Sunday, 14 November 2010

Old School Survival Tips for New Players

Given that my players are "new" to Old School, I had a brainstorming session and came up with a few tips to help them survive the Old School Play Style. I'll probably add to this list as more occur to me. Additional suggestions are more than welcome.

Survival Tips:

  • Make a map, make it a scale map, and take the time to update it it often. Mapping each room or corridor takes about ten minutes of " in-character “game time. Its worth it, especially if you get lost. When you're lost, once you stumble onto a room you've been in before, its easy enough to work out where you are and how to get home. That is, assuming you've been keeping a good map.

  • If you think your map is wrong DONT start rubbing it out and correcting mistakes. You could be wrong about it being wrong. Start a new map from where you are now and try to retrace you steps. You might have been fooled by a revolving room or a slow gradient.
  • Wondering Monsters (patrols, hunting party's and so forth) eat up resources (such as hit points and spells) and don't carry much in the way of loot. Sometimes fighting is not the smart option.

  • The deeper into a dungeon you get, the more dangerous they tend to be. But even on the “ground floor level” don't expect to be able to defeat everything you meet. The reverse is true for most towers - the higher the deadlier.

  • Running away is never a bad option.

  • Always find out as much as you can about a place; whether its a town, a dungeon or an area of wilderness before you go there. And don't forget to check back with your sources between visits. Just in case they've remembered something new or can provide hints on how to solve a puzzle you found on your last expedition.

  • Listen to rumours, but don't believe everything you hear.

  • There's no such thing as too much water, too many rations, too much rope or too many spare ten foot poles.

  • Establish a party marching order, some basic formations for common situations (such as opening a door) and some basic “plans” for dealing with ambushes, traps etc.

  • Set up a routine for frequent tasks: trap finding, listening at doors, searching for treasure/secret doors etc, setting watch and so on. Sure, Character X and character Y might be searching for traps, but what are the rest of you doing? If you're smart, some characters will be updating the map, but someone should also be standing guard.

  • There are 101 uses for a ten foot pole. At least one other person in the party should carry a spare.

  • Mules are handy for transporting loot. Hire a few mercenaries or handlers to look after them while your in the dungeon.

  • Manage your expendables very carefully. When your down to your last few torches, your last few spells, your last few rations and water-skins or your last few hit points, its time to go home. Most total party kills (TPKs) occur because the players couldn't resist trying “just one more room” before going home.

  • Elect a spokesman to make party decisions (like what room to explore next etc) and don't argue with him. If you and the other players are arguing and raising your voice, that means your characters are too. And if I can hear you argue, probably so can the local monsters. If you don't like the spokespersons decisions, you can boot him or her AFTER you leave the dungeon and elect a new leader.

  • Don't have your healer carry the magical healing potions. If he falls down a 100ft pit, you've lost your healer and your healing potions. That's a TPK in waiting.

  • Anyone can spot or disarm a trap if they play cleverly and describe appropriate actions through roleplaying. However, thieves, assassins and (sometimes) dwarfs can do it mechanically.

  • Always speak to any one armed men you find sitting in a tavern. Always.
  • Make friends with the locals. Especially the one's that can provide you with a service you need -healing, weapons, armour, supplies and the like.
  • Poison is deadly. A real-life poisonous centipede might not be very frightening, but imagine what the poison in a foot-long one can do.
  • Every character. Every character, should carry a missile weapon. Some of your foes can fly and some of them arn't stupid enough to come close enough to let you swing your sword at them.
  • Always remember, that nice shiny magical item you found might be cursed.
  • Never leave town without stocking up on food, water and ammunition.
  • Consider the humble hireling. Mercenaries bulk up your numbers, porters help carry loot and even the humble torchbearer frees up one of your hands for a shield, spell or other useful item.
  • Search for traps and secret doors. Search regularly, search methodically, search often.
  • Sometimes the most useful spells are the ones you won't be using in combat.
  • Always carry a back-up weapon. And makes sure it does a different type of damage from your main weapon. If you normally wield a sword, carry a club (not a dagger) as a back-up.

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