Saturday, July 31, 2004

Back in the SPQR

I've been on vacation all this week, enjoying a visit with my family and friends in Ithaca, New York. I find it amusing that my friends in Ithaca all talk about how rainy Seattle must be. I'm pretty sure Ithaca gets more inches of annual rainfall than Seattle does. OK, no, according to my quick Google search, Ithaca gets 35.4 inches of rain per year, compared to Seattle's diluvial 36 inches. But compare Seattle's annual snowfall (8.6 inches) to Ithaca's 67.3 inches! 

When we were packing for the trip, I waffled about how much D&D stuff to bring. Coming home to Ithaca is often an opportunity to play D&D (see the SPQR Adventure Journal ), but it used to be that it was the only chance I got to play and that's not so much true any more. I planned to bring my Eberron book since I had hoped to get some work done on my novella, and I've got my laptop which has PDFs of the three core books on it. So I threw the two tubes of dice I bought at Origins into the suitcase and figured I had my bases covered—if a D&D game arose, there's an adventure in the back of the Eberron book I could run.

I was pretty surprised, frankly, that David Lieb was the one who seemed most eager to get a game together, when I had lunch with him on Wednesday. David has always been a casual player—he learned how to play in college when we had some summer campaigns going, he's never bought a D&D book that I know of, and he's always seemed more interested in playing as a social activity than in the game itself. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I think a lot of D&D players fit that model to a T. 

There were two flaws in my perfect plan about what D&D stuff to bring. First, I figured folks would make up new Eberron characters in order to play "The Forgotten Forge," but these guys don't want to make up new characters and we don't want to spend the time doing that. Second, I no longer remember how to play D&D without miniatures. So I came up with a perfect plan. I went to my Friendly Local Game Store here in Ithaca, had a nice conversation with one of the owners, and bought two Giants of Legend Huge Packs. I brought the minis home, put together 5 encounters appropriate for 5th-level PCs, and ended up using 14 of the 18 minis in those boxes. Yet another example of "How D&D Minis Changed My Life... Or At Least My D&D Game," which is a seminar I'll be participating in at GenCon this year. I pretty much randomly placed those encounters in the dungeon map from the back of the DMG. I loosely set them in a framework vaguely tied to the last adventure they were on (as well as I could remember it), telling them they had to stop some crazy cultists from releasing a dragon imprisoned beneath the Egyptian city of Tanis. 

The PCs were Denis (played by Mark Lawrence and represented by a Deepshadow elf mini), Hal (played by Paul Gries and represented by Lidda, Adventurer), and Rakh (played by David Lieb and represented by the orc brute). The encounters started off with a pair of fighter bandits (Regdar, Adventurer and Dwarf Sergeant), and a drow fighter and its displacer serpent pet. The next encounter was a minotaur skeleton, a zombie, and a ghast, which scared the wounded PCs enough (especially after the minotaur's axe hit Rakh once) that they closed the door and retreated back to the drow's room. They later encountered just the minotaur skeleton in the hallway, then fought a lizardfolk rogue and a grick. Rakh really shone as the group's fighter, despite being a single-classed rogue. The climactic encounter included the ghast and the zombie from the earlier room, along with a tanarukk and a warforged fighter, the leader of this group of psychos trying to free the imprisoned dragon. Denis finally came into his own in this last fight, getting off a successfulhypnotism on the warforged fighter and turning the zombie, allowing the others to focus on the ghast and the tanarukk until they were out of the way.

The minis I didn't use: Medium astral construct, Mordenkainen the Mage (the one from these two boxes that I didn't already have, so I don't at all mind not having used it), a Huge gold dragon (my second; I'm hoping to trade it for a red dragon, which is the one Huge I don't have yet), and a bulette (which I planned to use, but decided that it would tear this group apart). 

Admittedly, 40 bucks is a fair bit of money to spend for a night of pretty random adventuring. On the other hand, I'm convinced that we had more fun than we would have had if I had spent money on, say, an issue of DUNGEON to find an adventure we wouldn't have finished by 2:30 am and we would have played without any minis at all. And if we had decided to share that expense, 10 bucks each is less than we would have spent going to the movies, and we played D&D for a good four and a half hours—longer than even Return of the King. And I don't much mind not sharing the expense, since I get to keep the minis and use them over and over again. 

Last, random comment more directly related to the Imperium Romanum campaign: I got an email today informing me that a link to the SPQR pages on my site has been added to an online encyclopedia entry about Hispania Terraconensis . These people need to research their sources more carefully!

It might be fun, if we start visiting Ithaca more often again (it's been two and a half years since our last visit), to try to build this campaign up again. Things have been pretty random when we've played the last several times, and it would be nice to re-establish some themes of plot and continuity and the calendar, and that sort of thing. But that might mean getting the rest of these guys to think about D&D between gaming sessions again!

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