Guest Post by Brian Renninger: Running First Edition Oriental Adventures, Session 2

Monday , 1, August 2016 1 Comment

Play report 2: 1st Edition AD&D, and 1st Edition Oriental Adventures.

Summary: Kung Fu barbarians of the north.

After last week’s TPK, I was all ahoo with what I would do this week. I considered allowing a reboot back to the Daimyo’s castle and have the characters discover a different threat to the north. But, that seemed lame and weak. I vacillated through half the week but, then my indecision was cut short when I was informed by the players: we have rolled up barbarians, we want to kill wu-jen and be pirates. Okaaay. I was nonplussed but, hey, I’m sandboxing so lets sandbox.

Come game day, it turned out that only two players had decided on barbarians and the third still wanted to play a Shugenja. So, two barbarians and a Shugenja it is. I was also informed that the barbarians had rolled up families and, in particular, extremely well for cash strings on the birthright table (barbarians aren’t really supposed to do this). And, let’s not mention the one barbarian with three 18s. Okay, never mind, let’s mention it. The other player vouched that he’d observed the rolls so there you go. Now, I’d recently rolled about 50 sets of stats and not one met the prerequisites for barbarian much less two. And, in fact, only a few had even one 18. I probably didn’t calculate this correctly but, I guess the odds of rolling three 18s on six rolls of 3d6 is about one in 511,000. But, I am of the philosophy to let the players have characters who they want to be. Or, I am mostly. I think it more interesting personally to take the rolls you get and adapt. But, I can roll with other philosophies. I mean, I’m the DM. I can kill characters by fiat if I wish. The stats don’t matter that much. Besides, this little fait accompli on their part gives me more insight to what they are looking for as players. Oh, and did I mention both barbarians had decided that they had both studied Kung Fu at the local mountaintop monastery? Of course they did.

I used the same island as in the previous game except started them out on the eastern side of the island over the mountain range on the wilderness side. Backstory, ginned up in the moment, was the barbarian’s local village was wrecked by the same earthquakes and tsunami from last session. The cash strings excused by reckoning it was the money of the whole village pooled to send our erstwhile barbarians on their way to seek a fortune to help rebuild the village. After discussing tactics a couple options presented themselves. The barbarians were to travel to the civilized part of the island and either: 1) buy a ship or 2) steal a ship after which it’s a pirate’s life for me – yo ho. At first the safer course of buying a ship seemed the wise course. But, after looking at prices and realizing that even their generous cash would be mostly depleted after buying a ship, they settled on stealing a ship. Besides, who would sell some random trouble makers a whole ship anyway? And, who would crew it? Of course: the desperate villagers!

After recruiting a crew of 20 villagers, the two barbarians set off over the mountains to town. After picking up the Shugenja at the convenient Kung Fu monastery they begin the 100 mile trek to civilized lands. Back to the random encounter tables. Now, OA 1st edition has some nice event tables for various terrain/setting types (except dungeons). Anticipating an overland journey I had previously rolled several days’ worth of encounters for wilderness travel. I could have done it on the fly too but, it would have been a somewhat slower game. The first three days were uneventful trudging through the mountains.
The fourth day I rolled a monster encounter and got Ogre. I decided to use the D&D Ogre Magi. The setup was the classic rope bridge over a chasm with the Ogre Magi on the far end, “None may pass!” Cliché? Yes. The players dug it. The two barbarians rock, papered, scissored, to see who would get the privilege of engaging the Magi in single combat. The weaker of the two won (which is splitting hairs with these supermen) and set out over the bridge drawing his no-dachi (two handed sword). Now, the Ogre Magi is 5+2 hit dice and does 1d12 damage; and, I rolled 36 hp. The barbarian is one hit dice but, being a barbarian is still pretty tough at 14 hp. And, the no-dachi does 3d6 damage against large. The Ogre Magi is large. 3d6 what the hell? To make it short, I rolled poorly and the barbarian killed it in three rounds. So, that was a good benchmark. One of these 1st level characters could best a 5 HD creature without breaking a sweat. Was this without tension? Not really, if the Ogre Magi had rolled well he could have taken out the character in just a couple of rounds. So, there was real danger. Still, I had been worrying that the OA encounter tables rolled monsters randomly without taking any consideration of the party level and, there are few low hit dice monsters in the OA monster list. Encounters will tend toward harder threats.

The next day they were coming out of the mountains into a conifer forested area and they began to experience mild earthquakes. Rounding a corner, they come across two Jishen Mushi (earthquake beetles). These 10 foot long beasties are 5+4 HD and do 2d8 with their mandible (25 and 38 hp). They could have just skirted the two as my reaction roll for the beetles had them indifferent and non-hostile but, when you have 18/92 strength everything starts to look like a nail. Did I mention both barbarians rolled 92s on their extraordinary strength percentiles? They vouched that they saw it (as God is my witness your honor). At first, they used their bows (and the Shugenja his staff sling) and pelted them with missiles. I’m sure I mentioned the masterwork bows that allow the barbarians to use their strength bonus for arrow damage? I couldn’t have forgotten that. Could I? But, three of the four arrows missed (or bounced off the beetle carapace, AC3) so, the barbarians decided to charge them with their swords. Unfortunately for them, they ran right into the beetle’s earthquake effect, failed their saving throws and both fell prone. The next round one beetle crunched one barbarian down to a single hit point in one bite with its mandibles; the Shugenja hit with a sling bullet; the barbarians again failed their saving throws and stayed prone. I let them attack from a prone position at -4 to hit. But, no hits on the barbarians part. The next round the Shugenja runs in to heal the barbarian and makes his saving throw to keep his feet only to be bitten by a beetle. This could have easily been the end for the Shugenja (with only 4 hit points) but, I rolled low and the Shugenja stayed up. They barbarians hit with their attacks this time did some serious damage to the beetles. The following round had the Shugenja cast cure light wounds on the hurt barbarian and otherwise no hits on all sides. Then followed several rounds of poor rolls on all sides with much gnashing of player teeth about the -4 for prone and how saving throws aren’t affected by their awesome stats. Oh, well.

Ultimately, the beetles were both slain and their ichor harvested for selling to incense makers. The barbarians were so taken with the thought of selling the ichor that they figured the whole carcasses of the bugs might be worth something. After lashing together crude sleds from fallen tree limbs, they decide to drag the beetle all the way into town effectively doubling the length of the journey.

Then another day of un-eventfulness followed by a huge storm (2 hp damage per hour out in the storm). A survival proficiency was rolled successfully to find an old bear den to hole up in and weather the storm. The next two days travel brought them out of the forest into civilized farmlands and cart paths. Again a monster encounter was rolled and this time I rolled a common Oni (which further reading determined is basically an Ogre Magi). So, another bridge (this time over a stream so how creatively I’m mixing it up), another blocked path, and this one wants revenge for the defeat of his brother. The OA common Oni is 8 hit dice with AC4 and I rolled 34 hit points. The barbarian that didn’t fight the first one said it was his turn to fight this one so we were off the races. The Oni fell in three rounds. Again, I rolled crummy but, did hit a couple times and did significant damage. Like the first, the barbarian could have died but, did not. There was much rejoicing.

The next day they made it into town and we called it a night. Bug juice and parts were sold and experience points awarded. They did well. Given that Oni are lesser spirits, the Shugenja got full experience for them and leveled up. The barbarians, needing more xp to level were nonetheless a good chunk of the way to level two. Everyone was pleased. It’s nice when you defeat high hit dice creatures at low levels. Next time I’m rolling the number appearing value for Oni (1d100) and watch them run away.

Next session they will be signing on as ship crew and the potential mutiny and starting a life of piracy. Yo ho, yo Ho!

Observations:

  • These guys like success and hate failure. They want superhero characters.
  • And, because of this, I will feel no qualm about throwing the results of the OA event tables at them. They will need to pick their battles.
  • The players and I had a nice discussion about 1st edition movement in combat, weapon length and charging rules. The result was one player acquiring a polearm. This nice because whether it is medieval Europe or Japan polearms were the most common weapon and they were common for more reasons than being inexpensive.
  • Savings throws really are slow to change. I am somewhat sympathetic about this. I mean why tie savings throws to levels when they sort of represent physical things (e.g. dodging)? I guess the idea was that experience of what and when to dodge is more important than the how of dodging. My players really hate that though as they feel it’s beyond their effect and all up to luck. I’m going to have to put more saving throw things in. The key is to avoid situations where saving throws need to be made.
  • I am kind of bummed about their choice of pirating reducing my exposure of using the OA encounter tables to develop family relationship threads as I’d hoped. But, maybe I can do a similar thing with the ship crews they encounter? Let’s look on the bright side.
  • I am sort of looking forward to them going to sea. I have rolled a few days’ worth of sea encounters and the tables are weighted heavily to encountering other pirates and sea creatures. There is little shipping encountered to steal so I don’t know what all those pirates are up to. I guess every merchantman is also a pirate if the chance allows.
  • I hated running random sandbox when I was younger but, am quite enjoying it now. Part of this is the simple realization that I don’t need to roll my random encounters at the table. Rolling ahead of time, gives a little extra time thinking how an encounter might be played makes a big difference. I don’t mean figuring all the details, I’m still rolling encounter hp at the table but, just some visualization on how it might go. These players are scream and leap sorts followed by shocked mewling if that sophisticated strategy doesn’t go their way. I think I’m getting used to it.
  • And, I should add, I much prefer dealing with suspiciously perfect supermen than grousing butthurt. So, kudos to them for finding a coping mechanism for last weeks defeat. I think I figured out the response.

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