Thursday, January 27, 2011

Session 1, One Year Later: A Labyrinth Lord's Reflections

Our current Labyrinth Lord campaign began just over one year ago, on January 18, 2010. In honor of this auspicious one-year anniversary for our campaign, Spawn of Endra and I have been writing a series of posts reflecting upon the exploits, tendencies, experiences, and house rules of our group during its first year of gaming together. As part of that series, I hereby offer this retrospective on the very first session we ever played, one year ago last week.

I just re-read the Session Report from our very first session, and was surprised by a number of things I had more or less forgotten about in the wake of the group's more recent adventures in southern Minoch. Such as:

1. The Arandish campaign started in Swampsedge, in The Western Lands. I must have had some idea for ongoing adventures centered in the largely unsettled Western Lands, though I cannot now remember what those adventure seeds might have been. For it did not take long before the party moved southward to more civilized regions, first to the Free City of Kaladar (sessions 7-8), then onward to Minoch, where they have been adventuring nonstop since session 9.

2. Our group started with two bards, a fact I had completely forgotten:

The party consists of two bards, a PC class I had not even considered allowing until these two players started describing their character concepts to me over the past weekend. I am no great fan of bards in general -- like James M., I find them a bit nebulous and unfocused -- but it became clear that the bard would be the best class to use for these two players who wanted to play jack-of-all-trades type characters, so I swiftly ordered and downloaded Brave Halfling's Delving Deeper: Bard and used that class as the basis for Uncle Junkal the Juggler and Hazel the negotiator / charmer / mountebank.

Of course I knew that Uncle Junkal, the rodian bard/jongleur extraordinaire, had so classed, but I did not recall until I read my own session report that Hazel started out as a bard! She has since switched to fighter (session 2), and is now (as of session 16, when her previously suppressed arcane abilities began to re-manifest) multi-classing as a Fighter / Magic-User.

I think this occurred because Hazel's player is new to D&D and to FRPG's in general, although she has extensive experience as an improvisational stage and screen actor. So this meant that while she brought to the table many great ideas for Hazel's back story and personality, it took us a couple of tries to wed Hazel's character concept to the most appropriate game mechanics (especially character class). This mostly evolved as Hazel's player got more familiar with the game system over our first session.

3. Our group has had three PC deaths, only one of which was "permanent." Seeing Barbarella Bootay's name mentioned in the comments reminded me that she is no more. She was Carl's first PC; after she died during session 6, he rolled up Dak the Younger, the Dwarf he plays to this day.

Uncle Junkal and Innominus have both died as well, but both were subsequently raised from the dead. My guess is that no such action was taken in Barbarella's case because the party was lower-level then and/or because Carl actually wanted to try his hand at playing a different character.

4. Our group still thinks outside the box. As I said then,

I am excited by the ideas I hear this group bandying about as they strategize: at one point, one of the players (Hazel's I think) brought up the idea of negotiating with the raiding orcs to get them to stop attacking Vedik and its environs. Of course, orcs are not known for their willingness to parley with humans and their allies, so this suggestion may not be actualized, but the mere fact that such an idea got raised bodes very well for this party and its ability to "think outside the box" and not necessarily rush into every situation with weapons swinging.

The PC's most recent activities in dealing with the Stonehell Stone Giants and the Fortinbras natives indicates that this group is indeed living up to its potential in this regard.

5. I still I wish the "Encounters and Combat" and "Labyrinth Lord Lore" sections were closer together in the Labyrinth Lord core rulebook since those are still the main sections I refer to during sessions. A DM's screen with all those key tables consolidated together could also do the trick.

The main thing I take away from this look back is that it has been a great year of gaming! The party and I are having as much (if not more) fun than we were when we started, and the creative synergy between us shows no signs of diminishing.

Fight On!

1 comment:

  1. Indeed, a good year, and I think the fun factor is still increasing as folks get more used to the mechanics, and we play though more situations where strategy and collective zaniness succeeds in carrying the day. It might actually be accelerating in the last few sessions. We might be in a Revolver-esque or White Album-esque phase, depending on how one views those collaborations.

    Some other Innominus-inspired comments by item number.

    1. Yes, we left the great swamp and the western lands pretty quickly. And we also still own a farmhouse in Vedik (with Larry the Caretaker), even though now most folks seem interested in settling around Minoch (certainly the dwarves).

    2. I thought that part of the reason to switch Hazel to a fighter was the fact that the original party (or the first 3 sessions or so) was 2 bards, a Rodian Duelist, a cleric, a sword cleric and a magic user. I seem to recall that Hazel's player recognized early on we were under-powered, and that we just didn't have a dedicated fighter (maybe after the first troglodyte wilderness encounter?). At that point the cleric was the most potent in melee. But of course we still don't know Hazel's real backstory, so who knows what the real motivation was.

    But: Hazel (in apparent contrast to her player) is a bloodthirsty bitch that insists on skinning most foes and wearing their skins whenever possible. That's a timeless theme of this campaign: orcs, bears, hobgoblins, whatever, she's got a skin to put on. She's just not bard material anyway.

    3. Death. Unclear whether we were even thinking in terms of raising dead at the time of BB's death, but that was all first level, as you note. Also, since we couldn't even buy all the goats we wanted for a suicide oil-bomb brigade in Vedik, I'm pretty sure they couldn't raise any dead there either. We had loot from DFD and Stonehell and access to high level clerics for UJ and Inn in Minoch.

    4. Yes we are getting better about thinking outside the box (and making good non-combat plans). But in the Session before the Stone Giant negotiations, remember that Hazel was wearing a hobgoblin skin OVER her famous bear skin OVER her chainmail while UNDER the rock troll's cloak of invisibility. The skin-wearing thing is a fixture that goes back to Session 2, and seems pathological.

    5. I'm not sure what you want from the "Lore" section, but having the "Missile Weapon Range" chart on p54, and "Saving Throws" opposite in p55 of the core rules, and then attack matrices over on p. 60 is irritating. These all show up (plus variable weapon damage!) within two columns on pB26-B27 of the Moldvay book, which is well-creased in my copy. But I never made a core rule book, so F me, I say.

    Death before and after dishonor!