Guest Post by Brian Renninger: Running First Edition Oriental Adventures, Session 3 Part 1

Monday , 15, August 2016 4 Comments

Play report 3a: 1st Edition AD&D, and 1st Edition Oriental Adventures.

Anchors aweigh! Part 1.

After the first session total party kill, and the second session introduction of the barbarian übermensch this third session started to hit a stride. The session began with the two Barbarians and the Shugenja at loose ends in the village after wrapping up their selling of bug juice and parts. They were about to head for the harbor with their twenty villager seaman to look for work when they noticed on the small hill just outside of town a number of stakes with people apparently tied to them.

Climbing the hill to investigate, they discover nine still-living people impaled and staked out to die. These are the peasant bandits that our original adventurers who perished in the Tower of the Stargazer had sent back to the village to report themselves to the town headman. There, contemplating the impaled men is a new character: a Ronin thinking existential thoughts about the fickleness of fate. Our barbarians and Shugenja are initially at a loss as to what to do about this situation. I had thought it might be an opportunity for the Shugenja to earn some experience by healing them but, ultimately it’s decided to put them out of their misery. But, how? At first, they try excruciatingly removing one peasant from the stake but, after much shrieking they just decide to dispatch them all as expeditiously as possible without removing them from the stakes.

That bloody business done, they set out back to the village to investigate who had done such a foul deed. Which doesn’t take long as their actions had not gone unnoticed. The local headman, who is the Samurai the original party saved from drowning and then later tried to assassinate, attempts to apprehend them for having interfered with due process. Also along, is the Ronin player character who, not yet committing to being “with those guys” follows, wanting to see how things play out.

What followed is the longest psychic duel ever between one of the Barbarians and the Headman. Per the OA rules each party to the duel rolls a saving throw versus death, if one party succeeds and the other fails, then he wins the duel. Ties (both succeed or both fail) either extends the duel or one or other character can choose to break it off. In this case it was a 1st level barbarian versus a 3rd level samurai with respective saving throws of 14 and 13. I lost count of the rounds but, we must have rolled at least 20 ties. Finally, the Headman tiring of the contest breaks it off and using iajutsu wins surprise and hits the barbarian twice with his katana but, he rolls crummy with his damage and the barbarian stayed up. What follows is a general melee with the two Kung Fu barbarian basically cold cocking the Headman and most of the guards, the remaining few guards break off and retreat for help.

Sensing that more trouble may follow, they throw the headman over their shoulders and make for the docks, stopping off in an alleyway to bind, revive, and interrogate the Headman. The interrogation doesn’t go well as the Headman is both arrogant and ashamed of being beaten by such uncivilized louts. He wants nothing more than to crawl away somewhere and commit seppuku but, oh no that would be too easy they think. Gagging the bedraggled Headman they head to the docks and seek out the harbormaster. The Harbormaster is both shocked, appalled, and intimidated by this crew of who-knows-what dragging the Headman along on a rope. They try to get his opinion of the Headman but, the Harbormaster wisely defers that, “It is not my place to have an opinion.” So, getting nowhere they have the Harbormaster take them to the docks and show them the ships in harbor.

Turns out there are three suitable ships in harbor: a large junk, a small junk, and a barbarian proa. The large junk is captained by a samurai who, the harbor master tells them, doesn’t know what he’s doing. The samurai has obviously been given captaincy by the ship owners due to his rank rather than knowledge. Inspection of the samurai’s ship shows it visibly listing in harbor with the samurai heard yelling nonsensical and contradictory orders to the crew. The small junk is a neat and tidy vessel, clean and ship shape, with an equally neat and tidy Captain. This Captain is dressed in an immaculate kimono but, is apparently of no particular rank (no swords). He is very courteously directing his crew in loading his vessel and giving very precise, clear and sensible direction. The third boat, the barbarian proa (a kind of multi-hulled outrigger sort of affair with triangular sails). The crew is made of of southern jungle barbarians. They wear turbans, vests, baggy pants, and curved swords. The Captain is a very competent seeming woman wearing a plain brown robe with a plain katana (with a well-worn hilt) stuffed in a sash. They are unloading the proa and selling goods from the “southern trade”. But, the goods being unloaded, upon inspection, don’t seem particularly tropical.

The party decides to interview the small junk captain first. Introduced by the Harbormaster, the Captain is very polite and to the point. They ask if he needs crew and he does but, he doesn’t have room for them all. He agrees to interview some of the villagers to determine if they are suitable. They also inquire whether he would be willing to sell his ship. He isn’t willing to sell but, is willing to sell a minority share. The share would help him buy goods to sell and they’d get part of the proceeds should the voyage be successful. He’s headed for the capital city on the mainland to sell the islands wheat. There he plans to buy luxury items and return to the island to make the profit. They exchange money, bows, and the deal is set.

While Captain Tidy is conducting interviews they approach the proa Captain. She’s open and friendly and soon it’s quite obvious that the “southern trade” is code talk for piracy and that she and her crew are pirates from the islands far to the south of here. They try to sign on with her but, she rejects the offer with the fact that her vessel is small and she has all the crew she needs. So, they try another tack, and offer to partner with her when they get a vessel of their own. Again, she defers but, offers some hope for later, “If you survive a few voyages, look me up at…” and she gives them directions to islands in the south which are apparently a pirate stronghold. Then, they inquire whether she needs any free labor and offer to sell her the Headman, an offer she accepts with only a small exchange of money. To further the Headman’s humiliation, they also offer her the Headman’s ancestral katana which, upon looking it over, she rejects as “merely medium quality.”

Finally, they talk with the large junk Captain. It’s clear that Captain Samurai is in over his head. He doesn’t know what he’s doing and is desperately trying to save face and maintain honor. It’s also quite clear that the crew is at their wit’s end with him. They know how to run the ship but he keeps everything going inefficiently. After talking with the party, he signs the barbarians on as first mate (his original first mate had quit) and crew. The Shugenja signs on as ship’s doctor and navigator. Our curious Ronin buys a place as passenger. The Captain also takes the remaining villagers as crew no questions asked (Captain Tidy took seven after interviews).

At this point, the party splits up. One barbarian goes to town to try to recruit more villagers for crew. The Shugenja goes to shop for supplies to outfit the ship’s medicine chest, and the third barbarian seeks out the Headman’s castle after inquiring of a peasant whether the headman had family. He does: a son in line to inherit the title! At the castle the barbarian asks the guards if he can see the Headman’s son. After another long psychic duel with a guard, the guard breaks and agrees to make inquiries for him. The barbarian waits at the castle gates for a good while when he hears drums begin to sound out from within the walls. The gates open and there is the Headman’s son, carrying a spear, resplendent in full armor astride a horse. Behind the son are a number of guards and drummers to back him up. The son shakes his spear and challenges the barbarian to single combat. Apparently, he’s heard something has happened to his father (shocker). The barbarian is a little surprised by this as he only came to talk but, nonetheless accepts the challenge. The son charges him on his horse but, loses initiative. Using the Oriental Adventures 1st edition rules for disarming, the barbarian manages to grab the son’s spear and wrench it from his hand. Then, failing a horsemanship roll, the son loses his seat and falls from his horse to the ground. There, the barbarian puts a choke hold on the son, forcing him to surrender. The barbarian then negotiates a detente where they agree to leave town, and the son promises not to raise the community against them and they promise to return his father “after a while”. It’s not clear whether the son is all that interested in the father coming back but, he does let them know that should they meet again he would be forced to again bring them into combat.

Then the barbarian skedaddles down to the harbor, gathers everyone, and they bully the crew to set sail in the wee hours of the morning while Captain Samurai is still asleep. Anchors aweigh!


  • This session was very improvisational. I only had a couple things planned. The impaled villagers and a vague idea of three ships and the captain’s stats (but, not their personalities). The Headman’s son I made up on the spot.
  • Psychic duels are a little goofy with barbarians who don’t play by the same honor rules as the rest of society. Though I guess this highlights the entirely cultural aspect of the psychic duel.
  • I had planned to use reaction rolls for each of the captains when they met the party but, I totally forgot. Nonetheless, through improvisation their personalities seemed to form by themselves. I hadn’t originally planned for the proa to be piratical but, the party seemed to take “the southern trade” to mean piracy so I went with it. Similarly, Captain Tidy’s (who actually is a wu-jen) personality just seemed right. And, Captain Samurai is shaping up to be a fine foil to contrast with player character competency and conveniently allow them some leeway in what happens aboard ship.
  • David says:

    “Per the OA rules each party to the duel rolls a saving throw versus death, if one party succeeds and the other fails, then he wins the duel. Ties (both succeed or both fail) either extends the duel or one or other character can choose to break it off. In this case it was a 1st level barbarian versus a 3rd level samurai with respective saving throws of 14 and 13. I lost count of the rounds but, we must have rolled at least 20 ties.”

    Reading through that section of the rulebook and considering what happened for you, I think I would house-rule it so it becomes a contested roll with a bonus equal to the difference between their saves for the samurai. So in this case the samurai and the barbarian each roll a d20 with the samurai getting a +1. High roll wins.

    I like how the improvisational world-building is even incorporating the players ideas. Nice recovery after that first session.

    • Brian Renninger says:

      Thanks! That is a good suggestion. It would give a decisive result each time. It loses one thing that I think they were going for which is the classic gunslinger (or in this case swords) stare down where it can be extended until one party or the other breaks or draws. Perhaps make the penalty to losing a psychic duel increase with each extended round? That way it could extend but, one or another party will get twitchy about such a steep penalty upon losing and break it off undecided.

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