*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
November 21, 2014, 04:15:16 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 33 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: [S&W] Keep on Borderlands- Oldschool experiment  (Read 2374 times)
AzaLiN
Member

Posts: 44


« on: January 04, 2010, 02:52:34 AM »

Swords and Wizardry is a "retro clone" RPG, of 0d&d. Tonight I ran my first game using those rules- I used the famous Keep on Borderlands as a test module. It's rated #7 (by TSR) as best adventures of all time, so I'd like to use it as a reference point for 'what an adventure should be,' -at least according to Gygax and the "old schoolers."

"Olde school gaming" is something I've been curious about for a while, and being a 4e DM...

I'm planning on recording what this experiment is like on these forums, with reference to the theory here. I'm looking forward to some great insights ;D

SPOILER ALERT: there will be lots.

First Game and Predictions

Get their attention

After 2 hours of character building, and the group being seriously distracted, I failed to get anyone to listen to the 'background' info at the start of the module, a blurb I thought was really cool- if wordy- that I read when alone. So:

I declared that they were all suddenly attacked by bandits from another section of the module, a completely random occurance. The fight, with 6 players and 10 opponents, lasted probably a half hour. Afterwards they listened quite attentively, though I skimmed at times cause I realize it was wordy. In short, I've found that a quick tough fight engages a group and puts their heads in the game.

In the Keep- location based locales, game-integrated setting

The keep is location based, with huge amounts of seemingly unnecessary detail about every building in the place, but a lot is still left to the DM. There are unnamed NPCs at various locations, stores, tons of vagueness that left a ton of opportunity for me to improvise and develop as I saw fit. Best of all, nothing forced the group to do one thing or the other. I felt an incredible amount of freedom running this part, and I think the players felt the same amount of freedom playing in it. If they comb every corner, I think they'd still miss things, it had a feeling of 'ripeness.'

Opening the adventure with an exploration of the keep was awesome. It really set the stage, without using scripted events, or forcing direction on the players. I'll suggest that this is because it developed setting in an utterly game-related way, and not in a 'cut-scene,' scripted event, narration kind of way- they experienced the game as an expression of the setting, and it was really coherently done. I think I may be being unclear, but if that's the case, let me know, it's 3am.

They loitered until some players got bored by the other's roleplaying, so I 'cut the thread,' an idea I think I heard about in Sorcerer somewhere. It's not just a useful technique, it's utterly necessary to keep the fun in the game! They were sort of getting to the repetitive phase of their RP and investigating, which sort of signaled it was time to move on.

6 players, 1 DM

The only drawback: with 6 players, 2-3 were always inactive, and 3 got bored while the others role played. This isn't a problem of the adventure design, but a problem with the group size and role playing situations.

Now, since the combat rules are simple, as far as adventuring goes, 6 players actually turned out to be really entertaining. I've gotten fairly competent at keeping big fights running quickly from trying to have huge fights in 4e [ugh], and I think everyone was happy with the fights, though we used miniatures and I was a little hesitant about that. I think that without the miniatures the fights would be faster and more imaginative. Thoughts? I'm very unsure about where I stand here. For exploring and fighting though, 6 players didn't hurt the pace much at all, I think it helped it in ways.

For example, in small groups, the party can wander off on tangents, lots of sub quests, and split up a lot; they can spend a lot of time arguing, and each has a lot of 'power' within the group, so to speak, to have their way because they're up to 25% of the group.

In larger groups, 5+, tangents are less common because of peer pressure and boredom (though thankfully I have bull headed players who will indulge a little anyways), the party doesn't split up due to danger and logistics, and they can't argue too much cause nothing will get done, and ppl will get bored- so it drives a pace, and in a direction very compatible with the 'goal' of d&d- kill stuff, explore, and bring back booty.

I think in the dungeons in the future, having such large groups will be most interesting.

However, it really kicks role playing in the ass, so to speak, roleplaying that i really want in the game.

Death in the River

They crossed a river- one player didn't tie himself to the horse, and was swept downstream with his man at arms in plate armor. He went far enough that he started to drown... the unarmored PCs never went after him, and after 4 failed saving throws, I decided he drowned.

Funny thing was that everyone thought this was awesome, if cruel, but mostly hilarious. He rolled up a new character, this time a magician due to a 4 strength. In the future, I might be more careful with descriptions or rulings, but since I primed the group for a death-intensive campaign, it actually was memorable and everyone cheered when they looted his corpse and gave his plate armor to the group's tank [high hp fighting man].

Dual weilding 2 shields

S&W is so versatile and rules lite that when a player decided he wanted to be the group's tank, he wanted to use 2 shields and no weapon. After thinking about it for a while, I said, sure, why not. He shield slams opponents for 1d2 damage, 1d4 since he had spikes added, and has a 19 AC, effectively making him invulnerable. It's horridly retarded, but it's so funny it's going to be a real highlight of this game. Rules-lite is so great.

Lots of Fire

The lack of a DM drawn map, since I'm making them do their own mapping, caused them to get quite lost and mislocate the raiders... they reacted by insisting the raiders were in the trees ahead, and started a forest fire to smoke them out. This brought lizardmen- after the fight they tracked them to their cave, which they made note of, and returned to town for... 300litres, or 6 kegs, of lamp oil, to smoke them out with- or, more likely- explode the entire lizard mound. This was surprisingly affordable, as they also bought a wagon to transport it, and several lackeys to help them ford the river. This could go many ways when it transpires, but I feel good about this. In 4e this situation is almost impossible, but in S&W it's a pretty rational way to approach a den of lizardfolk, and the rules make it really easy to do. Again, rules light is amazing.

Low hp

I houseruled that a player reduced to 0 hp is treated like a player in Resident Evil 5, with a movement speed of 1, and unable to act, until they die in 2d6 rounds unless healed or stabilized by another player. Still, in one round, 3 players were incapacitated in this manner, but the fight went on. Having low hp is far more interesting, everybody prefers it so far, especially as it speeds combat up, though they complain about missing a lot. It's true: missing sucks, but I think it takes a huge load off of the hp tracking system, and actually speeds combat along- also adds suspense in various situations. I may alter my house rule, since every character would have died by now without it, but the low hp is here to stay.

GNS

I recall I read that old D&D is an incoherent Sim/Gamist system. I'd like to hear people's thoughts on this, since I'm interpreting the intermingling of system and setting in a positive way- I'm running the game in a pretty heavily gamist mode, I think, while using a lot of supportive role playing and simulationism thrown in, but only in support.







I'd love to post more details, or discuss ideas, or hear comments. It was a long post, thanks for reading!
Logged
AzaLiN
Member

Posts: 44


« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2010, 11:52:32 PM »

This is what I was waiting for: the 3 core players came by today and we spent 3 hours talking about taking the best from 4e and the best from S&W, and making "our own dnd," as quoted by one of the players.

What they want is fast, fun combat: they felt that S&W is just a long series of misses followed by instant death, and wasn't varied or interesting enough. This is a common complaint with fighter classes in every D&D up to 4e, it's why I always play mages in Baldurs gate, neverwinter nights, and temple of elemental evil (unless I want to actually beat the game...). I would argue that the misses and instant death lead to situations where the players want to avoid direct confrontations and kill/avoid their enemies by different means, but there's little within the rules to support it except for improvisation or inventing items.

That being said, trading blows is boring and for the toe-to-toe fights that are inevitable, there needs to be more options- interesting weapon choices, armor choices, interesting support items or abilities, and situations where the terrain makes more of a difference. Ex, polearm formations, initiative modifiers based on weight carried, higher hit probabilities (major consistent complaint), smoke bombs, caltrops, better rules for called shots (called shots don't work well with AC), maybe fighting styles in a rock paper scissors mode? These additional choices have to be simple enough to not slow things down though.

I think Rifts offers these choices with items and robotics. I need to review this.

Another alternative is for everyone to play clerics and mages, and use hirelings for the meat shields.

The loved the rations and carrying weight tracking/restrictions: They were impressed how it affected their decision making during the adventure, as Sid Meyer would say, it "created interesting choices for the players." In this case, deciding between heavy or light armor, what to carry, how many supplies to bring, how to ration when it got tough, and how best to increase carrying capacity- they bought horses and a wagon!

Mixed feelings about no skills: the players want to have to think about what they're doing and role play it, but they also want a skill system to reflect the difference between what their character can do and what they know how to do.

They want highly specialized classes/player roles: The 3 S&W classes are generalists- the lack of skills augments this, 2 of the classes can fight toe to toe, with only a bit of role differential. They felt that characters weren't really differentiated from one another except by personality, and since death was so common their characters mattered very little. I would argue that in S&W they DO matter very little, in some senses: it's a game about dungeon crawling and getting deeper, not about the stories of individual people or their quests.

low importance on abilities/random dice rolling during creation: combined, they think it's good, but each prefers to create their own characters using point buy systems where stats matter a lot. This is similar to the point above where they want very character oriented sessions, and not dungeon/exploring oriented sessions. They want heroes.

They liked slow healing and low hp- at first: in S&W you may start with 1hp (3 players did), and you only heal one per night's rest. The enemies are also very low hp. Combat is pretty suspenseful as you trade ineffective blows, the first successful one meaning death. They also didn't fully heal after every fight. However, as talks went on they wanted higher hit probabilities and higher hp to counterbalance it, on both sides; they also decided they did want to fully heal after every fight, BUT that they wanted healing to 'cost something,' or be limited. All players agreed that dying in 1 hit from a kobold sucks... it reflects a very different playing mentality than the designers of the game, i think: I think the designers acknowledge that it sucks to die in 1 hit, so they expect the player to... not fight toe to toe. 4e players do the opposite, and expect to solve everything toe to toe using tactics and power usage choices.

They don't like getting xp for gold, but they like quest xp: getting gold for xp is arbitrary, but since the goal of the game is dungeon crawling and adventuring, the designers of the game decided to use it as a measure of player success. Thus, 70% of your xp comes from treasure. They don't agree with it, but they are open to getting 75% xp from quests, and a bunch more from roleplaying. The difference though is that with quests, they have to get told to do something. With gold, they just do whatever they want, and it's more sandbox-y.

I'm considering taking a Legend of Zelda approach: using things like 'heart containers' that will actually be xp containers and placing them in dungeons and using them as quest rewards if needed, or in weird exploration spots. I think they'll resist it, but it's a really great system, as you probably are familiar with from PLAYING zelda. It encourages exploring and problem solving.

The level creep in 4e will go: no more +1/2 levels to skills, defenses and to-hit, or skills. I may add a toned down version to to-hit and skills, but that's it. Once again, if we play 4e, goblins will be able to hit the party members and hurt them ^^

GNS incoherency: Almost every rule is gamist in S&W, but the module is simulationist enough that the players seem to be playing a slightly different game than the game, a character-role-playing game, instead of a dungeon crawling game. In retrospect, this is interesting and suggests that the Keep on Borderlands, to new players, could be really confusing and misleading in how it begins, which is in fact in role-playing mode.

I think there's more, but I have to work in the morn', and I'm away for the night. They want to take 4E and modify it to include aspects from 1e, but I think 4e is 'too tight' to modify easily, and I don't like it, it's a completely different game. We'll see. I wonder what 4e classic will be like at Necromancer Games when it's done.
Logged
Roger
Member

Posts: 228


WWW
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2010, 02:37:45 PM »

After 2 hours of character building

I'm sort of stunned that it's even possible to spend this much time on character creation in Swords and Wizardry.

Could you talk a bit about why it took this long?  Thanks.
Logged
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 4268


WWW
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2010, 04:58:31 PM »

Hi,

Why do they want to raise to hit probability, but then raise hitpoints as well? What's the point of that except to get the same on average result, but take longer in RL to get it? I've got this vague sense of gamist players amatuer game designing/painting themselves into a simulationist corner.

Do they consider whether any of these things they want might end up being sucky? Or do they just think 'Yes, this would be the right way to play this game, no doubt about it!', which is basically the slogan of creative denial.
Logged

AzaLiN
Member

Posts: 44


« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2010, 07:10:31 PM »

Quote
I'm sort of stunned that it's even possible to spend this much time on character creation in Swords and Wizardry.

Could you talk a bit about why it took this long?  Thanks.

That's easy: there were 7 players, and each arrived a half hour after the last, so just as we got ready to begin somebody new would arrive and need to get his character put together- the longest part is dice rolling and gear selection, but it really shouldn't have taken more than 5-10 minutes per player. They had to do it semi-sequentially too since we only have a pdf copy of the rulebook.

Quote
Why do they want to raise to hit probability, but then raise hitpoints as well? What's the point of that except to get the same on average result, but take longer in RL to get it? I've got this vague sense of gamist players amatuer game designing/painting themselves into a simulationist corner.

They hate waiting 5 minutes for their turn, rolling once, and missing. They'd rather hit 5 turns in a row to do 30 dmg to kill something than miss 4 times and kill it for 6 dmg on the 5th blow. I've thought about it, and I'm not sure the S&W combat is lacking, I just need to be deadlier to force them to be clever instead of fighting toe to toe... that ought to bring out the system's strengths. I just don't know if I'll have the chance, they're pretty caught up with their rules mods at the moment.

Quote
Do they consider whether any of these things they want might end up being sucky? Or do they just think 'Yes, this would be the right way to play this game, no doubt about it!', which is basically the slogan of creative denial.

It's slightly frustrating since I have a lot of experience and theory to draw upon for game design/modification issues, and they don't see a lot of obvious pitfalls. Not that I'm even close to perfect, but, for example, none of the 3 players has been able to get a campaign going for more than a few sessions, which suggests they have some things to learn- though each would be great afterwards! Wow! I wish they'd listen to me more, their design is looking more and more "incoherent" every day, but we'll have to see when we're done.

The mods have come a long ways... Can I detail them another time, when more's done with them?

Short list:

Take D&D 4e, and...

1) Eliminate the +1/2 levels bonus to defenses, attacks, and skills.
2) Eliminate knowledge skills, replace them with 'survival,' used to tell direction and feed oneself in the wild.
3) Rules about healing surges, serious injuries, called shots, regaining only half your surges on extended rests (forcing you to go to town to regen more than 1/2 of them), and limiting the # of surges you can spend per short rest.
4) Changing xp to come from quests (75%), with the last 25% coming from DM discretion- ie, roleplaying bonus with combat xp, skill use xp, combat avoidance bonuses...
5) change which attributes provide bonuses to each skills, using average scores of multiple attributes sometimes.
6) weight and ration tracking. I need a good way to do this when the item lists are so huge. I found this: http://deltasdnd.blogspot.com/2007/04/encumbrance.html but they don't like it I don't think. We'll see tomorrow.
7) stop using minis for combat, as an experiment.
Logged
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 4268


WWW
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2010, 08:07:24 PM »

Well, this is just me but when I see that much focus on mods/houserules, to me it seems like that IS the gameplay at the table. Modding has become or always was the gameplay itself. All the stuff like having little PC's moving around the game world (as figures or fiction) is just an opportunity to see where a new mod is 'needed'.

To me it never seems very fun because it's never actually tries to settle down and enjoy a set of rules, like one might enjoy the rules of chess or connect four.  It's always pursuing something that isn't currently there to be had. To me, perhaps unaware of pertinent details, it seems like constant grass is greener activity. I might be way off, but I'd ask them to describe in concrete terms what they actually enjoy - and they wont be able to tell you. It'll always slip out of the concrete and into broad generalisations.

Indeed I guess I'd put it this way - if they're certain they're working out some really good mods, what is their track history? How long have they been modding things to get it 'just right' and what have they made in that time that they can point at and say they enjoy? If it's years and nothing, then that's a fair bit of evidence this constant modding of stuff is going absolutely nowhere.
Logged

Roger
Member

Posts: 228


WWW
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2010, 08:49:41 AM »

they felt that S&W is just a long series of misses followed by instant death
What monsters were they up against?  The characters' bonuses to attack rolls was almost certainly +0 or maybe +1 if they were lucky enough to have a high Strength.

Lots of monsters are AC6: ghouls,kobolds, orcs.
Some are AC7: goblins, human bandits and soldiers, giant rats, skeletons and zombies (if they have shields).

AC6 is hit on a roll of 13 or better; AC7 on a roll of 12 or better.

So they should have been hitting at least a third of the time, and maybe as often as almost half the time.  Of course, every party has been known to hit a streak of really bad rolls on occasion.
Logged
FredGarber
Member

Posts: 95


« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2010, 10:24:46 AM »

1. Might I suggest a different change on the to-hit percentages?  A house rule I used once was "For every turn you stay attacking on the same monster, you get a +1 to hit."  I did not apply this rule to the monsters.  It turned the game a little "softer" -  Players won the combats more often, but often the bonus applied to a roll that would have hit anyways.  But players FELT safer, and so they attacked more.

2. I also would suggest a change to how you might handle failed rolls.  Instead of just saying "You need a 13 -> you rolled a 12.  You miss."  Have each player describe in-fiction HOW they missed: "At the last moment, the goblin ducks under my sword."  -> This might get them more invested with the failed rolls.  Changing hitpoints usually means a lot of math.

3. The fact that you take for granted that with six players, there's only going to be three of them involved at any given moment is worrysome to me.  What is keeping the other three away from the game?

4. It seems like you took a mix of D&D1e and D&D4e, and are combining them into something closer to AD&D 1e.
Whenever I start messing with a simple system in as much detail as you seem to be planning, I tend to spend more time on the SYSTEM, and less on the actual playing of the game. Be careful to not end up like me :)

-Fred
Logged
contracycle
Member

Posts: 2984


« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2010, 10:33:24 AM »

Now, since the combat rules are simple, as far as adventuring goes, 6 players actually turned out to be really entertaining. I've gotten fairly competent at keeping big fights running quickly from trying to have huge fights in 4e [ugh], and I think everyone was happy with the fights, though we used miniatures and I was a little hesitant about that. I think that without the miniatures the fights would be faster and more imaginative. Thoughts? I'm very unsure about where I stand here. For exploring and fighting though, 6 players didn't hurt the pace much at all, I think it helped it in ways.

It's certainly my experience that platying with mini's entails a sort of sewitch-out from RPG mode into boardgame mode, which I dislike.  Therefore I certainly agree that this sort of action will become more "imaginative"; mini's and maps absolve you of the need to keep an imaginary situation imagined.  They can have a role as tokens, on a map that is not cleanly measured and where moving them is representational rather than governed by rules, just to keep order.
Logged

http://www.arrestblair.org/

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci
AzaLiN
Member

Posts: 44


« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2010, 12:09:47 AM »

Quote
Well, this is just me but when I see that much focus on mods/houserules, to me it seems like that IS the gameplay at the table.

Currently. I'm going to try to wrap it up soon and get some actual gaming started.

Quote
What monsters were they up against?

bandits and lizardmen- two players missed every roll but 1 or 2 each all night. I think that's fine, but combat wasn't moving fast enough to make up for it, which is another reason I want no minis when we fight.

Quote
It's certainly my experience that platying with mini's entails a sort of sewitch-out from RPG mode into boardgame mode, which I dislike.

agreed. That's why I think of 4e as a sort of board game. By the way, have you heard of the houserule where you don't let the players know their PC's hp? you just tell them 'bloodied,' staggered, near-death, or unconscious/dead. More bookkeeping, but I want to try it out- it undoes some of the gamism/board game mode thinking, and forces the players into a more imaginative situation.
Logged
AzaLiN
Member

Posts: 44


« Reply #10 on: January 10, 2010, 08:06:50 PM »

This sucks. Could anyone offer some input to get these stupid mods over with? I want to play again, this is going nowhere.

4e base

Food: proposed:
no food for the day -->start combat dazed, save ends. This seems extreme for the first 3 days, but okish afterwards.
no food for (days=constitution) --> dazed, weakened, and slowed until you eat. imo this sounds like no fun to me.
no food for (days=conx1.5) -->die. This seems weird as 10con--> die in 15 days w/o food, but you are adventuring after all.
remove daze/weaken/slow: eat for days equal to days past (days=con). ex, 10con, 13 days, means eat 3 days to recover completely.

Weight: if carrying (strx5-strx10) weight, you have -2 to run speed, and must roll endurance in order to run. other rules as in DMG. imo this sounds sort of... weird too.

resting: recover (total surges/2) per night's rest, up to a max of (total surges/2); if you had more before you slept, you don't lose any though, you just don't gain any either. I dislike this too.

that's as far as we got tonight... comments? If anyone has a preexisting system, I can probably implement it in an overarching way to just skip these mods.
Logged
contracycle
Member

Posts: 2984


« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2010, 12:23:48 AM »

agreed. That's why I think of 4e as a sort of board game. By the way, have you heard of the houserule where you don't let the players know their PC's hp? you just tell them 'bloodied,' staggered, near-death, or unconscious/dead. More bookkeeping, but I want to try it out- it undoes some of the gamism/board game mode thinking, and forces the players into a more imaginative situation.

I did try that for a while, but found it rather unsatisfactory.  It makes players quite uncertain, and with a resource as vital as their HP that's not necessareily a good thing.  In the end I was happy for them to have their own HP and therefore make informed judgements rather than rely on on extra layer of guesswork.  Also it encouraged me to be more interpretive and less literal with diced outcomes; plus play tended to be me scribbling frantically and them sitting around twiddling their thumbs, which had the effect of moving play as a whole out of their hands and into mine.

Try it out and see how it works for you, if they have lots of other powers and whatnot to monitor and track that effect might not be significant.
Logged

http://www.arrestblair.org/

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 4268


WWW
« Reply #12 on: January 11, 2010, 12:28:20 AM »

This sucks. Could anyone offer some input to get these stupid mods over with?
How did mods come up before? Did you allow this to start happening, or did it just happen? Have you given some impression you've agreed with it for as long as the campaign goes (which if it's traditional, is forever), or can you just say 'What I'm offering to run now has no room for discussion about mods unless I feel like starting it'?
Logged

AzaLiN
Member

Posts: 44


« Reply #13 on: January 11, 2010, 01:34:36 AM »

Ok, this thread was about one thing and now its about another, so I'm going to say it's dead unless we resume an actual old school campaign. Thanks for the replies everyone, but it looks like the result of the experiment is to assimilate some aspects of old school play into 4e without playtesting s&w as much as we could have first.

If however anyone wants to discuss S&W topics or old school d&d topics, I'm still down, I just can't link it to an actual campaign I'm running unless things change!
Logged
Finarvyn
Member

Posts: 133


WWW
« Reply #14 on: January 17, 2010, 09:02:21 AM »

AzaLiN, if you are interested in more discussion of how 4E can blend with S&W and/or OD&D you might check out my OD&D discussion board (in my signature). I know that some 4E players hang out there and maybe they have a different perspective on some of your issues.

Too bad that it took hours to generate characters. This might have left a bad impression in your mind, as well as those of your players. In general I find that S&W characters can be generated quite quickly, with spellcasters taking a bit longer because they have to ponder spell selection. Otherwise, with familaritiy it should go faster.

I agree that old-school combat is often "roll once and wait" but if players are ready to go it should move along quickly. You might let the players have copies of the combat tables and let them know the AC of the creatures they are fighting. That way, they can look up the to-hit number in advance and when it's their turn they can quickly roll and announce the result. Another poster mentioned that players can "ham it up" a little and describe their action and result in a narrative manner rather than just "rolled a 3" kind of language, and I encourage that as well.

In general, OD&D/S&W/AD&D/C&C and other games of this style tend to play a lot faster once you get the hang of it. Hopefully your players will get fired up and you can continue with your experiment in play style! :-)
Logged

Marv (Finarvyn)
Sorcerer * Dresden Files RPG * Amber Diceless
Forge Member since 2004
OD&D Player since 1975
Pages: [1]
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.16 | SMF © 2011, Simple Machines
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!