Welcome to the Flaming Faggot

Callovia is called "the boundless empire" yet you have managed to find its northern border - a notorious roadhouse deep within the Madrasan Marches on the edge of the wilds of Llanvirnesse. The sign above the door reads "Flaming Faggot," which would suggest a cozy, homey inn with fresh biscuits served at teatime if not for the severed troll heads mounted on pikes at the gate.

As you cross the threshold the raucous din quiets momentarily as all eyes dart to the door and calloused hands drop instinctively to well-worn sword hilts. The threat, instantly assessed, is dismissed and roadhouse patrons go about their business hardly missing a beat.

Grim, hard-eyed men huddle around tables in close conversation thick with conspiracy; caravan guards gamble away their earnings; Caemric rangers sit close to the fireplace cooking the damp of the Black Annis from their clothes as they warm their innards with Red Dragon Ale; minstrels play and buxom wenches dance for the pleasure of men who pay them little attention - until they need a companion to warm their bed.

As you approach the bar, a huge, bald barman with a greatsword slung across his back slides a mug of freshly-pulled ale towards you, its frothy head dripping over the rim.

"Pull up a seat, lad," he says, "and let me tell you a tale of high adventure."

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Perfect Day

My wife returned, last night, from a week-long trip to Ottawa that left me alone with our high-maintenance four-year-old daughter.  They're off having a picnic in the park for some much-needed mommy-daughter time, giving me a much-needed afternoon at home alone.  Since everyone in my gaming group is away at Prairie-Con this weekend, tonight's game is canceled, so I don't even have any pre-game prep to do.  This is truly a free-day.

After consuming two pots of dark-roast Ethiopian coffee while sitting on the front porch reading S.M. Stirling's In the Courts of the Crimson Kings, I've turned my somewhat jittery hand to finally finishing painting the unit of Ork Boyz that I've been picking away at for the past couple of months while listening to Fleetwood Mac with the volume turned up as loud as I want.

Now it's time to work on converting my campaign over from Castles & Crusades to my newly acquired Swords & Wizardry.  As much as I love C&C, the Player's Handbook is a badly organized and rife with errors that make it frustrating to use in-game.  Since, over the past few months, I've been incorporating more and more house rules to bring the game more in line with AD&D and OD&D, I've decided that it's probably easier just to use the bare bones S&W system and add in what I like, instead of stripping things away.  For quite some time I've been considering doing away with weapon damage by type and adopting the OD&D 1d6 damage for all weapons.  I've also recently come full-circle on my opinion of THAC0.  I was initially quite enamoured with 3E's ascending armour class and base-to-hit system.  I eventually became indifferent to the THAC0/Ascending AC debate, considering them mirror images of the same thing.  But now, I'm of the opinion that THAC0 is a better way to go.  I've come to find that having players add up all their to-hit bonuses and calculate their final score to hit really slows down combat a lot.  What I really have come to appreciate about THAC0 is having the 'base-to-hit' bonus already factored into the table, so all the player needs to do is roll the die and read the result.

I realized that if I were to adopt THAC0 and do away with weapon damage by type, on top of all the other old-school rules I've incorporated, I have very little left of C&C but an annoyingly disorganized rule-book.  So, Swords & Wizardry it is, though I will be retaining the SIEGE mechanic from C&C, which I consider one of the simplest, most elegant, task resolution mechanics I've ever seen.

Converting the characters will be easy: the human cleric and dwarven fighter will be largely unaffected.  I'll be allowing player of the elven wizard to choose to play either a human magic-user or the elf class.  I'm guessing he'll go with the elf, since he's been wanting to be an archer and the elf's fighter/magic user fusion will enable to be even better with a bow.


P. S. Mangus said...

I am relieved to hear that you have embraced many of the Olde Ways and have gone full frontal with your old-school gaming. I was worried that you might be locked into the C&C mentality and not be able to step back and say things like, "THAC0 is a better way to go." I know it took me some time to walk away from that game. I am more convinced than ever that you will love Labyrinth Lord. It isn't perfect, but it allows for tweaks and house ruling with incredible ease. Clamping the Siege Engine onto LL will be a breeze. I would like to hear your opinion of LL compared to S&W once you have digested the rules. They are both great games, so it will be interesting to see which system you end up preferring.

Sean Robson said...

My return to the gaming of my youth has been a gradual but steady process as I wean myself off the 3E mentality.

I plan to finish this campaign out using S&W, and then I've promised my group that I'll run a Savage Worlds game next. After that, I plan to run Labyrinth Lord.

I know that a lot of old school gamers whose opinions I respect, such as yourself, prefer Labyrinth Lord and I'm curious to know what sets it above the other retro clones for so many players. I've never played the Moldvay/Cook or Mentzer games - I was playing AD&D by the time Moldvay basic came out, so it was completely off my radar - so I'm not familiar with how this version of the game differed from the others.

P. S. Mangus said...

Savage Worlds is a game that I have sadly neglected the past few years. When my group ran a playtest we just did not find it as "fast" or "furious" as the game claims to be. Actually, we found combat slow and a little tedious. Maybe we had a bad night, or something... who knows. I want to give it another go sometime though. One house-rule I would make right out of the gate is to eliminate the use of cards in the game. I hate that mechanic!

As for Labyrinth Lord, I can compare it to OSRIC or maybe even C&C, but the other retro-clones I have not tried. I have used Basic Fantasy Roleplay extensively for reference, but thats it. Swords & Wizardry seems cool, but my group would never give such a trimmed down system a chance. When I think of classic D&D I think 1st edition and before. The guys I normally play with think 2nd edition, so they need to feel like there are plenty of options for their characters in the game. Now that I have moved recently I am looking for a new group, so we will see how my style of gaming is received with a new crew.

Sean Robson said...

Savage Worlds is a game that I have sadly neglected the past few years. When my group ran a playtest we just did not find it as "fast" or "furious" as the game claims to be. Actually, we found combat slow and a little tedious.

This was my first impression from reading the rules - the game promises "fast and furious" but it sounds slow and tedious. But, I've learned not to judge a game until I've tried it. With respect to the playing card initiative system - I'm with you 100%. I dismissed that idea as soon as I read it. That would bog down play even more than rolling a d20 for personal initiative. I'll probably just use the group initiative system for Savage Worlds as well - its far faster and 'furiouser.'

A Paladin In Citadel said...

THe does sound like a perfect day!

I have a copy of the C&C rules, but I was put off by the inclusion of the specialist classes, which I have never been a fan of.

Sean Robson said...

Prior to switching to S&W I was planning to strip out many of the classes from C&C, which I feel are largely unnecessary. The knight was first on the chopping block since it's just a way of playing a fighter - it doesn't need to be a class. I'm feeling the same way about the ranger, barbarian, and bard, as well. I prefer not to have a separate character class for minor variations in class abilities - you can usually accomplish what you want by modifying existing class abilities.

A ranger is just a fighter with tracking and woodland stealth, a barbarian is a fighter who can go berserk, etc. Easy enough to modify the fighter class rather than create half a dozen specialist classes.