Thursday, February 4, 2010

S&W Session Journal: Introducing Gulch, Problem Solver

Wagstaff, Agnal, and Olav found themselves back at the tavern where they’ve taken up semi-permanent residency. The merchants who transported them back to town at the end of the last session took pity on Agnal and very modestly clothed him and paid for his room and board (common room and gruel) for a week. They also were not very discriminating in who they told about their roadside encounter with him. Though for a short while there was some sympathy for him in town, time both heals and makes a mockery of all things - in this case, poor Agnal, who is often surreptitiously pointed at and whispered about... Not all of which goes unseen by Agnal. He’s become withdrawn and even quieter, while hate and desire for revenge grows within him.

Olav the dwarf had planned to return home to his clan, tail between his legs, a failure in his own eyes to make something better of himself than just another mountain laborer. He spends his time drinking more than he should, waiting for a boat scheduled to arrive in another week that will carry him further upriver and closer to home.

Wagstaff, near penniless now is ready for anything, though he has not yet resorted to his training as a thief.

It was here in the tavern that an average looking man in a cloak sidled over to Agnal and asked if he was willing to entertain a business proposition - Agnal said sit anywhere you like, as he had literally nothing to lose. Gulch introduced himself, and in many words made it known to Agnal that he could see to it that the loud mouthed merchants who’d made a fool of him in town would get their permanent comeuppance, for a fee of course.

Agnal made it clear that he was broke, at which point Gulch introduced himself to the rest of the party and suggested several courses of action by which they might all profit together. He motioned over his plate mail clad friend named Frayse, and made mention of both a deserted temple across the river that might be worth exploring for treasure overlooked by likely goblin looters. He also mentioned the rat exterminating job he’d seen on a job board. Once introductions had all been made he leaned in close to Wagstaff and mentioned that he might be interested in meeting a guildmaster Gulch knew in nearby Haldane. When Wagstaff suggested they go there now as there might be more work there, Gulch said he was on a mission for his own guildmaster. He had to procure funds for a building project and wasn’t to come back without a large sum of money. Thus, two new (replacement) PCs were introduced as party members.

Wagstaff and the others weren’t aware that the rat job was still posted, even though they’d quit without completing it. The next morning they went back to the mill and asked for another chance after recruiting three men who had failed to be accepted for work with the local militia. They returned to the cellar and made short work of the nasties there, Wagstaff landing a direct hit on some giant centipedes with burning oil. They picked up a small reward which they split evenly amongst themselves. Agnal should be able to afford some new armor which might considerably lift his spirits.

It was a rather business-like session - I wasn’t feeling very inspired as I was a little sick. At least the party has been built back up again and there are some new hooks out there. I awarded Agnal a huge 500xp from the session before this - the one where he begged that his life be spared by the goblins. Although he didn’t really do anything in the traditional way XP is awarded, I thought that this was truly one of his life’s wake up call moments. Honestly, I’ve come to enjoy the character and see a lot of rich role playing in his future. I want to promote this as well as maybe even give him a boost and insure his survival a little more. Second level is still a long way off for almost everyone, and the sooner he can get his hands on a cure light wounds spell (no 1st level spells for clerics in our game) the better off everyone will be. This is really the first time I’ve ever awarded experience in this manner, in a sense, for failing. I don’t see it happening again soon, but I’m comfortable with it. I do understand and agree with the hesitation and caution folks have when using the rules governing experience more as guidelines. It's been a long while, but I remember having seen it get out of hand in other people’s campaigns.

Update: I'm going to try out M. Battleaxe's recent ideas about awarding hit points for simple dungeon exploration itself, at least for low level characters. Barad had some interesting things to say about experience point awarding recently as well. I dunno, some folks might see that 500xp award as outrageous, but for purposes of comparison, I know of people who award 2HD for their first level players at outset, or that don't even play with 1st level. Even with the award, with his other experience already gained, he still is only about half way to 2nd level. Haha, wow, look at my guilt and defensiveness.


Barad the Gnome said...

Always questions yourself as DM, but lose the guilt and defensiveness. During the game you are a divine and omnipresent being, dammit! :) Let those mortals squirm trying to understand the will of the gods.

Anyway, I better understand your comment. I see nothing for which to chastise you.

We choose some rather substantial house rules to alter the low level survivability issues - therefore as DM I do not feel pressured to rush them to 2nd/3rd level. I want them to spend time practicing their class abilities and working as a team with the comrades before they get to the serious stuff.

Rusty said...

Nice post.

I actually prefer low level adventures, as a GM/DM/CK/Ref and as a player, though a little less as a player :-). It does require some thought on my part to needlessly kill them off or make things too easy, but it is a good time to have them get to know their surroundings, the NPCs and factions. Plus, since my XP awards are primarily (though not solely) based on per encounter, they can roleplay their way out of situations and be rewarded for it (assuming that they live).

ze bulette said...

@Barad: I'm curious about some of these house rules of yours. I'm generally not feeling pressured to rush them to 2nd level but our recent experience was a near TPK and then just last session before this another 2 PCs getting taken out, so I have some sympathy at the moment. They all have quite a way to go still, but the recent deaths have been taken quite well (maybe with a little overly harsh self-criticism one time).

@Axe: I generally prefer low level adventures too, but it can be hard to not have the players die - combat rolls are always in the open and other rolls I never fudge on, so a badly written/mismatched adventure or badly chosen actions by the PCs are obvious. Presumably you meant to write "It does require some thought on my part to NOT needlessly kill them off..."? hehe It's hard when you leave items or life-saving/preserving cues that are missed, but that's part of the game.

Rusty said...

@ze bulette: Oops. There's a Freudian slip. Yes. I meant to say, "It does require some thought on my part to NOT needlessly kill them off." I don't fudge dice rolls either so there is always that risk of death. The only PC to die this past year died while doing an action so ill-advised the other PCs probably would have killed them had he survived the original consequences of his decision. Who lowers himself down on a rope without an additional safety line to fight a a huge (huge as in huge) spider with only a dagger?...and he blocked the archer's from plugging the spider with arrows, which he had been successfully doing. One more arrow would have done it.

ze bulette said...

haha, nice story.. i don't have any that blatant that I can remember but it'd be fun to see a round of OSR posts on the most foolish PC actions that led to their demise. it might make for a nice primer on dungeon survival all by itself.

Barad the Gnome said...

Hi ze bullete: Our house rules are quite a substantial change to 3.5 and do affect balance, but they have improved our game significantly. They include adding Con score to first level HPs to ALL medium and larger creatures/humanoids, spell slots, nearly unlimited zero level spells, different dying rules, different turning rules, a unified system of effective caster level for spell DCs, etc. I would be happy to share if you wish to peruse and cherry pick ideas. They are certainly not for everyone, and do change how you setup the CR of encounters. Send me an email with your email address if interested..

Old4Eyes said...

Good post - pleased to see the adventures of Agnal and Co again!

Have to agree generally about low level characters - since I've started playing more frequently again - even if it is GMing for a 10 year old - I have a feeling I'll be needing some of them as NPCs

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