Thursday, June 21, 2012

Things in a DM's Tool Chest

Let's talk about what kind of things a DM might have in their DM tool chest to do their DM thang as effectively and efficiently as they can.

For starters, they need the rules/guidelines for the game.  In the case of AD&D 1E,  I would say that should be a minimum of a Players Handbook and a DM Guide.  The Monster Manuals are a great supplement.  The other books, Fiend Folio, Deities & Demi-gods, Unearthed Arcana and others are interesting but, in my mind, not necessary at all.

The next thing a DM needs is paper.   Lots and lots of paper.  Lined paper, blank paper, graph paper.  There are so many things that need to be written down, kept track of, drawn out and such that paper is pretty much a critical need.

Lot's of pencils come in handy to go with all that paper.  In all truth, I find mechanical pencils to be the most handy.  Match that to a good, separate eraser and you've got a good start.

Related to the paper issue is post-it notes.  This is a great way to communicate things to individual players when the rest of the party can't or shouldn't know what that particular player needs to know.

Obviously, having all the dice is critical.  Dice are not cheap but you can't have enough of them.  The ones I use the most are 1d4, *d6, 1d8, 2d10, 1d12 (not really used all that often but really handy when the situation does come up for it), and 1d20.

Note the d6 is special.  It's my opinion, and many other DM's I talk with, that you just can't have enough d6.  I like to accumulate multiple sets of dice to have handy.   I encourage players to go get their own set of dice but not all of them , especially new players, know they should have them.  So, I keep about 3 or 4 extra sets of dice handy.

A screen or place to roll dice secretly is , in my opinion, very important.   I have heard a couple people comment that they do all their rolls in the open.  In my games,  I like to implement monsters and situations that bring some surprise to the table.  In some cases, I let the players roll for the surprise and other related situations like initiative and saving trows.  In other situations though, the PC's can't roll for a save or surprise if they can't see it coming.  in this case, you need a device to roll those behind the scenes.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

New Houserule #6

I usually don't mess with vampires in my games because as I read of them in the MM, they are, to me, one of those unnecessarily convoluted monsters that I don't feel like dealing with. 

Specifically, what annoys me is level drain.  Not that it happens,  I am fine with it happening.  What annoys me is the, in my opinion, vague assumption that any attack or "hit" from a vampire will consist of a bite, mixed in with other attacks.

In any and every other vampire lore, a bite is a specific and specially damaging attack.  It historically isn't the first or most common move that a vampire makes in a combat.

In AD&D, it's my thought that a bite attack which results in the highly damaging effect of level drain (2 levels drained per incident  OUCH!!!) should be one of those specialty attacks that the DM is intending before initiative is rolled.  It should not be a given that a vampire is going to bite at every attack during melee.

When I read the Monster Manual and it says that a vampire causes 5 to 10 points of damage per "hit" (1d6+4),  I am taking that as a blow from the hands/talons only. 

This is how I plan to approach it in my games from here on out.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Importance of Playing Only One Character

AD&D can be almost like two different games, depending on how many characters your DM allows you to play.

If you are allowed to play multiple characters at the same time, AD&D becomes more like a chess or checkers game where you fall away from role playing as much and are more like  a general marshaling your forces.  Obviously you are a very involved general, knowing every little detail about each character, etc...

However, this still leaves you mostly outside the head of each character.

When you are only playing one character, you can more easily become that character.  The ability to really get into the role and play it out to your best acting and imaginative ability increases incredibly.

You don't just know the thoughts of the character, they are indeed, your thoughts.

You aren't just aware of what your capabilities and tools are, you have a vested interest in knowing them in detail.

Now, I'm not really trying to promote one way or the other here.  More just trying to point out the main differences.

I have met some players who have gone to games where the DM required them to play more than one character in order to make sure the party was reasonably filled in order to handle the adventure/action. For some of these folks, this was the only type of playing they had done.  Don't get me wrong, they liked it just fine.  Have plenty of fun.

 I ran a couple of games recently where I only had them bring one character in each because if not enough players showed up,  I had NPC's ready to fill in as hirelings or henchmen to fill the group.

The level of excitement throughout the game indicated to me that this was an experience they hadn't yet had playing AD&D.

In talking to them after the game was over, they talked about how it had never been so "personal" for them to play an AD&D game.  How it felt like they themselves really were the ones in the adventure.  They even eventually really got into the role playing part after I told them that role playing didn't necessarily mean they had to change their voices or had gone to acting school.  Just be yourself if you were a....whatever their character was.  That was all they needed and they took off.

I still will have times where I let players run two characters or more (rarely if ever on the "more").  Sometimes out of an interest to shake things up and sometimes out of responding to their desire to fill a party out on their own to get some new characters XP levels up.

Sometimes players like to run more than one character at a time because if they happen to lose one character to an un-timely death, they are not immediately out of the game or things have to stop to roll a new character.

There are good reasons for players to want to play either way.  One character only or multiple characters.

However, in my opinion, it is not a good thing for a DM to demand that players do one or the other.  To me that is lazy DM'ing.  A "good" DM has plenty of NPCs laying around, ready to be picked up at a nearby inn or tavern or in a setting conducive to welcoming an extra body.

To deny the players the opportunity to only play one character just because the DM isn't prepared just smacks of unpreparedness and a lack of creativity to me.

Either way, enjoy the game and let the players make the most of the game by playing in a manner that makes it fun for them.  As the DM, we are already having our fun by making the game the players are going to have to try to survive through.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

AD&D Jr.

I run a game for two of my kids right now who are 11 and 13 years old.  They do well with AD&D 1E and love the game.

I have a newly minted 8 year old though who is dying to roleplay with her brother and sister but 1E is beyond her by just a bit yet.  Give her a couple more years and I think she will be fine.

Having said that,  I was interested in taking on an adventure of my own and creating a version of an rpg that is influenced by AD&D1E but much simpler, more straight forward.  Think Monopoly Jr and some of the other Jr versions of traditional games that have been out for a few years  now.

I have a 5 page PDF that is the beginning of my effort at AD&D Jr.  I would like to get some input on it.

Download it here and let me know what you think.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Gem Quests of Grvl The Gnome: Seeking An Emerald

 Seeking An Emerald

A gnome merchant named Grvl is hiring adventurers to seek out gems of great value and power.

Two adventurers, Xavier (thief) and Crush (fighter) took on a seemingly simple task to explore a cave in the hills about 5 miles to the west of the town of Rashan. If they found any gems and especially the gem specified, they would be paid 1000 gold pieces each. Grvl only wants the gems so they can keep anything else they happen to find.

Both Crush and Xavier plod their way to the hills without much of interest happening and they realize that there are several cave openings to choose from. Upon exploring several of them, they notice that one of the cave openings has a curious marking above it resembling a star, roughly cut into the rock just above the opening.

They decide that if any gems of great value were to be found, this would indicate someone had marked this cave for some purpose and was likely the spot to look.

After each lights a torch, they enter the spacious cave opening side by side and walk about 60 feet until the left wall of the cave falls back to create an chamber that appears to be at least about 100 feet in diameter. The path along the right wall continues forward for an indeterminable length.

They agree to split up and Xavier the thief will explore the chamber while Crush the fighter continues exploring down the tunnel.

As Xavier begins to explore the chamber, he hears a clickity-clacking sound and spies a pile of rubbish near the far wall. He creeps forward toward the pile and is suddenly surprised by a giant scorpion that emerges from behind the pile, rushing out at him.

Paralyzed with fear, Xavier is ruthlessly attacked by the scorpion, taking great damage from the huge pincers and is at last stung by it's fearsome tail with stinger. He dies instantly from the poison.

Hearing the noise of combat from behind him, Crush turns around and rushes back into the chamber to see the largest scorpion he has ever seen standing over the un-moving body of his partner Xavier.

Pulling his large war hammer from his belt, he rushes at the scorpion, determined to do serious damage and hobble the creature before it can cause him much harm.

The behemoth scorpion moves slightly at the last second and the mighty swing of the war hammer glances off the harder exo-skeleton with barely a scratch.

Nearly simultaneously, the giant stabs it's tail with sharp stinger at Crush and impales it into him, injecting it's venomous fluid into him, killing him instantly.

In the faint glow of fallen torches, we see the massive scorpion grab the thief's limp body and slowly drag it behind the pile it emerged from. The next day, it claims the body of the fighter Crush and devours him as well.

Next episode, "The Rescue party".