Frequently Asked Questions for Prospective Players

Frequently asked questions are answers frequently questioned

In an effort to answer as many questions as expediently as possible, I put this page up. The point is to help you help yourself, at least insofar as the obvious questions people have about a campaign and the style and goals of the game.

Note that the content here will likely evolve over time as new questions are asked and I come up with something that sounds reasonable. I can't anticipate everything… can I? (Hmmm…)

If you don't see what you're looking for and should belong here, just contact me and I'll add it when I get around to it.


Access to more resources to acclimate a user to the game can be found linked off of the welcome page of the site.

The elevator pitch

Every good campaign can be summed up quickly with an elevator pitch, so here goes:

“I know it's hard to believe that in the last age The Empire spanned the known world, but it's true! Incredibly, despite its expansiveness it could be traversed as rapidly as the sun crosses the sky, or even faster! The whole of the Known World, ruled benevolently! It was an incredible age of learning, wealth and power.

“In time, though, Chaos came from without and took root within. Its tendrils grew and infested The Empire, eventually strangling it and severing its ties, leaving its scattered peoples to their own fates. All that remains today is a dwindling number of city-states and, worse yet, bloodthirsty warlords built amongst the ruins.

“At The College we heard the stories about a mysterious scoundrel near Threshold who claims he discovered vast riches in the wilds beyond the frontier along with other tales of strange beasts and magic being found. When I inquired with local merchants it was said that he paid in strange coins and stones rather than hacksilver. The stories say he found them in the ruins of Morn, but that's yet to be ascertained.

“But then, I am sure you've heard the same rumors as well, friend. That is likely why you are here from the looks of you. I hope your sword arm is as strong as your stomach if you'll be eating Perrel's cooking before you set out!”

Tepanir, in the taproom of The Orc and the Pie

This is an old-school sandbox campaign based on equally old-school rules and sensibilities and structured to fit into the busy lives of adults.

Beginner and veteran players alike are welcome! New characters will be rolled before play begins or you may use a pre-generated character.

The premise is simple: a fallen civilization ripe for plunder, with a greater backstory and mystery should you seek to find it.

The goal? Kill monsters, take their stuff and have fun. Sound good? Then grab some dice and pass the Cheetos!

2015/08/14 17:20 · Killer DM

Organizational overview

The game is intended to be similar to the famed West Marches campaign that all the cool kids like to emulate these days, albeit with a more narrow initial focus. There's (initially) no regularly scheduled game day, no regular adventure party, and no overarching plot driven by the DM.

The players are in charge of scheduling, building the roster of adventurers for their expeditions and setting their own goals. Players who are merely plot-followers or demand spoon-feeding of a story may have trouble with the sandbox format, as players must set their own goals based on previously gathered information and accomplishments.

Game style

TL;DR

In short, this is an old-school game, with all that connotates. The game is a sandbox game run beer-and-pretzels style. I treat the game as a game and not some sort of grand storytelling event or realistic simulation. Also, since I have a life I am looking for a minimum of prep time to get to the table and have fun.

You might also be interested in checking out my DMing style.

More detail

Foremost, this is a "beer-and-pretzels" game. We're here to have fun and don't take things too seriously. Let's have a few laughs, kill monsters and take their stuff!

In that vein, this is an old-school style game; we're going to part… er, game like it's 1979!… or '82… or something like that. It's a rules-light, rulings-not-rules, DM-fiat, damn-the-splatbooks sort of experience. If your meat and potatoes consists entirely of complex character builds, min-maxing, rules lawyering and perfect character balance then this probably isn't your ideal game.

The game is a sandbox (albeit a shallow one at first). Players are in charge of setting their goals and balance of risk versus reward. Also, there are events happening in the world, but there's no overarching plot they are expected or required to take part in. Instead, there's just an overarching environment. This isn't story time, it's game time.

Speaking of, a game should be just that: gamey. Players move their characters around, things are measured in turns, there's rules, etc. There's a touch of simulationism in that rules describe the world, we're tracking resources and the like… but narrative be damned. There's no epic story; you are not Big Damn Heroes™. You're a band of ragtag murder hobos that kill monsters and take their stuff then fritter the proceeds away on weird schemes, orgies and mind-altering substances of your choice. (A good way to put it comes from an old-school blog I read: “First, it’s not a story, it’s a game. Second, you don’t win because you’re heroes. You’re heroes if you win.”) Players make their own stories for their characters because it makes it worth so much more than something just handed to you; if you're not into that and just want to explore, roll dice and fight, that's great, too!

Finally, I'm looking for minimal preparation time for sessions. I want a game where I don't spend four hours prepping for every hour at the table. I've done that before and I think that's a large part of what originally drove me out of gaming. I'll be doing a lot of riffing off sparse notes and random tables at the table and playing on what happens during actual play.

Scheduling

The players are in control. The game is specifically designed to be flexible, so that it can fit into the schedule of busy adults. You play as you find time to play, and just because so-and-so can't make it this week it doesn't mean everyone else can't play if they're all available. If you can play once a week that's fine, and if you can only play once a month, that's fine too.


Game sessions only happen when the players decide to do something. The players initiate all adventures and it's their job to schedule games and organize an adventuring party once they decide on an objective.

There is an email list for the campaign that players must join by visiting the siteTODO or sending an email to the groupTODO. Players interested in playing on a given day should post to the list and say what they would like to do, looking for others who would like to join them on the expedition. An example message may be something like, “I'd like to play Sunday afternoon, and think we should go check out the ruined monastery that we heard about past the Gloomy Hills. Who's interested?” Players might suggest alternate dates, different objectives or whatever, but it is up to the players to reach consensus and organize the expedition.


The only hard scheduling rules are:

  1. I'd like us to play biweekly if possible, but I'm not above weekly if we can manage it. (That would rock, actually, assuming I could manage it myself.)
  2. The DM has to be available that day.
  3. The players have to secure a place to play.
  4. The players have to tell the DM where they plan on going well in advance (at least five calendar days, but more is always better) so he has a chance to prepare anything that needs to be completed.
  5. There must be at least three players in attendance, but no more than six.
  6. The DM can veto an idea that sounds completely boring and not worth a game session.

Player pool

The game is an open table game, drawn from a wide1) pool of players. There is no regular party and each session may draw on different members of the pool.

Ideally, we'll have a good sized group of players to draw on in time (tell your friends!). Once the numbers reach a critical mass we'll likely have regulars who play most sessions and some others who make sessions occasionally as they can find the time.


While initially the campaign is meant to be for face-to-face play, there may also be online play. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it, but if that becomes the case then players who play face-to-face may play their characters in the online sessions, and vice versa (if they can make it to a face-to-face session).


To facilitate the use of a pool of players and supporting unbroken continuity, characters will start and end every session in the taproom of The Orc and the Pie. Characters that do not return by the end of the session will be subject to rolling on a version of Jeff's Triple Secret Random Dungeon Fate Chart of Very Probable Doom. (This also goes for players who must leave the game before the session is ended. They just sort of… wander off or get lost.)

Where can I find out about the setting?

The best way is probably to ask an existing player, but you can read a quick overview about some pertinent and gameable information, or read in more depth about the setting in the gazetteer.

You said this is an old-school game?

Yes, I said this is an old-school game. Old-school rules, old-school mentality.

Okay, what's that mean?

Whatever I think it means. ;-)

However, in general that means that we're playing rules-light, and that means a lot of DM rulings rather than having 2,500 pages of rules for every possible eventuality. Let's just play, y'know? As eventualities come up, we'll handle them.

DM fiat? Can't that lead to abuse? What if the DM is a dick?

There has to be trust at the table. If you don't trust me as a DM, then perhaps you should go play World of Warcraft or find a different game.

What if I don't agree with your rulings?

Here, fill this form out in triplicate, using black pen…

Actually, I addressed that already.

If you have been playing a while and feel this way, perhaps you should step back and consider the context of the game. Am I being a rules lawyer? Am I trying to twist things to get unfair advantages? Could this simply be a very difficult task, opponent or area I am against?

If you haven't even played, and you're already wrapped up in that then I feel for you. You must have been in some pretty crap games before, but don't project it on me.

I'd rather play <insert your favorite new-school game> instead. / Can't we just make it like <insert some houserule here>?

No.

Well, okay, that's not entirely accurate. You can if you go run your own game.

Should we...

...define a marching order?

If you want to put minis on the table in a marching order, that's cool. It helps me pick out logical victims instead of choosing them at random. ;-)

You can also put them facing, to show who's watching what flank, who's watching behind, etc. It doesn't actually mean you're walking backwards or sideways (unless… you are, I guess), it just means you're responsible for watching that direction.

...have a caller?

A caller is a bit different. Back in the day we didn't use one, and if the group is small enough I'm cool with just letting everyone declare their own actions.

If things get too chaotic or disorganized I may tell the group to elect a caller for me to interact with. The caller will communicate the party's actions to me. If a player doesn't like the action a caller gives me for their character they should say so at that time.

...map as we adventure?

No. It's no skin off my nose if you get lost. 8-) (Remember that you must end the session in the back at the Orc and Pie; if you end the session lost or camping in the wild you are probably going to get hosed.)

There's a lot of advantages to mapping, though. A well-done map helps you find what has changed since previous expeditions, or plan new ones. It also tends to help experienced players find hidden areas or work out better routes through dangerous territories that may be overrun with new enemy groups. It may help you have a strategic advantage as well. A map doesn't have to be an exact representation of the DM's map. It can be anything from boxes for rooms connected with lines to a rough drawing and still be useful. Don't look at mapping as a chore, but an opportunity.

By the way, protect that map in-game! If it's destroyed in-game, the real one will be destroyed too (and you can't use backups unless you have one in-game).

...keep track of ammunition, rations and other expendables?

Yep.

One of the challenges of old-school games is the resource management aspect. To mount a successful expedition into the wild or underworld the party brings men and matériel to bear to survive and overcome obstacles. We need to keep track of the consumables to make that meaningful. Normally, as characters gain power (typically in spells and magic items) this becomes less of an issue, but that's because the focus of the game shifts somewhat from the management of mundane resources to magical ones (which for some reason players have less of an issue with).

Also, it brings a fun aspect to the game when you realize, “hey, when we left the packbearer in that room to be eaten by the owlbear he was carrying all our extra torches!”

...track our encumbrance?

Yep.

Fortunately, we're using a simplified system. Players who don't keep track of their character's encumbrance accurately will suffer the wrath of a vengeful DM.

What happens if we split the party?

Somebody dies. LOL

Seriously, though, splitting the party is dangerous at best, foolish at worst. Depending on the action, I may ask people not present to leave the game table, or take those who are currently acting aside.

Sometimes it just doesn't matter. We can all agree not to metagame the situation, right? (Right?)

"But, but... that's not our standard operating procedure!"

I don't do “standard operating procedures” outside of marching orders marked with minis or on paper. You're a rowdy band of tomb robbers, not a trained SEAL team. You tell me what you're doing as you're doing it, or you're not doing it. If you don't define everything fully, I reserve the right to fill in details as I wish.

Old-school / D&D / DM fiat sucks! I won't play your crappy game!

Suit yourself. I always do.

Backstories, dramastics, natural LARPers and barfing on the table

"Let me tell you about my character," or... elaborate backstories

To me, a character's story begins when he's rolled up. A backstory should be a one-line description and a one-line background (“Conan is a long-haired, swarthy barbarian with oiled muscles. He seeks revenge on the sorcerer that destroyed his village and killed his parents”). Everything that happens after that is your character's life.

Some players aren't happy if their characters don't have big, elaborate backstories. If you're one of those, feel free, but I am free to use, use against or totally ignore any part of it. If you insist that you are truly a member of the royal court of Zelbar then you may get arrested for impersonating royalty, or people may keep asking you where this mythical land of “Zelbar” is because it doesn't even exist! NPCs may just think you're a bit off and have bad reactions to you because you obviously live in a fantasy world of your own making. (Heh.)

This isn't improv drama class

This isn't improv drama class, but funny voices are okay, I guess. I guess. I'm not wired like that, so if you're not either, that's okay.

Asking “what's my motivation” or “why should my character go along with this” will probably be met with, “fine, stay in town, the rest of us are going to the dungeon for loot.” What else is there besides gold and glory, anyway?

FLAILSNAILS, online gaming and bringing characters from other games

Can I bring my FLAILSNAILS-compatible character into the game?

No.

I'm not really down with FLAILSNAILS. Sure, I could translate the character on the fly and limit things as I want, but it's more trouble than I want to deal with having to translate magic items, spell descriptions, special powers or skills, etc. I'd rather just have characters for the campaign from the campaign and not have to worry about all the extra work.

(Online) Games that aren't FLAILSNAILS suck! I won't play your crappy game if I can't bring my character!

Suit yourself. I always do.

Rules questions

TODOgo over this and modify as needed

The base rule set is Labyrinth Lord, which is a 98.726% faithful restatement (give or take :-)) of the rules in the old Basic/Expert Dungeons & Dragons boxed sets from '81 (a/k/a “B/X” or “Moldvay”). To mix that up, there is a slate of house rules, which was pretty much always the case when I played as a kid, plus some stuff I just dig or think would be fun. (I'm an inveterate rules tinkerer.)

Effectively, once you remove small class differences, the experience tables and the like then they're essentially the same game. When the rules differ, we will defer to house rules first, and Labyrinth Lord second.

Race as class? Really?

Yep. I like race as class. It makes the character races a bit more “foreign.” However, a racially-classed character can (sometimes) take a second class in the special multiclassing rules, so it helps differentiate some characters a bit.

Where's the paladin? The bard? My favoritest character class EVAR???//?11!

If you look at the multiclassing rules, you can probably build what you want. A paladin is essentially a combination of fighter and cleric that serves the right sort of deity (or… whatever); a bard is likely an expert, potentially mixed with just about whatever other class you want to specialize as. (Rough-and-tumble? Go with a side of figher. Student of arcane lore and legend? Mix in some magic user.)

Even classes for nonhuman races could be defined; if we had ratmen, they'd be their own class, but a rat man cultist would likely be a rat man with a secondary class of cleric or magic-user, say. However, not all nonhuman races can be mixed with all classes.

1)
For sufficiently broad definitions of “wide.”