Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Few Other AD&D Thoughts

-One of my players told me of a conversation she recently had with her S.O., who is also a player in my game. They were discussing the difficulty of the dungeon the party was exploring. He told her that his old DM would scale the dungeon if the party is not doing well.
This is something that I philisophically oppose as a DM. Despite the difficulties they have faced, the only monster that is above their hit dice or capability to damage is the lurker, which they have killed. (I must also mention that there was a very simple way they could have avoided the lurker entirely)I would not say the dungeon is "above" their level, but I will not deny that it is challenging.
That being said, I am not going to shrink a dragon by an age category or knock a few levels off the black knight because the party isn't doing well. If they aren't doing well, they need to change their tactics or else run away. I'm not going to cut Sauron's hit points in half if they want to gun it straight for Mordor, you dig?
I am also not opposed to encounters that are "impossible" for the party to take on in a straight fight. However, I will never make such a situation inescapable. Running or being clever or sneaking or bribing... there are ways around a foe who you cannot best with sword or spell.

-Later, that same player was thinking aloud about my game in comparison to WoW. She thinks I have divided my campaign into "zones" and that they need to become more powerful before facing the magic-user in the dungeon outside of town. (They have already made a brief foray into this dungeon)
I certainly hope they don't think that magic-user is going to just sit on his laurels and wait for them to get strong enough to kill him, especially after he is aware of the loss of certain minions...


  1. I couldn't agree more with this line of thought. As a player I hate it when I get the feeling that the DM is holding back.

  2. The 'liches' I sent after the party last week were two and four FD higher (although exactly average in their DPs) than the party's average. With better planning, they could have taken them even without a few NPCs at the last moment. The fact is, for all of 3.5's supposed tactical gridding, it hasn't taught them one iota of defensive fighting or even self preservation.
    --I've grow weary of pre-digesting food for them.

    I certainly stand in solidarity with your position as expressed in the current post, and wish your players well in the upcoming battles they may blithely walk into, rather than avoiding or mastering them through clever play.

  3. I am inclined to make some adventure locales tougher as the adventurers progress in levels. I could pretend that they got tougher naturally, since the adventurers never went there, or were reinforced after a failed NPC foray into the area, but fact is I am making them tougher so that they are not a cake walk for the party.

    It is a fine line, but sometimes the difficulty may have to vary by party level to make the adventure a challenge.

  4. --I've grow weary of pre-digesting food for them.

    Ewwww... pre-chewed monsters.

  5. It is funny how one's attitude towards things changes over the years. A few years ago I would put story, and the players above the mechanics of the game, now that I have reversed that stance, I find that the game is more interesting to everyone.

    If you are getting your butt kicked, it is time to pull back and slow your progress. I think that a guy like the one who they are hunting should be dangerous, and entering his home and killing his employees and pets will really dig into his side. Would Dracula put up with this?

    I think that AD&D is superior to videogames, and for the reason that you just mentioned.

    This NPC is suppose to be the devil incarnate, it would be a travesty to undermine him and his potential all because the players aren't going after him with the respect and fear that he deserves.

  6. I agree totally about AD&D (or most any rpg) vs. video games.

    I'll put it this way, Ripp (and if I'm veing vague, it's because some of my players read this) After their minion killing spree, the party had to retreat for a week to raise one member and let another heal. Now, they're undertaking a little side quest they stumbled onto, so they've been out of the dungeon for about eight days. The magic-user has had eight days to take actions, and I assure you, he has taken some. Muhuhahahahahaha.

  7. I always liked feeling "in over our heads" when we were playing. It would be a particularly brutal blow to our pride when we had to retreat, but scoring that impossible hit and saving your friend against an impossible to beat enemy was THE BEST. I could live off of the high I got on those nights.

  8. So let's say you have a sandboxy kind of environment, and there are some giant spiders in the forest. We can assume that however many there are in the forest is the population in equilibrium with their environment. You won't see more of them show up just because the adventurers take a while to get out there.

    But what about a wizard who is digging in some ruins? He should have progressed more by Month 13 than if the PCs go straight to him on Month 1.

    The problem here is defining a dynamic actor the same as a static object. Ask yourself: if nobody comes by, will this thing change in the next 6 months? If no, it's static and if yes it's dynamic.

    When you write a dungeon room description, you assume the walls and floor and furniture will sit where it is. Maybe you can define the room as the lair of an orc. These are static concepts. But you cannot define the room as being on fire, or the orc as dying from poison. Simply because the adventurers might walk by, see the room, and continue on without interacting with it. And even if they don't, it's a Schroedinger's Orc if you decide he will be poisoned or on fire the first time they enter the room. What has been going on in there before that? What will go on after? These are dynamic issues.

    And what about humans going in up level? The band of mercenaries that starts out as Level 1 fighters will have gone up a level during a year of active pillaging! And the leader won't just be a Level 5 dude at the end of the year.

    So I would say your wizard is a dynamic actor in a dungeon full of static things. You can pretty much write the static stuff and ignore it from that point on - but when a month passes in-game you need to check on all your dynamic stuff and see what changes.

    This is why it's easier to play a sandbox wilderness where the PCs are among the only adventurers. You don't need to worry about the actions of other dynamic adventurers, which typically have huge impacts on everything around them. And the creatures in the wilderness are generally living there and have been for their whole lives, and so they're effectively static. How much building does a giant owl do anyway? But if you have a troupe of dwarves working on rebuilding a tower they are dynamic and you have to keep monthly tabs on them.

    However, you can always have bad things happen to your dynamic actors too. The dwarves could get attacked by a dragon that bashes up the tower. The wizard could get bitten by one of his experiments and have a month of downtime. The mercenaries could, after going up several levels, leave the area or get wiped out. New mercenaries show up, the dwarves start rebuilding, etc.

    So it may be worthwhile to whip up a nice little table of monthly events for mobile dynamic actors. Something as simple as

    2 Died
    3 -personal wealth and power
    4 Injured
    5 No change
    6 + personal wealth and power
    7 Found great treasure
    8 Advanced goals

    And then maybe a 1 in 6 chance that some new actor comes on the scene - either a previously static entity decides to get a move on or some new entity enters from elsewhere.

    Or maybe that's too much like work. Sounds like it.