Thursday, October 3, 2013

My Perception vs. Player Perception

In our last session the party climbed into a hole in a cloud. At the bottom - deep inside the cloud - they found a small river leading to a dark lake, the extent of which they could not make out in the dim light. Gemma the dwarf and Dvin the gnome eased out to the end of a rickety boardwalk extending out over the water. Just below the surface of the water, at the edge of the light, bones were emerging from the water. They clicked and they clacked and the water bubbled, and the bones self-assembled into a bridge extending from the darkness towards the party. Fingerous phalanges eventually wiggled out of the water near the adventurers, as the terminus of the bridge pulled itself up onto the boardwalk. At the edge of the light, ghouls with scabbed, cracked faces shambled across the bridge towards the party, and animated skeletons emerged, self-assembling, from the body of the bridge itself. A tough fight! The party won! The adventurers then walked across the skeletal bridge to a small island, where they found a prize in the ghoul refuse: a small golden orb bearing microscopic engravings - a map of an unknown world. the whole session was basically a single encounter. I thought it was a good, fun encounter and I had a blast as the DM. I felt a little disappointed afterwards, however, because there wasn't much in the way of exploration, narrative advancement, or NPC interaction in the game. I try to have every session present a good splash of each of these elements because it's the kind of stuff I like when I play. Also, there was a lot more chit-chat than usual that night (which is cool, the players are friends, some of whom I haven't seen in a while), music was playing the background, and there were plenty of miniatures and gratuitous Dwarven Forge settings - all in violation of immersion dogma! I had fun, but I wasn't sure how "well" I did as a DM...

Within the fews days after the session, however, three of the players separately mentioned to me how much they liked the session - especially the skeleton bridge. Ok, cool!

Dear Princess Celestia: Although this truth should always be self evident, it's important for me to always remember that sometimes it's okay to have a simple night of beer, metal, monster killing, and treasure fondling. As a Dungeon Master I shouldn't fret too much about packing every single session with mapping, dialogue, and weird characters. The simple, perennial pleasures of death dealing and leveling-up will never disappoint anyone who plays the game of Dungeons & Dragons.

Session 7 ghoul smashing music:

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

ACKS Minimal Edition for OD&D Fans

If I were going to start a new campaign I would almost certainly go with the Adventurer Conqueror King System for a ruleset. For me this game hits closer to the sweet spot between crunch, flexibility, and user friendliness than perhaps any of the other retro D&D-inspired systems out there. I was aware of ACKS when I started my current campaign, but decided not to adopt it because the core rulebook is still a bit too long and fluffy for my tastes. It contains a lot of material that is of extremely high quality, but is largely extraneous for my own campaign.

Damn. If I had only known about THIS:

The ACKS Character Codex. This book is a beautiful thing. It is the core of ACKS system condensed into a small digest-sized booklet. It's essentially a Men & Magic or Player's Handbook for ACKS. And it's only $4.45 on Lulu! (This isn't an advertisement, by the way - I have no connection to the creators of this item.) This means if a referee wants to adopt the system, they could afford to buy a stack of copies to hand out to players. The referee could then use the more voluminous core book as a reference.

This book looks great. Here you can see it compared to the Grey Co. Spellbook supplement and the original Men & Magic:

Here's the title page:

Tavis Allison tipped me off on this thing. Apparently the Codex is not considered an official Autarch publication, however Tavis tells me that an official version of the Codex is on Autarch's lengthy to-do list. Let Autarch know if you want more stuff like this. I do!