Sunday, March 29, 2009

S&W, Session 7 and semi-finale

To summarize:

Josh and Andy died. Again. They made new characters, who were killed maybe thirty minutes later. All the hirelings died except for one, who I suspect survived only because of GM pity. Cedric the Pious survived, got all the loot, and became level 3 from the sheer amount of treasure-based xp he received. We finally cleared the dungeon out, though our initial reason for entering the dungeon became irrelevant long ago after the first set of characters were wiped out. (Other than Cedric, of course)

By the end of the session, we started to run out of steam and become fatigued. After losing his second character for the night, Josh asked if he could just make the same character again, since he lasted maybe twenty or thirty minutes of real time. Even the DM started hurrying us through things, forgoing wandering monster rolls even after I traveled back to town. Our of fatigue and player frustration at the module, Cedric killed the roadside innkeeper and his wife, though they did swindle him repeatedly. I'm willing to accept an alignment change. The fire seemed to have gone out of our game and the DM suggested that we play something else next week and put S&W on hiatus. I was half tempted to retire Cedric, since I don't see how anyone would want to continue adventuring after losing seven companions and four hirelings to the same dungeon. For now, the game is definitely on hold and Cedric is safe within the folds of my notebook.

Some thoughts I'm having from today's session:

-The lethality of this module is a little ridiculous. Yes, it is traditional D&D and it is supposed to be fairly lethal, but the number of "gotcha" insta-death traps got to be a little aggravating, especially since there were traps that had a random chance of killing you no matter how intelligently or cautiously you are playing. I didn't even bother to learn the names of the last two player characters, which is good because they were dead before the characters they replaced even got cold.

-Having to react to every treasure chest, sarcophagus, and closed door like you are the bomb squad and/or SWAT team also starts to get a little tiresome. I can actually see why people wanted the "dungeon specialist" that eventually became the thief class. Yes, after we've shown that we know how to carefully navigate a hallway or get a chest open, sometimes I wished we had a character who could just throw some dice and do it automatically.

-I don't know that this level of mayhem and death is inherently part of older editions of D&D; I started off with basic D&D and I don't remember it being nearly this deadly. Is "skilled play" something that we just don't get?

Now, I was very fortunate to have my character survive these past seven sessions, when every other character seemed to have a life span of 1-3 sessions. I did get lucky on several saves against poison. I wonder what fun is there to be had if you're going to lose character after character? I did notice that after awhile, replacement characters had a randomly rolled name and really no personality traits.

That all being said, I am sorry that our S&W game is being shelved for now. We were but seven sessions in, and six of those were spent inside the dungeon/module. I was hoping to pursue some other rumors and interests now that we have the cash to make travel a little easier. (Ah, yes...we originally raided the dungeon to get the money to buy a proper boat) I had also thought we were climbing that learning curve, although now I am not quite so confident. Still, the DM laid out a world where there was much to do aside from dungeon crawling. He did say that we could well return to S&W later, so perhaps Cedric the Pious will ride again...hopefully this time with more hirelings and better luck.

I'm not sure what we will be playing when we reconvene. The DM had suggested Sorcerer, which is decidedly not old school but I have been curious to try. (He admits that he's more of an indie guy when it comes to rpgs, whereas my own tastes, while not strictly old school, tend to lean towards more toward the 80's and 90's style of rpgs.) I could go for some sci-fi... I'd really like to play something like Traveller, Gamma World, Metamorphosis Alpha, Mutant Future, Star Siege, etc. etc. Perhaps he can run Burning Empires and we'll meet somewhere in the middle.

In the mean time, I do have some thinking to do about traditional D&D, old style module design, playability, "skilled play", fun, etc.


  1. Ouch, I know that rushed "let's just get it over with" feeling and it's hard to recover energy after that.

    It sounds like a pretty deadly module, do you know which one it was?

    Perhaps it would have worked out better if you'd started your PC's at 3rd level or so. Putting the "let's explore the sandbox world" before "let's be able to survive a dungeon" is putting the cart before the horse a bit.

  2. The module was Tomb of the Iron God, which was written for Swords & Wizardry.