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Sunday, April 28, 2019

Solo Role-playing: The Lost City of Barakus Part 4 (Reflections / A Form of GM Prep)

I could be playing another session of this solo campaign right now, but I find myself just pondering the basic concept of solo role-playing instead and some possible other benefits of doing it.

In many ways I think this form of solitaire is actually a great method for GM prep.  You get to experience an adventure first-hand as a player, and see what you enjoyed about it and what you really didn't like at all.  You can use those experiences to better run the game for players in a more traditional session later on down the road.  Playing through an adventure is an experience unlike just READING over everything and taking notes, and really... it's more fun too.  It feels like you are crawling around in the guts and bowels of an adventure and not just looking down on it from some lofty vantage point.  It feels more personal, and the elements of the adventure are sticking in my mind more so than via other methods that I've used to memorize adventures.

I have run some adventures multiple times for multiple groups, such as The People of Pembrooktonshire from Lamentations of the Flame Princess (LotFP), and while that helped me learn it, there is just something different (perhaps even better) about being a player inside an adventure that helps me remember things in more detail.  I tend to learn by doing, and in this case, by playing rather than just skimming over things. 

When you play, you don't go through the encounters in the adventure in an orderly fashion either (or at least I don't).  Often players will: skip encounters, bypass interesting NPCs (or kill them before they utter a word), and meander around in a chaotic fashion that the adventure designer could never anticipate.  Again, this is a different way of interacting with the adventure than just reading it over in an orderly fashion.

Solo role-playing in this light, as being a form of GM Prep, I think should help some people remove that stigma that is sometimes associated with this style of play.  I know I found myself thinking before trying it that playing through an adventure by myself was pathetic, or just seemed lonely, but I've been pleasantly surprised with this whole experiment.

Experimentation.  Sometimes you will be surprised when you try new things, as I have been via solo-role-playing.  I know I've been surprised in how vested I am in the player characters.  In each campaign I always try to do some new trick, or use a new technique that I heard about from some other role-player and this campaign is no different.  I love the interaction of the randomness of tables and dice blended with whatever just "makes sense" for a given encounter, and knowing the characters.

Another aspect is getting to know these characters in and more intimate way, and I suspect sole-roleplaying could help authors flesh out protagonists in unforeseen ways too.  I don't see myself every writing a true novel, but perhaps a short story about these characters might be in order. 

Just a few thoughts.  I hope everyone is having a decent day out there.

P.S. I miss the days of these blog entries automatically being posted to Google+.  Oh well.  It was fun while it lasted. 

Villains of the Undercity RPG Adventure Review (Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #3)

Villains of the Undercity was written by Mark Taormino of Dark Wizard Games, and it is meant for characters of first to third level.  It is statted up for OSRIC but as with most Old School Renaissance (OSR) adventures it would be easy to run this with another retro-clone or fantasy system of your choice.

It should be noted that I was given these adventures by Mark free of charge, for which I am very grateful.  These all look like a blast, but for this review I'll focus on this specific adventure.

The PDF is black and white in a two column format which is pretty standard for OSR publications.

The adventure takes place in a coastal city, and a dungeon lurks beneath it.  It is a straight-forward setup that I have used in other campaigns (namely Empire of the Petal Throne).  I do love Undercities and dungeons beneath settled areas.  They remind me of the film As Above, So Below.  If you've never watched it, check it out.

The included dungeon maps are that nice nostalgic light blue and white, and while the layout of the dungeon isn't super complex or novel it is clean and easily read.  The map should be easily to map out on graph paper for the players.

Rumors can be easily heard about the Sinister One, and his bands of Bugbears, Lizard Men, and Orcs running a slave trade.  Townsfolk have gone missing in greater numbers as of late, prompting the need for desperate and reckless adventurers to explore the depths below to find those kidnapped by this nefarious organization.  This slave trade could lead the group to other locations if the GM wishes.  It would be easy to include wagons loaded with slaves that head off to other locations to be sold off to the highest bidder.

A rumors table, random tavern events, and random encounter tables are a nice old school touch that are useful and easy to read.  Some of the results are rather crass and humorous.  :)

The included art is black and white and it reminds me of the TSR Choose Your Own Adventure books from my youth.  I do appreciate good B&W art!

The stat blocks and NPC speaking lines are bold, as well as text that NPCs might utter to the players.

A sample stat block is included below:
(8) Skeletons (AC: 7, MV: 120 ft, HD: 1, HP: 8 each #AT: 1, D: 1d6, SZ: Man Sized, MR: Standard, SD: Immune to cold, sleep, charm, hold and other mental based attacks, AL: Neutral, Level/XP: 1/15 + 1/HP)

The hanging dead? troll encounter is a fun one.  I think I would have its appendages have a life of their own. (Evil GM Cackle)

Snoot's Rock n' Roll Pit Fight Arena is a bit silly, so you might want to modify this encounter.  I think some more standard bards could foot the bill here.

There are a good many NPCs included in the adventure and that is cool to see.  They are described well.

As with most adventures a GM will need to read through the adventure, make notes, emphasize parts of the text that need to stand out more, etc.  You know, standard GM prep work for running a published adventure.

The art for Cavern of the Snare Beast is really evocative.  Just look at that evil bastard!  Woah!

There is a good amount of treasure, and useful magic items littered here and there in the dungeon IF the player characters can manage to find them.

I love the My Giant and Me encounter.  I want a giant pet spider now!  The art is also very evocative with a Dwarf holding onto a chain leash that holds his eight-legged pet in tow.  The art is included over there. <---

While there isn't a ton of art included, almost every piece is impressive.  Some of the pieces are a bit too "cartoony" for my tastes, but I do like most of it. The pieces I am including here are my favorites.

This adventure looks like it will kick a party's ass if they are the types that just go toe-to-toe for every encounter.  They will need to use magic items, have a good amount of healing and offense, and a good amount of luck to get through it all I think.  Good luck, it looks like a fun challenge.

One of the rooms has chess pieces that animate and attack.  I love this idea.  It reminds me of battle at the end of Time Bandits and that one scene in one of the Harry Potter flicks.

Wendell Hobblefoot (an evil Halfling) literally rules the dungeon and I like that twist, but his art is a bit on the cartoony side as well.

New monster stats are included in an appendix, as well as pregenerated characters to use for the adventure.  I wish more adventures included those. 

While this adventure seems to be on the short side (at 36 pages) it is densely packed with encounters and what appears to be a lot of over-the-top fun.  If you want a more gonzo adventure this can cover you, and if you want to slightly tweak it for a more serious game that is easy to do as well.

It appears like this adventure could possible take up to 2 to 4 sessions to play it all out, but I'll need to playtest that.  Maybe I'll get to use this in my solo campaign, or at my local convention that I run games for twice a year.

I hope to review the rest of the Maximum Mayhem Dungeon adventures, and perhaps get a review up on my RPG YouTube channel as well.  Only time will tell though.  Have a good one.  -Tim

Monday, April 15, 2019

Solo Role-playing: The Lost City of Barakus Part 3 (LL) Dretches & Death Dogs

The party was still mucking and sloshing about in the sewers when they stumbled upon two hideous little Dretches (Demons) dumping soil in the sewer near a now opened secret door.

Giladrina went unconscious again after several bites and claws landed brutal hits.  The Dwarven Cleric saved her from death's door and she managed to cast a Burning Hands spell to take the demons out.

Further into the secret lair they were ambushed by twin Death Dogs and two of the characters were infected with Rotting Death (-1D6 Con).  A Sleep spell put them down but the party fled back to the city of Endhome to lick their wounds.

At Endhome the Priests of Freya cured their diseases and they rested at their rooms at The Lion's Side Inn.  They paid for back rent and two more weeks stay there (6gp per week each).

By this point the group has been adventuring for 12 days.  Some shopping and upkeep was in order.

I really need to improve my record keeping and I started using a group xp sheet, a wealth sheet, and a house rules sheet.  I'm taking notes as I go on college ruled paper in a three-ring binder and that seems to be working well.

My house rules so far are:
*0HP = Unconsciousness
*Sell items for 50% of value
*1gp = 1xp
*If shooting into melee a natural 1 = Friendly Fire

I also need to keep better track of food and expended torches but it's going well and I'm having fun.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Solo Role-playing: The Lost City of Barakus Part 2 (Labyrinth Lord)

I had some more time today than I expected so I got in a second solo RPG session.  It almost ended in a TPK but I'll get to that below.  I'm really enjoying rolling on random tables, going with "whatever makes the most sense," and just enjoying the various sections of The Lost City of Barakus as a player.  I tend to be the GM so it's a nice change of pace.

The characters were all 3rd level but I'm keeping track of individual XP as I go from here on out.  It's actually been awhile since I even worried about XP but for this it just seems to fit.

I'm using a variety of random tables but I need to get them all into physical format so I don't need to be checking my phone so often which comes with distractions.

The Party:
Driya is an Elf Fighter,
Giladrina is an Elf Fighter / Magic-user,
Marzul is a Half-orc Thief,
Tralina is an Elf Thief,
and Ulfgar is a Dwarf Cleric

I'm using some of the options from Advanced Labyrinth Lord aka the Advanced Edition Companion (AEC).

Randon Encounter: Upon leaving the city Ulfgar had his pockets picked my some wandering merchants.

The group then traveled and ambushed The Greentree Bandits but the tide of battle turned against our intrepid heroes (bad dice rolls).  The leaders actually went down easily but the bandit minions were bloodthirsty jerks haha.  Tralina went unconscious and the rest of the party only had a few hit points at the end.  It was interesting to see how invested I was in having the characters survive.

The characters looted the corpses, stole the available wealth, and went back to Endhome to heal up at the inn while the magic-user spent a week doing magical research at the Wizard Academy to acquire a new spell.

The characters upgraded equipment and their armor and were attacked by a Shadow that drained some Strength from them before they could flee.

Next up was visiting the Temple of Freya and the priest sold some healing potions and gave them a new quest to find a missing priestess.  This was a hook to another adventure supplement so I just rolled up 3 random encounters: Giant Lizard (Gecko), Giant Ants, and an Albino Ape which were all from Labyrinth Lord.  Only the ape proved to be a little trouble by rolling two back to back critical hits. In the end they brought back the priestess to her temple.

The last encounter involved a diseased rat swarm that infected Giladrina thereby making her deaf for the near future.

Next up, more splashing around in raw sewage.

Solo Role-playing: The Lost City of Barakus Part 1 (Labyrinth Lord)

I had some downtime so I figured I would try to do some solo role-playing for the first time.  I'm used a variety of random tables, Labyrinth Lord, and The Lost City of Barakus as the adventure.

I'm surprised how much fun it was.  It reminded me of playing PC and NES games like The Bard's Tale and Wizardry. It's sure was better than just staring at a wall. Haha.

I added in a dose of common sense and I tried to flip back and forth from a player's POV and that of a GM.

I've never played or ran The Lost City of Barakus before and this seemed like a cool way to try out and learn the adventure before I run it for my friends or at a convention.

I also had to get over that internal self criticism about solo play.  It just sounded so lonely when I first heard about it.  For people like me though that work all the time it will help to pass the slow hours in an interesting way.

The characters had to fight their way into the city (killing 2 guards) and the Elf ended up doing some research at the magic academy.  The rest of the party got a room at an inn and got their first adventure hook (finding a lost husband in the dungeon).

There were some random encounters too pike thugs and helping a wounded man who gave the Dwarf Cleric a magic gem as a reward (it acts like an Identify spell).

So in closing, if you've never given it a try pull out some random tables and make up some characters and charge into a published adventure or randomly generate one on the fly.