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Just a Fluke of Party Bad Luck

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A post I made on Dragonsfoot (as an example of one of the things that happened in older versions of D&d that the rules of D&D 3+ seemed designed to prohibit) included an example of total party death from the second or third game of D&D (original LBBs and Greyhawk) I ever played back in the fall of 1975:

We were a group of first level (OD&D/Greyhawk) characters exploring the first level of a dungeon. We turned a corner and came face to face with a couple of trolls (a wandering monster encounter). Fortunately, we surprised them. We turned and ran. They gave chase. We got a bit ahead of them and out of their immediate sight and ducked into a dark alcove. The floor fell away and we went sliding down a long slide. We ended up in a small debris-filled cavern with a red glow coming from three passages near the ceiling. Peering through the holes we saw dragons. Three large red dragons. All appear to be asleep. We picked the one who looked "most asleep" and tried to sneak by. Err, unfortunately, we did not sneak very well (all that armor, I guess). I'm not sure we even managed to damage the dragon before we ended up dragon food. Well, all of us but a thief character who managed to hide in shadows (only to be become vampire fodder as he tried to sneak out of what turned out to be the fifth level of the dungeon).


This example has generated a poll thread over at the Knights & Knaves Alehouse asking Was this DM to tough or just a fluke of party bad luck?. This is a question that never occurred to me in the 30+ years since this memorable (but disastrous) adventure. As I'm not a member of K&K and don't really want to join another board just to reply, I'll discuss this adventure in a bit more deal here and try to answer some of the questions raised in the thread at Knights & Knaves.

When I posted the description at Dragonsfoot, I wasn't trying to describe the adventure in great detail as the purpose was only to be an example for my point. I also limited by description to what happened, not the things we learned about the dungeon from later expeditions with different parties, let alone things I learned about the dungeon when I took over DMing it because the original DM got into grade trouble after midterms and decided that studying to avoid flunking out of college was a good idea. I will not so limit myself in this post.

Background on the Adventure: There were eight or nine players, most of whom had a freshly rolled up 1st level character. Everyone was first level. We had been hired by a noble fop (he would tip characters a copper piece for knocking spiderwebs and such out of his way in the dungeon with a "That's a good man, always look out for your betters" type comment) to accompany him into a dungeon so he could talk the goblin king into buying cattle (or maybe it was sheep -- some farm animal anyway) instead of stealing them from area farms. Hey, he paid gold up front with a promise of more when we returned him safely to the surface, so we didn't care that his plan sounded silly.

The Adventure (with more details): We had been wondering through the dungeon and had probably killed a few minor critters (and may have already lost one party member, I can't remember) and bribed a goblin we cornered into leading us to the goblin king. We were on our way to the goblin king when we turned that corner and came face to face with those trolls. Some posters on KnK have wondered if they were real trolls. I can't answer that. They were described to us in general terms (big humanoids with clubs or the like), but our noble employer screamed "TROLLS" from the back of the group as he turned and ran back the way we had come. That was our cue to run too.

I don't really remember what happened as we ran except that we somehow lost our way and were separated from both our employer and our goblin captive. From later exploration and my stint as DM of this dungeon, I suspect we were confused by some corridors that magically switched around (I don't remember the specifics, sorry). When we believed we were out of the trolls' sight, we ducked into what we thought was just an alcove off the corridor. As we were fleeing, we did not notice the writing on the wall next to the alcove, but we found it on a later adventure. It read something like "Danger: Dragon Food Chute" in gobin.

It was a chute. As already described it dumped us all in a small cavern room full of bones and other debris. Small is relative, however, the cavern was about the size of a living room and the only ways out that we noticed were these tunnels that sloped down to three huge caverns, each with a sleeping red dragon at the far end. The dragons looked relatively small to us and why they did not have a lot of treasure as dragons go, any one of them had more gold than any of us had ever seen. One of our thief characters wanted to play Bilbo and try to steal some of the treasure. We wasted a lot of time talking him out of it. We looked around for secret doors both in the cavern and in the tunnels, but did not find any, so we finally decided to try to sneak past one of the dragons. More discussion about which dragon, whether everyone wearing metal armor should take it off to avoid making noise, etc. Finally we try to sneak out past one of them (everyone in their armor), we were doing fine until we are near the dragon and its treasure, when the dragon suddenly woke up (or stopped pretending to be asleep?) and attacked us. We put up as good a fight as first level OD&D characters can, but did not survive.

We later discovered that we missed an easy way out. Had we made any attempt climb back up the chute we would have found a staircase paralleling the chute that went up to a mostly deserted temple complex on the second level -- headquarters of the evil cleric and his MU henchman who were raising these dragons. The stairs were not visible from the cavern floor looking up the chute and we never even thought of trying to climb it as it was steep and slick. (We discovered this when another party found the other end of the stairs on the second level.)

While we were led to believe that some noise woke the dragon, the player of the thief character who survived by hiding in shadows latter admitted that his character was hiding in shadows because he was going to try to grab some of the treasure. I personally believe that "was going to" was actually "had grabbed" as that would probably wake dragon and explain why the dragon attacked immediately instead of first talking to an obviously weak party. However, this is just my guess.

We rolled up new characters while the thief tried to sneak out (having no idea he was on the fifth level) and then continued play. The noble fop had even survived and returned to town, never again to go anywhere near a dungeon. LOL.

Was the dungeon too tough? In hindsight, with years of experience and lots of example dungeons to go by, it probably was a bit too deadly. However, it was a well-thought out and designed dungeon for the fall of 1975 for a group that had never seen a complete published dungeon. None of us had Blackmoor yet -- I doubt we even knew it was out. There was nothing like "snick wire" (monofilament wire -- totally invisible as it was only one molecule wide) strung across doors to slice anyone walking through the door into many pieces as one DM was all too fond of, mini black holes in chests, or the like.

Paizo Publishing Announces the Pathfinder RPG

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It looks like Paizo is going to stay with D&D 3.5. While I'm not a 3.x fan (except in the form of Microlite 20), I'm even less of a 4th edition fan, so I am happy to see this. And Paizo probably has enough of a rep and following of their own to make this work.

Paizo Publishing Announces the Pathfinder RPG
Pathfinder to continue under the 3.5 rules.

Tuesday, March 19th, 2008

Paizo Publishing today unveiled the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, a tabletop fantasy roleplaying game that will serve as the anchor for the company's popular line of Pathfinder adventures, sourcebooks, and campaigns. Today marks the beginning of a year-long Open Playtest of the new rules, which are based upon the popular 3.5 rules available under the Open Game License. The Pathfinder RPG is designed with backward compatibility as one of its primary goals, so players will continue to enjoy their lifelong fantasy gaming hobby without invalidating their entire game library. The first Pathfinder RPG Alpha release is available now as a free 65-page PDF download at paizo.com/pathfinderRPG. Until the finished Pathfinder RPG's release as a hardcover rulebook in August 2009, all of Paizo's popular Pathfinder-brand products will continue under the current 3.5 rules set.
Read more on the Pathfinder RPG.

Only First and Second Level Spells?

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The Holmes Basic D&D as a complete game thread on Dragonsfoot is having a major effect on my thinking about my Caves of Chaos project. Because of Geoffrey's aguments in this thread, I am seriously thinking of limiting memorizable spells to first and second level spells for both magic users and clerics. Higher level spells could only be directly cast from scrolls (or other magic items). Otherwise they could only be cast from spell books in long rituals in a wizard's lab (M-U spells) or temple (cleric spells) or be placed in magic items. Not only does Geoffrey made a good Swords and Sorcery literary case for limiting memorizable spells to 1st and second level in the Dragonsfoot thread, but doing so would be closer to the Vancian source material as well. One Dying Earth story mentioned only two types of spells the magic user could memorize: lesser and greater spells.

What If Archaeologists Explored Dungeons?

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February 20

After several days of travel we have reached the Dungeon, losing only one camel and three graduate students in the trek. One student was eaten by an owlbear, one was spirited away by pixies, and a third decided to get a job as a barista. We are hopeful that soon the priceless treasures of Appreh the Endless will soon be ours to mark carefully with index cards and put in storage.
What Real-Life Dungeon Exploration Might Look Like, Graduate Students in Tow

Finally: A Use for 3.x Feats

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Feats are one of the things I like least about 3.x versions of D&D. They are one of the things that really help turn the game from a game of action and adventure, to a game of trying to design the best character. However, a lot of feats have been created over the last 6 or 7 years and many of them are quite interesting -- if one just did not have to deal with the problems the 3.x Feat system brings. For example, here's a feat from the 3.5 SRD:

Dodge [General]
Prerequisite: Dex 13.
Benefit: During your action, you designate an opponent and receive a +1 dodge bonus to Armor Class against attacks from that opponent. You can select a new opponent on any action. A condition that makes you lose your Dexterity bonus to Armor Class (if any) also makes you lose dodge bonuses. Also, dodge bonuses stack with each other, unlike most other types of bonuses.
Special: A fighter may select Dodge as one of his fighter bonus feats.

The Dodge feat could easily be turned in a magic item for use in older versions of D&D. For example:

Hairpin of Dodging: This ordinary looking hairpin allows the wearer a -1 bonus to his or her AC against one opponent when worn. The wearer may designate the specific opponent each round by saying he/she will dodge when attacked. This bonus stacks with all other AC bonuses, including other items of dodging. The character must be capable of movement to be able to dodge.

Many feats could be used as magic items. Ones that add special knowledge like abilities might make great Ioun Stones. Others could be rings or unusual, unique items. Using feats this way puts them under control of the GM while presenting ideas for hundreds of unique magic items, many of them relatively low-powered.

AD&D "3rd Edition" Books

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I have no idea how long these books will be available as they obviously have all sorts of copyright problems, but they actually quite good fan-productions of an attempt to create a "third edition" of AD&D.

Player's Handbook 3e
Unearthed Arcana 3e

Both links are to PDF files.

Gygax Remembered in The Order of the Stick

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Rich Burlew did a fantastic memorial to Gary in The Order of the Stick #536.

Gary Gygax Memorial Cat from I Can Has Cheezburger

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Gary Gygax Memorial Cat

RIP Gary Gygax

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Troll Lord Games is reporting that Gary Gygax, one of the creators of D&D and the main author of the First Edition of Advanced D&D (not to mention many of its most popular early adventures) has passed away.

From the Troll Lord Games forum:

It is almost too much to get my mind about. But I've just had news that our dear Dungeon Master has passed away. Ernie called this morning, he thought we should let the fans know. He's just sent an email out.

Gary was in his home when he gathered himself up to cross the great divide.

He was a very dear friend of mine. And I will miss him so.

God Speed My Friend.

Steve
There is also a lot of discussion on Dragonsfoot.

I knew Gary mainly through his writings (although I did meet him once at a convention long ago), but he was one of the main creators of a hobby that I have enjoyed for most of my adult life and I will miss him.

RetroRoleplaying: The Search Engine

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I mentioned this custom search engine in my blog post yesterday. While it still has a long way to go, it already produces useful results, especially for OD&D, CD&D, and AD&D. This search engine only looks through a small set of carefully selected sites that have mainly older RPG content. You can search for "D&D" and not get mainly D20 edition results, for example.

When it is a little further along, I will integrate it into this site. For now, however, you can try it here:

RetroRoleplaying Search Engine

Real Life Overwhelms, but RetroRoleplaying Goes On

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I suspect some of my readers wonder if I've suddenly dropped off the face of the planet. Sadly, the last week has not been good in real life. Not only did my wife start radiation treatments for her oral cancer last Monday, but her uncle died of a massive heart attack. They were not close for various reasons, but her mother lost a brother. Later in the week, her father ended up in the hospital for what they thought was pneumonia, but treated out to be pneumonia, two staph infections, and really bad gall stones. He has been in ICU for the last three days. Fortunately, the staph infections are not antibiotic resistant, so as soon as he gets over them, they are going to remove his gall bladder. Of course, he's had bypass surgery and back surgery in recent years so this was the last thing he needed. To make things worse, neither my wife or I can visit him in the hospital because we don't want to be exposed to anything with six more weeks radiation treatments ahead of us.

Needless to say, I haven't done very much on RetroRoleplaying. I'm sorry to have semi-announced the forum and disappeared. The only things I'm really working on is a customized search engine to search just good sites with retro-RPG content.

I'm a Wizard. What a Surprise (not).


Your Score: Wizard


25% Combativeness, 33% Sneakiness, 94% Intellect, 41% Spirituality



Brilliant! You are a Wizard!

Wizards are spells-casters who study powerful arcane magic. While Wizards tend to be pretty fragile, some of those spells can pack quite a punch. Unlike Clerics, Wizards aren't as good at fixing people as they are at breaking them, so watch where you toss that fireball!

Your most distinctive trait is your intelligence. You're probably well learned and logical, if perhaps a bit fragile.



Link: The RPG Class Test written by MFlowers on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test
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