24 May 2018

D&D Story 2: B1 In Search of the Unknown, Part 1

This interview took place on May 9th. I'm splitting this into 2 parts. This details my father's first encounter with B1, next will be about when he ran it for us at the beginning of the adventures that led to the Dragon City. This has been severely edited, taking out all the inttereuptions, repetitions and irrelevant chatter, so no audio file this time.

UPDATE: I have uploaded all of our interviews as a podcast on Anchor called Dungeons and Dragons and Duncanites. This episode can be found at https://anchor.fm/lance-duncan/episodes/DD-Story-2-B1-In-Search-of-the-Unknown-e3psfk

Lance: Ok, so the first module you ran was B1: In Search of the Unknown?

Bruce: Correct.

And this was given to you?

This was the first module given to me by Dwayne Hansen.

Ok, then you never saw the monochrome version?

What is monochrome?

The older one that has just one color on it.

Oh yes.

This is the one that came out with the 81 basic set, so that gives us a timeline cause the monochrome is the one that came out sooner. Lets run through it the first time that you ran it.

Oh I spent an entire two weeks reading, and all I did was breeze though it; I didn’t read for thorough understanding. I numbered what monsters were in what room on a sheet of paper so that I wouldn’t have to roll them up. Some of the numbers there's a chance of monster and there’s a no chance of monster and stuff like that, so the ones where there’s a chance and you have to roll it up I prerolled it for this game. Dwayne and Mark Eads and Susy Butlers husband, I don’t remember his name, and one other guy we were all playing in our home in Escondido, or our apartment in Escondido, Linda saw how much fun we were having and wanted to play at the time, and then didn’t want to play anymore after she played one game.

Do you know how many sessions this dungeon lasted?

Seven, because there were so many things in each room.

Yeah especially the first level; the first level is a maze.

Yeah and also the guys were taking forever to do anything they did an awful lot of discussing before they moved on to the next room or whatever. It almost felt like they wanted me to give them experience points every time they did something. So they would level up faster I guess. I didn’t figure that out until later, that’s when I started telling everybody that played with me, “you don’t get to level up until one of two things happen; you complete the task, the dungeon, whatever, or you have to end for the night. Whichever comes first.” And then I would calculate it out in between time.

What are all these pencil markings?

I put in secret doors here and there.

Cause these are like blocking off passages and stuff

Yes they are; it was another maze.

Ok, so you just made it more maze-like, but when did you do that?

That was for you kids.

Ok, so before we get on to the adventure you did with us, let’s go through this. Was there anything memorable the first time you ran it?

The entrance, you know the voices. Because they were in the mode of discussing everything, the voices kept saying the same thing over and over again. And I was getting tired of having to say it over and over again, that then i put anew line in there that wasn’t in the script. And it was to insult them for not being very decisive. I don’t remember what it was, but i know they all started laughing

What are the voices supposed to say the voices are supposed to say “Who dares enter this place and intrude on the sanctuary of its inhabitants? Only a group of foolhardy explorers doomed to certain death. Woe to any who pass this place - the wrath of Zelligar and Rogahn will be upon them!” and you said something else cause they were just standing there?

They were just standing there talking, talking, talking, and I repeated the whole thing again, and they still stood there, and talked, and talked, and talked, and so I said- I can’t remember the exact words, but something to the effect of, “there must be tourists because only tourists wouldn’t adventure or leave.”

That’s great, so in that same room there’s 5 bodies. Do you remember anything about those?


 Did they do anything in the kitchen?

They ate. They sat down to eat; some of the food was still good.

There's a dining room.

Yep, and there was a monster in there that I added at the spur of the moment.

Do you remember anything else that happened?

Oh they loved the room with the pools. They tried every single pool.

Well yeah, There’s a pool that’s poison, isn’t there?


Did you play that by the book, and that it killed them instantly?

No. They could tell that they had been poisoned, and their cleric then healed them and staved off the poison long enough that they could get anti-poison, there’s a pool that’s anti-poison.

ok, so there’s a pool of healing, an acid pool, a pool of sickness, green slime pool, drinking pool pool of wine, one that’s dry,

They actually took the drinking pool and the pool of wine first. Because they took the pool of wine, and this is aged wine, they all started acting very funny. They played their parts quite well; they were all drunk.

There’s a hot pool, an aura pool, a pool of sleep, a fish pool, an ice pool, a treasure pool, and a pool of muting. Did you keep them all the same?

I did and they tried every single pool.

And so the one that was hurting them, which one was that?

That was the pool of poison

Well there’s sickness, acid, and green slime

It was the acid

Ok, so then they would just get to the pool of healing

Right, they kept going back to the pool of healing quite often. That was the third pool that they found after the wine. They also kept going back to the pool of wine though.

Well yeah was there anything else on that adventure specifically memorable?

I can’t think of anything spectacular

Well there's zelligar’s closet. There's several books, did they do anything with the books?

They read the covers and if the cover was interesting they would then put it in their stash to read later

I remember one of the times we went through this, maybe it wasn’t this one, but we found some books and we touched them and they crumbled away. Was it here?

No, it wasn't. It was the other one with the carrion crawlers

And there's the wizards workroom which has a whole bunch of ingredients, do you remember anything about that?

They tried putting the ingredients together, but it was all so old and decayed that it had no more power. Now I think it says that some of these have power, but I was just tired of them, so I just told them that they're labeled and don’t work.

Number 12 is the library, did they do anything with that?

Same with the books; if the books were interesting they kept them

Ok let’s see, teleportation rooms! 15 and 16. It's meant to confuse them, did they get confused with the map?

They got confused with the map yes

How long did it take them to figure out their mistake?

About 20 minutes

That's pretty good

Cause they kept going back and forth

20 is a dead end room, that's just a maze?

Right thats why I put more walls and secret doors

I'm not sure what this says; I think the bottom word is map?

Lower map

Cause you had it drop down

Well, there's another pit but this was different

Yeah but you didn't have that the first time you ran it?


In the Trophy room there is a dragonskin on the wall

First time I ran it as that was fake dragon skin, it was just alligator

That's interesting

 Because real dragon skin is valuable

Right, and you wouldn't just put it on the wall; it's not like bearskin.


Oh lets see, advisor’s chamber- there's a desk, some magic items in there

Kept that one pretty much as written

Ok so room 36, or north of room 36 there's some false steps that are supposed to confuse them what did they do when they were in that area?

They spent an awful lot of time in that area. Kept going to these rooms and then kept getting turned around and going back in here and falling into a pit trap. They fell into that pit trap at least twice. Thing is, the pit trap opens up into one of these rooms down here

Let me read it real quick, it opens into the pool of cold water

Right, but the thing is no matter what there was always at least one person still up there. They would shoot a rope up to him or he would drop a rope down to them, and they would come back that way and still explore this area and get all messed up with the maze and everything. Cause they weren’t mapping

They were not mapping, but they still figured out the teleportation room and this maze?

Because they had all played this before

Oh, because they gave you the module

Yes, and they couldn't remember everything

So thats the first level, and the second level is where you fill things in. And you had a piece of paper saying what was there, so when you wrote stuff down for what was on each level, did you have a piece of paper summarizing the first level too?

Not really because most of it is in the module

But in the second level you had a piece of paper where you wrote down what was in each room?

Yep, and whether there was a trap, or what type of trap was it, something that would make them disoriented, one of the rooms has gas in it; it upset their equilibrium and they couldn't figure out which way they were going.

Ok, the grand cavern of the bats?

Yes, which became the grand cavern of the white dragon who had been fed there for so long he couldn't get out

That was the first time you ran it?

No, that was the time i ran it with you kids

Ok, so that big cavern was bats originally and you ran it with the bats your first adventure with them ?


The Right to Work

I'm going to go on a bit of a political rant here, maybe I'll be able to tie it into gaming by the end.

I have been listening to the Revolutions Podcast produced by Mike Duncan of The History of Rome Podcast fame; something that keeps coming up is the right to work. I also recently saw a political ad for the midterm campaigns here in Nevada that had the right to work in big bold red letters; this idea still holds sway today and influences policies and votes. Anyway the podcast describes the many revolutions that rocked the industrializing world of the late 18th and throughout the 19th centuries. Mike Duncan often talks about the political question, constitutional government and political representation, and the social question, worker rights and welfare systems. The idea of the righ to work emerges just as the western world is industrializing and embracing the ideas of free trade and capitalism. This central idea sparked numerous riots and helped fuel various revolutions, especially in poor urban areas.

In pondering this idea of a "right to work", I have come to the conclusion this is based on faulty pretenses. John Locke espoused three main rights, "the right to life, liberty, and property." These were incorporated into the US Declaration of independence as "the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." It may appear that the right to work has nothing to do with these, but let's examine it a little more closely.

Why does the modern man feel entitled to a right to work? Is it because he wants to perfrom backbreaking labor everyday of his life until he drops dead? I hope not. Ok, what about the opportunity to work hard enough to become a millionaire and enter the upper crusts of society, the quintessential American Dream? Some men sure, but most simply want to be able to provide for their family. Most men aren't particularly greedy. He may do what he can to make some extra money here and there, but he has no illusions about his position in life. Alright, so if not greed and not a ridiculous work ethic just for the heck of it, then why do so many working class people feel they have a right to work? Well, what does work guarantee you? Work provides you with a steady income, or money. What does money provide? Food, clothes, shelter, education, everything necessary for a comfortable life. People would usually rather not work, or at least work less; they want to have the ability to do what they want with their time and not be subject to whims of others. People don't generally care about the money itself, simply the things money provides. Money is the safety net, the ability to feel secure and know that if there is no work they will be ok. But we all know that without work that money is going to eventually run out. Therefore the right to work, because we need money to survive in the modern world. The right to work is simply another way of saying that man has an inalienable right to life.

Our society has so entrenched capitalistic ideas in the minds of men that we can no longer distinguish between work, money and life. There can't be one without the other. Let's try to separate it for a moment. If a man has the right to life, what does that mean? If tomorrow you met a starving man on the street, and you had the means to help what would you do? Would you give him some food? what about money? or bring him to a place where he can work to earn money to buy food? In the moment that he is about to perish from hunger, which do you think he would prefer? Undoubtedly the food. Ok, let's look at a really divisive topic, healthcare. Say you meet a man, not starving, but about to die because he broke his leg and it got infected, etc. If he has a right to live, then doesn't he have a right to be given medical treatment so he won't die of his injuries? Would granting him a right to work, and so providing him with a job, in either of these cases be the best solution? I think not. His broken and infected leg prevents him from doing physical labor and from concentrating long enough to do any mental tasks; medical insurance from work can take months to kick in anyway; he would die of his injuries before his right to work would prove effective. In the case of starvation, he won't receive his first paycheck for at least 2 weeks and he'll have starved to death by then. The confusion of the right to work with the right to life has caused a number of problems in modern western society. Fight for the right to live a full, happy, and healthy life, not to be enslaved by corporations, your boss, or the market.

To relate to gaming, I guess just realize that most fantasy games are placed in a pre-capitalist setting where the right to work hasn't even been invented, or for that matter the concept of inalienable rights. In a pre-modern world everything about how people thought was different, life was much more practical and no one had the time/inclination to pretend they cared about people they didn't know.

21 May 2018

The Empire

The D&D games I played with my family growing up was set in the Known World as described in the BECMI sets and X1, X4, X5, B10, B6, B1, and B2. Thus the Known World, or Mystara, I am familiar with is quite different than the Mystara of the gazetteers. Thyatis was a real empire and though it didn't cover all the territory shown in the Master Set, it did have power over most of the countries shown in X1. I'm not sure if we ever called it the Thyatian Empire or Empire of Thyatis, we just always said "The Empire".  The imperial city was more centrally located, where Darokin is normally. The Empire didn't have any overseas holdings, unless you count ierendi and minrothad which were under indirect control. During the X4/X5 Master Conflict one of our parties met a golden dragon council and was given the task of gathering an alliance of each color of dragon and building a city as the center of this alliance. at some point all our disparate characters and parties participated in this task. Eventually we established the Dragon city and also spread franchises of the Green Ale(goblin blood) tavern.

I created a simple map showing the Territory of the empire. As I continue these interviews with my father more details about our adventures will be unveiled; I should be posting the next interview about B1 sometime this week.

About the Legend: Provinces are those areas under direct control of the Imperial government; the governors may hold different titles, such as the Grand Duke of Karameikos or the Mayor of Selenica, but they all owe allegiance directly to the emperor through family ties or other means. Client States are those countries under nominal control of the Empire; they may pay some form of taxes, but they have their own rulers and laws and armies. Militarized zones are those areas that have no imperial presence besides the army. The army provides a minimum degree of protection to caravans and maintains roads, but otherwise these areas may as well not be part of the empire. Militarized Zones also often serve as jumping off points for military campaigns.

15 May 2018

Mapping Mountains

I threw together a quick map of southeastern France to experiment with a different method for mapping mountains. I took data from http://www.peaklist.org/lists.html hoping that showing peaks as opposed to direct elevation might be more useful for gaming. I'm not really happy with the results: even if I cleaned it up, it wouldn't do what I really want, that is help you visualize the landforms better than traditional maps of both the earth and in gaming. I think I may stick to traditional hillshading. I am also thinking of experimenting with slope, which might be useful in a game; knowing how steep the landscape is that the PCs have to travel over, but I'm not optimistic about it.

Sorcerous Abilitiies

As mentioned in a previous post, I have been thinking about including sorcerers in my D&D game. The sorcerer gets magic as an innate ability because one of their ancestors was an elf. In Classic D&D there are no half-elves; a child born to a human and an elf parent appear as either an elf or a human with all the accompanying traits. So a human could have some elven blood, but show no outward signs of it. This hidden elven blood will manifest itself as sorcery from time to time.

Any human with elven ancestry may be a sorcerer is if 2d6 are rolled and the resulting sum is a 12. The character may be of any of the normal human classes, fighter, thief, or cleric. If the character is a Magic-User their sorcerous ability is suppressed and they may only use wizardly magic. The Magic of a sorcerer works exactly like that of an elf of equal level. In short, Sorcerers do not need to decide which spells to memorize each day. They have a limited number of spells which are known equal to the number and level of spells they can cast in a day +1 for each intelligence adjustment. An sorcerer may attempt to cast those extra spells known after exhausting their normal repertoire of spells. To do this the sorcerer must first make a saving throw vs spells, and if successful the sorcerer
successfully casts the spell, if not the spell fizzled out, or caused a bizarre and benign effect. In either case the casting of these extra spells costs the sorcerer a number of hp equal to a d6. If a sorcerer were to reach 0hp in this manner they would take the effect of a wound including the chance for death. Sorcerers also have access to the druid spell list. Sorcerers learn their spells by meditating in a natural environment for one week equal to the spell level, at the end of the meditation the spell learned is determined randomly.

XP charts for sorcerers of each class:

Cleric Fighter Fighter
Lvl XP Required Lvl XP Required Lvl XP Required
1 0 1 0 1 0
2 2,500 2 3,000 2 2,200
3 5,000 3 6,000 3 4,400
4 10,000 4 12,000 4 8,800
5 20,000 5 24,000 5 17,600
6 40,000 6 50,000 6 35,000
7 80,000 7 100,000 7 70,000
8 160,000 8 200,000 8 140,000
9 320,000 9 400,000 9 280,000
10 420,000 10 520,000 10 400,000
11 520,000 11 640,000 11 520,000
12 620,000 12 760,000 12 640,000
13 720,000 13 880,000 13 760,000
14 820,000 14 1,000,000 14 880,000
15 920,000 15 1,120,000 15 1,000,000
16 1,020,000 16 1,240,000 16 1,120,000
17 1,120,000 17 1,360,000 17 1,240,000
18 1,220,000 18 1,480,000 18 1,360,000
19 1,320,000 19 1,600,000 19 1,480,000
20 1,420,000 20 1,720,000 20 1,600,000
21 1,520,000 21 1,840,000 21 1,720,000
22 1,620,000 22 1,960,000 22 1,840,000
23 1,720,000 23 2,080,000 23 1,960,000
24 1,820,000 24 2,200,000 24 2,080,000
25 1,920,000 25 2,320,000 25 2,200,000
26 2,020,000 26 2,440,000 26 2,320,000
27 2,120,000 27 2,560,000 27 2,440,000
28 2,220,000 28 2,680,000 28 2,560,000
29 2,320,000 29 2,800,000 29 2,680,000
30 2,420,000 30 2,920,000 30 2,800,000
31 2,520,000 31 3,040,000 31 2,920,000
32 2,620,000 32 3,160,000 32 3,040,000
33 2,720,000 33 3,280,000 33 3,160,000
34 2,820,000 34 3,400,000 34 3,280,000
35 2,920,000 35 3,520,000 35 3,400,000
36 3,020,000 36 3,640,000 36 3,520,000