Saturday, April 19, 2014

"From Wince We Came" Chapter 14 of the Xanthus River Campaign

First, an announcement.

For the past few weeks, I have sensed some discontent among my players regarding the Dungeon Crawl Classics rules. Yesterday, Bill announced that he was going to sit out the rest of the campaign because he was not having fun with the current rules. So when everyone arrived tonight I had a referendum on DCC.

The group indicated that the DCC rules were great for short-term games, a few dangerous dungeon crawls (hence the name, I suppose) but it wasn't being conducive to long-term campaign play and character building. They felt the player character rules didn't provide enough player control over the character's design or destiny and that rules led to gloriously short character lifespans that, although fun in the short run, were detracting from the type of long-term story-building the players were looking for.

On top of that, the players found the random nature of the spell-casting system infuriating and discouraging.

I was a little disappointed but not at all surprised. I like the DCC rules but I was seeing the same problems creeping in.

So we discussed alternatives. I briefly considered some retro-clones such as Legend of the Flame Princess or Swords and Wizardry or Labyrinth Lord. I also weighed them against plain old D&D Rules Compendium and AD&D. I wanted something old-school and nostalgic. For the BRIEFEST of moments we entertained the idea of trying Pathfinder or even returning to 4E.

In the end, I decided on AD&D for no other reason than everyone has the books (not everyone has D&D and none of my players have even heard of the word "retro-clone") and everyone wanted race separated from class.

With that choice, everyone became excited and reinvigorated. Lucinda practically squealed with nostalgic delight. We set about converting the DCC characters over to AD&D.

The conversion was pretty simple.
Strength = Strength
Agility = Dexterity
Stamina = Constitution
Intelligence = Intelligence
However, I allowed players to choose if Personality = Charisma or Wisdom.
Luck, therefore, became whichever they didn't choose.

Level = Level.

I calculated the percentage of experience points to the next level in DCC and applied that percentage to the next level in AD&D and gave each player character that many XP.

Everyone re-rolled their Hit Points.

After that, it was determine your AD&D abilities, saving throws, etc.

One slight change I made (the first of many house-rules, I am sure) was ascending to-hit bonus and ascending AC. It's just so much EASIER and I don't understand why Gygax didn't write it that way to begin with!

Level Cleric, Druid Fighter, Paladin, Ranger Magic User, Illusionist Thief, Assassin
0 -1 -1 -1 -1
1 +0 +0 -1 -1
2 +0 +0 -1 -1
3 +0 +2 -1 -1
4 +2 +2 -1 -1
5 +2 +4 -1 +1
6 +2 +4 +1 +1
7 +4 +6 +1 +1
8 +4 +6 +1 +1
9 +4 +8 +1 +4
10 +6 +8 +1 +4

Monster HD = To-Hit Bonus
Monster AC = 20-Original AC

When we were done converting characters, we had:
  • Valerius (Level 3 Paladin)
  • Absalom (Level 2 Cleric of Justica)
  • Babu (Level 2 Thief)
  • Jalani (Level 1 Cleric of Amun-Tor)
  • Knott (Level 1 Fighter)
We picked up where we left off last week. The party had killed Explictica Defilus, God-Queen of Serpents and Avatar of Set, once and for all and emerged from the hidden underground temple.

It was around noon. It had been raining hard for nearly twelve hours. The town was wet and muddy. Shafts of sunlight supported the ceiling of clouds like luminous columns. Survivors began to tentatively emerge from their hiding places from the previous night's massacre. Blood was everywhere. Windows were smashed, buildings burned, doors hanging loose int heir frames, animals slaughtered, wet clothing lay in the mud. 

The false archon had fled the city during the chaos. The magistrate was murdered. Most of the town guard had collapsed into masses of writhing snakes, the vile magic that created them having been extinguished. 

One of the remaining guards called out from the gate house, "The Archon approaches!"

Soon, another guard called out, "No, there's the Archon!" 

Two identical archons were approaching the city simultaneously. A group of villagers gathered. Valerius ordered both archons held. Both archons claimed primacy. Both declared the other the impostor. Valerius had each archon recite the phrase, "Ka nama kaa lajerama". One archon complied. The other archon protested his innocence and refused to comply. 

The guards looked to Absalom. The magistrate was dead. The priest of Justica was dead. Absalom was the ranking member of the order of Justica and thus had the legal authority to make a ruling. Absalom ruled in favor of the archon that complied. The archon, thusly empowered, passed judgement on the impostor and called upon Absalom to declare the punishment. The crowd called for blood! They wanted to burn the impostor. Absalom looked to Valerius. Valerius reminded Absalom of the atrocities committed and suggested that Justica's will called for a swift death. Absalom agreed and sentenced the impostor to death by beheading, to be immediately carried out by Valerius.

The impostor was dragged screaming and struggling to the raised platform in the center of the town square. A chopping block and wicker basket was produced. Valerius carried out the judgement. The impostor's head rolled into the basket, the head of a large boa constrictor! The body that remained was thick, ropy, sinuous, like a snake, with clawed limbs. 

Afterwards, the archon proclaimed his thanks to Valerius and offered to elevate Valerius to the rank of armiger. As an armiger, Valerius would become a nobleman. He could require others address him as "Sir Valerius". He would be granted land and provided with the income generated by that land. He would be allowed to create a heraldric coat of arms to be kept at Wince and passed on to his offspring. In exchange, he would be expected to come to the defense of Wince when summoned and would be expected to join the archon at court on the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. Valerius agreed and was immediately elevated during an impromptu ceremony in front of the entire village. He was granted the land farmed by Dunth, currently owned by Patrician Umok. Dunth would continue to be the steward of the land. 

In addition, the surviving acolytes of the pantheon urged Absalom to become the new priest of Justica or to take them as his students. Absalom declined both and noted that ten-year-old Helise had been chosen by Justica. He anointed her as the new priestess of the temple. The teenage acolytes bristled at the idea of serving a ten-year-old girl, but Helise quickly too control and established discipline under her holy authority.

With that, the party spent the day helping the town recover and re-build and slept soundly through the night. The next day, they arranged passage on one of the river boats going up-river. 

When the river boat approached the confluence of the Atrous and the Xanthus, a pirate long-boat blocked their way. The party formulated a plan. Absalom cast bless upon his comrades as they hid themselves under the deck planks of the river boat and allowed the pirates to come along-side. As soon as the pirates boarded the river boat, the party leaped out of hiding, taking the pirates by surprise.
Avast ye, scallywags!
A brief battle ensued. The party quickly killed the pirate captain and overwhelmed the crew. The remaining four pirates surrendered. 

The prisoners were lashed to their oars and forced to follow the river boat. The pirates were an uncooperative crew, however, and made the journey slow-going. The river boat had to slow itself in order to not leave the captured long-boat behind. The poor progress caused the two boats to dock at the pitiful town of Dribble.

Dribble was a depressing run down village with a few hundred inhabitants. Its dock was old and in poor repair. The inhabitants were dour and unpleasant. The archon's keep sat menacingly atop a cliff overlooking the town. The lone inn in town served pasty gruel and bland watery beer made with dirty river wash and some meat that everyone hoped was least fox or wolf. When the innkeeper, an abrasive ugly troll of a man with hairy warts on his face, told everyone that "...if the archon invites you to dinner, you better accept it.", everyone decided to spend an uncomfortable night on the boats. 

That night, before dawn, a drunken patron of the inn stumbled to the dock and shouted belligerent insults at the party and the crew before urinating at them and defecating on the dock in their direction. Knott but a warning arrow into the dock and the drunkard crawled away, slipping in the mud several times.

The next day, the party made it to the base of the Argent Falls. They transferred from the boats to the funicular and eventually arrived in Swallow. 

Knott immediately trotted off to find a whore-house.

Babu and Jalani explored the city.

Absalom and Sir Valerius delivered their prisoners to the temple of Justica. They accepted the bounty offered for pirates but immediately donated it to the temple. 

Sir Valerius then began interviewing young warrior-trainees at the temple, looking for a potential squire.

Afterwards, while shopping, Absalom ran into Kedrith, the merchant that hired them in Duirndown two months ago. After exchanging pleasantries and catching up, Kedrith related to Absalom that Duirndown has gone downhill fast. A pall has fallen over the village. No food is growing. Stores are wilting. The people are starving. They have no energy, no will to live. Kedrith said he could feel some supernatural force draining the strength from him, so he left as soon as he arrived.


Post-Game Analysis
The players were already having more fun with the AD&D rules. Other than increasing AC and to-hit bonuses, and maybe a few other house rules, I'm going to try to run it RAW. 

Morale took me a minute to figure out. But once I grokked it, it was simple. 

We're going to use one-minute rounds, segments, weapon speed, morale, the whole thing. I may or may not use variable attack bonuses vs. different types of armor. That one makes me cringe a little. 

In this regard, OSRIC is a great help. It recapitulates the AD&D rules into an easier-to-read and understand document. It does a much better job plainly describing the AD&D rules without having to jump around between different books. 

Hopefully Bill will come back next week. I think an Elf Fighter will suit his play style much better.