Saturday, June 21, 2014

Play Report - Three First-Time Players

  As I mentioned earlier yesterday evening I hosted a family of friends. The dad, D., had played 1e in high school and college but had no group when he moved for his first job 20 years ago. He came over with thee of his kids: son M. (14), daughter T., 12, and daughter C., 9. My sons J., A., S., and N. all assisted in setup and character creations.
  We started by just talking about RPGs in general over snacks and lemonade. The kids were eager, having heard tales from the table from their father all week. M. is a Full Metal Alchemist fan and had some general ideas about character motivation; T. is an artist and had character concept sketches; C. was just ready to have fun.
  We moved on and J. rolled up a character as a demo; he rolled Str 17 Int 11 Wis 9 Dex 11 Con 14 Cha 9 - a classic 3d6 in order fighter. We took our time and explained hit points, armor class, weapon proficiencies, etc. as we went. Total time to roll up, equip, and discuss creation was about 25 minutes. Then J., A., S., and N. helped all four of the visitors make characters. We ended up with:
  C. - human magic-user with 1 h.p. and A.C. 10
  T. - elven fighter/magic-user with 5 h.p. and A.C. 10
  M. - human thief with h.p. 2 and A.C. 5/8
  D. - human illusionist with h.p. 4 and A.C. 8/10
         Yup, a 3d6 in order illusionist.
  and J. with his new fighter, u.p. 8, A.C. 5

  With the heavy skew towards casters I was really glad J. had done a straight fighter.
  I then took them aside in ones and twos and explained how some of them knew each other ["J., you and T. have the same swordmaster trainer; C., you and T. have the same wizard mentor; T., and C. you have met D. who is mentored by your mentor's husband; J., you and M. have done some 'little jobs' for the town guard captain every now and then", etc.]
  Once that little web of acquaintance was established the town guard captain dropped a story on J. about how a small village had a reward for people willing to figure out some missing people. In a few moments the web of acquaintances had resulted in a team on its way tot he village of Stowanger.

  Note: Normally I give each character a sheet of things they know, rumors they have heard, secrets they are keeping, and people they know at the end of character creation, but I also usually spend a fair amount of time with each person over each character. Since this was a 'training session' I abbreviated this a lot! Still, I made sure they didn't 'all just meet in an inn'. I also slipped the human magic-user a tube of salve from her grandmother.

  Note: My son, J., wrote a list of 'basic adventuring equipment for 10 g.p.' and 'basic riding horse package for 45 g.p.' and we printed this out - a great help for newbies!

  Off they went on the River Road, eventually stopping in the (soon to be) famous Sad Wolf Tavern in Ham-on-Wye. After spending the night they set out south to the sleepy village of Stowanger and its only public building, the Church of St. Aledhel of the Elves.  They asked good questions, spoke to the locals, and eventually figured out that the people going missing had all recently come into money. They asked if anyone had recently come into money and were soon camped in the Brownside family barn, watching their house.

  The next day it rained all day and night. At the end of first night watch the fighter/magic-user spotted movement in the rain-soaked night. Like many first-time players she almost didn't think to wake anyone else up before going out, alone, to investigate. She remembered, though, and the group soon identified the shapes as kobolds trying to pry open a shutter of the house. The party developed a fairly interesting plan of the magic-user casting Dancing Lights as a ghostly figure appearing amidst the main group of kobolds and then the party attempting to capture one of the isolated kobolds on lookout.

  The sudden appearance of the spell effect startled the kobolds enough that the main group fled (pretty badly failed morale check) and the party did try to capture a kobold, ending up with a dead one and one at -3 but stable.
  No cleric, so no way to get the wounded kobold to interrogation ready in decent time.
  The party then quizzed Farmer Brownside about where the kobolds might be; he eventually mentioned the 'haunted mill'. The party set off for this building after using the salve to heal a hit point or two and getting some sleep.

  Note: I was using Syrinscape with a bluetooth speaker set in the middle of the table- the players, new and experienced alike, loved the weather and battle noises; they said it added a lot and kept the in-game conditions in their mind.

  The old mill is a 30' deep, 40' wide 2 storey structure with no windows on the first floor (but a broken old door hangs from from the only entrance, on the ground floor. There are windows all around the second floor.
  The thief decided to climb up to a second floor window and scout - one failed climb walls check later and the entire party is creeping up to the front door and another use of the salve is gone.
  The ground floor of the mill has the broken machinery of the milling process and a number of areas for stacking grain sacks - 10' x 10' stalls with 2' high walls. The floor is covered in dried leaves, rotted old burlap bags (empty), and such debirs and their is a staircase to the second floor in the corner.
  The thief decides to scout ahead and promptly steps into a bear trap hidden under the debris. The noise prompts 6 kobolds to rise from hiding in the stalls and unleash a storm of javelins! My dice hate me and they all missed.

  Note: The three bear traps are in very specific places on the map - don't walk there, no trap. This is the 11th time I have run the old mill for new players. The thief was the first to go in every time; the thief failed to search for traps every time; the thief hit one of the three hidden bear traps every time.

  The prepared illusionist immediately cast Darkness, covering half the first floor and shielding the party from 1/2 the ambushers. J., and T. immediately close with the other kobolds. In the next three rounds of combat the party deals with 4 of the 6 kobolds they had seen and one kobold escaped up the stairs. They also (finally) got the thief free, but he was down to 0.5 hit points (yes, I keep track of 1/2 hit points) and unable to fight.

  Note: In the past I have typically explained 1e combat starting with rounds and then breaking that down into segments. This time, after thinking about HackMaster Advanced, I explained combat starting with segments and then moving on to rounds. One group isn't "data" but they seemed to grasp the basics of combat a lot faster this way.

  Then a secret door opened and a lot more kobolds started coming in. Then more started coming down the stairs. J., ordered everyone out while he held them off, but they insisted he go and actually held off the hordes long enough for him to get away with just a little javelin hit.

  Note: When running the old mill I prefer to have one of the experienced players do a 'heroic last stand' and die. Why? Well, to show that it is just a game and characters die. And to show that an awesome, courageous death in a game can be pretty cool. Also, I coach the player a little bit - when the death happens they talk a bit about how that was pretty cool, then pull out another character and let me know they are ready if I need to introduce  the new guy. This, again, stresses that this is a game, that characters die, etc. it also sets them up for jazz band adventuring where each player has a stable of characters that they mix and match.
  Since I often am teaching younger players (under 10 fairly often, like this time) this, in my own experience, gives them the emotional distance they need; people that age naturally and properly become emotionally attached to characters and don't like Bad Things to happen to their family and friends. The staged 'heroic death' helps teach them that, once more, it is just a game. If they seem really upset? The party retrieves the body, they visit the bishop and they all learn about Raise Dead, too!
  This time, though, the party's actions had set up a viable escape plan - J. didn't want to act totally irrational and I didn't want to 'punish' the party by just dumping new critters on them until their foresight and planning didn't matter so - he lived.

The party rushed back to the village and sent word to the local baron - before sunset troops arrived, the remaining kobolds were cleared out, and the party had its reward money.



  This was obviously a short, sweet adventure designed to quickly introduce new players to ideas ranging from searching for traps to cover to roleplaying asking locals questions. It went well, they all had fun, and they all want to play again.

  Mission accomplished!