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The Lost City Session 2

The link for session 2 is embedded below, and we played session 3 tonight. Originally we were going to play 4 sessions total but we may go to 5, depending on how things go with the next session. Here is the thread for session 1, which also has observations from a one-shot that was played using the Holmes D&D rules.

The players are Sean (GM/DM), Sam (Roland - Fighter), Robbie (Sheeshoosh - Elven Fighter - Mage), Jon (Bartle - Thief)

Session #2 involved some conflict, but also negotiation with the descendents of the Cynidiceans. Specifically the Brotherhood of Gorm or Grom, which it appears to be both in the module. I think it is supposed to be Grom. Sheeshoosh threw a sleep spell at a group of Gromites and laid a number of them low. There was some parlay after that. There are three factions they learned, with the Mages of Usamigaras and the Warrior Maidens of Madarua the other. 

The situation was tense and there is not a lot of trust, but the masked descendents decide to test the newcomers to see if they are worthy. I did use alignment languages as they are part of the text and turned out to be useful. I am glad I included them. The locals let them rest and in Session #3 the players enter the lower parts of the ziggurat to explore some more and perhaps earn the trust of the locals.

Filling the Space

I know the players have a lot of thoughts, so I will try and limit my own for now. One of the things I noted, and I do think this is an aspect of adventure role-playing, that there is a lot of space for a player to fill in the details of their character. In creation there is no life path or culture. You have a name, species(race), and class. Also an alignment. Weapons all do the same damage. So the rest  you have to fill in yourself. And we discussed a bit how, if you do not fill in those details, the game is unfun. But when you do, something is added. 

Enjoy. Please feel free to ask questions of anything you see. 

 

Department: 
Actual Play

Comments

Sean_RDP's picture

I am just going to make a small post here, but I have a lot more thoughts on alignment that might be seminar material. Regardless it has been on my mind of late.

In this session, I used alignment language, which is a real thing in Blueholme. Alignment language is much maligned in some circles, but I found it useful for the purpose of communication and of establishing some lines. I thought it was satisfying that alignment came into play as something more than just 'should I kill this thing because its chaotic'. 

Ron Edwards's picture

Wellll ... that's not really about alignment as such, though, right? It's about languages, meaning (i) potentially incomplete information and (ii) non-uniform vectors of information and personal contact.

The nice thing about "alignment" as language is that it permits a real-world phenomenon that is otherwise difficult to come by in the D&D-fantasy zone of role-playing: knowing a language because you know it, not because it's associated with some category you belong to, especially an ethnic one.

Putting aside the ideological and metaphysical hoo-ra about alignments, and considering them only as languages, it's a way for person A and person/critter B actually to be able to talk based on a choice that the player had made long ago, and on nothing else. That's highly personal and, as we see in play today much later, consequential, insofar as I am able to talk to (for instance) this hobgoblin and the rest of you are not.

In this context, the ideological and metaphysical hoo-ra is a rabbit-hole, yes, but fortunately it is clearly an entirely irrelevant rabbit-hole and therefore easily discarded when thinking about whether alignment language is a "good thing." When considered as personally-chosen and later-consequential languages, that is a good thing.

Taking it to other non-D&D fantasy contexts, I'd hope that this effect could be observed in, for example, modern-day settings ... but it isn't. Yes, my spy guy can "speak Japanese," and that is all sorts of cool or whatever ... but only because he can now talk with Japanese people. It's the elves-speak-Elvish thing all over again.

Here's my relevant real-world context for my point. Way back in the late 80s, my conversational Spanish was not too bad, much better than it is now. I worked at a no-fooling heavyweight research museum, international in every way. At one point, a mammalogist from mainland China was there for a while, working on this or that group of rodents or carnivorans and so on, whose English was very basic and not adequate for anything he needed to discuss professionally. However, his Spanish was good, and so he and I (and other researchers there; practical Spanish is a common second language for people studying mammals) could converse about anything scientific we liked, and fell into Spanish as our default for ordinary conversation too.

I don't see that in role-playing situations much, which are extremely Hollywood and trope-heavy when it comes to languages - meaning, elves speak Elvish, protagonists show their cool-itude by unexpectedly knowing Elvish when they are not elves, and anything that is not English is either Elvish (Japanese, classy French) or Orcish (German, Arabic, bad-people French).

Oddly and extremely weirdly if you do consider the ideological or metaphysical notions of alignment, alignment languages are like a breath of real-world fresh air in comparison.

Ron Edwards's picture

... I'm getting just a bit lost regarding which fantasy dungeon-adjacent games you are currently playing, and with which supplemental materials.

In this case, you are playing Blueholme (2013), a modern rewrite of Dungeons & Dragons (1977, "Holmes," after the author), using a supplement written for Dungeons & Dragons (1981, "Moldvay," after the author).

As if that weren't enough to make my head spin, you are or were also organizing and playing a multi-group application of Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition (2014). I don't know what supplemental materials you're personally using in this context, but if a whiff of Moldvay arises from that stack too, it will surprise no one.

You sat down actually to play the Moldvay D&D itself too at some point recently too, right? Or was that just a text review to see how your memory and practices have mutated the content?

Along with that, you're playing in the Forge: Out of Chaos (1999) game, which is one of the purest distillations of that style of fantasy around, OSR-me-no-OSRs.

Anyway, I'm listing these as a plea for helping me orient in this ... solar system of fantasy RPGs and supplements orbiting around you.

Sean_RDP's picture

I will break it down to clear things up. These are games that are D&D or D&D adjacent

As a Player

I am a player in Forge out of Chaos. We just hit session 12. (w Jon & Robbie)

I am a player in a game of D&D 5E playing through a WotC 5E adventure (folks that are not at Adept Play)

I was also part of an Eberron campaign using 5E rules. That is on hiatus atm.

I played in a Holmes '77 D&D one shot with Tommi as DM and Helma and Greg as fellow players. 

 

As DM/GM

I did run two 5E groups through the Chaos Marches. Both of those wound down as the pandemic went on. 

I am running a game of Forbidden Lands with my Carbon2185 crew. This has been satisfying in all ways. I list it because it is a hex crawl, which is adjacent to D&D if perhaps a bit overblown in the mythology.

And of course I am running the Blueholme game with Robbie, Jon, and Sam. We are going to 5 sessions I think. This is part of the general exploration of games that self-identify as OSR and what the games really bring to the table, without the baggage of the label.  This is also going very well. We are playing The Lost City (B4). Yes the adventure was written by Tom Moldvay, but the game is the stepchild of Holmes 77. 

 

In the Works...

I am going to run For Gold & Glory, the game that is closely derived from AD&D 2nd edition. Tommi and Helma and Ross have expressed interest, trying to synch schedules if we can. It is a one shot of my own design. 

I do want to run the Moldvay D&D Basic - completely out of the book itself, with the included adventure site. I think my dream would be to run it as part of a three game set here at Adept Play, where someone runs Holmes and Mentzer and we play all three in order to explore the changes and interesting bits about each game. 

Sean_RDP's picture

I ran the one-shot of For Gold & Glory. It was interesting look at some AD&D 2E play. I will do a write up of it this week. I admit to a bit of nostalgia here, for when I moved to 3E and 3.5E, I abandoned AD&D2 rather quickly. over two decades later, it did remind why I liked the system and the play that came out of it. I was also reminded of the incoherent bits and the math that seems to go nowhere. As I said, I will do a full write up this week and hopefully the players will chime in. 

Love D's picture

Hi! I'm curious about how the systems you're comparing differ in IIEE and turn-ordering (in physical conflict). How do you perceive the differences in play?  

When you write that you played Holmes 77, do you mean the clone named "Holmes 77" or the original J. Eric Holmes book? How and when is movement declared and factored in during combat?

Sean_RDP's picture

I appreciate the question. I realize I am not always consistent in regards to the titles of the games. Holmes 77 is definitely the Holmes Basic D&D by J. Eric Holmes. 

In terms of IIEE let's just discuss Blueholme, Holmes Basic, and For Gold & Glory because they are different. I will make them brief.

Holmes D&D - A heavy dose of common sense determines who goes first and there is a round structure (10 second rounds, 10 rounds per combat turn). If there are spell casters, they go first. If there are folks with missile weapons and a clear shot, they go next. Then the melee fighters move into engagement with one another. In melee the highest dex gets first shot. If they are tied, rol a d6. In the text examples a one on one melee comabt eschews too much breaking into rounds. The engaged basically just trade blows. Note: This is how it works in my version. It may be different in other versions

Blueholme takes these ideas and puts them into a tighter text explanation. Every (10 second) round is broken down into 5 phases, beginning with surprise and backstabbing, spells, missiles and dragon breath, melee, and then movement. Within each phase, highest dex goes first. 

For Gold & Glory roll sinitiative each round (1d10) and the lowest initiative goes first. Weapon speed and spell casting speed play a part. Each side rolls and each character modifies their init by one or more factors. It is a bit unclear, to me anyway, but in AD&D 2nd edition, we used to just roll and then add the modifiers and each individual went on their init, regardless of "side".

The differences are not that many, to be honest. Each is trying to use discrete numbers to provide some order to the chaos of combat. Holmes leans into the chaos end, where Blueholme brings some order and FG&G provides or and more differentiation from numbers. All provide some differentiation due to the use of melee, missile (ranged), and magic. 

 

 

Sam's picture

A couple brief thoughts, because I need to reply but I have been moving and am low on time. 

I absolutely love the feeling of this game, and there are a couple specific rules I can point to that have really boosted the fun for me. In our most recent session (which we played last night) the rules for wandering monsters and noise turned what couple have been a couple boring little fights (with some skeletons and later some apes) into dynamic and genuinely frightening connected conflicts in which the interest of my character became primarily to shut up the big loud ape that was attracting attention, rather than to get the treasure it was surely guarding. 

Second, the magic! All I can say is that it really works, it really makes a difference, and level one spells feel like magic, not level one spells, if that makes sense. 

Finally, the reaction rolls. These were used within the combat with the apes we had last night to determine how the apes would react to being tossed food to distract them. This rule along with the rules for noise and wandering monsters gave us an astonishingly complex situation for the fairly few rules used. 

Could you elaborate on level one spells feeling like magic? (Partially) bringing back a sense of wonder, making things 'magical' etc. has been on my mind lately.

Sam's picture

Using a spell is situation altering. When a magic user puts a whole room of creatures to sleep, that is really really important. We were facing down a whole room of people who were potentially hostile, and our magic user cast sleep on them. We were able to negotiate ourselves into a position where these people respected us and gave us a place to sleep because we grabbed some sleeping hostages. The point is that without using this spell, everything about that conflict would have gone differently.

Similarly, if the magic user were to use charm person on a powerful NPC, that would change the entire situation in a big way. And these are both level one spells, but when they come into play it is noteable.  The spending of a spell is meaningful and has the potential to change a lot of things. I am playing a fighter, but when our magic user was debating using a spell, I paid attention. 

So when I say the spells don't feel like level one spells, I really mean that already, at level one, a magic user has the ability to alter a situation in a unique way that is not available to anyone else. And they feel like magic because of the way they open up new ways of looking at situations and tend to make simple conflicts and simple situations turn much more complex in a way that other methods do not. 

 

Very different from being able to throw a blob of acid (and little consequence) every round indefinitely. Thanks for the analysis.

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