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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Wherein the "B Team" Delves into the Castle of the Mad Archmage

Last night we had three players for the monthly (more or less) Swords & Wizardry "B Team" session. By popular of the regulars, it was decided that the PCs would venture into the Castle of the Mad Archamage. Megadungeon delving works well for a once a month game where the player roster has the potential to change a bit.

A few quick comments and notes:

- I change shit up, often spur of the moment. Your players may or may not have a pair of guardsmen with a tent set up outside the dungeon entrance, asking for "valid adventuring licenses", but if your players are asked, they probably should ensure they get their paperwork in order. Mine did ;)

- I like to play with accents in the sessions I run, often with "notable results", even if these results aren't the ones I was seeking

- I really wish all PDF modules / adventures included an unkeyed, sans secret doors and traps, made to be viewed by the players sort of map. With the amount of gaming that is going on online these days, this would be the icing on the cake for many otherwise excellent adventures. That being said, I've gotten skilled at using "fog of war" and keeping the secret doors"secret". If I have a single complaint about Castle of the Mad Archamge, it would be this. Not sure if it it so much a complaint as "I wish it included..."

- my party zigged when I thought they would zag. Isn't that always the case?

- poop is poop. some poop is more than others. some poop has treasure, most holds horrors. can I help it if the poop I scoop is deeper than written? ;) (couldn't help myself +Joseph Bloch )

All three of my players wrote up play summaries from their perspectives:

+Tim Shorts wrote his over at the Gothridge Manor blog.

+Douglas Cole wrote his over at the Gaming Ballistic blog.

+Peter V. Dell'Orto wrote his over at the Dungeon Fantastic blog.

Do I have great players or what?


  1. We are pretty awesome.

    The blank PDF map thing ought to be a law or something. It's hard not to metagame when you see a big "42" in the middle of the freaking corridor in front of you. "Uh, we check for traps."

  2. The lack of a player's map is quite intentional, Erik. Since there are so many opportunities built into the module for the PCs' mapping efforts to go awry (teleporters, sloping passages, elevator rooms, mazes, shifting walls, etc., etc., etc.) to give them a map which they know by its very nature is infallible would render a lot of the features of the dungeon unusable. Keep running the adventure, and you will know the unimaginable joy of players actually throwing their maps across the room, declaring them "worthless" because they don't match up with their expectations. :-)

    1. But for online gaming.. unless you don't use a centralized map.. its needed..

    2. I disagree; it's not needed. You can certainly do online gaming with "theater of the mind's eye", letting the players map by verbal descriptions just like you do at a face-to-face game. Or a digital whiteboard, which gets erased room by room. But showing the map as it is (even with the keys and secret doors redacted) to the players does them and the adventure a disservice, as you're losing a lot of features deliberately built into it that add to the experience.

      It's hard to engender a feeling of paranoia and impending doom with minotaurs and giant boars hunting you in a labyrinth when you can see the way out is three lefts and a right, and if the GM suddenly switches to a new map in a long corridor, it's a sure sign that you just went down a sloping passage (as sure as seeing a big "42" in the middle of the corridor)...

    3. See, if publishers include a "player's map" it gives me the option of either using it in my online game or not. It's up to me. If they don't, I either have to make my own or play the game the way Joseph Bloch describes. I have no choice in the matter.

      Joseph, a customer is telling you they would like X, and your answer is "no, you don't want X. You're playing the game wrong." Whether you agree that something is or isn't "needed" is not relevant, is it?

      Personally, I'm not very good at describing the layout of rooms and tunnels and such. For better or for worse, my brain doesn't really work that way, so I don't want to bog my game down with trying to make sure players understand things about basic layout that, in my opinion, their characters would pick up just from looking at a room. Do I want to give them a 100% accurate map that they can look at whenever they want? No, what I'd rather do is turn on line of sight so that only the part of the map where they're standing is visible. That, to me, represents a nice compromise between revealing the whole map and having to spend time describing mundane layout features. Especially in an online game, where I lose almost 100% of my non-verbal communication, a simple map to act as a visual aid is really, really helpful to me.

    4. The thing is, though, he's not describing the map to us. He's revealing parts of the map in Roll20. So if he doesn't have an unkeyed map, we know that room is Room #2 or there is a big #42 in the hallway.

      It would go as you say if he was describing what we see, but honestly, how that would work with 3-4 players remote from each other trying to draw a map to show each other would be difficult. It's smoother to have Erik just show us what we see, and easier for him if that map was also unkeyed.

    5. Apologies if I wasn't clear; the fault is entirely mine. I am absolutely not saying "no, you don't want X." I'm saying that this particular adventure wasn't designed with X in mind. If you want to adapt it to work in a world that uses X, that's great, and more power to you. That's true whether X is support for Runequest, or using it via Roll20, or playing with 4E-style battlemaps, or plot-driven story lines and railroady adventure paths. It's only by adapting it to one's own particular playing style and needs that CotMA truly comes alive, and it's impossible to support everyone's needs and wishes. So I wrote it for the way I play (face to face on a tabletop, where the GM describes what the players see, with occasional recourse to a whiteboard if there's something particularly tricky), and if others adapt it to the way *they* play, that's AWESOME!

      But it's not fair to say that a lack of X is somehow a failure when it was never designed for X, any more than it's a failure for a Camaro not to seat a family of six. It is what it is, and if you absolutely, positively, *have* to have X, and aren't willing to do the work to make it X-compatible, it's probably not for you. And that's fair enough; get the minivan instead of the sportscar.

      And, for what it's worth, Erik specifically said that it wasn't a complaint so much as a wish-list item. Personally, I'd love to see a Roll20 that specifically supported "line of sight only" views, that were dynamic enough that when the players teleported somewhere, the system was smart enough to change their surroundings in the "dark" areas. But I know that's not what Roll20 does, and that's fine. I work around it, or don't use it.

    6. As a player in Erik's game, I'd say an unkeyed map would improve our enjoyment of the game and significantly heighten that tension that you want to see in your megadungeon. It would be very nice to have one. Lacking one, we lose some of the tension.

      Is it really objectionable to provide an unkeyed map if the GM and players could find one useful and good for their mode of play? I mean that as a direct and simple question.

  3. I totally agree about the unkeyed map.. I usually make my own but its still a pain in the ass..

  4. I've taken to GIMPing my pdf maps to edit out the stuff the players shouldn't see. It's not quite as tedious as you might think, and also allows you to make changes to the map in case you're not 100% satisfied with the original.

  5. I work on rpol, and what I do is scan a map page, then dysonize it and blank off the markings using paint. When it comes up in play, I cut and paste a small section to the group map. Most of my Dysonizing comes from a 2"x2" square I repeatedly cut and paste from, and I use a blank square cut from the image to paste with, as scans don't come over white enough to erase cleanly.