Thursday, 4 April 2013

Getting the best from Basic D&D

We partook of more Basic D&D last night. I'd managed to successfully divert the party from the task of finishing the Caverns of Quasqueton (Module B1) whilst they were resting in the nearest town of Westwald with the timely arrival of merchants for market day, one of whom had narrowly escaped an orc ambush on the road up.

They took the bait, and offered their services as escort for the returning caravan. This gave me lots of scope to really stretch the different roleplaying required with Basic (compared with the local staple of 4ed.)

For example, as the day wore on, one of the NPCs in the party had vanished into the forest next to the road, and I kept getting the dwarf to make Constitution rolls against falling asleep in the warm afternoon sun. The players missed the point of this, however, they picked up the far-off wolf howls when calling out for the NPC.

After a while, after much hinting, one of the party remembered the seemingly inconsequential telescope they'd bought in Westwald. The Cleric jumped onto the back of the wagon, and promptly failed an intelligence test to use it. He decided to go ask the NPC Wizard - in another wagon with the NPC Thief - only to discover they'd nodded off in the afternoon heat (it was the crash of the collective penny dropping regards the Cons rolls for the dwarf which woke them). Wizard, once woken, spots a large wolf pack some way off.

The wolf pack, when it attacked just after dark, also gave me more 'BD&D is better' ammo; the Cleric, on his own, saw two wolves break off from the shadowing pack and streak in towards him. Needing to describe his actions - rather than just pull out a daily power and roll a gazillion dice - he stalled by asking how far away they were;

"250 feet and closing fast"
"200 feet"
"I'll, erm, err"
"150 feet"
"Throw my torch at them" (rolls a 13)
"The torch goes 30 feet... 100 feet and closing"
"Right, I'll, erm"
"I'll quickly..."
"Too late, roll for initiative"

Great fun as DM, really puts the players under pressure to think fast. So much more refreshing than simply presiding over a sequence of players calling out which special power they want to use.

After the session, some puffing of cheeks with "wow, that was tough" was interesting - it wasn't, they defeated a dozen wolves and a dire wolf in dribs and drabs without too much effort. But being put under pressure to think fast, think clearly, and act decisively is mentally exhausting if previously you've had plenty of time to do things.

The other cool bit was the realisation that only the failed Int check to use the telescope had made them discover the sleeping Wizard and Thief, otherwise they'd have faced a wolfpack with only a dwarf, a cleric, and an NPC fighter.

Now I just need to think how the inevitable Orc ambush is going to unfold, and how I can challenge the players in a similar fashion. 

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