Saturday, January 9, 2010

OD&D Solo game w/wife - Dragons!

Last night, I got to do something that I've not done as a DM - I got to run a dragon. OK, it was a smoke dragon - a construct - but it was still fun to have this thing billow forth, put the Black Dragon miniature on the altar and have it thunder "BEGONE INTRUDERS OR DIE!!!" It was a guardian to the Tomb of Alaxus, so it was rather limited in scope, but it still was powerful enough to put 3/4ths of the party out of commission with it's choking breath weapon. It roared forth a streaming, billowing cloud of smoke around the party and most of them went down choking and coughing with failed saving throws.

That was when I could the "screw it, I'm dead" look on my wife's face. She was overwhelmed with her plans and party falling apart almost from the get go. It was at that point that I slowed the game down and walked her through what she knew:
- The dragon was a construct, linked to some sort of anchor - clues in the tomb told her it was a cup. She had just gone through a few days worth of adventure to get a sage to give her some advice on how to defeat it, but all that ran out her head when she faced the danger.
- Where was the cup? She had assumed she could just walk in, grab the cub and control the dragon. She had forgotten that the first time she entered the huge chamber, the dragon appeared right away. She wasn't putting the clues together in her panic - that the smoke originated from the stone altar in the corner. By slowing down the game and walking her through it, she realized that the cup was probably on the altar, but hidden now by the smoke from the dragon.
- What to do now that the original plan was up in smoke? (hehehehe) She had herself and another party member left. "What can you do?" She thought about it and came up with the remaining active hireling to go grab the cup while she confronted the dragon, distracting it. That was a reasonable plan, as the dragon recognized Aeli as the strongest party member. It's confidence was it's undoing as the dice had favored my wife... this thing had on 13hp and it was a 4HD monster!

The plan worked! Aeli chopped into the smoke dragon, disrupting it's cohesiveness with a nice series of blows. The hireling named Rather dashed up to the altar, found the cup and just as the dragon was turning to throw it's breath weapon at him, he smashed the cup while Aeli sliced through for the final blow!

One relieved wife looting the chest of gold later...

I also ran into a classic potential dead end myself... there's a tomb here, she legitemately found the symbol indicating the door, but she was failing rolls to find the way to open it. She knew what was going on, but the dice were saying that she wasn't getting it done right away. Well, sometimes you let the dice tell the story and sometimes you have to figure out what else to do. So, I gave her a tradeoff. She spent two hours figuring out the hidden double doors, then using swords from fallen skeletons to pry it open a crack, then her and a party member testing their Strength against it to pull it open enough for one person to squeeze through.

I think the new gamers call it "taking 10", but I called it 5 wandering monster rolls that came up empty (argh!) and the loss of 6 ancient swords that could have been worth money. Man, talk about the rolls going her way with monsters! Dead end overcome through resource exchange and risking combat. I'll take that and now she's got a dark, damp corridor beckoning...

So we've frozen the game in place (a luxury that I indulge in when we're going to play the next day) and we'll see what happens as she begins to plumb the Tomb of Alaxus. I can't wait!

12 comments:

PrinceHerb said...

I recognise that guy with the lantern from one of the old D&D miniatures boxes - I think the hirelings one. Nice to see him still in use, if not painted quite yet.

Christian said...

Love the smoke dragon idea. Say, how are you two liking the use of the vinyl battle mat?

JB said...

Actually, regarding the "failed roll = dead end" thing, here's where some advice from Ron Edwards has steered me well: Failed rolls don't have to mean OUTRIGHT ABJECT failure. It can simply mean you failed to succeed at your task.

And failing to succeed can mean: failed to open the door quickly, failed to open the door quietly (without attracting wandering monsters), failed to open the chest without damaging the stuff inside...basically failing to succeed means life doesn't go as well as you'd hoped.

Only in some cases (and generally, non-plot dependent situations!) should a failed roll stop the action dead in its tracks.

Good work throwing a dragon into the game by the way...even a construct!

Chgowiz said...

@PrinceHerb - that would be the old Grenadier Hirelings set - I can't wait to start painting them.

@Christian - I had bought that at GenCon (it was one of the "defective" ones they sell - I can't see the defect...) and hadn't used it. When we got to the cavern, I wanted to make it a big deal for @tpw since she'd worked so hard on prepping. You should have seen her eyes go all big when I started drawing on it! It worked out well!

I don't usually use the mat, as I'd much rather have the players imagine the game in their head, but I will do it at times and I liked this. Worked very nicely! It's so big, it covers the enter table.

@JB - that's been a constant piece of ducttape in my toolbox. I don't play to a master plot that I've constructed, this was all her doing. Since she was already at the door, it made little sense that she wouldn't be able to figure it out, so she traded the resource of time/supplies (and risk of combat) for success. There definitely was no gimmee - if she'd failed the strength check, back to Valetown for crowbars!

I never let failures stop a game (I hesitate to say plot) rather I use them to my advantage as a failure simply opens the door to something else that the dice want to tell a story about. I am proud to say that I try to be a sadistic bastard about some of those failures...

Zachary The First said...

What a wonderful story! Love the smoke dragon...memo to self...hehe

Andreas Davour said...

Who wouldn't have gotten a bit shaky at that moment when the plans falls apart...

Verhaden said...

Love reading the playthroughs--trying to get my girl interested. On another note, I see my character sheet has taken a lot of abuse. I was thinking about revising it pending the arrival of WhiteBox--any problems or suggestions with it?

Chgowiz said...

@Zach - courtesy of the AD&D Quick Start scenario - it was right around 1998 after the three Grubb Fast Play modules - it had the pre-3.0e art in it.

@Andreas - Oh, I agree, but she was new to that, so I had to slow things down and get her to work through the problem.

@Verhaden - That's your sheet? Man, I have been looking for the author of that for a long time. I couldn't find it anymore and I've been copying it faithfully! It's in the Quick Start :)

Things I would alter:
- Make the hex for the AC look like a shield.
- Under HP, instead of that huge grey box, put Current and space to fill it in.
- Weapons - put type and dmg columns or headers.

That's all I would change, it's basically a very good sheet. I use it all the time for my S&W games.

Elton said...

Something always has to happen when you "take 10" on something like that. Thanks for calling it on destroying the antique swords. Too bad you were "nice" and you couldn't have ruled that they were rusty (and worth destroying anyway).

Cool session!

Verhaden said...

Well, until I get around to releasing the new version, the old one has always been available on the Mythmere Games website in the "Downloads" section under stuff for WhiteBox.

sillysavage said...

Just passing through and read the post about the Tomb of Alaxus. Which caught my interest as this must mean that you were using the silver aniversary boxed set and the village of Haven or the Vale...as it were...correct? Could you tell me more about your setting with this product...
-Sillysavage
sillysavage1@yahoo.com

Chgowiz said...

@sillysavage - these are indeed based on the old "Fast Play" modules by Jeff Grubb. I wrote about my campaign overall here - http://oldguyrpg.blogspot.com/2009/02/we-play-old-school-wifes-solo-game.html