athornton: Angry.  Drunken.  BOFH. (Default)
So, this came out of a discussion on Google+.

Long story short, there's the Traditional D&D Endgame: you reach name level, you build a keep, you pacify the surrounding wilderness, and you retire to enjoy the fruits of your labors. This is in keeping with D&D as a metaphor for the Christianization of Europe, which may well be how Gygax saw it.


First, I don't think that's the way the endgame goes down in actual play, and second, that's not the way the story ends in the myth that D&D actually is, which is, I think, a little different.

I hope we can mostly agree that D&D is an American myth. It's the American myth, in fact, which is the Western, and which kinda resembles the Christianization of Europe in some ways: it's about carving order and domesticity out of the howling wilderness, about taming the frontier. So far, so Gygax.

But after he's made the town safe again, the Man With No Name doesn't settle down there and plant a garden and get married and get old and die. Oh no. Instead, he leaves again; in fact, he's driven out, because there's no role for him in the society he has created.

This gets right at the heart of the core paradox of American self-identity: we have this myth of the rugged frontiersman individualist. And that's great, but it's no way to run a civil society, so the society comes with its own baked-in distrust of itself right in its founding myth.

Now, there's a high-falutin' phrasing for how the D&D endgame really goes down, which is just striking out for ever-more-distant horizons:

"The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die."

Tennyson's very pretty, But "Ulysses" isn't all that appropriate for a quintessentially American myth.

So, I think the best phrasing for the D&D endgame is, well, of course it's found right where it would have to be:

"But I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can't stand it. I been there before."


Jun. 26th, 2010 10:41 pm
athornton: Angry.  Drunken.  BOFH. (Default)
So, today we did The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan. For various reasons we had only three players (Rupert, Keith, and Amy), and, well, it's got three pregens.

We did it straight-up: two-hour time limit, AD&D v1.

This was complicated by a couple of things. First, as far as I can tell, there are only actually stats for Cair the MU/T. The other two, Myrrha and Rhialle, don't have stats. But you can reverse-engineer their levels from their to-hit charts in the module, you can surmise that Rhialle has a strength of 16 from his damage, and then you can have them roll up hit points based on their levels. Which is what we did.

The players took notice of the fact that it was a 2-hour game, and they took "the air down here is poisonous" very seriously, which was nice. In fact, without Aimee around, they played damn near perfectly, dashing through rooms, avoiding pretty much everything (they had a good conversation with the crab and crayfish, though), staying out of combat almost entirely (they fought the 11 zombies that weren't turned by Myrrha, which cost a lot of precious time, and the werejaguar, and at the very end, the amphisbaena). A lot of testing to see where the breeze, if any, was coming from.

However, they missed almost all of the cool Meso-American rooms and things. They just ignored the nereid and went for the door, and they picked up almost no treasure. Basically, they played it straight as a "you have two hours to escape". And I let them climb out the hole in the room with the amphisbaena, because even though the slope won't support them, because, well, the thief is damn good at climbing, and anyway, we had just less than two minutes left.

No party fatalities, although some bad wounding. Some good puzzle-solving, and quite a bit of caution. If Aimee had been there they'd all have died in the room with the giant hermit crab.

What I want to do now is have those three characters recruit a couple of others, and come in from the correct side this time, and do it as a straight-up exploration, in which they will hit all the squidgy horrors they missed when playing it as a dash for the exit.

The module itself...well, it's evocative. The set-piece rooms are very deadly, of course, and generally pretty unmotivated, but some of them are really nicely horrific. Xilonen is very Lovecraftian, for instance, and I really like Tecuziztecatl, the intelligent giant slug. You can run this straight for "this is one-weird-ass mythology, but it's trying to kill you, so you'd better take it seriously," but I can very easily see how it could also be run entirely gonzo. Which would be fun too.

It's a trap-fest, but it's surprisingly survivable if the players treat it as they're told to: touch nothing and get out as quickly as humanly possible. It's only when they start poking things that they get into real trouble.

The module itself cannot make up its mind whether to be a tournament module or a campaign module, and it suffers for it. Would stats for the pre-gens and having them separated into easily-trimmable pages have been too much to ask? The art's great. A lot of fine Erol Otus, and some good Darlene and Dee as well.

It's a good look at early AD&D (written for Origins '79), and is very Raiders Of The Lost Ark for something that predated it by two years. Worth taking out for a spin if you want to run something approaching Golden Age AD&D (I'd pretty much put D&DG at the end of the Golden Age; certainly, what came after it was on the downslope: much as I love me some flumphs, Fiend Folio isn't the same, and then, well, the wheels came off and we were in the Wonderful World Of Hit Point and Power Escalation when Unearthed Arcana came along).
athornton: Angry.  Drunken.  BOFH. (Default)
This is from the upcoming (sometime) Mutant Future module, "Bring Me The Head Of Frank Sinatra!" and is an expansion of everyone's favorite subtable from page 192 of the AD&D v1 Dungeon Master Guide.

First, the link to the doc:

Here is the embedded version (hope this works)

Wandering Harlot Table


athornton: Angry.  Drunken.  BOFH. (Default)

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