Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Wandering monsters

Recently I added a simple stop watch to my sunday Labyrinth Lord gaming sessions. I set the timer for 45 minutes and start it going at some point during the game. Whenever the alarm goes off - no matter where the heroes are or what they are doing, I roll for wandering monsters.

This has led to some interesting encounters as you can probably imagine. One time the heroes were battling carrion crawlers in an abandoned temple and suddenly a bunch of skeletons and ghouls joined the fight.

I like the unpredictability of approaches like this. Imagine if the heroes were in a tavern in town and the alarm goes off. I have to work that into the story some how. Did the skeletons suddenly break through from the cellar, or is the town itself under attack? It is good to stretch yourself as a DM a little with things like this I find.

I've been thinking about expanding this idea from just wandering monsters. Sometimes in game sessions there is a lot of fighting already. On the previous game session, for instance, we had a pitched battle against fifteen bugbears because the heroes did not want to pay an extortionate amount of gold to cross a bridge and the following combat was against four efreets. In that session, I did not want to lengthen the combat further with more monsters arriving. So sometimes there is a need to do something else with the wandering monster results.

I have a trap dice and I think I will start including that in my wandering monster rolls, essentially, having the party run into a trap. Traps are encounters too, especially if they may be detectable before hand from either a thief or a clue in a description and can be fun to disarm or work around... providing they are of course not deadly.

This got me thinking further. As one definition for the word encounter is a problem, I wonder what other types of problems could be thrown the heroes way on a wandering monster roll. Social problems, the ones that you must talk through, spring to mind, and would require considerable thought but could be fun. I wonder what other classes of problem would be fun to throw into the mix?

Monday, 25 January 2010

D&D, religion and the cleric

Some people wish to drop the cleric class from their games of Dungeons and Dragons. Some have already done this, folding the spell list into the magic user class whereas some have dropped it completely. Some people don't like the thief class either, because its inclusion in the system seemed to mean that other classes couldn't do stuff they could do before.

Dropping the cleric class is interesting, though. I considered it myself once, but only because the party of adventurers I take into my imaginary world of Summit on a sunday afternoon don't have one. We ended up solving that by keeping the class but turning one of the fighters into a 'blessed fighter' after he had a religious experience - he's now akin to a paladin.

One of the things that interests me about people wanting to drop the cleric class is their focus on the crunch i.e. the mechanics of the game. What I'm wanting to think about here, though, is the cleric's role in the world as a crusading man who channels the power of his god to further its purpose on the mortal plane. Viewed this way, the cleric's role becomes important within the game world, and he's not just reduced to a healer like so many computer roleplaying games do with him.

My big question though is this. If any of you have considered dropping the cleric from your games is it because you are atheist in world view? I suspect that atheists would dislike the cleric, and the game's focus on him and the DM building campaigns around him, despite the abundance of gods within the ancient world and medieval world that Dungeons and Dragons, and its inspirational fiction, is based around. In other words, if we didn't live in a mostly secular society, but lived in a parrallel universe with a theocracy running the show, might we feel differently about this and perhaps be thinking of dropping the magic user instead? In other words, does discussing dropping the cleric as a class reflect more on our own world views and less on the rules themselves?

Food for thought, if nothing else ;-)

Monday, 18 January 2010

Chasing the party into the jaws of crocodiles

The game sessions continue on at a weekly pace, every sunday. I'm having great fun designing adventures and encounters for my little party of hereoes to face. I often think of designing villians as being like setting up bowling pins to be knocked over. I enjoy the drama of pushing the heroes towards their limits and the panic setting in, followed by the relief of victory as the enemy falls and the danger passes.

Yesterday, for example, I had a blast with an encounter I had designed. A dozen orcs came streaming out of a cave at the adventuring party, screaming and shouting. Their heads were covered with lizard like helmets. To get to this point, the group had progressed down a path in a forest and gone under three archways that were each carved to resemble dragons and painted white. The heroes fully expected to face a dragon, especially when they saw that three of the green skinned creatures, who they only suspected might be orcs but were unsure, were trying to pull on the leash of something to drag it out of the cave.

So the party fled towards a river crossing, driven there by the orc attack ... and straight into their trap. Straight into the jaws of crocodiles! What they had seen as bits of floating wood and detritus on the river surface were dangerous predators.

The three orcs were pulling a wyven out of the cave and then let it off its leash and all hell broke loose!

The orc leader ended up panicking due to a magical screaming arrow that the heroes fired at one of his men, who fell forward instantly dead, and ordered a retreat. The wyvern had been loosed, however and continued on its flight to the group but got caught up in the crocodile attack. It slew all of the crocodiles and almost killed one of the heroes, who fell back into the river and decided not to come back up for air to hide from the beast. The wizard hid from it behind a tree, using his magical cloak to help camouflage him.

The beast flew back into the cave and the heroes emerged from their hiding places and moved swiftly on. Only three orcs had been slain and it was a terrific encounter, despite the heroes being eighth and seventh level!

Both the heroes lived to fight another day, however and continued on their way to further adventure deeper in the forest. We had other memorable enounters that night, but for me as the DM, that was my favourite one. The players have expressed an interest in returning to the cave at some point soon, too :-)

Friday, 8 January 2010

Using Wizards 4E Miniatures in Labyrinth Lord

Happy new year everyone!

I quite like Wizards of the Coast's miniature ranges. In fact, I have quite a few on display in my living room. The Gargantuan dragons are excellent, and I look forward to the day when I can put my group against them.

Not only have some rare monsters come out of the miniature lines but with each one you also get a nice little stat card for the critter, normally with stats on it for the D&D miniatures game and sometimes for the 4th Edition game itself. Now I don't play 4th edition, but I do like the stat cards. Why? Because you can use them as boss monsters and leaders.

I've devised a little system for converting the stats from the cards for the miniatures game, back into Labyrinth Lord. This has to be done because the base damage the creatures inflict is too high to be used as is (a minimum of 5 points is too high).

AC is the easiest one to convert. Simply take the value from 20, because the system begins at 10 and counts up. So AC 11 would become AC 9, AC 21 would become AC -1.

Next up is hitpoints. I don't know about you, but I'm happy keeping those the way they are. Nasty boss fights ensue!

The last one I convert is damage. I do this like so:

5 points = d4
10 points = d8
15 points = d12
20 points = 2d8
25 points = 2d10
30 points = 3d8
35 points = 3d10
40 points = 4d8
50 points = 2d20
100 points = 4d20

This is till very nasty, in terms of raw damage output, but not nearly as bad, especially as the average damage pulls it towards the middle of the range. For example, 4d20 will average 42, considerably less nasty than 100 points. Of course, I don't expect to wield a creature like this in an encounter until the party hit maximum level.

The to hit rolls are fairly easy for me, since I can translate them back to THAC0 by simply taking away from 20. In my group, it's even easier, as I get my players to roll defence rolls (sort of a reverse attack roll, a d20 minus their AC, a modified higher roll is better for them) and can use them as is with that system.

Also speed is nice and easy for me since we fight our battles on a hex system, built using the Heroscape tiles, so I can directly relate it to hexes per round.