Thursday, 18 January 2007

Dungeons and Dragons. Seventies Style Baby!

After a several week’s long hiatus, my Wedensday night gaming group got together again to break in a new campaign. Bill had found that as he played through the pre-published Eberron scenario’s the plot holes and logic gaps were becoming too obvious to bear up under the scrutiny of such switched on cookies as ourselves (i.e: the players). On top of that, he was beginning to find them extremely fraustrating himself.

So, seizing the opportunity afforded by a four week gap in gaming, he decided to introduce us to his new game world. The idea grew out of Bill’s desire to see properly “well ‘ard” high level D&D characters in action and generally see what sort of mischief they can get up to. Partly for the sheer hell of it, partly out of 1970’s D&D nostalgia and partly to fuel idea’s for a new book series he’s been planning on (yeah, GW fans, the DM is THAT Bill).

With this in mind, Bill introduced us to his new setting, where: “Monsters are for killing, Dungeon’s are for plundering and every NPC is mean’t to be killed by the players.”

Ah, bliss.

With considerable eagerness we gened up our characters for the future months. Bills plan is to take us all they way from 1st to 20th level and beyond. Of course, he made it abundantly lear that we should not get too attached to our vulnerable little first level darlings. This is 1970’s D&D style after all (Andy and I would like to take this opportunity to point out that we weren’t even BORN the last time Bill took part in a proper D&D game), and a character death every other night or so is only to be expected.

So with this in mind I discarded the idea of a flimsy (yet eventually horribly powerful) wizard character and plumbed for the challenge of playing a Paladin. Partly because I was getting sick of playing “practical” men (i.e thugs) and wanted something a little less “raw” for a change. Also, because John has never played a proper D7D mage before and was practically drooling at the thought of all those high level fireballs and lighting bolts he’d be doling out later on.

It turns out though, that in Bill’s new setting, they Gods do not play as large a role in mortal affairs as they do in other worlds. In other words, Divine magic doesn’t necessarily come from the Gods and Gods do not interefere in mortal affairs. Instead, Divine magic is more of a “life-style” choice than anything else. A form of wizardry that focus’ more on healing and banishments than summoning’s and evocations.

It just also happens to be the form studied by most clerics and magically inclined men-at-arms (such as Paladins and Rangers) as well, as this is a form of sorcery which is relatively easy to wield while wearing armour. As such, it turns out that Paladins and Clerics are not bound by alignment restrictions after all. You can be a complete bastard and still rise far in a good church.

Hmmm, actually, it’s probably something of a requisite.

Divine magic is also culturally associated more with Priests than the arcane form. At least, that’s my understanding of it.

Another note on magic. We’re using the Bills modified D20 rules for combat and magic, meaning no-hit points and spells do not vanish from the mind when cashed (instead, the caster gradually becomes more fatigued). We expected this will mean our wimpy first level characters can stay in the dungeon longer before retreating.

We were wrong.

Without further ado then, I give you: the characters!

Edgar: Human male Paladin lvl 1. Reasonably good looking in a rugged sort of way, cultured, reasonably well mannered (with some rough edges showing his rustic origins), narrow of hip and broad of chest. Unusually for a Paladin, his Charisma is only just above average. Only his Dex is lower. This will change as he becomes more confident and outgoing (i.e gains exp levels). Played by Me.

Sevila: Half-orc female Fighter lvl1: Brighter than most half-orcs, reasonably charismatic and with a more-than-healthy interest in the doings and appearance of other females, if you know what I mean. Played by Tony.

Karl: Human Wizard level 1: Exeptionally intelligent. Even more exceptionally stupid Int 15, Wis 4. Yes, that’s right. 4. We have the sort of wizard who happily casts fireball spells into ten foot square rooms (which the other players are standing in). Think Fizban from Dragonlance, only not so loveable. His curiosity killed the cat, so to speak.

Jaguar Paw: Elf Ranger level 1. Strongly influenced by the character from Apocalyptica. Only no where near as competent in a fight (1st level remember). The parties native guide.

The First Session:

Having decided to leave their village and travel to the New World (the continent of Terra Nova) to seek their fortunes, Karl, Sevila and Edgar disembark at an as yet unspecified port where the hire local elf (think Native American) Jaguar Paw to act as their guide to the frontier.

Along the way to the West, they travel through rugged forest terrain. Think of the Eastern United States as depicted in Last of the Mohicans, but with 14th century settlers who know magic. Spending the night in the town of Silverholm, they hear of raid upon Silver Caravans launched form the old Silver-mine by a small band of goblins. And oh yes, sure enough, the sheriff is offering a reward to anyone who clears out the tunnels (hey, don’t snigger at the plot, this is 1970’s D&D, remember?)

Edgar is not too keen ‘ not much glory to be won killing goblins down a dirty hole,” he observes, rather obviously, but the others soon win him round. Two other adventurers met in the inn are also very interested in this reward. Rather conviently, both evidently come from classes that would otherwise be missing from the party. Funny that (1970’s okay?). Karl immediately demonstrated his low wisdom score by casting “Detect Magic” on Sophia, apparently a cleric, and earning himself a cuff around the ear from a mortified Edgar for his impertinence. Matters are not helped much by Edgars bumbling but good-natured attempts to apologise on his friends behalf. The final straw comes when Severa (dammit, how do you spell that half-orcs name?) makes a comment of the solicitous variety.

When morning comes, Sophia is naturally not present. Only her scruffy companion, an “ahem” locksmith named Woreck, turns up to the rendevous.

The attack on the mine begins well, with Jaguar Paw locating a secret door into a subterranean complex taken over by the goblins just of the mines main tunnel. The four guards in the guard-room are quickly dispatched, thanks to Severa’s cleave feat and some judicious application of a great axe. One goblin who tries to sound the alarm is “sleep-ed” by Karl’s magic and murdered by Jaguar Paw (Edgar does not entirely approve, but because Lawful Good does not means Lawful Stupid, he realises it's better than having to fight the thing while its awake).

The party continues through one door, leaving another pinned shut with a goblin axe wedged benath the rim and another through the door and into the door post. In the next room, Karls magic is even more effective. All four goblins succumb to the sleep spell and Jaguar Paw is happy as a pig in manure as he goes round gleefully cutting smelly little green throats.

At this point the party tries to navigate a labyrinth of corridors and promptly becomes lost. “Should be mapping” Bill observes (1970’s gaming! We slap our heds and reach for the graph paper) but gradually manage to piece together something approximating a rough map of our travels.

Then we find: The Room.

Edgar opens a door to find in swathed in impenetrable, obviously magical darkness. Just as he’s about to shrug and leave, something leaps out of the darkness at him and, clanging off his shield, falls backwards into the mirk.

“Lets leave it! says Jaguar Paw.

“No way!” says Edgar, his pride offended at the thought of some dirty little something mucking up the shine on his shield. “I want that little wretch”.

Edgar stands defending the door way at the ready, while Karl casts a light spell on a crossbow bolt. And waits… and waits. Finally, upon hearing the noise of a crossbow being ratcheted into firing position he shouts “For heavens sake, stop wasting time and just throw the bloody thing (Wisdom 4 for the wizard remember). Grumbling, Karl then takes his loaded bolt OUT of the crossbow and throws it in. (Wisdom 4).

This illuminates a small patch in the magical darkness which Sevela, Jaguar Paw (hereafter known as JP. Especially in the herafter, snigger, snigger) and Edgar swiftly enter. Edgar picks up the glowing bolt and proceeds to explore the room while Karl tries to cast a second light spell on his staff.

Seven dire rats choose this moment to attack. All at once things become farcical. Sevilla is forced to burn up all three conviction points in a single round while making a series of toughness saves (to avoid damage) and fortitude saves (to avoid being poisoned) and for about three straight combat rounds not one of the heroes manages to so much as ruffle the fur on a dire rat!

Then, to the amazement of all, Karl the amazing Wisdom 4 wizard, casts a Sleep spell on Jaguar Paw. Admittedly, JP is immune to the thing and stays awake. Also admittedly, one of the rats does fall asleep. But EDGAR is also affected by the spell, and takes a nasty bite to the unmentionables as he desperately blinks himself back awake.

Then, the other PCs are even more amazed when the darn wizard charges into hand to hand combat! A wizard! In hand-t-hand combat! Against foes even a Str 17 half orc fighter and a Str 15 human paladin are having trouble hitting!!!!.

Edgar and JP are so amazed by this calamity that Edgar once again gets bitten through his scale mail. Poor JP is not so lucky. He is borne to the ground and rendered unconscious by a leap from one of the Doberman-sized beasties. Moments later, his throat is torn out by a second rat. HIs death screams sounds supiciopusly like someone screaming "Stupid Wizard!" in Tribal Elven.

Clealy choosing this moment to decide that his pride could better survive fleeing a pack of rats than being eaten by them, Edgar finally yells “Fall Back!”.

Karl, the wizard, taking this to mean “Run Away and abandon your friends to a horrible grizzly death!", promptly bolts 120 feet back the way he came, leaving an even more stupefied Edgar wondering how the hell Karl was going to sleep the rats from 120 feet and three corners away so that he and Servila could bolt the door behind them.

Instead, Karl waits around a bit wondering where his friends are while Worlick, Servila and Edgar desperately struggle to murder the rats who followed them into the corridor and shut the door before the others can clambor out.

They eventually catch up with a bewildered looking Karl (where were you lot?) and make their way hastily back to the exit only to be confronted by four zombies blocking their path.

“We dead!” says Sevila. “Lets charge!” says Karl. “Lets just let them come closer so we can run round them and reach the exit!” suggests an exasperated Edgar. Even Karl realises this is a good idea, and so the heroes bolt past their enemies and into the light.

So ends the first not-so-glorious mission of the party. Andy, in true 1970’s D&D fashion announces he can’t be bothered creating a new character and will simply use the same stats to portray Jaguar Paws brother.

He is not amused, however, when I gleefully suggest he call his new character “Rat Food!”.

I’m so going to pay for that one someday.
More hapless adventures last week.