Thursday, September 24, 2009

About The New Campaign (Or "GM ADD Strikes Again") [CZ:UW+WG13/1e]

When I stopped posting a few months back, my main campaign was my B/X homebrew sandbox. Sketchily detailed fantasy city-state with attendant a-wizard-did-it megadungeon below, Wilderlands-style hexcrawl areas in the surrounding hills, forests and swamps (using the Known World map from the Expert Set, but ignoring the Mystara stuff). One of the nice things thing about this campaign is its portability - I can run it with just one binder, no bookshelf required. Since I was running a lot of games out of my house, that was huge. However, my gaming time sorta fizzled around May, and I wasn't running games for a while.

Right when I got some free time to game again, a few things happened at once. I got some of the guys from the band hooked right around the same time several players from my old group became available on weeknights, so I suddenly had a double-handful of players. The GM of the BFRPG / Castle Zagyg game I was playing in abruptly suspended the campaign, and I'd been sitting on a brand new (unread) Castle Zagyg:Upper Works boxed set since the winter con season. And I needed a good excuse to clean out the Nerd Loft (incidentally, where my big table and AD&D / HackMaster shelf reside). A recipe for GM ADD if there ever was one.

So now we're on the fourth or fifth session of AD&D First Edition, using CZ:UW and Joe Bloch's WG13 as Castle Greyhawk, placed 2-3 hours' walk to the east of the Free City of Greyhawk (ignoring Yggsburgh and all TSR-published versions of both the City and the Castle), with the '81 folio and '83 boxed set versions of the World of Greyhawk campaign settings for background. I'm keeping most of the background material from the pre-'85 modules (I've got most of the 1e-era stuff) but ignoring most of the other Greyhawk material and changing whatever strikes me at the moment. I'm using lots of anecdotal material from the Lake Geneva campaign (pulled from forum posts and interviews on the net) for inspiration, but I'm not worried about canon or any aspirations to "authenticity". From what I can tell, the key to running a Gygaxian campaign is not obsessively parroting details from the game he ran, but rolling with the punches and thinking on your feet to see what kind of game you can come up with.

The group itself is a blast: Three players from my first long-term campaign (all hardened AD&D vets), three complete D&D virgins (the guys from the band - all 3 have played plenty of PCRPGs, including Baldur's Gate, so they're picking up fast), and rotating assortment of other folks - I'm seeing anywhere between 6 and 9 folks turning out every week. (It occasionally strikes me that I'm a lucky bastard - all I ever read is tales of woe from guys trying to get 3 players at an OAD&D table on the same day, and I'm almost to the point of turning good players away.) Running a group this size is an interesting challenge, but using a caller (and loudly-rolled wandering monster dice) is keeping things pretty smooth.

In keeping with my understanding of the original campaign, I've thrown alignment restrictions to the winds, so of course the guys immediately seized on playing an eeeeeeeeeevil party. In practice, they're not going as apeshit as I expected them to - it may be that, over the years, I've impressed upon them the repercussions for out-of-control PCs who Get Caught. (Hahaha...) They're plotting the betrayal of good-aligned adventuring parties, terrorizing small farming hamlets, abusing hapless hirelings, and indulging in the occasional good-natured inter-party assassination bidding war, but nothing that would arouse the wrath of the gods (or the guard) so I'm letting them play it out. All parties involved are half-expecting the whole thing to go down in a bloody PC-on-PC TPK at some point, but so far they're actually more or less working together.

What's more, they're actually succeeding. [CASTLE ZAGYG SPOILERS TO FOLLOW] They've made the trip to the Castle grounds a few times now (over a couple weeks of game time), in which time they've made a cursory exploration of the lower and middle courtyards, successfuly penetrated the dungeons (huh-huh, "penetrate"), and made inroads to Level 1 (the Store Rooms). Nobody's died yet (to my utter consternation), although they've had several close calls. They've had skirmishes with various humanoids in the Ruins level, and driven off the gnoll minions of a rival evil cleric (who they then seriously murdered to death*). (The party currently contains 3 evil clerics, so clearly they were protecting their job security.) They've managed to secure a defensible (if somewhat nightmare-inducing) refuge from the predations of the undead. The party MU also managed a neat little coup - they scored a few magic items by smart (and lucky) play, gave them to the MU, and he netted enough XP to go from level 1 to the cusp of level 3 in the space of two games. This, and the plate mail they liberated from the cleric, should give them a decent toehold on survivability, and it's looking like this batch just may make it over that 1st level hump.

Here's the line-up as it stands now:

Grishnakh Skuthne - Half-Orc Fighter 1
Baldermir Von Bizmark - Human Fighter 1 (on the cusp of 2)
Vladimir - Human "Fighter" (Assasssin) 1
Gozher the Gaucherion - Mountain Dwarf Cleric (Abbathor) 1
Mordis Pitborn - Half-Orc Fighter/Cleric (Incabulous)
Rudger - Half-Orc Fighter/Cleric (Fuck if I can remember)
Vas Deferenez - Half-Elf Fighter/MU 1/1
Treg Kerelius - Human MU 2 (on the cusp of 3)
Alberoth (AKA Dingle) - High Elf Thief 1
Falatious Bowlhard - Grey Elf "Thief" (Assassin) 1

Currently they're on level 1, just having won the fight with the gnolls (I'll be giving them the results of the room-loot next session.)

More on last session later.


* Man, speaking of players messing up a perfectly good plan. Gnolls, 4th-level cleric with hold person on tap. Rough situation for a 1st level group - unless the friggin' F/C PC on point wins initiative and drops a darkness spell on the enemy priest (who then obligingly fails his save like a good little xp-container)(grumble grumble). Tough to cast PC-party-fucking spells when you can't see them. *grump*

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post. I like the character names! :)