04 Jan

Make Mine Basic

Due to holidays, travel, and players missing for various reasons, we didn’t play all that much during the months of November and December. Big lulls in playing like this are almost always the death knell of a campaign for me. I don’t stay engaged with the campaign and so I start to lose interest in it and start looking elsewhere…it is one of my many flaws. For one of the sessions that we did play, it wasn’t clear to me which players were going to be able to make it and so I was hesitant to put a lot of effort or time into preparing something in case no one could make it. So I pulled out something that I’ve always wanted to play, Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game (aka BFRPG), and grabbed one of the adventures, Beneath Brymassen, from Adventure Anthology One to run. Dave, Muse, Rachel, and RJ all participated so only Craig was missing. More on our experience below the break.

It was a total bloodbath! We went through a dozen different PCs in the first session and the causes of death ranged from falling into a pit (or swan diving into in one instance) to monster attacks (including being bludgeoned to death by a hobgoblin wielding a weighted pillow) to friendly fire (arrow in the back…ouch). Ironically, RJ’s first character, Baylor the Dwarf Cleric, was the last of that session’s original PCs to fall and he only ever had ONE hit point!!! Despite all the death, everyone had a blast.

For me, at least, it was also a breath of fresh air. I’ll try to spare everyone the full “back in the day” spiel but Basic and 1st Edition were the D&D editions that I originally played and learned as a kid back in the late 70s and on into the 80s. Those versions, of course, are dear to me but not just for nostalgia’s sake. There is something about how the game played in those editions that is appealing to me. Yes, I know that the systems are clunky and clumsy. There is no unified d20 mechanic. THAC0 (it really wasn’t that difficult). Thief abilities as percentages. And so on. I find some of those things along with the lack of an emphasis on the character build side of the game to be exactly what appeals to me.

Fortunately for me (although I could be wrong), I think that I have enough of a captive audience, er, willing players to play whatever I throw in front of them. Fortunately for me because I’ve always been interested in running BFRPG and just the little bit that we have played has hit something of a sweet spot for me. The system is open and flexible as well as absolutely free in pdf (from the BFRPG Downloads page) and dirt cheap in print from Lulu, CreateSpace, or Amazon. Despite keeping those sub-systems that are seen as clunky (e.g., thief abilities being percentages), there is a wonderful simplicity and elegance to the rules that is often lost with the d20 approach. Play is quick and the emphasis is more about the player playing the character at the table than it is about building and optimizing the character. It is a pretty rules light version of D&D that is well written and well organized…just easy to read and easy to play if deadly to play.

We never did get far in the adventure Beneath Brymassen as we started playing a little Stonehell with BFRPG the next time that we played (just the valley and some of the curtain wall). However, I’ve decided to also drop that for a different campaign related to something we did years ago.

For my 40th birthday, we played an extended AD&D session. It wasn’t intended to be a long-term campaign but it ended up being one. We started with the Village of Hommlet (renamed to Hilltop) and the game then morphed into a 3.5 campaign (the D&D flavor of the day) that combined the Red Hand of Doom with Hommlet, hints of the Temple of Elemental Evil, and whole bunch of other stuff. The PCs were definitely the heroic types (mostly) and one, Harvey Ashby (a paladin and a son of one of Verbobonc’s “nobles”) was appointed Lord of Hilltop after Rufus and Burne had been murdered. The Company H Campaign was one of our best campaigns ever (and so merits a link to the campaign calendar on our Old Campaigns page).

We’re going back to Hilltop. It is some fifty years or so after the Company H Campaign. The village had been destroyed by the Red Hand of Doom. Fortunately, the residents had fled before the horde arrived and so survived. Hilltop has now been rebuilt…amazingly in almost the exact same fashion as before (gotta recycle those maps, right?). Lord Harvey was mortally wounded battling the leader of the Hand, Azarr Kul, and died without an heir. His sister, Halcyon, assumed the mantle of leadership after his death and now her granddaughter, Katerine Ashby, is the Lady of Hilltop.

Rumors in the small village suggest that the ruins of the old Moathouse might be occupied again. Humanoids are said to again be massing in the nearby Kron Hills. Completion of Oak Castle has been delayed due to issues at the Dunridge Quarry. Traveling merchants on their way to or from Hilltop have gone missing. Half-eaten bodies, ravaged by some sort of animal, have been discovered along the surroundings roads, rivers, and streams. Slavers are whispered to have become active again. Strange tracks have been seen in the woods and hills of the area, tracks that could only belong to the vile dragonspawn like those who once marched under the flag of the Red Hand. And, in hushed tones, residents even claim to have again spotted ochre-robed priests in the lands surrounding Hilltop.

Might Hilltop soon be in desperate need of a new band of heroes to follow in the footsteps of Harvey, Halcyon, Katerine, Medi, and Sequel?

(Yes, one PC was left out of that list…Kael. He never was much of the hero type with looting bodies while the others were fighting, stealing Lord Havey’s signet ring, and getting Halcyon (and himself) half-possessed by an angelic/demonic soul.)

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