Eight members of my university's Adventure Gaming Society, mostly students and capable gamers all, sat down on Saturday to give it a whirl. I walked them through character generation, with the printed-out sheets handy, and that took less than an hour. Still, I feel like making even clearer sheets for character generation once people have settled on their class, similar to the Old School Players self-filling character sheet (download on the right).
In the end, the party contained five fighters - ranging in flavor from barbarian, to rural nobleman with 18 Strength and 17 Charisma - plus an elf, a priest of Thor and a gnome. The nobleman's Charisma entitled him to a follower, which I rolled on the handy 20-random-Meatshields table as the notorious Lesseig the elf! Is this a prelude to my Trossley campaign or just a parallel universe? For the venue was none other than Joe Bloch's Castle of the Mad Archmage, using my house-designed first level.
(Some SPOILERS, of course, follow.)
However, the party voted to enter the second level through a secret entrance that rumors had turned up (corresponding to the Quicksand entryway in the Blochiverse), so my original content was bypassed. After dispatching some randomly encountered Bloater zombies, they began romping through the corridors. Between the 3d6 high as a base for 1st level hit points, and the use of a serious wound table for falling below 1 HP, we only had one casualty, who was healed up to 1 hp from her sucking chest wound by the party priest. But then again the party managed to avoid the serious badass encounters in the area, as well as any meaningful random encounters...
Some observation on the system and dungeon (I'll spare you the links back to the One Page posts):
- Gnomes are really good, between humanoid interpreter and superior darkvision and the random spells (though let's wait till the mishaps start getting rolled). May have to tone back their darkvision to the dwarven norm.
- The "chop till you drop" fighter rule got used a lot; we didn't see that many damage rolls that the "force or finesse" applied to, which confirms the general lucky dice rolling of the party. Several crits but not one fumble!
- The priest is really good, especially the ability to heal up a wounded character back to where they can function again. May have to rethink the armor allowance for that one.
- Working with descriptions as sparse as Joe's Castle allows for a lot of improv and strange phenomena, especially when I'm using a 2 on the encounter die as a clue or noise from a wandering monster. Strangest improv: I decided that pushing in an ogre statue's eyes would open the nearby secret door, but the gnome used Weightlessness magic to allow the barbarian to bash it down, so I ruled that the impact reversed the force through whatever mechanism was working, and caused the eyes to bug out. Then the party brought the statue to life, and the ogre so created is wandering around with pop-eyes.
- I have a better appreciation of Joe's design skills. In one section, there's a seemingly pointless mini-maze with baffled corridors and a couple of branches. But the room on the other side of that maze has a fear effect. Turns out that little maze is really good for splitting and confusing terrified party members fleeing in the dark!
- I'm learning to roll with and enjoy player shenanigans I would have censoriously vetoed a year ago, like splitting the party, intraparty conflict, or treasure-filching.
- Random failed hireling loyalty rolls are funny.