Thursday, February 18, 2010

Update on the "new" campaign

In the three weeks and two sessions since I last reported on my "new" D&D campaign, we've added not just one player, but two - I'm up to three players at my local FLGS, and other gamers are beginning to notice.  It's fun, but I must admit I'm continuing to run into some issues in running Somebody Else's Dungeon aka Xylarthen's Tower, courtesy of Jeff Rients. The biggest issue is that I've discovered that designing a "mega-dungeon" is an intensely personal creative effort.  Don't get me wrong, there's some awesome goodness (badness?) in Jeff's design - but I have a growing sense of I want to draw my own dungeon, dammit.

Besides that creative itch waiting to be scratched, I'm finding some more minor issues that keep cropping up that I will eventually want to house-rule:

  • The d6 roll for opening doors - does everybody get a chance?  Once for the entire party?  What about multiple people helping out?  I'm finding I might want to have some sort of door resistance amount, and then add or subtract that to the roll.  We'll see.
  • What about chopping down doors?  This also implicitly asks, what are dungeon doors made of?  I'm not necessarily into various different types of doors, with different hit points - that way lies a particular kind of minutiae-laden madness.
  • Tactics.  My background with miniatures has led me to think more about the tactics usable during melee.  Don't want 3e levels of unnecessary detail, but I also don't like having to remind players that their characters might know something about how to fight.
  • Wandering monsters.  Designing ever-longer lists of monsters and encounter tables to match sounded tiresome and neverending.  However, there is a solution!  Taking a page from James Ward's article "The Wandering Monster" in The Dragon #15, I've started to use 3x5 cards for each wandering monster encounter.  This ought to be interesting.
What's good about all of this is that I'm having a grand time re-learning how to properly run a campaign.  At some point, I am likely to either modify this one into what I really want, or start over from scratch (sound like any fixer-upper home to anybody?).


  1. As far as tactics goes, go ahead and use miniatures -- just don't use a grid!

    I think the grid has done more to stifle tactical creativity in D&D than any other factor. (But hey, that's just my opinion.)

    Anyway, glad you're getting more players and wish you all the luck in the world on creating your own dungeon. And remember: You don't need to do it all at once.

    Verification word: ethno -- a character who doesn't know what color he is.

  2. In my current campaign I handle "Open Doors" and other such tests by only rolling once and using that result for any player who wishes to attempt it.

    If the strongest can't open the door then no one can.

    This prevents spending precious time and eliminates the chance that the wimpy mage can bash down a door that the burly fighter could not.

  3. For busting down doors, consider a handful of broad classes:

    Reinforced Wood
    Exotic (enchanted Gelatinous Cube slices, doorlike creature, etc)

    Just give them a HD and Weak/Strong Against. Maybe do the same for thin wall sections.

  4. I've never (since early 1980's) understood why every door is stuck/requires open roll. I've recently learned reasonable rationalization (mythic underworld). But, still don't see a game reason for it. And by game reason I mean does it add fun/challenge? Other than maybe in a pursuit situation all I see it adding is frustration and arbitrariness.

    What am I missing?

  5. We always allowed multiple attempts to open doors: the downside was all the extra noise you made trying to bash down a particularly sticky door. It attracted wandering monsters, or alerted the monsters on the other side of the door.

    Now, magically held doors, you had to use other methods on those.

    Not sure why we need sticky doors, other that to create some obstacles to overcome?

  6. Will - I very much appreciate the reminder that I don't need to detail the whole thing all at once.

    Mouse, Ben, Norman - I've been with Paladin's take on this: sure, you can try multiple times. Each one past the first is another wandering monster check. Unfortunately I've never had them stack more than one wandering by. THAT would be interesting!

  7. What about chopping down doors?
    ...the downside was all the extra noise you made trying to bash down a particularly sticky door.

    It's as time consuming and noisy as is possible, and eliminates any chance of surprising whomever is on the other side.

    With a 1 in 6 chance to open, I go with one attempt per party per door (per session if necessary). Doors are wooden unless otherwise specified, and chopping down the door takes as many rounds as the difference on the d6 (if they roll a 4, it takes 3 rounds to chop the door down). WM encounter is usual odds on the first round, additive, rolled every round. So 3 in 6 on the round that ends with the door splintering away.

    Coincidentally, my Turing word is "splitar" :)

  8. In my OD&D campaign, I allowed two people at a time to attempt to open doors. After the first attempt, supprise was impossible.