Remember when I was speaking earlier about some of my "issues" with Rolemaster, and wondering about what we were going to do with the game that we were running? Well, last night things came to a logical and, what I might call, a sensible conclusion.
I told my buddy in an e-mail, that I was was no longer interested in learning a new system and that Rolemaster was just too intensive for what we wanted to do. That being, a very casual, light-hearted, easy to digest game that we can pick up and play without too much time spent between the pages looking up obscure or difficult rules. He responded with basically one line saying that yes, he completely agreed. So it looked as if Rolemaster had gone the way of the DoDo in our game.
My buddy, Paul, came over last night for a game and we sat around chatting about what it was that we thought we were looking for. I told him that there were plenty of free games out there that had rule sets that were very easy to digest due to their similarity to games we've played in the past. I also found out that he'd burnt out his creative furnace while in the attempt to "simplify" Rolemaster. This surprised me. But I still really wanted to play, so I offered to take up the reigns.
I hadn't prepared anything what-so-ever, but I had passing familiarity with a ton of products and thought that for the remaining time I could quite easily wing it and then prep more for our next session. First though, we had to decide upon rules systems. I listed off the rules that I thought would work well for what we needed.
- Labyrinth Lord
- B/X D&D
- Swords and Wizardry
- Castles and Crusades
Of those, the only one that you have to pay for is Castles and Crusades, so of course that's the one we chose. Well I have two C&C PHBs, my buddy Chris (who's going to try and join us later) also has a PHB, and above all it's recognizable in it's current form. It seemed to have enough crunch for Paul and yet it was easily rules-lite enough for us to jump right into w/out worrying too much about how to adjudicate this or that. So, Castles and Crusades it was.
Now, what was I going to run? I went into the basement and pulled out my C&C books and what fell out alongside but the Village of Hommlet. Ah! I thought, this might be exactly what the Dr. ordered. I asked Paul if he'd ever had any experience w/ the Village of Hommlet and he mentioned that he'd played the electronic version of Temple of Elemental Evil a few years back but never got far. So no, not really. Perfect.
Paul rolled up a character on the spot and created a half-orc assassin named Stryke. An ugly brute with a charisma of 3 and nothing over a 14. Exactly what we were looking for. He and his henchmen, Portly Tom, Wonkin Red Eye, and Delvin The Liar wandered into town completely broke, looking for a place to stay and possibly a meal.
On the way in they got a clear view of the castle construction and could hear the sounds of stone work in the distance. A tent village surrounding the base of the mesa was a welcome sign as it signified a temporary worker's village. Delvin mentioned that he was a master stone mason at one time...and that's how he'd lost the little finger on his left hand. (Uh huh, two days ago it was in a fight with a gryphon.)
They stopped at the first farm on the left, a farmer named Oso and his two strapping sons were working in the back. The lane was guarded by two very large hounds who started barking as soon as the motley band turned onto the property. Oso came out, met Stryke, calmed the hounds down, and offered them a job after hearing about their current penniless situation.
In the back the farmer had cut down a cherry tree that had been growing into the well. Its roots had pushed some stones out and was threatening to collapse the family water source. But they had yet to get to the stump and roots. Luckily here comes help, in the form of Stryke, his merry men and his donkey. (Yes, Paul had purchased a donkey for his assassin. Awesome.)
Many hours of back breaking labor later they were sat down to a hearty meal of chicken and dumplings and offered the loft in the barn. The group stowed their gear and got ready to head into town to the Welcome Wench, while Portly Tom decided that he would rather collapse in exhaustion.
Once in town the clear ringing of steel on steel could be heard from across the way as they approached the Welcome Wench. The four windows in front beamed light and the front doors stood wide open to the evening. Delvin and Wonkin entered with their last remaining coins as Stryke staid out doors and decided to watch a bit before entering. He "cased" the crowd and found that it consisted mostly of a few tables of stone masons and laborers from the castle, a small dwarven caravan, some commoners and farmers, and one leather clad soldier.
Stryke entered and approached the bar where he ordered two small beers and decided to ask the soldier what was going on in the town. The young man (no older than 17) took the beer and started chatting...His name was Oster and he was in the Burne's Badgers, a local militia, and if Stryke was looking for work then Burne had mentioned to a few of the Badgers that he was in need of some mercenaries for a bit of reconnaissance.
The next morning Stryke showed up at the tower, bright and early, just in time to catch the Sergeant at morning muster. He spoke with the Sergeant, told him his intent and Burne was summoned. Sure enough, Burne said that he's got some work the would require a small group of people to head out to an old abandoned structure out east of town. There been reports of banditry and some strange characters passing to and fro over in that direction.
Stryke agreed, and for the price of 25 gold pieces, room in the tent village and a square a day, he was off on his way. He went back to the Oso farm and finished up the well work that they'd agreed to the previous evening over supper. Then as late afternoon was coming on, they gathered up their gear, said goodbye to Oso and his sons and set off down the road on the way to Burne's decrepit structure.
A good three hour journey finally brought them to an old stone keep of some sort. The building had obviously seen better days as the walls were falling in, the drawbridge was rotting through and vines climbed nearly every surface. The sounds of the swamp were in full throttle as Stryke approached the building alone, as he didn't want the torches of the others to warn anyone inside. A moat of sorts still circled the sinking keep which limited where you could enter the building.
The assassin first spied upon the building from a distance and thought he detected smoke. Then, as Stryke approached the downed gate a disturbance in the moat caught his attention, just as an enormous frog leaped forth to swallow this new source of food. The frog attempted to lash the half-orc with his tongue but it was deflected. Stryke leaped in and dealt a furious slash to the warted beast. The frog then decided that this meal was much too dangerous for the effort, and therefore jumped back into the moat, disappearing beneath the black waters.
Just then, the rest of the men came forth leading the donkey. Stryke told them of the enormous amphibian guarding the moat and they all eyed the water suspiciously. It was late and the group decided to camp in the old abandoned gate tower. So they crossed the rickety drawbridge one at a time.
Stryke made it half way across and decided to stand watch over the moat while the others made their way to the tower. Portly Tom was in too great a hurry and wasn't looking where he was stepping. The rotted wood gave way beneath him and he fell through to his waist. Just then the frog decided to strike, seeing the dangling legs as a tasty treat. It sprang up with ferocity, only to misjudge the target, and WHAM it slammed straight into the bottom of the drawbridge. (I rolled a '1')
Portly Tom screamed and started scrambling while the others undid the rope and helped pull him free. After careful consideration and planning the rest came across with little else occurring.
Stryke surveyed the empty court yard and couldn't detect any threats so he cautiously approached the tower while telling the others to hold their positions and be alert. Seeing nothing alarming from the doorway, Stryke entered the old tower to find that the second floor had collapsed and wood and rubble lay strewn across the lower level of the tower.
As he stood surveying the area an enormous spider clambered up from beneath the wood. Stryke acted quickly and caught the rear two legs beneath a board as the spider gathered itself for a leap. The arachnid scrambled with its remaining 6 legs, attempting to reach the tasty morsel so temptingly close. The assassin yelled for the others and told Tom to go and grab the pitch fork from Wonkin.
Delvin came in and stood upon the board, looking with fear upon the frantic spider. Stryke saw his chance while Delvin kept the spider trapped and he approached with his sword and shield. He slashed at the beast and nicked it. But in doing so, left himself open to counter attack. The monster grabbed the happless half-orc with its front legs and drew him in, giving a fatal bite with his deadly fangs. (I rolled an 18 to hit and a six on the damage die. Poor ol Stryke only HAD 6 HPs. Boy did I feel bad.)
The others, instead of running, decided to bring the monster down. And they did so w/out further mishap. After gathering what small amount of treasure lay on the floor they decided to stay the night.
This is where we ended it.
Paul wasn't at all upset about dying. He chastised himself for not having the patience to wait for the pitch fork instead of attacking with the shorter sword. So, next session he's going to roll up a new character and maybe by that time my buddy Chris will be able to play as well. My eldest daughter Ally is going to sit in for the first part of each session too. This will be fun.
Anyway, that's how I spent my evening last night, killing poor ol Styke, we hardly knew ye.