Thursday, May 21, 2009

OD&D Solo Game with my wife - The bandit trap

Last night, @theprincesswife and I continued our "short sessions" with more OD&D solo game play. This was a session where I had to come up with stuff on the fly and walk the line again of "How far do the NPCs go to help the player out?".

My wife's character (Aeli) is waiting for the leather worker to finish her "slingshot", so she decided to pick back up on the bandit story and see if she could find them. She wasn't sure how to proceed, so I led her on a bit of brainstorming how she might find bandits. She finally came up with "ask around town" and "go out in the woods and look around" - so I asked her which one might have better results. After thinking about it, she decided to ask around some of the locals - which led her to the Vicious Pixie (thank you, LotFP, for the Inn Generator in Fight On! #2).

After learning how to bribe toothless, bald, greasy tavern keepers for information (HINT: Lots of gold!), Aeli sent her two henchmen to grab a sallow youth and proceeded to interrogate him at the point of a blade. This is where all the improvisation came in. I had to connect this guy with an encounter area outside of town. So the youth, Nib, confessed to having lured hapless caravans to a campground 5 hours walk from town, and signalling bandits that there was easy prey. Dragging Nibs with her, Aeli and posse proceeded to gear up and set a trap.

This is going to work, right?
The large sheets of grid paper and the crayon terrain laid out a large open area surrounded by trees. I had the henchmen ask/negotiate/suggest a good trap to lure the bandits in, so the mage could cast sleep on them. This is where I still had that uneasy feeling I was doing too much of the decision making - but at the same time, I didn't want @theprincesswife to get frustrated at trying to set up her trap. So after some back and forth, and a quick wandering monster battle with a vampire bat, the group lit a large fire, Nibs reluctantly laid out the signal rocks and they waited.

The trap is sprung
At this encounter point, I had given it a 25% chance that bandits would attack anyone camping there. Since @theprincesswife had gone through the trouble of finding Nibs and dragging him along to help set up a trap, I increased the odds favorably to 50/50 that it would work and bandits would show up. A quick roll of the d%100 and at 27% percent, the battle was on! The bandits crept up to the fire and charged the "merchants" (hirelings) lying asleep.

Yes, it worked!
One of the hirelings who had failed his morale surrendered to the bandits in a completely realistic show (he really was surrendering) and at that, the mage threw sleep and put out most of the bandits. Two got away, but the leader was surrounded and forced to surrender at sword-point. I think if @theprincesswife could have high-fived her party, she would have! Now they're going to proceed back to the farm community - she quickly is becoming the Heroine of Valetown!

Lessons I learned from this game:
  1. Crayons make the coolest terrain generators.
  2. It's awesome to watch players advance the story, forcing you to DM by the seat of your pants and watch the situation come together.
  3. I love it when a plan comes together, even if it's not my own. Those 10 bandits could have really caused some hurt had the mage not gotten lucky on his Number of Creatures Affected roll.
  4. Spur of the moment adjudications of grappling/tackling are much easier than any grappling/tackling rules that I've read/seen.


Badmike said...

"Spur of the moment adjudications of grappling/tackling are much easier than any grappling/tackling rules that I've read/seen."

Amen. Has any of these actually worked? Far better to just ask the players to roll dice, and let them know how the scrum is going by what they roll "A 20? You just slammed that guy to the ground with his arm behind his back and he's eating dirt". or "A 2? Whoops, you tripped on a spilled drink on the tavern floor, and fly backwards to smash against the table of half-orcs quietly drinking in the corner....they get up, looking none too happy your brawling has spoiled their drinking...."

Chgowiz said...

Right. In this case, everyone made a to hit roll. There were 3 people trying to grab this guy. If two hit, he was down. If only one hit, then I had them do opposed strength checks to see if the target broke free. It flowed fast and made sense.

The cleric fumbled his tackle and ended up blinded for a round (Agh! Dirt in my eyes!)

sirlarkins said...

Solo games can be tricky in the realm of player problem-solving, I've found. It's the one big impediment, actually, the lack of that collective player brain pool that can bounce ideas around and hatch crazy schemes. I think a little bit of leading is sometimes absolutely essential in a solo game. Those types of games really can't be held to the same standards as group games.

Chgowiz said...

@SirLarkins - I think you're right, but I am one of those DMs that could all to easily try to railroad people and I try to religiously not do that. Control freak. (yea, surprise.)

I think I have to trust @theprincesswife that she would tell me, but I'm just paranoid enough that I obsess on that point.

Anonymous said...

@Chgowiz It's not railroading, it's playing along. Because it is a solo game I don't want to "feel" like i'm playing all by myself. I listen to the suggestions and then make the decision i choose. I'm also still learning. I don't have a group to learn from only my DM and NPC's.

The PrincessWife

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading this post and how the game turned out. Sometimes solos are a bit trickier, but it is a fun challenge for the people on both sides of the screen. What I really like is Chgowiz's fairness.

What slays me (and has in past games) are those DMs that play favorites with the significant other. That really threw me off a few years ago when playing RIFTS with these a group of guys and found out a bit later that two of them were "roommates".

That explained the curtains, though.

Andreas Davour said...

Fun to hear how it goes in your game. Maybe I could entice my wife to a game like this if I tell her how well it goes for you. :)

There must be a way to write good grappling rules. Somehow.

Chgowiz said...

@theprincesswife - It's most definitely my hangup, but I'm getting better about it.

@bat - I had a bad experience a year ago with a prospective group - when I was wanting to join a 3E/4E game. We played an indie game and I roleplayed my character well enough that the "wife" did not like me at all. She didn't like a man being independent and not beholden to her. I was never invited back again. :-/

@Andreas - agreed. I think the simplest are just "to-hit" and use strength checks if it's one on one.