Thursday, August 20, 2009

OD&D Solo game w/wife - Dice story telling

Last night's game was a story courtesy of the dice and of a miscommunication which made the game even more interesting. After the game, she said "This was a really fun game" which always makes me smile and fills me with satisfaction. So what exactly happened?

My wife's character Aeli has commissioned a sage to find clues to defeating a magical smoke dragon guardian. To do this, she had to "go on credit" to provide the sage with a total of 500 gold plus some books from another individual. She also needed to finish a task of bringing bandits back to the Lord's keep for trial.

A side note - I had the pleasure of finally meeting a fellow OD&D gamer, Tavis from the East Coast. I've known him from the OD&D Boards and we made plans to play some Swords & Wizardry at GenCon. He joined in the large game I ran Saturday night with the crazy blogger crew. Although much silliness ensued during that game, Tavis ran a tight character and did all the right things. To his credit, he participated in all the battles, he disarmed a trap and he survived long enough to find a treasure hoard on level 1. Unfortunately, he was fighting alone at the end and he died. I really enjoyed playing with him.

Tavis posted on the OD&D board on Monday about the dice telling the story and reading it was like gaining another DM level for me. I let the dice tell the story for the AD&D/OSRIC hex crawling game on Tuesday and I let the dice tell the story last night. Both games have gone really well and it has allowed me to become as much an explorer of the game, plot and sandbox as the players are. I think, as a DM referee, this is ideal for me. The dice are impartial, therefore I'm impartial.

As the solo game progressed, Aeli rode with a group of soldiers to return the bandits for trial. It was a very wet, rainy trip. Upon arriving, she left to go see if the Patriarch would give her the books she had retrieved from the Minotaur Mage's ruined tower. However, he was apparently in seclusion and unavailable for the time being. Aeli was going to have to return to the sage empty-handed.

She rounded up the bandits from jail and the escort made their way back through the forest and wild hills back to the Lord's Keep. Surprisingly, there was no attack by the bandits to retrieve their fellow compatriots. Upon return, Aeli was handed 200 gold for the mission (which included some extra for having actually captured the bandits in an earlier adventure) and dismissed.

What is cool is that all of those elements were completely random. A plot-driven, story-driven game might have included a huge bandit attack to free their compatriots, the Patriarch giving the books to Aeli and a completely successful mission. The dice, however, told a different story. No random encounter/wandering monsters were rolled during the game - had there been, then it would have been most likely bandits. There was a 1 in 6 chance that the Patriarch was unavailable - and he was. What is neat is that this opens up all sorts of interesting possibilities that otherwise might not have happened - Aeli has to figure out where to get some books from (the sage is interested in any books from ancient mages - and Aeli has two possible avenues of getting them) and she is now wondering why the bandits didn't attack. Is this the real bandit leader then? Are there other things afoot?

It's freeing and really awesome to see the story develop to my surprise as much as it is for her. I have the broad brush strokes of how the world would progress given no PC input, but once Aeli performs her actions, I get to figure out what happens.

The miscommunication actually made for a better game! Aeli wants to find books for the sage, in return for him telling her how to defeat the smoke dragon. She knows that there may be books in the dungeons she's been in: the ruined tower of Zenopus in the city of Westport and the ruined tower of Alaxus, the Minotaur Mage, near Valetown.

She was in Westport after returning the bandits to the Lord, when my wife says "OK, I want to go to the tower." I'm thinking "OK, Westport, Zenopus's Tower - that's COOL. She wants to return to her first dungeon. Now what would have happened in a month..." So while I got a drink from the fridge, I decided that the Lord probably would have mounted guards and forbidden entrance until the bandit situation is resolved and he could mount an expedition into the tower to determine what was there. So I returned to the table and started playing the role of the guards at the tower's entrance...

... except SHE thought she was back at Alaxus's tower near Valetown! So we're playing two different games for about 10 minutes! She went along with it, even tried to persuade the mage NPC to put the guards to sleep (he was horrified by the suggestion - he doesn't want to hang for attacking guards...) but then when I described what she saw as she went in, it dawned on both of us what had happened! Much laughter followed, but we agreed to play it the way I had interpreted it. That's because she realized she might be able to find more of Zenopus's books AND she was asked by the Captain of the guard to look for bandits in the ruins - which may mean more rewards!

So the plot thickened because of the mistake. Now how cool is that?

Image title: Lady and Youth Playing Draughts, Source: Green, J. R.: "A Short History of the English People" (1902)


Anonymous said...

It was so much fun. I have lots of things to wonder about which is one of my most favorite parts of our games.


Timeshadows said...

Oracular dice and miscommunication, for the win. :D

E.G.Palmer said...

Hey, Chgowiz, did you pick up the illustration you used for this post at Liam's pictures from old books? I was just there yesterday and saw the same pick.

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

@theprincesswife - that's music to my ears. :)

@timeshadows - It's me learning to be the 4x4'ing GM, not the train conductor. :D

@EG Palmer - I did indeed. I have a few go-to places for public domain/old illos and that one fit for the one man/one woman playing a game aspect. That illo was from: Green, J. R.: "A Short History of the English People" (1902) and the picture is titled "Lady and Youth Playing Draughts"

CaptPoco said...

"Let the dice tell the story"

This sounds like a really cool principle. Did you think it up Chgowiz? Or, if you didn't where did you find it?

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

@Capt Poco - that's something that's been a mainstay of my old school games for a long time, but not to where I was really aware of it and using it. Tavis's article linked above kicked me in gear, but guys like Jeff Rients and charts from Fight On and Knockspell have been motivating me for a long time.

There's a good thread on the OD&D Board that's about "Random Resources":

Tavis said...

Thanks for the kudos, Chgowiz! I had a great time in your Gen Con game, although I wouldn't have thought "doing all the right things" would involve running full-tilt into things to see if they're illusions :)

CaptPoco, the impetus for the post that Chgowiz mentions was an e-book by Graham Walmsley, "Play Unsafe", about using improv techniques in your games. He doesn't talk about random events per se, but the principle of rolling something up, accepting whatever it is, and finding a way to run with it is like the technique of accepting input from players & running with it that Graham focuses on. Both are things that good DMs do, but the book helps focus your awareness on it & recognize when you're doing the opposite (like shutting down player ideas/dice rolls that would go against the pre-determined story you want to tell).

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

@Tavis - bwah! I forgot about that. You running into walls was hilarious! It was a good idea... but just the mental image at midnight of a fully decked out fighter running full tilt into a huge sand door... priceless!