Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Crazy Idea

My birthday is next week and, as anyone who reaches a certain age knows, there's increasingly less enthusiasm about celebrating the occasion of one's birth as the years wear on. However, I have a longstanding tradition of getting together with friends for dinner to celebrate and I am loath to break with tradition, when possible. So, after some thought, I concluded that, instead of going out for dinner, we'd meet at my place, order in a lot of food, and spend the evening playing a one-shot old school adventure.

I'm pretty keen to do this, because it'll be the first time in years that I'll have a large party of adventurers and I think the one-shot is a lost art form. As I've lamented many times in the past, RPGs have become too focused on story for my tastes. "Campaign" has become synonymous with "story arc" and it's made self-contained one-shot adventures with a bunch of random characters a thing of the past. I miss them and I figured here's my chance to give it a whirl again.

For simplicity's sake, I'm using the Moldvay/Cook rules. They're straightforward, accessible, and everyone knows them, including my nearly 9 year-old daughter, who's expressed an interest in joining in on the fun. I've been spending the last little while randomly generating PCs to use as both starting characters and replacements for the inevitable deaths. It's been a very eye-opening exercise, not least of all because I'm finding that, far from generating poor characters, rolling 3D6 in order is generating very average characters, often with one stand-out ability score -- "stand-out" being 14 or 15 usually, with a rare one being 16+. I can't help but like that. Not only do I see how easy it would be to "get into" these characters, but it makes me realize that a truly high ability score is a rarity that sets that character apart. If your Fighter has a 17 or 18 Strength, he's a veritable Hercules as far as the setting goes, because the odds of his encountering another Fighter equally strong is small. Personally, I find that really cool.

Anyway, I'll be sure to post about how this experiment turns out. I think it's going to be a blast, but we shall see.

17 comments:

  1. Sounds like fun. Are we to assume that all of your friends are actually gamers? Or will there be some newbies amongst the group? Oh, and you didn't mention which adventure they'd be tackling...is this still to be a surprise?

    I'm interested to see what you're running them through because choosing a suitable one-off always seems difficult for me (unless I homebrew something small).

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  2. We settled on 3d6 quite some time ago for our D&D-based games. I think it worked for us for exactly the same reasons you mentioned. -It made an 18 just what I think an 18 should be: The character was one of the smartest, strongest, etc., people you would ever meet.

    Unfortunately, a 3 usually led to an early grave. But that's just about right too, huh? -That guy never should have taken up adventuring in the first place! :)

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  3. What are you going to run, James---something you wrote, or a birthday special for you: something cool you've never run before?

    Allan.

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  4. 3d6 for stats is a reflection of the "heroic, not superhero" idea that Matt Finch writes about in A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming. The characters are just average men with mettle to face the dark and seek their fortunes.

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  5. I've been mulling over what method I'm going to employ for the first group venturing into Ol' Nameless. At first, I was considering going with a pair of 3d6 rolls for each stat, players choose which of the two he/she wants to use and then assigns them to abilities.

    But the more I think about it, the more and more 3d6 down the line seems to call to me. Since I'm about 75% leaning towards using Sham's entourage method for the first run, I think that whatever the pleyers lose in lack of customization, they'll make up for in numbers.

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  6. Awesome idea! Have a great birthday party. I do dispute your notion that the art of the one-shot is on the decline. Over in my neck of the woods we tend to do way more one-shots than actual long-running campaigns. A result of having so many different games everyone wants to try with the difficulty of scheduling people regularily over long periods of time.

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  7. I don't suppose you could do this at your parent's house? Don't think I can afford the 8-9 hour drive. :-/

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  8. One shots are just about the only reason I buy modules. Very convenient to have an adventure to run in place of (or in addition to)a board game. I like to have a number of pregenerated characters on hand, especially if the module is for the mid to high levels. Ideally, players will already be familiar with the characters from previous games.

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  9. I think it's a great idea. FWIW I allow re-rolls of ones, but otherwise the same. Just avoiding the character with a three of anything.

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  10. One shots effin' rule. It's D&D as a party game.

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  11. Are we to assume that all of your friends are actually gamers? Or will there be some newbies amongst the group? Oh, and you didn't mention which adventure they'd be tackling...is this still to be a surprise?

    They're all gamers, including my daughter, with whom I've run some adventures in the past. The only potential newbie is my wife, who is not only not a gamer but somewhat baffled by the whole gaming thing. Nevertheless, she expressed interest in participating, so we shall see how it goes.

    I'm not saying what adventure I'll be running, because a few of my friends read this blog :)

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  12. The characters are just average men with mettle to face the dark and seek their fortunes.

    That's the crux of it for me and the reason why I prefer the old ways to the newfangled pre-packaged heroes we get nowadays.

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  13. I don't suppose you could do this at your parent's house? Don't think I can afford the 8-9 hour drive. :-/

    It's more like 10 hours from Baltimore/Washington to Toronto and, no, I won't be holding it at my parents' place, alas.

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  14. Over in my neck of the woods we tend to do way more one-shots than actual long-running campaigns. A result of having so many different games everyone wants to try with the difficulty of scheduling people regularily over long periods of time.

    One-shots are a wonderful thing; they're great "palette cleansers" when you've got an established campaign. They also give newcomers a chance to jump into the action without committing to something lengthier.

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  15. Good luck with that! It sounds like a lot of fun!

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  16. Wish I could join in myself! And good choice of rules--Moldvay/Cook is my personal favorite iteration, with AD&D 1E a close second.

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