I've been running a really rewarding Glorantha-based Solar System
campaign this winter, but lately we've had trouble getting the four people involved together; we've missed three weeks in a row now, I think. What we're going to do tomorrow is to play something else instead with a slightly different crew. What I'd like to discuss with you is approaches to playing Lamentations of the Flame Princess
successfully with a group that has mixed experience with the school of play, in a one-shot context. As I'll explain shortly, I have a solid backing of plan-Bs, but if somebody can suggest a truly inspiring scenario or some useful methodology for getting the game going, all the better; I'm excited to play a D&D session right here and now with these people, but I'm yet to settle on one particular idea, and the game is tomorrow. Also, I think that it'll do me good to get my plans straight by writing them down here.
A couple of points about our group and conditions:
- It's probably going to be me and three young college kids, men all. I'm the strong default of a GM in these circles, but the players are mostly active and experienced. In this case we'll be playing in a bit of a mixed group in terms of skill and experiences: one of the players is part of the elite cadre I've been schooling through the last decade, one is an experienced yet painfully geeky gamer and one is a gamer-lite type I haven't played with before, but who I hear has a solid grounding in World of Warcraft.
- We're going to play at a local Irish pub that's been our venue of choice this winter. The session's going to start at 1pm tomorrow and end around six or so, ideally. The intent is to make this a one-shot for now, but we're open to further development of the play relations if the chemistry among the group works.
- The social point of the meet-up is to play something fun and moderately hard-core, basically to scratch the itch and get some quality gaming in after a few weeks of missed sessions; getting to know the new guy is a secondary goal, of course. To this end our group is fully conversant with both boardgaming and roleplaying, so the range of potential activities is quite large.
Also, here's the actual challenge: basically what we sit down to play tomorrow will only really be decided on once we get there and go through the options face-to-face. I'm raring to go with D&D, but will be happy to go with something else if whatever I think up can't measure up to the alternatives. Thus, I have this list of alternate games that will have to be beat by any idea for it to have a chance to get realized tomorrow:
- Tower of the Stargazer
- Apparently nobody in the group has played this LotFP adventure yet, so it's likely what I'm going to do if I can't think up anything more exciting. I like TotS a lot, so it's not a loss if we end up playing it, but I do have my concerns: the adventure is pretty sadistic as Raggi's fare tends to be, which might not be the perfect pitch when two thirds of the players don't have prior experience with old-school D&D. Furthermore, TotS is more of a two-session deal with my GMing style, so choosing to play this is automatically going to mean an incomplete session.
- Fables of Camelot
- The foremost competitor for D&D for our session is this beta playtest game I wrote with Sami Koponen last summer. It's basically intended as a simple, powerful one-shot introduction to roleplaying via Forge-style narrativist adventuring, so it's very suitable for the situation. If it seems that the new guy, particularly, is all for heroic drama and not so much for gritty death in the depths of earth, this is going to be the fall-back plan.
- If it becomes apparent to us tomorrow that the chemistry's not so good, or if somebody failed to rest sufficiently beforehand or whatever, then we're going to play Manila or Attika or some such mid-heavy German games instead of roleplaying. So ideally whatever I come is at least as entertaining and easy to get into as your average boardgame.
Those familiar with my occasional romancing of D&D know what I like to have in the game: challenges that take daring, strategy and tactics to complete, vivid fiction that makes sense, very little of the traditional bullshit conventions such as arbitrary magical traps or whatnot. Considering this, what should I do to make my prospective D&D one-shot a successful introduction to the genre for the two guys who've yet to see the game and a fun, complete evening's entertainment for the third who's pretty familiar with this sort of thing already? I'm more interested in good one-shot scenarios for first-level characters than rules suggestions, although I'll take the latter when they specifically concern making the game work for the above conditions. (As you might know, I do work on and off on my own heavily houseruled versions of D&D; this weekend I just want to play LotFP rather than my own, radically different mechanics.)
To get the discussion going: while I like almost everything about the streamlined red box as presented in LotFP, I'm thinking that for the purposes of the one-shot I'm going to drop the initial gear-purchase phase of chargen altogether. I frankly think that agonizing over whether to get 10 or 20 feet of rope is bullshit in itself, and even worse, the perusing of equipment lists, counting coins and ending up purchasing 15 dogs* is the single slowest phase of chargen in this game and probably every other game that has equipment lists. I'm looking forward to introducing merciless character death as a positive feature of the game, and this facet tends to suffer horribly when a new character requires more than just a quick reroll of the stats to achieve. So what I'll do instead tomorrow is to just declare that all weapons do d6 damage (a familiar rule from other editions of the game), fighters get 15 AC and everybody else gets 10 or 12 depending on whether they're armored or not, player's choice. Everybody gets the "adventurer's basics" package, too, which is basically everything a sensible player would buy anyway. Nobody gets any money to start with, the characters just spent it all before the adventure begins. Any equipment or wealth found in play works normally on top of this start-up.
Adventure-wise, if we ignore the aforementioned Tower of the Stargazer, I don't really have much right now, except that I want it to involve mortal danger and enough wealth to get characters to second level if they play smartly; bonus points if the adventure moves quickly enough to get a character to second level after the first 70% or so of play. I usually end up doing something like the Fury of Nifur
when left to my own devices, but this time I'd much rather do a dungeon or some such thing with ample combat and opportunity for encounters with weaker, equally-strong and stronger dangers. For this reason, a forum discussion: perhaps somebody can point me towards something excellent.
* Dogs being enticingly cheap in LotFP. I've yet to start a chargen session of the game without some comic deciding that they'd rather have 25 dogs than any body armour, thank you.