Archive for February, 2011

Home Again, Home Again

Wow, it’s been a roller-coaster of a weekend, full of awesome gaming and about the most severe sleep deprivation I’ve ever experienced.  While I’m sure I’ll have more commentary about the games I played soon, for now let stick to just the facts of what I’ve done since last posting.

After getting breakfast yesterday morning I got back just in time to slip into Frank’s 10 am game.  He was running a intro to OD&D game with a lot of commentary on history to start and then some classic dungeon exploration.  By noon the game was still going strong, and sadly I had to leave early to grab some lunch and prepare for the AD&D tournament game I was scheduled to run.

The tourney could hold up to ten players, and I got four.  Another nearby game only gathered two players, so they split up between my game and Frank’s, and I got a fifth player.  The game was very successful, fun was had, and prizes were awarded.  I grabbed some quick dinner and then headed over to my much anticipated Call of Cthulhu game with Andre Kruppa.

There were only five seats to this game and apparently I was very lucky to score one.  There were a fair number of disappointed folks with generics trying to get in, and I was congratulating myself at my good luck when Andre hit me with the bomb: “You guys do know this goes late right?”  Apparently it’s a three slot game, and he expected us to go up until 2:00 AM.  As much as I was looking forward to playing, I couldn’t in good conscious do so and expect to be able to run my own game the next morning at 8:00.  I even knew some folks had mentioned to me looking forward to playing that game, so I apologized and removed myself from the Cthulhu game.  Given how many folks were trying to squeeze into that one, I’m sure he had no problem finding a replacement.

I quickly purchased some generics and trotted over into the Old School room just in time to drop into an AD&D game a fellow from my earlier tournament was running.  I’m glad to say that despite my disappointment at not getting to play CoC, I still had a very enjoyable night of gaming before heading off to bed at a much more reasonable 11:00 PM.

But the gods of sleep deprivation were against me it seems.  Some ladies had rented the room that joined mine by a thin door, and decided to have animated discussions all the way until 4:00 AM.  Despite a call down to the front desk to complain, I still didn’t catch a wink of sleep until almost 5, at which time I managed to sneak in barely an hour of shut-eye before it was time to get up, pack, check-out, eat some breakfast, and be in the Old School room in time to run my final game.

Plenty of caffeine managed to pull me through my last game, the same one I was meant to run Friday morning.  This time I had a nicely full table of 7 players, every one of which was a pleasure to play with.  We had some very fun dungeon delving beneath the city of Bridgefair, which ended with two groups of players in protracted legal battles with each other while the rest of the party quietly slipped out of town.  I’ll discuss the details more in a later post, suffice it to say that I continue to be delighted with the new and amusing ways players take this quick little adventure.

By noon I was so beat I barely managed to get myself home where I fell asleep in front of the TV for an hour, and somehow now feel even more tired than before.  I’m just trying to keep myself conscious long enough for dinner and then I’m looking forward to a nice long sleep in my own bed.

Despite my near complete failure at scheduling this year, I still managed to play in a lot of really fun games.  There were a lot of recognizable faces there this year from last, and I really look forward to playing again next year with a truly great group of gamers.  Thanks guys for the awesome time!

TPK 2 – Poking the Tiger

Failed to get a nap yesterday afternoon, so I decided to hope I would just caffeine up and push through as late as I could and let myself sleep as late as I wanted this morning.  Clearly it worked, as here it is past 9:00 as I’m just finally awake enough to post this.

Last night was a lot of fun.  I played in a second of Tim’s games, and it was yet another TPK.  This was entirely our own fault.  We had the goal in hand with still over an hour of game time left, but rather than go home we decided to explore further and investigate things we knew could only be extremely unhealthy for us.

We had some trouble gathering enough people for the game, I’m afraid to say.  We had 5 players, which Tim felt was really not enough for his game, and two of us ended up running extra characters.  I really hope this is just because it was Friday, and that things will pick up today.  I’d really like to run the stuff I spent so much energy last week putting together.  Knowing that if I don’t get turnout that there’s always room in Tim and Frank’s games definitely takes the sting off though.

After the game I actually sat with Tim and two of the other players and chatted about gaming and whatnot.  It was really cool.  Tim confirmed for me that Silence 15′ Radius was indeed originally only intended as a stealth producing spell, and that it’s use as an anti-wizard spell grew out of their encouragement of player’s using spells inventively.  It sounds like back then there was at least some sentiment of “the player’s are doing X a lot, so let’s get X into the rules.”

And at 11 on Friday TotalCon holds a “DM Social” where they bring in some food and give all the DMs a chance to unwind and just socialize with each other.  I actually really enjoyed this, it was exactly what I needed at the time.  I bumped into my coworker again and we talked a bit, and then I just stayed and chatted with a few guys about various D&D editions.  Everyone was really civil and rather than becoming an edition war I think we had a pretty insightful discussion.  It’s amazing how much better these things can be when done in person instead of on-line.

I think what I’ve really been missing at this con is the chance to relax and just talk to people between games.  That’s the trouble with coming to one of these alone.  I think you need that kind of break between games or the transitions between playing a social game and then being left entirely alone is just much too jarring.

Anyway, I’m off to breakfast now, and to find out what to do with my ticket to this 8:00 am game that I’ve clearly missed.  Maybe I can trade it in for a generic and find out if there are any 10-12 games I can land in.


This morning I headed over to the old school RPG room, where I expect to spend most of the con.  This is smallish ballroom with a total of 4 tables in it.  OK, there are 6 tables, but two pairs have been pushed together into larger tables.  All of Frank’s games are one of the big tables, all of Tim’s games are at the other one, and all of my games are at one of the smaller tables.  I grabbed a seat at my table and set up all my stuff and waited.

And waited.  Nobody came.  Not to my game anyway, nor did anyone come to the game of the guy at the other table.  Five guys showed up for Tim’s game, and Frank doesn’t do early morning games.  So the other DM and I both abandoned our empty tables and joined Tim’s game.  Not what I expected this morning, but having a fallback of playing OD&D with Tim Kask is still a pretty good morning in my book.

The game started a bit slow.  There’s a long wilderness hike in the beginning and Tim had clearly not read his own notes on this one in some time.  Eventually he decided to just bull through it and get us to the dungeon, a wise choice in my opinion.  Then it got good.  There was some very fun old school dungeon delving, then we robbed a very expensive looking statue of an evil god off an alter, and then we got jumped by a very nasty demon (or avatar of the god) that killed us to the last man.  OK, no, not the last man, the wizard teleported out of there when he saw which way the wind was blowing.

Tim’s a pretty good DM.  He’s a little prone to rhapsodize and with the group here I suspect there’s quite a bit of preaching to the choir.  Most of the guys I’ve played with (and there were quite a few repeats between the two games I’ve played so far) are already well versed and sold on the whole old school concept.  No need to tell us about why it’s better Tim, we get it, let’s just play.

When he’s on though, Tim is just the kind of DM I like to play with.  He plays fast and loose with the rules, and takes a fair bit of delight in watching the party succeed or fail.  In his words: “I don’t kill players, I just give them the opportunity to kill themselves.”

My fellow players so far have been for the most part very good.  Unfortunately Mr. Jokey from last year showed up again this morning.  I suspect he’ll be a regular fixture for me to scowl at this year, and likely future years to come.  But on the other side there’s another guy who so far has been really cool to play with, and it turns out he lives very close by.  He asked me to include him in my regular campaign, and I gave him my card, but with an uncomfortable smile.  Even if he turns out to be a great player, the fact is that my home game is already pretty full, and there are folks at work who have expressed a desire to join in.  I suppose it’s pretty nice to be in the position where my game is popular enough that I’m never at a want for players, but I always feel terrible telling someone they can’t join.  Not only is it just an uncomfortable thing to have to say, but I can’t help but think of the lean times when I haven’t been able to find enough players.  I really do wish I could say yes to everyone that wants to play, but it’s just not feasible.

Anyway, I may be a bit rambly this afternoon.  I got maybe 4 hours of sleep last night, and I’m starting to feel it.  I’m thinking some lunch and then a nap is in order.

Who Needs Sleep?

I never sleep well the first night of a con, and last night was no exception.  Frank’s game ran late, all the way until midnight.  I tossed and turned for a few hours before finally falling asleep, and despite having an alarm set for 6:50, it’s now 6:45 and I’m already up, showered, and dressed.  Fortunately if I’m predicting my patterns correctly, tonight I will be so wiped out that I will pass out immediately upon hitting the mattress.  I’m also not above skipping this afternoon’s game for a quick nap, or maybe tomorrow morning’s game so I can sleep in.

As for last night, the game was OK.  Frank’s a great GM, I know from last year, but he has the unfortunate problem of thinking mysteries make good convention games.  I think this style of game is difficult to pull off as part of a regular campaign, and absolutely terrible for a convention game.  This time we only had 6 players though, and I did my best to involve myself.  Even so, it’s very difficult for 6 people to solve a mystery collectively.  Even if one person is actually able to figure it out (which is rare), convincing the rest of the group to implement a plan to prove it is always very difficult.

I probably asked for this signing up for a game with the word “Mystery” in the title.  Then again, when I signed up for the games there was precious little info to go on.  Most games Frank was running had no description at all, nor even a title.  Man, I’m realizing now just how important those 2-3 lines you get for describing your game really are.  It’s very hard to sum up the style of game you intend to run in so few sentences, but I think going forward I will most certainly try as hard as I can to do so.

Well, now I must get some breakfast before my own game starts at 8.  Another lesson for next year: don’t schedule games for every waking hour.  I finally learned at GenCon to avoid the early morning games, I suppose I should apply that lesson to every con.  There’s no avoiding them today or Sunday, as I’m the idiot running them.  At least my game on Saturday night ends early.

I really need some coffee.


Well, here I am at TotalCon.  Jenn decided not to come so I’m all on my own here.  This year I discovered a ton of places nearby to get food, and my hotel room oddly includes a large sofa and coffee table – not a luxury I was expecting.  As I feel silly going to restaurants all on my own, I expect all this will add up to take-out back at the hotel room as a regular feature of this trip.  Good news for you my faithful reader, as that means I’m more likely to write some posts between games.

Today I took off early from work to get down here in plenty of time to scope out the location and get settled in.  I spent some time leafing through the printed material and made an interesting discovery: apparently one of my coworkers is a special guest.  I wonder if I’ll bump into him?

Below is the schedule of games I signed up for.  I wasn’t really expecting to get into all of them, but it turns out I did.  Hmm, maybe my expectations are too colored by GenCon.  Anyway, I may yet skip some of these games, I’m not sure if I can really take this much back-to-back gaming.  We shall see.  Here’s the schedule:

7pm – 11pm  Mystery at The Acaeum (GM: Frank Mentzer)

8am – 12 pm  4 corners  (GM: Me)
1pm – 5pm  Meet and Greet With Frank Mentzer and Tim Kask
7pm – 11pm  Temple of the Weaver Queen (GM: Tim Kask)

8am – 12pm  Garlic, Stakes and Sparkles (GM: Travis Miller)
1pm – 5 pm Into the Forgotten Realms (GM: Me)
7pm – 11pm  Farewell My Sanity: Under the Boardwalk (GM: Andre Kruppa)

8am – 12 pm 4 corners (GM: Me)
1pm – 3pm  HYPERBOREA (GM: Jeffery Talanian)

The games I’m running are two instances of 4 Corners, my winning one-page dungeon contest entry.  I’ll be running those using pretty by-the-book B/X D&D.  Also I’m running Into the Forgotten Realms, an AD&D tournament module written by Ed Greenwood for GenCon ’84.  I’m a little nervous about running AD&D as I’m not as familiar with the intricacies of that system,  but I’m pretty excited about running something in tournament format.  I even have a prize for the winner.

Well, these are my pre-con thoughts.  We shall see how the events turn out.

Expanded B/X Encumbrance Chart

That was easier than expected. Below is the table I came up with.  Data in black all came straight out of the Moldvay basic book.  Data in red was extrapolated from data in Moldvay Basic plus values in Labyrinth Lord.  In most cases this was simply taking the LL values and expressing them in Moldvay’s coins (easy, as it’s given that 10 coins weighs a pound).  In other cases I had to use some creative invention.  Mostly this is around weapons with ammunition.  Moldvay lists these separately for cost, but lumps them together for encumbrance.  I wanted to figure out what 1 arrow/quarrel weighs using LL, but retain the correct totals when combining the numbers presented in Moldvay.  Also I slightly reduced the weight of iron spikes as listed by LL so they would divide into a weight per spike better.

Anyway, here’s the table:

Item Cost in gp Weight Damage Range

Battle Axe (two-handed) 7 50 1d8
Hand Axe 4 30 1d6 10/20/30
Crossbow 30 35
Case of 30 quarrels 10 15 1d6
Long Bow 40 30
Short Bow 25 20
Quiver of 20 arrows 5 10 1d6
1 Silver-tipped arrow 5 0.5 1d6
Normal Dagger 3 10 1d4
Silver Dagger 30 10 1d4
Short Sword 7 30 1d6
Sword (normal) 10 60 1d8
Two-handed Sword 15 150 1d10
Mace* 5 30 1d6
Club* 3 50 1d4
Pole Arm (two handed) 7 150 1d10
Sling* 2 0
30 Sling Stones 0 10 1d4
Spear 3 30 1d6 20/40/60
War Hammer* 5 30 1d6

Chain Mail Armor 40 400

Leather Armor 20 200

Plate Mail Armor 60 500

Shield 10 100

Backpack 5 20

Flask of Oil 2 15
Hammer (small) 2 20

Holy Symbol 25 10

Holy Water (1 vial) 25 10
Iron Spikes (12) 1 72 (6 each)

Lantern 10 30

Iron Rations (1 week) 15 10

Standard Rations (1 week) 5 10

Rope (50′ length) 1 100

Small Sack 1 5

Large Sack 2 5

Thieves’ Tools 25 10

Tinder Box (flint & steel) 3 0

Torches (6) 1 60 (10 each) 1d4
Water/Wine Skin 1 40

Wine (1 quart) 1 5

Wolfsbane (1 bunch) 10 0

Wooden Pole (10′ long) 1 80

Encumberance in B/X

I have emerged from house selling related projects to briefly think about gaming.  In fact, I’m off to TotalCon this weekend, which will be a nice respite to thinking about moving.  While preparing for that convention, I started creating some characters using only the Moldvay basic book.  I was curious how by-the-book I could make such a character without resorting to Labyrinth Lord.  The point where it broke down for me was encumberance.

Purchasing equipment in general is pretty painful using the original book.  To start off, the important data about individual items is located on three different pages.  First, we get to see the prices on page B12, but no other stats are listed there.  The actual weight values and encumbrance chart shows up on page B20.  If you’re using the optional variable damage rules, or want to know the ranges of missile weapons, well then you’ve got to flip on to page B27.  Ugh.

Let’s flip directly to B20 though and look specifically at encumbrance.  This is probably the most complex part of your character in Basic D&D.  I also kind of think it’s a pretty important part of the game.  Assuming you buy into Matt Finch‘s declaration that “managing resources is at the game’s very heart“, figuring out how much gear you can carry in and how much loot you can carry out is one of the most important pieces of data on your character sheet.  Indirectly though it’s also extremely important how fast the party moves, as this will dictate the rate of consumption of other resources  such as how far into the dungeon the party can go before the torches run out and how many wandering monsters will be encountered on the way.

The rules on B20 start out pretty straight forward.  There’s a nice chart showing movement rates based on weight carried, which by the way is not impacted at all by any other stat.  If anything, your Magic-Users are the real mules in the party, as they’re not already weighed down by heavy armor.  The units are cleverly in coins, which makes it pretty easy to know how much room for treasure you have left.  However, when we look at the actual weight of individual items, that’s where it falls apart.

First off, a couple things are grouped together.  For example, the chart tells us a crossbow and 30 quarrels weighs 50 coins.  So what’s the weight when I only have 10 quarrels left?  Surely less, but how much less.  The worst though is that after we see the weights of various weapons and armor, we get this entry:

Misc. equipement and provisions:

(including rope, spikes, sacks, wineskin, rations, etc.)        80 coins

Wow, how’s that for a generalization?  In fact, nothing in the “Equipment” chart on page B12 is given an individual weight.  It seems clear to me that the designers are just hand-waving the entire category.  If you buy any additional equipment, then it weights 80, regardless of how much.  One torch?  80 coins.  3 months of rations, 6 lanterns, and 2 10′ poles?  80 coins.  Yikes.

My problem is that I rather like the simplified equipment list in B/X.  Labyrinth Lord includes a lot of extra junk from later editions, like differentiating a light and heavy crossbow, adding goofy weapons like darts, and heck having different kinds of swords (B/X has only short, “normal”, and two-handed).  I’m half tempted to use LL as a reference to figure out the weights of all the misc. equipment in B/X and create an expanded encumbrance chart.  Maybe while I’m at it I could condense all the stats (cost, weight, and damage) into one chart.  Hmm, sounds like I have a project on my hands.

The Thaw

At last today the sun has come out and brought the temperatures around here above freezing.  I did some work clearing ice and figured it was high-time I took some photos of the crazy amounts of snow we got this year.  We usually get snow, but I’ve never seen anything like this before.  Bear in mind that there was some serious melt going on today, and we’ve already lost a good 4-6 inches of height on the snow heaps.