Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Trading levels for magic items

A random thought occured to me today for a really simple way to handle magic item creation for items with plus values. Allow a player to trade a level from their character, to create a magical item (using their own life force) of a plus value equal to the number of levels being traded.

Example; a level 3 character could make a sword + 2 and go back to being a level 1 character, or a sword +1 and go back to being level 2.

Another example: a level 20 character could drop to 15 and get a sword +5.

Other, more special items (that do not have + values) would have to be handled by a different system, or the DM could flat out disallow the creation of them, perhaps all special magical items were made by an ancient civilisation and the art of creating them has now been lost.

Monday, 24 August 2009

The best villians...

...are the ones that the players release themselves.

In our last game session, the party freed three evils that had been trapped in ice for millenia. The reason they freed them is that information was needed about how to get out a megadungeon that they are themselves trapped within. I was quite surprised that all three villians were released, as each were entombed in ice, in different chambers, beyond a chasm with no way across it that was initially guarded by a wyvern. A strong deterrent - or at least the builders of their prison, centuries ago, had thought.

The three villians, in the order they were released, were Gorrononogria (a gargantuan elder black dragon who wants to rule the world), Lady Gwendolyne (a Succubus who desires all the riches of the land) and Rendclaw (regent of the Darkened Hells and master of the thousand Soul Eaters). Even better, the heroes are now on a mission to reclaim their souls from Rendclaw, who claimed them upon being freed ('Freeing me was unwise!') by bringing the head of the ruler of the Spidercity to the demon. The elder black dragon is now who knows where, presumabley heading for the surface to submit the land to his rule and the succubus is now heading for the city of Blackport after the party mage informed her that the richest man he knew ruled that place of thieves and scum.

The campaign just started to heat up!!

Monday, 10 August 2009

The first level drainer encountered

I used to DM for a group of friends, as a teenager. During that time, we played a homebrew campaign and threw in a few modules for good measure. We had a blast and from time to time we still talk about those times even now. It created some good memories (like the time the party's thief split from the party, was ambushed by goblins in a forest and left tied to a tree naked!) but during all of that time, I never deployed level draining undead. I always operated under the assumption that they were overpowered and that players hated them. I would never put them into any encounter, assuming that they were completely unbalanced.

I was wrong.

I picked D&D back up last year after reading a little about the retro clones, and with a different group of people, I now DM a Labyrinth Lord campaign (I actually started with only one player and have picked up some more along the way). I run another (completely different) homebrew campaign with modules dropped in at various points to add some variety. Anyhow, I decided to make an encounter deck for night time encounters that included a lot of undead. The best time to encounter the undead is at night, right? ;-)

When selecting what should go into this deck I had to make a choice: use level draining undead in there, or not? I deliberated over it for a bit and then figured, what the heck, let's give it a try and test my assumptions. What a test, I know. Going from one extreme to the other... never using them, to adding them to the random encounters sure is one hellova way to test my assumptions!

Last night was our weekly game session and guess what, we had a random encounter occur at night. The party member that was on watch, Boris Blood, noticed an incorporeal figure advancing on the camp, wearing a suit of armour. It's face was frozen in a contorted look of horror. He roused the group, who tried to hail the apparition, but it ignored their attempt to parlay and continued to advance on them. They readied their weapons and fought the thing.

The party is mostly made up of 4th level characters and aside from one of their henchmen panicking and almost fleeing the battle field, the fight went very well. The wraith was defeated, although the group panicked when they found it could fly and it was going straight towards the party wizard (it was a funny moment to see him sprint away as fast as he could!), but overall, nothing unbalancing happened at all.

So now I've realised, level draining undead aren't so bad after all.. but perhaps best not to deploy them against really low level characters (say, levels one to three).

Monday, 3 August 2009

Balanced on a knife edge

The last game session of Labyrinth Lord we held was a full house, a rarity these days as its hard to get everyone in on the same week. I mostly run with one or two players down for sure, but last night had everyone and it was a great session.

There were three main encounters in the session, one against a bunch of trolls that the party's friendly sage warned the heroes about. The heroes, of course, ignored the warnings to collect eleven suits of platemail from an abandoned outpost that had been overrun by orcs, but since cleared out, and ran into the trolls. Much fun was had as the party's resident tank went from 35 hp to 6 hp while the party mage was berrating everyone else for being the only one who had bought any oil flasks and torches! At a couple of points in the battle, the heroes ran into trouble with these regenerating beasts from nightmare, and the battle started with a critical fumble on my initiative roll meaning i had to morale check all of the enemies (a new house rule) to see if they held - they did!

Another of our new house rules was put into play on this session: knockbacks cause knockdowns unless a save vs breath weapon is made. This worked beautifully, buying the heroes some extra time to win the fight!

The second encounter was with a talking bridge which the heroes were walking across. Much amusement was had when one of the fighters was thrown off the bridge for insulting it! You have to love the whimsical nature of some of the creatures in D&D!

The third encounter of note was against some shape changers. The party were hugely outnumbered by them and the sixth level thief was almost killed by one of them before one of the fighters saved his life. It was a good fight on a bridge, with the other fighter cleaving multiple opponents at once with a bastard sword (our powerswing house rule in action being put to great effect).

A good session was had by all - the encounters are balanced on a knife edge. The fights got very tense in places.... I don't think I could repeat this level of balance and challenge if I tried!