Monday, 16 August 2010

Session Wrapup: Storage Cellars of the Castle Ruins 3B

The final session of the family expedition was a mellow exploration of the tavern area with a lot of character interaction and mystery solving. Chests of coin, evidently within reach but guarded by mysterious forces, were not gone after - perhaps wisely, but  I'm entirely open to letting players surprise me with a clever caper. "Don't put anything into play you can't bear to see in their hands" is a good maxim here.

Any more would be a spoiler but a couple of interesting issues came up when reflecting on the whole campaign.
  • One of the NPC's was originally written in a "blue" mode (he wrote and collected pornography) but out of deference to the tender years of one of the players I made him instead a connoisseur of puns from the days of the Archmage. This actually improved the character. It made him more interesting in conversation and provided a lot more opportunities throughout the dungeon to bring him what he wanted, for a few of the puzzles, tricks, and one-offs in my level depend on some rather outrageous puns. I found myself thinking of this song, a favorite of mine in the 90's, whose lyrics were forced to get more creative in its clean version (linked to). There might be a lesson here.
  • 100xp/hit die of monsters defeated or otherwise dealt with, plus 1 xp/gp of treasure recovered, plus a 1:1 gp/xp ratio for carousing, charity or other class-appropriate activities, plus an ad hoc 200 xp award for that session where exploration and interaction stood at the forefront ... these rules got the party about 1/3 of the way to 2nd level over about 9 hours of play. (Level 2 is standardized in my system at 2000 xp for all classes; c'mon, does anyone think the different advancement curves in 0-2e are anything but a wild stab in the dark at balance?) This seems a decent pace. The higher weighting of monsters relative to treasure at lower levels meant the party seemed rather more hungry than well-fed when it came to treasure, a good way to stretch out those fun, money-grubbing early days. This group was refreshingly free of crackhead looter syndrome, but I'll also rule that salvage of objects not intended as treasure - normal monster weapons, furniture, basically anything without a stated monetary value in my notes - gives only gp but not xp.
  • The observation on ars ludi about bad traps really holds true, and that goes double for hidden compartments in dungeon flagstones and so forth. Dangers can still be dangerous even if they're put in attention-grabbing features, or visible to the careful inspection of forward area I'm presuming characters to be making. A party that isn't always announcing that they are checking and tapping every square foot of bland space is a party that is having more fun. 
I once again want to thank my upstate family hosts collectively for putting me up in the middle of unpacking from their move and various summer illnesses, for excellent help playtesting some of my card game ideas, and of course for this fantastic mini-campaign.

And now back to the world of theory and design for a while. Certainly a lot to chew on, most importantly a few germs of ideas on how I can present my rule set as more than just another retro-clone.

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