Last night inaugurated the first session of my OSR D&D campaign.
I’ll get to the action in a moment, but the first thing I have to say is that it was a bit of a struggle at times to not interrupt the other players, jump in, and have an NPC declare “Orcs are attacking the village!” or some other such nonsense.
The campaign should run at the player’s speed, and not mine. So I kept stuffing my mouth with chocolate chip cookies and waited for some to want to talk to an NPC.
As it was, I still got to play various NPCs and I had a good time without stepping on anyone else’s spotlight time. I did prompt them once or twice when I thought they were at loss, but everything went very smoothly.
All but one of the players who had committed showed up. That included.
N. who played Freedrick Rogersson, a mage.
KT, N’s wife, who played a female dwarf named Thump Waymaker
R. who played a bard named Thaddeus Silverkin
Sandra, my wife, who played Garion Cerdic, Priest of Mitra
R.’s wife, KY, wasn’t able to show up tonight, because their child was being extra-fussy. I expect she’ll join us for the next session. She currently has a no-name fighter rolled up.
At the beginning, I handed out Excel based character sheets (I love making character sheets) which had every conceivable number and modifier listed. I know, it goes against the grain of the OSR but some old habits are hard to break.
I had told them I would hand out one-line note cards for backgrounds, but I wasn’t able to finish these before the game began. I did finish sixteen rumor cards, and handed out two to each player, except for the bard, who got five. Most of these were keyed to various local adventure locations, though some were keyed to areas they may never, ever see, like Rappan Athuk or the Dungeons under the City-state of the Invincible Overlord. I also seeded a few duds or red herrings.
Freedrick, the Mage, got a Grimoire with a number of spells. (Note: I am using a variant of the core rule system for mages that is more ‘Vancian’ and less D&D-ish.) Thump, the dwarf, got a warehouse full of goods that she is supposed to set up a trading post with in order to open a new market for the dwarves of Thunderhold, while Garion, the priest, got a Surya (permanent scroll of protection) vs undead and was due to be exiled from the local temple for angering the high priest. Finally, Thaddeus did not get much besides the burning desire to leave the Podunk town he was born in, as well as the access to the Bard character class which people tell me is waaay too powerful. Haven’t seen it yet.
After some discussion of the campaign background, I handed them a blank Wilderlands City-state map, and hand-drawn Grand Tactical map of hex 4015, which contained the village of Brushwood, as well as the surrounding area.
So they knew a little of the surrounding area, but I still need to write up the half page handout for both the Wilderlands and Brushwood.
I said they could determine how they knew each other, and Thump immediately jumped at the option of hiring guards to protect her goods. The other characters wandered up and offered their services, but after a time it became very clear that most of them had absolutely no money to spend, and so they eventually turned to the rumor cards to determine where to get more cash.
Most of the role playing was established in the inn during the interviews, and the characters learned about each other in that way.
Thump Waymaker presented herself as a no-nonsense cash n’ carry type of gal, who kept looking for a way of selling her goods and starting up the trade post. In this she was frustrated by Freedrick, who claimed to be the 6th son of a noble family, who would surely pay for weapons and armor if Thump would transport them there. Freedrick also claimed to have been abandoned by a servant, Liam, who absconded with most of the wealth that has been entrusted to Freedrick by his father. Freedrick seemed to have plenty of wealth despite this claim, and kept having to have his large denomination coin broken for change.
(In a time I weakness some months earlier, I had sprung for a large amount of fantasy coinage, which I distributed, along with dice pouches to carry it in, among the PCs according to their post equipment wealth. This seemed to work out well, as people actually seemed to enjoy fddling with the coinage, asking for change, etc.)
Thaddeus inveigled his way into the group as a cook, dishwasher and guard, while Garion offered to make sacrifices to Mitra for Thump, in order to gain admittance to the forming company.
I had asked that all the characters be between 16 and 19 (except for the dwarf, who is of equivalent maturity) and they all played this to the hilt, with episodes of acne, greed, laziness, etc. as appropriate.
Freedrick then spent some of his wealth (10 GP!) on hiring a 0-level retainer, Arnulf, who I portrayed as a spiritual relative of Don Knotts. Morale rolls (which he actually all passed) are remarkable for the amount of comedy they generate.
Much to my surprise, they decided on the rumor I hoped they would, which led to a dungeon (available on the internet, but I won’t say which, before they finish it) that was located in the same hex. Once there, they fought some giant bees (no–prize if you can identify the dungeon from that hint), which nearly killed two of the characters, but for some lucky saving throws. Wow, poison really is icky in OD&D.
They then took the stingers they collected (without entering the dungeon first) and went to claim the bounty on the bees from a local citadel, in the hex immediately to the north. (Hex 4014, Gasconfold Citadel, for those of you keeping track). After a night at the inn in the village by the citadel, they returned to the dungeon, and scouted a bit. They were considering smoking out any remaining giant bees, when they found a large tree near the tower ruins (which contained the entrance to the dungeon) that contained a small door. Opening it up (and frightening Arnulf, who complained about spooky gnomes who would come to curse them) they found a cramped stairwell leading down.
Abandoning that passage, they resolved to go through the stairs in the ruined tower, redolent with the smell of honey, to the depths below.
That’s where we ended it, for the night. An excellent time was had by all, and I am really, really looking forward to next Thursday (we will be playing on alternate Thursdays and Fridays).