I have to admit that I’ve never actually played an RPG in a basement. I know that the classic stereotype of RPGs is a bunch of guys sitting around a table playing in a basement but I’ve never done it. However, if you take the notion of going back to the garage and combine with the classic stereotype, you get back to the basement. And, metaphorically at least, that’s what my RPG group is kind of doing. I started gaming with AD&D 1st edition but most of my GMing, back in the day, was done with the 2nd edition version and that’s what we’re playing now.
Originally, I was planning on running a mid-level mini-campaign with a series of modules that I’ve always wanted to run but never have had the chance. I was going to start with that last week but, as seems to happen way too often, those plans got scuttled. Half the players couldn’t make it last week. So, instead, Austin, Rachel, and RJ rolled up characters and we played the adventure “Honor Lost, Honor Regained” from Dungeon Magazine #48. I think everyone found it refreshing that they could roll up characters and finish an adventure with multiple encounters in just a few hours!
Even after that session, I was still planning on running that series of mid-level adventures. I worked up a way to have the other three players bring in their yet to be created characters and get everyone to the still undisclosed location of the set of adventures (which is going to remain undisclosed too). Then I had a week to think about it. And, of course, as I thought about it, I thought that it might be a better idea to start off at the beginning.
So I took Friday afternoon off of work (talk about a dedicated GM…actually, I was kind of fed up with work anyways), dug through my old AD&D stuff, and wracked my brain for what to do. I settled on the Forgotten Realms as the setting. It was the campaign setting in which much of my early GMing took place so might as well keep with the back to the basement theme, right? Plus, I’ve always used it as more of just a backdrop for a campaign that is much more character focused than a more campaign-centric type game (i.e., where the setting itself plays a very significant role in the campaign). I’m largely sticking with gray box version of Forgotten Realms though I may drag in some “newer” material as well. I’m not a stickler for canon so I feel like I’m free to mix and match as I want.
Okay, I’ve got the setting but where and how will kick it off? Well, for that I settled on Daggerford and the sort of sandboxy adventure, Under Illefarn. I read somewhere that it was the first module published for Forgotten Realms and I had never run it before so why not? It hasn’t been that well received in some circles but I read it and it really isn’t that bad. It gives a fairly good amount of detail, but not too much, on the town of Daggerford and the surrounding area as well as a some pretty straightforward “episodes” to run…albeit a bit cliche and/or even a little cheesy. Outside of that, there are a lot of little plothooks that can develop but I can’t say too much since my players read this…or at least I think they read this.
So, everyone was available for this week’s session and we rolled up characters. I gave them the option of rolling their Ability Scores one of three ways: 3d6 and re-roll any single die that comes up a 1 on each stat, 3d6 rolled seven times and pick the six scores desired, or 4d6 drop the low. They all had to come to a consensus on how to roll and settled on 4d6 drop the low. They also had to agree on whether or not they would roll in order or get to arrange the rolls. They agreed, with some initial dissent, to roll in order…much to my surprise actually.
I then told them that they were starting as 0-level characters with -500 XP (with everyone just coming of age…13 or 14 in human terms) and gave them the option of picking a Secondary Skill or rolling for one (we’re not using Non-Weapon Proficiencies this time around). They opted to roll. They then got some limited funds with which to purchase any equipment that they thought might be relevant to their profession or that their family might have given them. I’ll just say that some of the players got what this meant and others went the more munchkin route. 😉
The result is the following.
- Davos (played by Todd): Str 12, Dex 15, Con 15, Int 16, Wis 10, Cha 11. Human. Davos is the only son of a trader (name to be determined) who works for one of the large trading houses of Waterdeep (also to be determined). Davos was up to some shady business on the side and when he told his father about this, his father took him to the barracks and told them to start his militia training early. Davos’ mother is deceased.
- Dory (played by Bridgett): Str 14, Dex 15, Con 15, Int 11, Wis 16, Cha 6. Human. Dory is the rather shy daughter of one of Daggerford’s shepherds who has attracted the eye of her older brother’s best friend, Channing. Her father is also quite keen on such a matrimonial match as Channing’s family owns some rather large flocks.
- Hannah (played by Rachel): Str 11, Dex 14, Con 11, Int 15, Wis 12, Cha 11. Human. The only child of John and Molly, Hannah has spent much of her childhood following her father into the wilds surrounding Daggerford. She and her father are close and, following in her father’s footsteps, Hannah has become a competent trapper and woodswoman.
- Kethenor (played by Mark): Str 15, Dex 10, Con 9, Int 14, Wis 6, Cha 12. Elf. Kethenor’s father was killed when he was but an infant. His mother remarried a human boatwright (names to be determined) and Kethenor has a half-brother and he is not overly fond of the “half-breed” as he calls him. Kethenor’s relationship with his step-father is also rather strained.
- Merrick (played by Austin): Str 16, Dex 14, Con 18, Int 17, Wis 10, Cha 15. Human. Merrick is the only son of one of the town’s tanners and leather workers. The boy has aspirations well beyond those of his father’s trade.
- Tycyn (played by RJ): Str 16, Dex 14, Con 11, Int 8, Wis 15, Cha 13. Tycyn comes from a large family and has three brothers and three sisters. His father, Goodor, has always assumed that Tycyn, being the eldest, would take over his carpentry business but that does not appear to be the case. Tycyn has left home to pursue his own life. Although the parting words between he and his father were not the most friendly, Tycyn and his family remain on good terms.
I’ll save what actually happened in our first session of play for a later post. I’ll just say that it certainly didn’t go how I expected and definitely not how the writer of the module probably ever expected. In fact, one character is quite fortunate that he hasn’t been exiled or (more permanently) jailed for his actions during militia training. More to come later…