Brenden's OD&D game will be more consistent. I've played in three games now and they have all been a lot of fun. Our group is a good mix of impulsive and cautious.1
My second session began with a much more startling start than the first. The very first room we encountered when venturing into Pahvelorn was full of beastmen and body bags.2 We got the jump on them, commanding them to drop their weapons. Sadly, they decided shooting us with crossbows was the way to proceed. After a short fight we discovered we had saved some bandits from certain doom. We returned them to the city and planned to venture back to the dungeon the next day.
We made it a little bit further into Pahvelorn before being attacked once more. Well, we thought we were being attacked. We had actually stumbled on some missing villagers. They too were safely returned to the city. No one spoke of an unfortunate and accidental death.3
It was on our third trip to Pahvelorn that we made it back to the mansion we were exploring in our previous session. Not much looked to have changed. We managed to convince the clerics to hold off messing around with the frozen demon clearly held in place by a magic sword, and so proceeded to explore the rest of the mansion. The first unexplored room we entered looked empty save for a tantalizing jade statue--and then some sort of crystal elemental materialized and killed one of our henchmen. We fled and there was no pursuit: always a good thing.
Moving on we stumbled upon a library in much disarray. The magic-users took the bait and stared rooting through the soiled books in hopes of treasure. My character Satyavati discovered a giant centipede. A failed Save vs. Poison later and I though I’d need to roll up a new character.4 Luckily for me the rest of my party was well prepared for this expedition. Benni, our thief and rat catcher, had some anti-venom he administered posthaste and all was well in the world.
Further exploration led to the discovery of a dissected demon. We found his well preserved body parts throughout the rest of the mansion. We tied up the clearly dead body, and then started replacing its missing body parts. Of course the demon promptly headed itself and woke up. We had a short discussion to determine whether it would kill us or not. The demon decided Benni was our leader, and was now its leader as well. We learned the demon arrived from some other realm to fight the previous occupant of the house and quite likely the rest of the lands of man. As demons go it was quite friendly. We named it Tangle.5
We discovered a trapdoor leading down to a cavern below the mansion. The passage was was next to some incredibly expensive looking fountains we will need to figure out how to steal at some point. We ventured through the cavern, finding and killing a giant white snake hiding in a pool in the process. With that we decided to call it a night.
I now have a much better sense of the layout of the dungeon we are visiting, which greatly helped with my initial confusion during the first session.6 We now have a demon butler and a cavern to explore, which we did in our next session.
I believe Brendan's original plan when he started his Pahvelorn campaign was to have players drop in and out, so that if one person was busy another person could take their spot. This is apparently how the very first D&D campaigns were run, with a huge pool of players. This is also how a lot of G+ games are run: it's often not too hard to find someone ready to jump into a game. We play on Monday, which is probably a quiet night for most people. We went a very long time before having to cancel a session, and that was because Brendan was traveling through Europe. My friends and I tried and failed to keep our 4th Edition game going in this manner. I think the trick is to get people to pencil something into their calendars. I know I'm busy Monday nights--and I suppose more importantly my wife knows too. ↩
We ended up killing the Wizard that was creating these beast men several sessions later. One of the current characters in the party was that wizard's apprentice. ↩
Brendan doesn't award XP for killing monsters, so every fight is often more risk than reward. We often start every fight with a meagre attempt at negotiation, unless it's clear the monsters we are fighting aren't intelligent. It's actually kind of funny we ended up killing a villager: that might be one of the few times we shot first, so to speak. ↩
Satyavati died a tiny bit after his 10th session: I tempted fate and lost. Brendan discussed this at length in a blog post about character death. He was definitely one of my favourite D&D characters. I'd never play Magic-Users normally, so it was a big change of pace. (This is one advantage of totally random character generation: it pushes people into playing characters they might not normally.) ↩
Brendan created this evil demon army that's clearly attempting to take over the game world. Because we met this friendly and confused demon early in the campaign, all members of this race have henceforth been referred to as Tangles: hardly a name that strikes fear in the hearts of men. We have encountered these creatures several times, and those experiences has never been pleasant. Nevertheless they are Tangles: harbingers of the apocalypse. ↩
After a few sessions full of character death and little gold our party left Pahvelorn and has yet to return. I miss all the dungeon delving. We need to get back there. Our characters are beasts now, to boot. ↩
A Green Man cyborg (AC 18, MV 60', HD 6, Lawful) leads a battalion of 3-12 soldiers armed with an assortment of Alien weaponry. The cyborg will repair any Alien technology Lawful PCs may possess, and will attack any PCs who make their allegiance to the forces of Chaos known. He is searching for his adopted daughter.
Citadel of 98 Red Men led by "The Ram", a Lawful 4th-level Fighter. "The Ram" is a behemoth of a man, never seen without his indestructible helmet.
Spawn of Shub-Niggurath (AC 14, MV 120, HD 6, Multiple Alignments [intelligent]): An Orange humanoid with a smooth hide and 3 heads. One head is humanoid (and Lawful), one head is robotic (and Neutral) and the last head is bestial (and Chaotic). When first encountered, or whenever the creature is under stress, roll a d6 to see which head is currently in control of the beast: 1-2 - the humanoid; 3-4 - the robot; 5-6 the monster.
A Jale Man Sorcerer (AC 16, MV 120', HD 8, Neutral) wearing a Red breast plate sits on a giant Cthulhu shaped throne, alone at the lowest levels of the Cavern of the Time Lords. He may share his knowledge of Carcosa with those who seek him out.
Spawn of Shub-Niggurath (AC 14, MV 120' / 160' [Flying], HD 6, Neutral [intelligent]): A Brown avioid with a feathered hide and a toothed mouth. There is a 4 in 6 chance that when encountered the beast will be in flight.
A squat Purple Man Sorcerer (AC 12, MV 90' / 120' [Flying], HD 2, Lawful) in flowing robes and an over sized hat is in the process of botching the ritual The Glyphs of the Ebon Lake.
1 Sabertooth Tiger (intelligent).
A Blue Man (AC 16, MV 120', HD 2, Lawful) with a cybernetic augmentation that allows him to extend his head several meters above his body is surveying the wilderness. He is armed with a bright yellow mace and can not be surprised.
A damaged Alien vehicle, with 4 tank treads instead of wheels. Characters with an intelligence of 16 or more may attempt to repair the machine, with a cumulative chance of 10% per week of succeeding. (i.e after ten weeks the tank will be repaired.) It is large enough to comfortably transport 12 men.
Village of 366 Brown Men ruled by "the Silver Fist," a Lawful 6th-level Fighter. The Silver Fist rides into battle on cybernetic horses and wields a mysterious purple sword.
A foreboding grey castle sits empty save for its custodian, an Orange Woman 18th-level Sorcerer. The castle is circumscribed by a bottomless chasm. A single bridge leads to its imposing doors shaped in the visage of a skull. The sorcerer will not leave the castle, and is immortal and invulnerable while within its walls. She will aid all those who actively seek to defend Carcosa from the forces of Chaos.
What appears to be a simple rock is in fact The Starseed, a source of unlimited power. At any given time there are at least 1-6 high level sorcerers actively searching for the artifact.
A White Woman (AC 14, MV 120', HD 4, Lawful) is locked in battle with a Deep One. She fights with a large wooden staff and is searching for her mother.
1 Orange Mastodon. The beast may shoot acid from its trunk 3 times a day.
A beautiful young woman, an astronaut from Earth, lays wounded in a recently crashed spacecraft. The ship is damaged beyond repair.
Village of 130 Dolm Men ruled by "The Master of the Universe," a 1st Level Fighter. He wields a magic sword in battle: on command the sword grants +20 HD, and the saving throws of a 20th level Fighter. Only those chosen by the powers of the Grey Castle may hold aloft the magic sword.
Talysman of The Nine and Thirty Kingdoms offers up the reasons he enjoys playing OD&D. He touches on a lot of the reasons I quite like the system as well. After playing 4th Edition for a few years, playing OD&D is quite refreshing. If you have a few tables printed out there is almost nothing that will slow down a game. A lot of what is spelled out concretely in later editions of the game is left up to the players and DM to resolve, which ideally leads to less looking up rules and arguing about whether you have cover or combat advantage or this or that. The game relies on you using your judgement and common sense to adjudicate situations the rules don't flesh out. It feels like there are just enough rules to play the game, and no more.
This project seems perfectly suited for a crowd sourced effort. The little descriptions are quite varied and creative, and producing all of them happened quite quickly. I suspect if you asked a single person to write up 400 odd hex descriptions they'd fall into a certain amount of sameness pretty quickly. This is a common complain with Carcosa, for example. Taking a bunch of junk like this and cleaning up can also be a chore, but a few people offered to help and that made the process go much quicker and probably better than it would have had one person done the editing alone.
People also did a good job expanding on each others descriptions, making the area described feel alive. I mentioned early on that in Hex 0116 a group of spies were making their way to a city just North of that Hex. I mentioned they were from a far off city in a Hex that had yet to be described. Well before we got to point that city was fleshed out other people had written about the city.
The Kraal sounds like an interesting place to run an adventure. You should check it out.
YOU CAN NOT HAVE A MEANINGFUL CAMPAIGN IF STRICT TIME RECORDS ARE NOT KEPT.
Strong words from Gary Gygax on running a campaign. This is one of the few places in the Dungeon Masters Guide where text is set in all caps. This is important: you're just fucking around until you start correctly tracking the movement of time in your campaign.
On some level D&D is a game of resource management: do I have enough torches, food, spells, etc, to survive exploring this dungeon. If you aren't mindful of how time passes one aspect of what makes the game difficult disappears. (AD&D takes this to extreme levels with combat and rounds being split into segments.)
That is time at the micro scale. In this section Gygax is referring to time at a more macro scale. How much time passes between adventures. Do other adventurers have time to sweep in and steal the choice treasure before the PCs get another shot? Gygax was running games with multiple groups of PCs operating in the game world at the same time. The interplay between the groups will be different depending on what each group gets up to and how long it takes. It's easy to hand wave what happens outside of the dungeon, but there is some interesting game play to be had IF STRICT TIME RECORDS ARE KEPT."
If you are a little bit tech savvy, you can edit the Google Doc as outlined in Zak's post, and use the python script I wrote to create your own version of the site. You can also work with the CSV file in the repo directly.
I printed out and bound the Vancian Magic supplement from Gorgonsmilk. I find all the folding and sewing relaxing. The book seems like it is actually a little bit too big to work as a saddle-stitched booklet. Maybe i'm just not good at making them. At 90-odd pages its a pretty meaty supplement. The book collects 2 stories by Jack Vance, 4 articles about magic in D&D by Gary Gygax, and a re-imagined Vancian spell list for D&D.
I had never read anything by Jack Vance before. I found the two short stories presented here really quite good. Vance produces a very evocative world in just a few pages. Both stories contain plenty of examples of the bizarre version of magic one finds in D&D: wizards can memorize a handful of spells, which they can cast just once before they are forgotten until they are memorized again. The stories definitely increased my appreciation of the magic system used in D&D.1 Previously it felt both arbitrary and not particularly fantastical.
The articles by Gygax are all great picks. Gygax explains why he went with Jack Vance as his source for magic in D&D. Briefly, Vancian Magic lends itself well to balanced and fun game play. One of the articles is from 1980 and discusses magic in AD&D. It's full on Gygax raging against people doing it wrong DMG style and its fantastic.
Finally we get to the re-imagined D&D spell lists by Shadrac MQ. The spells have great names and really imaginative effects.
This supplement is free, features art from Moebius, and collects some great writing: why haven't you grabbed it already?
The stories both contain footnotes with commentary about how the fiction relates back to D&D: a good idea poorly executed. Most of the footnotes offer up obvious insight or simply repeat what you just read. Anyway, it's a small gripe: the footnotes are small. ↩