Monday, July 28, 2008

The First Two Adventures


The first three sessions of my BFRPG campaign are in the books. There were two "missions" completed in that time, take-your-time exploration-and-mystery adventures, because I wanted to see how these guys operated... and the first two sessions only had a few players, and heavy action with a small number of 1st level BFRPG characters would be a massacre. I won't give "session reports," but I'll describe the adventure setup for the two.

Adventure 1

A remote mining village at the end of civilization is celebrating a late spring/early summer festival. The six most beautiful couples are getting married, and then the next day the husbands compete in "games." The games continue, day after day, until one of the men dies (Consider it a sword-and-sorcery version of "Extreme Sports."). The day after that happens, his new bride is taken up a mountain, bedecked in expensive jewels, and sacrificed to the "spirits of the mountain" who ensure that there are no raiders, earthquakes, avalanches, cave-ins, or any other sort of catastrophe.

  • The village does this every five years.
  • There have been no raiders or bandits or plague or seismic or mine problems for hundreds of years, so the villagers all very much believe in this whole ritual.
  • The couples feel honored to be selected, and in fact a common problem with the "games" is the participants falling all over each other to be the one to die.
  • There are no "spirits." The girl is brought up the mountain and chained to a post as a sacrifice to a dragon that protects the valley. The "spirits" are a story put forth by the town authorities and clergy in order to prevent interference. Nobody wants to mess with spirits, but you say "dragon" and every idiot within a thousand miles with a sword and dreams of glory is going to show up to try and kill it.
  • ... but the dragon died decades ago. Of old age. The first to come across the body were a tribe of goblins who cleared the place out, and when the sacrifice was brought up the mountain, they had their way with the sacrificed girl and robbed her. But then the dwarves of the mountains showed up, slaughtered the goblins, and took a look at the situation. The dwarves knew that the human's mining area was rich and would provide gold and ore for hundreds of years, and they knew that humans spread like roaches over the world. By keeping the humans satisfied and happy here, the dwarves would be able to have the rest of the range to themselves for a good long while, even by dwarven standards. So the dwarves make sure (through human agents) that the humans in the area are well educated about proper mining techniques to prevent accidents, and they make sure the territory is secure from monsters and bandits. And every five years, the dwarves sit in the dragon cave with a flamethrower device (for "there really is a dragon!" purposes) and when the girl is chained in front of the cave, the dwarves come and strip her of valuables... and leave her there. Letting her go would mean the whole scheme is unraveled, they don't want to take her with them, and killing her would just seem cruel. So for decades now, the young woman expecting to be taken by a dragon (they do tell the poor girl) instead dies of starvation, dehydration, and exposure.

So how do the PCs get involved? The well-to-do family of one of the "lucky women" getting married is secretly unhappy with the whole situation. The festival attracts a good number of travelers who want to see the games, and this family has spies among the festival crowd listening for people who express displeasure with the whole thing. (The PCs will say how screwed up this is when they ask what the festival actually is, right?) The family will then basically beg these anarchic dissidents to save their daughter, if she is "chosen," take her far away from this place, and of course keep the jewels as payment. But they have to do it without letting the villagers know that everything didn't go as planned - they'd panic. The family isn't concerned about the dragon (they know) getting pissed; they're confident that a few more sacrifices hastily put together would solve any situation.

So that's the adventure. I'm telling you, the look on players' faces when they start to think their first level characters are going to deal with a dragon... priceless.

Adventure 2

There's a missing geologist in a dangerous area! His brother will pay money for his return. The PCs are given his last known location, and going there, they learn where the guy went up in the mountains...

There's an old manor house up in the mountains, but its been abandoned for a long time. The place was built over a volcanic cavern, and the house was built amongst strange stone formations. Volcanic steam is breaking through these formations, so the inside of the house is just full of steam and heat and the entire place is filled with a REALLY LOUD ROAR so it's impossible to talk to other people in the place.

... it's also haunted by a banshee, which is bound to the house during the day, but may wander the whole grounds at night. So when the PCs first encounter it in the house, it screams... but they can't hear the scream. That's good for getting characters to shit their pants.

Investigating the house reveals the owners were a human man and an elven woman...

... Investigating the grounds reveals that one end of the manor grounds ends in a cliff... and the family graveyard is slowly falling off the cliff, with shattered coffins and remains far below, and some caskets sticking halfway out the cliff... but the grave of the lady of the house has been dug up, and the ring finger on her left hand is missing...

Down the cliff a bit is a ledge with a cave with steam flowing out of it... and there's a decent sized cavern complex in there, and of course there's the geologist's body, and of course he's got the ring.

A simple setup, I think. The PCs took the ring and reburied it with the woman's body, ending the haunting. Now, they didn't have to, as the banshee couldn't pursue them off the grounds... but they did, and then stayed the next night on the grounds... now I'd written the adventure so that returning the ring to the corpse "dispels" the banshee. If this was a proper sword and sorcery tale, the haunting would still continue and the PCs sticking around would have been dead, dead, dead. :P

I've run this adventure twice, once in Vaasa and now in Helsinki. Decent for first level characters, but perhaps overdoing the verisimilitude of the area made for a lot of empty, boring areas to explore.

This time I'd added a bonus thingy to the cavern complex... basically an entrance to a grander underground cavern where I had notes for a four-tribe version of Red Nails to be going on. They didn't go for it... they'd achieved their objective, and chasing after strange things wasn't a good way to stay alive.

Good thing I'd only detailed the entrance area and not the entire scenario down there. ;)

First session had four players, second had three, and the third session had six players. And there are a couple more wanting to join the campaign that couldn't start quite now. But now with the party up to "standard" D&D strength, I can throw more time-urgent and action-oriented adventures at them... and since I've seen how they operate for a bit now, I can tailor the hooks to them and try to push their individual buttons.

Next game might not be for a few weeks (so many players have other plans next Sunday, and the following Sunday is Ropecon...), but I'll let you know how that works out.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Fight On! #2 Available Now...

The table of contents for the second issue is here. I have a rather lengthy contribution, which is a generic form of material that will be in Insect Shrine of Goblin Hill.

Buy it here.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Has Your Paladin Gotten Some Sweet, Sweet Chaotic Tail Today?

You know... summer sucks. Many of my fellow bloggers have joined me in not writing jack shit lately. Bad, bad us!

Anyway, one thing I love about Grognardia is James' insistence on the importance of the source literature for D&D. I wholeheartedly agree, but my dirty little secret is I haven't read all of it (by "all," I mean the DMG's Appendix N). I'm fairly well-read I think, but the fact is, there are some key items I've never read. To fix this, I've used the scant Random Creature Generator income (it's sold 17 copies! wooo!) to go towards buying a couple of these items via a friend in the States.

The first is Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions. I've seen commentary on this book and how D&D trivia can be picked up from it ("There's a troll! Ooh, the swanmay!"). Yay. That's not important though. What is important, if we're taking the book as a true influence in methodology and not just a source for this and that, is the treatment of alignments, and perhaps not unrelated to that, paladins.

I suspect that most gamers, if they accept the Law/Chaos cosmology at all, take it from Moorcock. But that's just one way, and Moorcock took it from Anderson, and it isn't quite the same. This would be a valuable model if you're using versions of D&D that don't have the Good and Evil alignment axis.

(No, I'm not going into it at length here; the setup is pretty self-evident if you read the book, and you really should... it's to my shame that I waited until the year 2008 to do so myself. Don't be a dumb fuck like me. Actually, I'm not a dumb fuck anymore. I read it. Are you a dumb fuck? Fix that, you dumb fuck.)

But the paladin... (spoilers ahead, so go read it first, then join the discussion) Surely Holger is a seminal example of what a D&D paladin is, and supposed to be. Notice how often he's thinking with his penis. Alianora? He likes her, wants to fuck her, but... well, he likes her. She's one of the good guys, mind you. But Meriven? Holger fucked her. "The rest of the night was as much fun as any he had ever spent, or rather more so." Told dirty stories with her, and frolicked in the fields, and he did it right under Alianora's nose. And a bit right in front of her face. And he knew he was in the realm of faerie, of Chaos. Morgan Le Fay? Yeah, he did her too. Not during the course of the novel, although the temptation is a key conflict late in the story.

Now, when discussing this with someone (the same guy that sent me the book, Mr. Had Adventures With Giant Bunnies), it was also pointed out that Launcelot du Lac, surely also a prime Paladin influence, also had problems keeping his cock out of places it shouldn't be.

(In non-penis matters, Holger also engages in magical deception towards Carahue for a good deal of time.)

Now my language is coarse here, but it makes the point more clear I think. In my experience, and listening to the stories of many gamers, the only character flaw AD&D paladins are allowed to have without risking their paladinhood is inflexible assholishness. Can you imagine most DMs' reaction to a player saying "Sir Do-gooder is absolutely taken with the Drow Queen... he listens to her explanations for her plans and why she thinks they would be a good thing for the world... and yeah, he beds her. He thinks she's swell." Or even, "I disguise myself and pretend to be somebody completely different so the fellow noble warrior will be deceived for a long time." I think there'd be less hesitation to strip all paladin powers than if the guy slaughtered kobold youngsters and stepped on all the eggs in the kobold nursery.

Something to think about.

And I lied. I am still a dumb fuck. You see, I'd never read a full Jack Vance story before. But part of this book shipment was the Tales of the Dying Earth, which contains "all four Dying Earth novels." I'm only 100 pages in, but it's full of goody goodness. I'm sure I'll have a lot more to say about Vancian magic later (details of how magic works hasn't been discussed much yet, although the "wizards running out of spells" thing has already popped up)... but in addition to the genre mish-mash (I do believe that's a helicopter that couple was flying around Ampridatvir), there is this bit:

Guyal played a wild tarantella of the peasant folk, and Ameth danced wild and faster, flung her arms, wheeled, jerked her head in a fine display.

Wait a second.

Now this is just general ignorance, not a "I didn't know D&D's roots" thing, but... I'd always thought that the "tarantella" in the D&D Basic sets (I got it from Mentzer's version) was some sort of... I dunno... misprint or redefinition of "tarantula," and the dancing poison never made much sense to me. But then there's this here and here.


I need to read far, far more often, and stop being such a dumb fuck. Because this is all stuff I should have been aware of two decades ago.

Appendix N really isn't there to pick and choose from, is it?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Did Simulacrum Games Just Become Obsolete?

A 4e product for sale right now. Saying "For Use with Fourth Edition Dungeons and Dragons" right on the cover. And their promo blurb:

The Kingdoms of Kalamar fantasy campaign setting is now fully compatible with 4E D&D, and a must have for players and Dungeon Masters of any fantasy campaign.

Not only does this 501-page PDF reference 4E D&D classes, races, monsters, and more, but it also includes expanded background details, over 50 new 4E game mechanics, and an incredibly detailed full-color atlas!

Not using the GSL.

From Mark Plemmons:

No, this 501-page setting PDF does not use the GSL. You don't need to use the GSL to create 4E-compatible products, as long as you don't tread on WotC's legal territory (similar to how a computer company makes a game/virus program/etc that runs on a Windows PC without asking Bill Gates permission...). Fortunately, David Kenzer is a lawyer, and knows what to do (or avoid doing).

And from David Kenzer (who according to Mr. Plemmons, is an IP lawyer):

that is not copyright infringement.

copyright infringement is basing your work on someone else's creative expression. Rules are not creative expression. Also, it is not "based" on their rules. It happens to "work with" their rules.

SHould every programmer that writes a program that works with a computer have to pay the owner of the OS it runs on? I think not. I could be wrong, but fortunately, the US and International copyright laws agree with me.

A world where one could not reference others' materials in their product would be a dark and sad place.

If these guys can do this for 4E... why can't/shouldn't we just do it for our own releases for whichever edition we favor?

(and I meant obsolete in terms of "being a publisher's tool"... obviously as stand-alone game products in stores, there is merit to the idea... but I can't believe "OSRIC" has the name recognition of "AD&D" for selling modules, for example...)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Fun with Humanoids

From here:

When there is a kobold lair, or a room full of kobolds in a dungeon, the unspoken assumption is that the PCs are expected to kill them, even if the only reason for doing so is that they might have treasure that the party can take. Even if the kobolds are not known to be murderous bandits or minions of evil and just happen to be living there, they are still kobolds and so it's okay to kill them. This never used to bother me, but it does now.

I responded there... but this blog is supposed to be my repository on gaming thought, right? So for archival purposes:

Good. Good! Don't shy away from this, but don't water down the issue by just making the humanoids simply "misunderstood," either. Milk it for all the drama that it's worth.

Humanoid children... well, Keep on the Borderlands is a fantastic precedent: They exist as far as Gygax was concerned. The fact that half orcs exist should also settle the matter.

As for the morality of killing them... well... I always like to make my players sweat, so of COURSE I don't say that they're all irredeemably evil by nature. And if humanoid children aren't evil by nature, then slaughtering them is an evil act. As is leaving them in the lair amidst the gore of their slaughtered relatives after you've dealt with the combatants.

True evil gamemastering: Magic-user casts sleep on a group of humanoid guards in a lair. Just as the sleeping foes are about to be "dealt with," in comes a child, clutching the equivalent of a teddy bear (make it some stuffed human baby if you really want to make the whole situation truly macabre and bizarre), saying in broken common, "What are you doing to my daddy?"

There is a ridiculous amount of referee pride when a group of players starts thinking in terms of, "We've got to get the <macguffin> out of the orc lair with a minimal loss of life!"

Of course "not irredeemably evil" doesn't mean "just people that look different." What if humanoids had, ahhh, nutritional requirements that are a bit... distasteful or unacceptable? Think of how the doctor rewarded Bub to make him behave in Day of the Dead... so you can have little bits such as the warlike nature of humanoids is just a psychological defense because if they thought of their food as people, many of them wouldn't eat, and that's it for the race. Introduce little bits like most of the tribe not speaking common, and the ones that do will be smaller with less hit points due to not being properly nourished, because they couldn't bring themselves to eat anything that was begging for mercy... but they'll still support the success of their tribe so they'll still stick you if they have the chance.

Have an inn at the edge of civilization, and have the innkeeper pay bounties for humanoid scalps. Extra money and xp for killing gobbos! Then they find out their "complimentary breakfast" is made of orc meat... see how the players react. :)

Play the Slavers series (I know this is an OD&D board, but if the guy I quoted can reference AD&D... ;)) but replace all the humanoid henchmen with humans, and make all the slaves humanoid.

(then there's the Danger at Dunwater example...)

Or sometimes I just take all the incidences of "orc" and just replace them with "savage" humans. You invade their lair, and human women and children are realizing their way of life is going to disappear if they don't fight... what does your character do when there's a six year old kid trying to kill them? What, you thought invading a tribe's home was going to be a simple slice and dice affair?

Remember the battle of Helm's Deep? All the kids being suited up? And what would have happened if the orcs won and broke through to the caves below? When you invade a lair, you are the orcs to the natives, be they human or not.

You know what makes players confused? Evil elves. Not drow. I mean making regular everyday elves hostile towards humans. Screw this "our time is past, and we are the wise old buddies of these newfangled humans who shall inherit the world." Nope. "It's not to late to reclaim this world which was once ours!"

Usually when I introduce this element into a campaign (and I always do, sooner or later), the first thing that happens is the players want to stop dealing with it altogether and go fight bestial enemies or true EVIL (undead!) things instead. Which works for me.

"Old School" vs "New School" - Final Word

Sometimes, the blindingly obvious isn't seen for a bit.

"Old school" games have no setting. The referee is supposed to take a set of rules and create a world, and thus the game to actually be played, himself.

"New school" games do that for you.

This of course means that Runequest/Glorantha and Greyhawk are totally new school, and Sorcerer is old school.

... or maybe this is just my playstyle. I'm of the opinion that if a referee doesn't have the ability, the time, or the inclination to create his own setting, he shouldn't take the job on in the first place. It's something that only has to be done once if you do it right.

Frankly, I'm all burnt out on thinking about old school vs new school. They are meaningless titles unless we're talking strictly dates, and this hobby can't be easily pigeonholed and generalizations are daft. If you want to talk about the older versus newer versions of a specific game, OK. Otherwise... I'm out of this discussion, and anybody that focuses on "old school" games as if they are some sort of unified movement is going to make me just tune out.

Friday, July 4, 2008

What is "Old School"? Who cares?

Have you ever sat around reading some people's ideas of what "old school" is and wondered what the hell they were talking about?

Sometimes, after reading descriptions of what it means to be "old school," I think my relationship to the "old school" is completely coincidental. I came in as 1983 was dying fast, so maybe this is true.

For example, I hate to house-rule. I still do it, because no game is perfect, but I use BFRPG as my game of choice because it is as perfect as any I've seen, with few holes, and I don't have to mess with it much. Many of the "changes" I make are actually suggested in the back of the book. I still think that OD&D, AD&D, B/X, BECMI, RC, OSRIC, BFRPG, LL, S&W, S&W WB, OAOASAYCTO (Or Any Other Alphabet Soup Acronym You Can Think Of) are the same damn game, and I can't help but be perplexed at people who act like there's a sharp distinction between D&D and AD&D, like there's a line that can't be crossed or some essence will be lost. It's all the same shit, with different flavored peanuts here and there. But some people are adamant that this is "old school," that isn't, and that's just total new school thinking, even if it came out in 197whatever.

And I hate being told that "old school" = "houseruling." There's a reason that I really don't like making rules decisions (as opposed to setting decisions - I love those, it's
my setting!) is because I'm supposed to be the impartial referee! I'm not a storyteller or player enabler. I am supposed to be impartial, right? It's difficult to do that if the rules themselves don't say much, and it's unfair to the players if there isn't a common baseline that we all agree to work from. "Referee" or "Dungeon Master" or "Game Master" shouldn't equal "dick," it doesn't equal "god," and the best defense against that is the "rule of law," if you will... the damn game rules. That's also why I make my rolls out in the open. As far as I'm concerned, the rules we agree on when play begins are THE LAW, more than anyone at the table. My judgement for situations not covered by the rules shouldn't be based on "making shit up," it should be based on reasonable extrapolation of the rules already present. This allows players to also offer their input, which is always a good thing. "Hmmm, that's not covered here, but I think this rule is analogous. What do you think?" Of course, as referee, I have the final say... but it's just being a dick to insist on having the first, last, and every say on rulings. If you insist that everything is malleable, I don't understand the point of playing any particular game anyway. So in order to do my job, I need rules that will work and support me without needing to mess with them.

There is also a weird tendency to think of "old school" as "nonsensical." Arduin, Encounter Critical (yeah, I know...), balrogs as player characters mentioned in OD&D... while I think these point out the possibilities inherent in "old school" philosophy, I think they have also created a mindset of "everything goes," and that's just crap when it comes to the individual game table. The abundance of random tables in "old school" products seems to support this "anything can happen" attitude, even if the tables themselves have logical entries. On one hand, randomness supports the idea that the referee is impartial.

If a referee decides his campaign is going to be based on the Roman Empire with appropriate equipment and nothing outside of it, that's not a restriction, it's simply having a focus... but the important thing is that's a decision made at a table. This focus allows "old school" play to happen. You want imaginative, non-rules based, yet non-farcical solutions to challenges? Present a coherent setting that allows the players to think of the world as a place and not just a convenient backdrop for the action to happen, and you get that. I know this is pure preference on my own part, but... "You are there, now act like it!" works better when there can be taken seriously. All that wacky stuff is one step away from killer bunnies and knights who demand shrubberies before passage will be granted.

Traditional D&D combat is an abstraction. A roll to hit is not a swing of the sword, and taking damage doesn't mean you're physically injured. This is why "called shots" and "combat maneuvers" are pretty silly under such a system, and why I think the feats and tactical combat focus of later editions completely miss the point. The entire "I roll... hit... I roll... miss," isn't so exciting by itself, but since combat is A- Not the point of the game, and B- Highly abstracted, I don't think it's a problem. Traditional D&D's combat goes by quickly. I often don't bother with turning these rolls into description - I'm not interested in the process of combat, I'm interested in its results. And creative maneuvers given by players in combat... well, if it changes the dynamics of a situation ("We three pull the giant rug out from under the orcs!") then it can mean something. "I jump from the table and come crashing down on my foe!" is just the kind of action we should assume is happening in the abstracted combat procedures anyway - no bonus.

And this abstraction is also why "save or die" effects make sense. Maybe the damage that fighter is doing to you isn't physical... maybe it's just your luck running out as you continually dodge his blade. But that giant spider either injected its venom into you, or it didn't. The saving throw isn't resisting an effect, it's avoiding it. If the giant spider hit you, and you make your save, then the "hit" wasn't physical after all. Unless you're a dwarf or something with a save bonus against poison.

Yeah, it hurts to think about it a bit, but that's what happens when you think of an abstract system in concrete terms.

This abstraction is also why D&D's armor class system makes sense as damage avoidance rather than soaking up damage. A "hit" doesn't even necessarily mean "a hit" in real-life terms, so it would make absolutely no sense for armor to subtract from damage done.

This is actually where AD&D falls down hard compared to other versions of D&D. It increases the length of the abstracted combat round to one minute, so you'd think things would be quite abstract indeed. But then you also have weapon vs AC type tables, weapon speed, weapon length, segmented initiative making precise casting times rather important... it seems confused in its intentions.

Here's an example between "new" and "old" "school:" This and this are no different in intent: Provide level-appropriate rewards. The critical difference is in how they are presented. The older supplement is treated as a completely ignorable guideline, the newer rules are treated as THE WAY THINGS ARE and codifies a universal setting for the game. If a referee looked at the old thing and decided, "That doesn't fit my campaign at all," then his game will look different and the rules will still support it fully. If the referee looks at the new thing and decides, "No way!" then there are consequences that need to be dealt with up and down the system. (That the older supplement's treasure is dependent on its guardian and/or location, and not who finds it also helps... I'm breaking The LotFP Promise all over the place, aren't I?) And that's the reason I can't deal with the latter editions of D&D, even independent of whether they should be called "D&D" or not. I mean, you would think that by my "rules" rant above that I would love me some 3.x, but it de-abstracts combat, and it codifies way, way too much about more than just the rules... it codifies the world it inhabits as well. And that's my job to do.

Classifications of RPGs shouldn't be divided between ages or schools. It's ridiculous when people try to throw "all that Forge crap" into one category, and it's ridiculous when people try to say "old school" like it's some sort of badge of honor all by itself to be old, and perhaps a bit underdeveloped. They should be divided between "good" and "bad," and a good place to decide the location of that dividing line is this: Does this game/supplement/whatever act as a springboard for creativity and is it readily customizable and intended to be extensively expanded upon, as written, and placed in your game, or is it designed to replace your personal creativity with something from the factory and act as a time saver for referees on-the-go?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Good Job, Guys.

My friend decided to play some D&D for the first time. He credits this very blog for becoming motivated to do so. "Seriously, though, all this rpg reading kinda makes me want to play D&D!"


"I had to explain to my wife that I was going to New Jersey on Monday to play Dungeons & Dragons. She looked at me like I said I had made an appointment with a male prostitute. At first blush she clearly thought it was the most ridiculous thing I had ever said. "But... you've never done this before!"

The discussion was very odd and funny. I guess the issue was that with all the many things I do which occupy my time (and against which she sort of competes), it seemed bizarre to her that I would up and add a new time-sucking activity to my schedule. It turned into a fairly long conversation about why, exactly, I even wanted to play D&D, particularly right now. And in a lot of ways, I clarified the decision for myself."


"So... that sucked. First off, only two other people showed up, from an original commitment of 10! We played in a conference room at one guy's office. He said he normally DMs, but he wanted to play at this session, so the other guy DMed. No one in our group of three had ever met another. They were both friendly fellows, and generous enough to see me through my first session, but the session itself was pretty lame. The framework they used for this "adventure" was beyond fucking lame. Maybe it would have passed muster for a 12 year old, but these are men in their late 30s (at least)! I understand that a one-off adventure is not going to come with the narrative depth of a yearslong campaign, but I was nevertheless hoping for more than "magical doors that lead to awesome!"

Basically, there's a town (about which nothing is ever known - town exists for hiring henchmen and resting, apparently.) And near this town is some kind of magical keep with mystical portals. Step through a portal and you're... somewhere else. Primed for adventure, no doubt! There is no accounting for time, for travel, etc. From town to the keep: an instant! From the portal-world back to town: almost as fast! And about the keep, nothing is said, either. Are there more magic portals than just the one? Who knows, and who cares. And what brought together my dwarven fighter and, um, some cleric? "A dwarf and a cleric walk into a keep and..." I had rather hoped for mystery of another sort.

Anyway, passing through the portal (the experience of which is also left undescribed), we end up in some scrubby, low forest. A castle is visible in the distance. How far? Well, who the fuck knows - time and distance are immaterial, apparently. There are well worn, grassy paths, but the forest itself is just too dense to move through. Convenient! My first adventure, and already I am learning the true meaning of "railroading."

So yeah, we walk down the path and encounter giant bunnies. I kid you not. He actually called them bunnies, too. These things the size of massive dogs. They're grazing, possibly on giant carrots (okay, I made that part up.) So, I throw a rock at them, to see if they'll run off. I was thinking that perhaps the secret to the rabbits' giantism would be more interesting than a fight-to-the-death. But, the DM assumes I'm hurling the rock as a missile, and a lucky 20 on the die condemns a poor (giant) bunny to a quick and painless death. I was trying to be "lawful," but what the hell! Of course, the bunnies turn out to be bloodthirsty and hissing, in addition to giant, and before you know it, a battle ensues. Our henchman dies. We kill the bunnies. I suggested skinning the bunnies or something, but I don't think anyone had anything in mind beyond killing them.

Moving on, we encounter goblins cooking lunch: presumably, giant bunny stew. I'm coming to understand that the DM expects us to fight whatever stupid fucking monsters he puts on the path. I'm trying to, you know, actually role-play, but no one seemed interested in that. Maybe they were trying to keep things simple for me, but I got the feeling that this was par for the course. So it became, more or less, a board game. We were to walk around on this map (which the DM sketched out as we moved - there was no mapkeeping by the players), find goblins, fight same. Get to castle, try to sneak in, fight more goblins.

Then, we all died. The session was scheduled to go on until 10:00. It was a bit after 8:30 at this time. Fortunately, I didn't have to be the guy to say, "This seems like a good time to call it a night." I could have rolled up another character and killed more goblins, and that wouldn't have been without it's small pleasures, I suppose, but I was feeling rather disappointed in the experience.

Most annoyingly, I don't think the DM had a great command of the rules (never mind his complete lack of awareness to time and whatnot. Or the effect it would have on a dwarf to be carrying the body of his unconscious henchman back to town). He could ably run the combat, but all the other mechanics of the universe were left to founder. And honestly, it's the "everything else" that I was most interested in! I can kill goblins on the computer, after all. Plus, I think he fudged some rolls and calls in our favor, I guess to prevent us from dying or whatever. I wanted the brutal reality, but I got "easy mode." All rolls, no imagination.

At one point, bearing the body of a dead henchmen (we went through 3 of them, I think) we saw, in the distance (although those distances tended to always be about 100 yards) giant horses. Thinking I'd not like to fight giant horses, considering the difficulty of giant bunnies, I suggested we wait and see if they go away. "You wait a little while and the horses wander off." How long? Who knows! How did we avoid detection? Who cares!

OD&D is brutal. You'd think, using that system, you would adapt to LESS combat, because each fucking fight is so likely to end in death! But no, it's like the notion of sneaking around goblins had never occurred to these guys! When I did finally manage to work some sneaking into the action, I repeated failed DEX check after DEX check, but still very little trouble befell us until we more or less marched straight into the castle.

Man, it was dumb. The whole thing, dumb. I admit, I like rolling the dice in combat, but what we played, I guess, was Chainmail, minus the miniatures and any semblance of rules for movement. There was no roleplaying whatsoever. My lawful dwarf fighter could have been an evil elvish fighter. Didn't fucking matter.

When one of our henchmen "died" along with the other player, and I could only carry one back to town, these guys looked at me like I was crazy for suggesting we go back to haul the unconscious henchman to town, or even to check if he was still alive. Even I had given up on accounting for time (as if I could run back to town with a cleric on my back, drop him off, hire another henchman, run back to the magic keep and through the magic door, run back down the well-trod grassy paths through the impenetrable forest, and rescue a bleeding henchman whom I had left in the bushes just across the moat from Goblin Castle.) I am not wrong to think that this was an example of very lame D&D, right? I mean, shit, they never even asked me THE NAME OF MY CHARACTER!

So yeah, in short, considering this was an hour and twenty minute drive for me, it will take more than another session of Magic Portal Keep to get me back to that table."