Monday, 20 July 2009

Avoid trouble: Cycle the party leader

One of the things we do in our game sessions is cycle the party leader. If the party leader changes during a game session, it's reducing the likelihood of bad leadership screwing things up, not to mention how it reduces players sending each other off to take stupid risks instead of thinking them through themselves (because they won't stay as party leader for long). It also helps limit the effect disruptive players can have on the group as a whole.

At the start of every session, I have all the players dice to become leader. This involves all of them rolling a d20 with the player with the highest roll becoming the leader. This is similar to what happens when we find treasure that more than one player wants that cannot be divided between them, in that circumstance, the players who want the item dice for it. A tied top result leads to a reroll for the players who are tied as they dice against just each other.

Party leader gets final say on any decision that needs to be made, but because of the nature of the cycling, the players tend to ask for input from others. The last thing they want is to cause trouble for the other players as it won't be long until they are subject to another's leadership - perhaps even the player in question.

So when does the leader get cycled? Simple. After every combat, cycle the party leader by moving either clockwise, or anticlockwise, away from the current party leader. We always rotate anticlockwise in our game sessions, but so long as you pick one direction and stick to it, it will not matter which way you go.

As an aside, we also use a house rule that means the monsters will always go for the party leader in battle (if they can) which leads to interesting tactical situations. The party scramble to protect their leader (whoever it is). Particularly dangerous for the party mage (although now he's fourth level and has mirror image he has some room to breathe now) but on the plus side it encourages team work and helps the group gel as a whole.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Raise Dead as an Entry into the Underworld

Some people deal with magic that raises dead characters back to life (e.g. raise dead, resurrection) by making it very rare, some by making it expensive, some by throwing their arms up in the air and saying 'hey, its a agme, who cares if it breaks believability'... but I have another idea.

D&D is famous for its dungeon crawls, so why not make raise dead open up a portal to the underworld and have the rest of the party jump into it. Make whole thing into an opportunity to rescue the dead character's soul from the dungeon of the afterlife. Death of the party members in the underworld would force their souls to remain in the underworld until rescued too...

Success would be no means assured - in fact it would be a challenge. Enter the dread underworld and re-emerge with your buddy - if you can?

Monday, 6 July 2009

High character turn over rate

One thing about 'old school roleplaying' (I'm playing Labyrinth Lord) is that there is definitely, in my campaign at least, a high turn over rate of low level characters. Last night, for example, we lost two characters and would have lost a third if it were not for a house rule that states that any character above level one that is taken below 1 hitpoint, can make a save vs death, to be only unconscious instead of dead.

We play by letting the dice fall where they may, and this includes me as the DM. I roll all dice in front of the players so they can see it is all completely above board and fair.

We lost the party fighter to the future King of the Orcs, who had found a magical spear that could unite the disparate orc tribes that the party were also looking for (to keep it out of their hands in fact). The group had left the citadel they were exploring to restock their supplies and train up, even though they knew they were only an hour behind someone else who was sneaking around in the ruins. When they returned to the ruins, there was an orc host emerging from the citadel with much fanfare! One of the orcs was holding a spear aloft that glinted in the light. All told, there was a robed figure, a wolf, four orcs, an orog and two kobolds. After a little debate, the party decided to attack and remove the threat to civilisation. It was in this fight that the fighter fell to the orc with the dread spear, certainly, an honorable death.

The next battle they fought had the most surprising results. It was against merely six orcs who were skulking around the courtyard in the citadel. They had probably heard the party's bard who was breaking crates into pieces and hammering bits of them over the doorway of the room that the party was going to rest in. On spying the orcs, the adventurers attacked! However, one of their henchmen was cut down in a vicious melee, then the party wizard was brought down by two orcs with short bows and a similar fate was waiting for the bard. Luckily the wizard was only knocked unconscious, but the bard was slain.

In both cases of character death, the players just rolled up new characters and the game carried on. So instead of a fighter and a bard, we now have a cleric and a fighter. Attrition rate is proving to be high - but that goes hand in hand with an appropriate danger level for the campaign. Also, in both cases the party did not have to fight, but chose to anyway. That, I think, makes all the difference!

Neither player complained, they got 3d6 out and started rolling up new characters - one of which has an 18 - our first natural 18 on 3d6 in 8 months of playing!