Monday, March 29, 2010

Update on the Castle Zagyg Game This Past Weekend



We had a good time.  Lots of laughing, and "Oh Shit!" moments, especially after the nefarious Gygaxian group teleport to a random part of the dungeon, and a fall into a 10' pit trap. When the Hippogriff carried off and ate the sturdy pack mule and large sack full of trap testing chickens, it wasn't too bad of a moment either  :)

This was a combo event, celebrating Dave Arneson Gameday and TARGA's International Traditional Roleplaying Week.  As such, the way I ran it was open and sandboxey, befitting the 70's style of play. I let the players decide how to approach it, where they wanted to enter, etc.  I made the entire dungeon open to exploration, not just certain areas.  Which required a shitload more prep-time, but what the hell.  By way of pre-packaged background and motivation, I explained that the Castle itself recently appeared out of the mist it has been shrouded in for a few hundred years, and that the last time it was "open for business" the people who explored it found much wealth and magic, as well as monsters and danger, and that their group of explorers and adventurers wants the same.  Again, pure 70's.  :)

It was a 5 hour one-shot adventure, so any further incorporation into a setting or world scheme would be wasted.  Plus, I wanted to run it without a story-oriented goal of save the princess, or something equally as goody-two-shoesey.  Also, the pregen characters I provided were all neutral in alignment, with no Rangers and Paladins.

Though the ruleset was advertised as AD&D, I sprung a surprise on the group, and in the weeks prior to the game purchased 4 OSRIC books for use during the game.  I figured what the hell, I may as well get the clones some exposure.  I wanted the players to see how the game was the same.  Besides, though I have 4 copies of the AD&D PHB, I figured why give them more wear and tear.  There were lots of positive comments on the OSRIC books.

The module itself is huge, comprised of 5 booklets, hundreds of rooms, and shitloads of maps.  In prepping for the game, I soon realized that there is no way to memorize the thing in any meaningful way.  What I did instead, was get familiar with each of the mini-stories of the dungeon, of which there were dozens. The kobolds in one area, the bandits in another, etc., all had their own mini-story. One suggestion given to me was to make sure the characters interacted with the various groups in the dungeon, and maybe have the groups interact with each other through the characters.  He said that if the dungeon was run as as a straight up “knock down door, kill shit, take stuff,” lather, rinse, repeat, sort of thing it would be boring.  Made sense.

So that's what I did. I had enough knowledge of each mini-story that when the players went to each zone, I was able to be aware of each of the zones around it, the bad guys and encounters in it, and made sure the module mini-stories all interacted logically with the story the characters were there to create.  Note that by "story" I don't mean some pre-planned railroady thing.  I just mean a list of the groups infesting the dungeon, their locations, backgrounds and motivations, as well as their interactions and dealings with other groups in the dungeon.  That comprised what I call the mini-story of each group.  Collectively, they are the story of the Dungeon itself.

One other thing I wanted to make sure I did was stay as true to the module as possible. Since I advertised the game as Castle Zagyg: Upper Works, and people came to play it specifically, I wanted to give them the module as closely as I could to the way it was written.  I feel it is sort of an obligation to give people what you advertise, as well as an obligation to the authors of the module.  In my own campaign, I would feel equally as obligated to change it around to fit my group and their playstyle and goals. But here, I wanted to give it to them in as pure a form as I could.  That includes reading boxed text, which I like in a module.  I think there are so few ways for the module author's voice to stand out, for his own particular style to shine, since people change things around to integrate it with their individual campaigns.  Boxed text is perhaps the best way, other than zany maps, to express the author's voice.

I had 5 players.  There were 6 initially, but one dropped out before we began, saying the room was too loud. We had about 35 people playing various games, plus a few playing Warhammer 40k, so it was a packed place. I found I had to stand to project my voice in order to be heard, so I felt bad he felt he couldn't play, but I understood.  The other guys came from various backgrounds, but mostly started their D&D careers with newer than AD&D systems.  Two of the guys began in the 2e era, and had some experience with older rulesets, while one other seemed to have more exposure to older rulesets.

Two players had to leave right after we finished the game, so we didn't get a chance to talk that much, but of the other three I asked for feedback, of any type.  I always want to know how to get better, especially since I have so few opportunities to play with people outside of my regular group, and I usually play and not DM.   They all said they had a good time, which was a relief.  The two guys who began with 2e said they would have liked it better if it was less open-ended and had more or a story oriented approach. Some mission, or goal, or quest, and as a by-product exploration and looting and slaying would occur.  The other guy with seemingly more experience with older editions didn't seem to care as much about that.  Obviously a meaningless statistical sampling, but interesting nonetheless.

When it was all over, I raffled off one of the OSRIC books to the guys who played with me.  Tavis, who organized the event, picked the name out of a dice bag.  Afterwards, Tavis, 2 of my players, and one of his (a guy who never played D&D of any type before that day) went out and kicked back a few beers and some bar grub and yacked about geek stuff and non-geek stuff.

Overall, it was a good day.  I look forward to doing it again. :)