Category Archives: Play

AD&D With A First Time DM

I have mentioned a few times on this blog that I play in a weekly Wednesday night AD&D game on Roll20. We played session 96 last week, and session 97 next week. The 2nd anniversary of the campaign will be the same week we hit session 100!

Antony, the only remaining player, besides myself, still around and active since session 1, ran his first session of AD&D. He also played a few sessions in one of my Metamorphosis Alpha Roll20 groups, before things went on hiatus after Thanksgiving.

He shares his thoughts on a YouTube video on his gaming channel, +ManicInsomniac. His channel is mostly about play throughs of computer games. It’s not my thing, but if you’re interested, there it is.

Antony joined the Roll20 game in which we are both players as a new player. I had no idea from the way he played that he had never played a table top RPG.

Similarly, when he ran his first session as a DM, had I not known it was his first session, I would never have known it. There were some Roll20 hiccups and some things that seem to come up every first session of a new campaign. He left us wanting more, and we are looking to next Sunday.

Antony was kind in saying that one of the players, he could only mean me, had been playing about as long as he has been alive. I actually think it is closer to a decade before he was born, if I recall his age correctly. lol

We gave advice on planning, etc. and he took all the advice he asked for to heart. He put a lot of time into it, and found that we did try to do the things he had not planned on, and did not do some of the things he was ready for.

Antony ran a sandbox style game. He gave us a job to start, but what we did with that job, and how we acted following the job, helped him to practice thinking on his feet.

This is what the game is about. Attract new players get them involved and show them how it can be done. Antony has stepped up to the next level or play to be a GM. It is so cool that I had a small role to play in that!

Yes – that’s his map above. What a lot of skill! I think Antony has the skill to publish his own modules and doing his own maps, if that caught his interest.

Page Number Notation For Spells

I read somewhere a good suggestion to not the page number of spells for each spell a spell casting character uses.

In AD&D, to save space, the magic-user spells refer to the earlier cleric or druid spells of the same name. Plus, the DMG has more information on some spells for the DM to consider when ruling on spell effects, etc.

I’m playing a magic-user in the first session of a new DM’s campaign, and decided to write down the page numbers. Then I realized I needed notation for spells of the same or similar name on an earlier page, and then recalled the DMG pages for some spells.

Being a player that is also a DM, I thought of the simplest way to do this would be Spell Name p. ##&##/##. For example, the first level magic user spell, Charm Person, would be p. 65&55/44. The magic user spell is on page 65, and refers back to the druid spell Charm Person or Mammal on p. 55, and the DMG p. 44 has a blurb on it.

Read Magic is a spell that is unique to magic users and there is no mention of it in the spell section of the DMG, so the notation is p.68/0.

The question is whether I can remember the notation when it comes to play time.

I have the PDF’s of all the manuals, so I will copy and paste the descriptions so that I’m all set. If I mislay a printout or file, as long as I have my character sheet, I’ll have the exact page number all set.

I think I’ll need more than one session of play to know how well it works.

Multiple spells and spell level tracking could do with simplification.

UCON – Day 0

+Tim Snider of Savage Afterworld uses the nomenclature of Day 0, Day 1, etc when he writes about his attendance at conventions. So in the spirit of the OSR, I’ll use that idea too!

After only going to UCON on Saturday last year and dealing with a nasty storm trying to get there, when I decided that I would go for the entire con this year, I decided to arrive a day early, just in case. As it happens, the weather and roads were good and Thursday.

I got checked in and got my stuff to my room and somewhat settled in, went out for some supper, and returned to the hotel.

Hotel View

Cool Island in the lake.
Cool Island in the lake.

I soon ran into +Tim Snider, and we caught up on things since last year. He bought me a beer, Bell’s Brown Lager. Nothing like driving nearly two hours away from the local brew pub to have one of their beers. It was good! It was also a tall glass. There were two couches in the carpeted area of the bar/restaurant. The couches faced each other, one back to the bar, the other back to the lobby. I sat across from Tim with my back to the bar. We were talking enjoying our beers when some guy came up and said, “We’re playing a game when I get back”, or words to that effect. Tim and I were speculating, and were right when we decided it must be +Bill Webb. When he got back, we moved to an area in the lobby with a table, a couch, chairs, and ottomans. We rolled 3d6 in order, after that, all we needed where a d20 and a d6. Bill used a big d20 and a big d6, those were the only dice he had. It was a fun little adventure. You can read +Tim Snider’s write up here.

Bill Webb in Action.
Bill Webb in Action.

Joining in the game was +Ryan Thompson of Gamers & Grognards, +Adam Muszkiewicz and his adorable sidekick Stan of Dispatches from Kickassistan. (the next day I met Adam’s collaborator and co-host in the +DSR podcast (Drink Spin Run), +Donn Stroud), +Laura Williams and her husband +Clayton Williams, Bill’s daugher and a few others, whose names I don’t recall. +Pete Schwab and a few others showed up to watch our game. We broke about midnight. I had to get to bed, since I was in a 9am game in Friday.

Prepping and Running Games Saves Money

I have found that in the last few weeks as I prepare a Metamorphosis Alpha scenario to run at UCon, play test it online with two different groups, and end up with a weekly Saturday game and bi-weekly Sunday game, I don’t have as much time to read and browse forums and find more goodies to spend my money.

This is good. I’m not broke, and I’m not poor, I just prefer to pay cash for things, and I already have multiple game systems to choose from. Both the books and manuals I have, and many different PDFs. While I like collecting lots of different ideas for tables and how others do things, in the end, if all one does is collect bits and bobs and never runs a game, what’s the point? {I’m also going to attend ConOnTheCob in October, UCon in November, the company holiday party is in Orlando, FL in December – I finally get to go to Disney World!, Marmalade Dog in February, GaryCon in March, etc.]

Other than helping out the creators when I buy things, if I’m not running at least one game of one of the rules I already have, I’m not doing the one thing I have written so often that I want to do.

I struggle with having “enough” prepared to be comfortable. the key for me is determining what is the right “enough” to have. It doesn’t matter the game system.

By jumping in and running Metamorphosis Alpha and having a regular commitment to keep running it, my outlook has changed. The task seems much less daunting, and the myriad of excuses of why I’m not ready yet fade away.

My in person AD&D campaign with my oldest son and his girlfriend faded away when they moved in with me in the months before my granddaughter was born. Preparations for parenthood, and figuring out their new family dynamics have put that on the back burner. Thus the desire to move that campaign online and get it going that way. Starting up with a new group of people do not guarantee they would make the same choices and check out the same things as my face to face players. Once I get a bit more done with my MA online game(s), I will do more to get my AD&D game going online.

This doesn’t mean no preparation, and no ideas for suggestions for players, etc. There needs to be enough of a framework that it holds together. What this looks like will change and adapt, or it should, once players start interacting with the world. I have lots of ideas, but it is what the players do with my descriptions and starting conditions that is interesting. Watching players interact with the world I have presented and seeing them debate and struggle over courses of action, or regret actions taken, just makes the whole thing come alive. This is cooperative play/storytelling at its finest!

So I have dug in and started using all the pads, pens, dice, books, and miscellaneous notes I have gathered. The results are encouraging, and I find that I want more! I have enough ideas to keep things rolling, and the players have their own ideas, so I don’t see burnout with roleplaying as an issue. Burnout is only a threat based on how crazy busy work gets in December and January. [Oh the “joys” of being a support analyst for payroll and accounting software at year end/W-2 time, plus a new set of forms this year for the ACA.]

I don’t plan on participating in NaNoWriMo this year. I still need to write the last few chapters of my novel, so I can start on the second draft/revisions. I know I can do it, since I have over 60,000 words that I wrote last year in November. It’s just a matter of sitting down and doing the work. Like most things in life, the ad slogan, “Just Do It.” fits so well.

I have a lot of different irons in the fire, and without the distraction of all the different TV shows I watched last Fall, Winter, and Spring, I have gotten more done. It’s all about priorities, and making a decision to act on them, and following through.

Well, that’s enough stream of consciousness for now. I think I’ve convinced myself that I can do the running of games online, and that I can handle as much as I want to handle, with all the irons I have elected to have in so many fires. I can save up shows to binge watch on long weekends, or not worry about them at all. I can put as much effort into game preparation as I want, but choose to focus only on preparation that makes the most sense and has the best chance of being used in play. I can also deal with various projects around my 95 year old house, as well as down-sizing a bunch of non-gaming stuff. I like the idea of a simple life and being able to live out of a van. But I’d need most of a semi-trailer right now. My goal is to go through all my stuff and pare it down now, so in X years, when I’m gone, my sons won’t have to deal with it. I like my stuff, but gadgets and things become obsolete or lose their appeal.

NOTE: I wrote this late at night, and made one pass at it, and it shows in all my rambling and additional topics. I’m not going to go back and fix it. My point is in here. Find it if you can. LOL!

P.S. Don’t forget to talk like a pirate today, ye scurvy dogs!

Wednesday Night AD&D on Roll20- Session Write Ups

John, the DM of the Wednesday night AD&D game I play in on Roll20 has added the first of the players session write-ups with DM commentary.

As the player who wrote the first session, I am surprised that my writing reads so well. I edited as I wrote to make sure it was clear. A later player wrote in a journal style, so some of us tried that. It made for an interesting dynamic that affected the story down the line. No spoilers, but it will be fun when we finally get there on John’s blog.

But most of all I enjoy the way John sets the scene and how the DM interjections fill in the rest of the world on the stuff behind the scenes.

We just finished session 73 last night, so he’s got a long way to go….

John is detailing his process for creating his campaign on his blog. I find it quite interesting as one who likes AD&D and the sandbox style of play. John has put a great deal of thought into his campaign and it shows. With John’s well thought out world and player buy in, I am confident that we could suddenly change directions and go do something unexpected, and John could handle it.

Metamorphosis Alpha at UCon

I just submitted an event to run a session of Metamorphosis Alpha at UCon in November.

If you don’t plan to attend UCon, I am trying to get some play testers to make sure my planned content flows and that there is enough to fill four hours. I have a game scheduled for Friday, September 11, from 7:00 PM – Midnight Eastern. I use Roll20 and Google Hangouts. If possible, I would like to set a time to get characters created before then.

If you are interested in playing Friday, let me know, and I will send you an invite to the Hangout and the Roll20 campaign. I have one player lined up for Friday, and others who previously indicated interest. I need 5 more players, and can run it with two or more, but more is better.

With sufficient interest, I can run it again on Saturday. I will have room for six players.

My plan is to make this a regular campaign, but the more immediate need is to play test this scenario. I haven’t ran Metamorphosis Alpha or played it in over 30 years, so I need just a bit of a refresher before attempting this at a con.

An Example Of Creative Spell Use

Back in college, one of my room mates was DM for an established group. I was allowed to play and run a “version” of my character from my Brother Robert’s game. I couldn’t take the XP from his game and then add more XP from my brother’s game.

He ruled that Griswald showed up by some sort of inter-dimensional travel.

As a half-elf Fighter/Cleric/Magic User, he could do a lot of things. I don’t recall what levels he was in each class at the time, but he had levitate and fly, so he was at least 5th level as a magic user.

For some reason, the party split up to cover more ground. The group I was with was on the beach of the island we were exploring. I don’t remember if we were being chased, or something would happen to us if we didn’t get away from the beach fast. One of the party was a dwarf and could not run fast enough to make it. I think one or more of the party was unconscious.

I decided to cast levitate on the dwarf to neutralize his weight, and cast fly on myself so that I could move everyone quickly. As I recall, there were three of us.

The image of a flying half elf pushing a levitating dwarf with someone else hanging onto him gave the other players a great laugh. It may have been ridiculous, but it was effective.

One need not have a lot of spells that do damage to be effective in life or death situations. Defense, getting away, and information are just as powerful if played right, and the DM is in tune with what you are trying to do.

An Example of Yes

A couple days ago, I wrote about The Fun Is In Yes! Today, I’ll give an example that shows how invisible this can be to players.

In my face to face campaign with my sons and the girlfriend of my oldest son, they kill creatures and skin them, decapitate them, etc. and then have things made.

For example, due to really bad rolls when they encountered a minotaur returning to its lair, it could not hit them and they killed it. Being a large and impressive monster, they took its head and brought it back to town. They wanted to take it to a taxidermist and have it mounted.

When I created the town, I had generated the different businesses and skills available in town. A taxidermist was not one of them. However, since the town is on the marches between the kingdom and the ancient abandoned city, and serving adventurers is one of its industries, it made sense to have a taxidermist. So I picked a name and decided what part of town the shop was in. They haggled with the owner over a price, and arrange for a time to pick it up.

They go back a few days later, just to check on progress, only to find a crowd gathered around the taxidermist’s shop. It turns out that the taxidermist was charging  to give people a chance to look at this head in progress. All the normal benches and things in the shop were cleared out to focus on this one head and allow as many paying onlookers as possible. This little twist greatly enhanced their enjoyment.

The agreement was to mount the head on something to make it easy to mount on their wagon behind the seat and above the heads of the driver and passenger. This sight alone makes an impression on less powerful foes they encounter. They later added an ogre head to their wagon display, prepared by the same taxidermist.

They fought two giant weasels, who again couldn’t roll to hit, and how their heads and hides are hooded cloaks.

I am sure, if we ever resume play, that they will skin and decapitate more creatures to add to their collection.

The twist of adding an unplanned NPC expert hireling increased the fun for both the players, and me.

There was no good reason not to bring the taxidermist into existence. Had I said, “No”, the mental image of two preserved monstrous heads mounted on a wagon, with a driver and passenger wearing giant weasel cloaks would not exist. That’s part of the fun of the collaborative storytelling that is RPG’s.



What Is The Most Impromptu Game You Have Ever Played?

Way back in college, I don’t recall if it was over one of the breaks or over the summer. I was home at my parent’s, it was late in the evening. I was talking with my two younger brothers, when R showed up.

R was drunk, mad as Hell, and pissed at the world. He had been unceremoniously dumped by his girlfriend, and got drunk before coming to our house. He had murder on his mind and in spite of his inebriation, had the idea that it was better to kill monsters in a game of D&D than actually kill someone. I think he was just looking to find someone to fight to help deal with the overwhelming feelings, and realized after he was drunk that wasn’t the way to deal with it. R’s exact words, when we opened the door were, “I need to kill something.” In a menacing tone as he swayed.

My brother, Robert was our DM, and is close enough to me in age that we were in the same grade through school. Robert is a big guy, about my height but broader. R was a year behind us in school. R is bigger than Robert. Once in high school, R said, “Hey, Robert, how’s it going?” Robert was having a bad day, and grabbed R and tossed him across the hall and R hit the lockers and slid down them landing upside down. Or so all the witnesses, include Robert and R later said. I was down the hall when this happened, so I missed the actual event. R is a pretty chill guy, and said something like, “So, having a bad day?” So it takes a lot to get R to the point of being ready for murder.

Robert acquiesced to R’s request and we set up in our usual spot in the basement/garage area. We had an old couch and some other things down there. I believe we were already there when R showed up, so my parents did not know anything about it. Our parents trusted us, new R and R would listen to them, if they had known he was there.

It was a good game as I recall, and got better as R sobered up. Robert was great at running stuff on the fly and he had a huge sandbox with lots of ideas and things planned out, and we sat down with three players, R, my youngest brother, Kent, and me. It was probably something we would have done anyway, so it fit in and worked well for the spirit of the campaign. The good guys, that’s us, were always killing orcs, and other baddies, so that’s what we did.

After it was over, Robert made clear to R not to do that again, i.e. show up drunk, pissed, and want to play. At the time, agreeing to the demand was the easiest way to keep him from getting back in his truck. (Our paternal grandfather was killed by a drunk driver when we were 6, 5, and 3, after he was almost home from driving out 3 or 400 miles to visit and meet our baby sister. So we have no tolerance for that. )

Other than the drunk part, if R had just shown up, we probably would have played anyway.

I guess there might be worse reasons to play RPG’s than as an excuse not to mangle someone. RPG’s can be therapeutic, in that sense, as you can mangle monsters and bad guys with the kind of payback you wanted to dish out to someone in real life.

That was the weirdest beginning to a session of D&D of my life. What about you?

Details On The As-Needed Character Generation

+Adam Muszkiewicz over at Dispatches From Kickassistan has his write up of what he calls “emergent characters” that I touched on in my write up of Marmalade Dog 20, and in more detail in my post about collaborative roll playing.

Adam goes into details about its origins and how it has worked in actual play from the GM side.

All I can say it, it is a blast and keeps one on their toes and revving up their off the wall ideas. After two sessions at Marmalade Dog, my character still doesn’t have hit points because he was never hit. I can imagine that it will be a nail biter if I play that character again and have to roll HP after being hit in combat.

I think that style of play works well for a con, and for the right group of regulars it could be a lot of fun. In a con game, it allows one to get up and running with a character quickly that one is more invested in than a pre-gen passed out by the GM.

As I mentioned before, Adam and I talked about this, and a GM with mastery of the rules, or a simple set of rules, like Delving Deeper, by +Simon Bull would best facilitate this style of play.