With the re-release of so much classic material from Wizards of the Coast like Dungeons of Dread S1-S4 and Against the Slave Lords A0-A4, as well as all the PDFs on DnDclassics.com it has never been easier to try your hand at classic adventures that helped establish the game and the hobby. My one issue with playing the classics is having to deal with all the quirks of 1e AD&D. I’d rather not have to deal with separate saves for Petrification, Spells, Wands, etc., descending AC, THAC0, and the like. It is no secret I’m a big fan of Dungeon Crawl Classics, which I feel combines the best of old school style with the benefit of picking and choosing the best mechanics of all the versions of D&D from the past 40 years.
My current mission is to convert S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth for DCC levels 4-5. I listened to the recent Spellburn Podcast (which you should definitely check out if you like DCC) and they mentioned that roughly 1 DCC level equals about 2 AD&D levels. Thus, with the original adventure for character levels 6-10, I think it should be a good match. My plan is to have the players start at 4th level, then level up to 5th when (if?) they reach the lower caverns. I also plan on having them start out with one +1 and one +2 item. Whether that item is a weapon/staff or armor is up to the player.
I can’t wait to use the very cool magic item creation tables in DCC for both wizard staffs and magic swords. To quote from the DCC RPG book for those unfamiliar, “There is no such thing as a ‘generic’ magic item. All magic items are unique.” When creating a magic item, you roll on a bunch of tables to determine its intelligence, alignment, motivations, banes, and special powers! I’ll also encourage the players to name their weapons and either create or roll back-stories (yes, there is a table for that) as to how they were created and previous owners, etc.
Here is a sample sword: Neutral Long Sword +2, Int 11, Empathic, 3 banes (Serpent – festering wound +1d6 dmg, +1d4 dmg next round, Undead – +1 Crit threat range, Giant – Unerring throw, can be thrown 60′, returns to hand, regular melee dmg) , Special purposes – bring balance to a specific place – Live alone as a warrior-hermit, sheds light 20′ at-will, detects gems within 30′. Now THAT is a magic sword!
I think most monster and save conversion will be fairly easy. For converting descending ACs to ascending, I plan on subtracting 20 from the current AC and making the result positive, i.e. AC 4 becomes AC 16 (4-20= -16). Most saves seem somewhat arbitrary in AD&D (Ah yes, a rockslide. Save vs…..SPELL!?!) So for those I’ll just use what has become common practice in 3.5, Pathfinder, and 4e: Poison vs. Fortitude, Charm/Sleep vs. Will, Lightening/Fire vs. Reflex.
I can’t imagine how this was a tournament module, as the scope just seems daunting to try and accomplish in even an all-day session. For publication, Gary added a very detailed and sprawling wilderness section that was not included at the original Con version, but even still, he does advise this will “likely take several gaming sessions.” It will be a few weeks before we gather our band of treasure seekers and take a delve. Be sure and check back to see how it went!
Occasionally, a game takes a turn for the worst.
A few months ago, I ran a session of “Expedition to the Ruins of Castle Greyhawk” for a group, and in the module the Deck of Many Things makes an appearance. The Deck has a reputation for danger, dealing fortune and misfortune indiscriminately, but it’s one of those items that my group has come to eagerly anticipate in a long campaign. Five draws later, we had two characters in the Donjon (trapped in an otherworldly prison) and one character in the Void (reduced to a mindless automaton). Needless to say, it threw a monkey-wrench into our game, and was discouraging to a few players.
That’s one type of problem, and we fixed it. I’ll go into how in a minute.
It comes to mind this week because we recently had an incident in our Pathfinder Skull & Shackles game that put us in a similar bind. Our unoptimized party staggered into an encounter grossly underestimating the power and skill of our adversaries, and coupled with some cold dice and optimized villains (common in a Paizo product at higher levels), we were nearly killed to a man. Fortunately we stopped the action due to the late hour, and talked about what needed to happen next. Unfortunately, however, some of the votes as to what needed to happen next were to throw in the towel on the entire campaign.
That’s a different type of problem, and an infinitely more complex one. Perhaps most frustratingly, our issue in Skull & Shackles seems to be that our characters, despite our best efforts, are either not optimized enough to face the anticipated challenges of the modules, or our method of playing them does not rise to the anticipated levels of skill anticipated by the module designer. An architectural problem like that takes some work, but that’s not the only problem.
Long campaigns have a number of difficulties associated with them. I’ve never finished a Pathfinder Adventure Path in less than a year, with one of them lasting over 3 years, and that’s a long time to do anything. There is potential for burnout on your character, on the campaign itself, and sometimes your group. High Level play has a slew of issues that are problematic. So what to do? GM’s and Players both play a role in sorting these things out, but each issue lends itself to different solutions. Let’s take a look issue by issue.
Multiple Character Death
This is sure to put a damper on your campaign fun: Two or Three of your beloved heroes die (maybe permanently) meaning your champions are severely humbled, or maybe your entire cast and party dynamic are rewritten. Both player and GM have a role to play here. Players need to evaluate first whether raise dead / resurrection is the route to go, or if there is a persuasive reason to bring in another character. Death during play is definitely a part of the life of an adventurer, and is part of the process of paying your dues. However, if you can bring in a character that adds to the story or brings balance to the party, and the change isn’t disruptive to play, gauge whether this is your moment. If you don’t have a choice in the matter, is there a way to make a new character that complements the old? Is there an NPC already encountered that would make a fun PC? While there’s little you can do if resurrection or raise dead aren’t on the table, conspire with your GM a little to see what other solutions might be possible that would make for an interesting return or cunning plot development.
In the end, more power lies in the GM’s hands where deaths are concerned. If you’ve killed half the party, either someone got incredibly (un)lucky, or you’ve misgauged the power of your encounters relative to your group. While bad decisions on the player’s part certainly merits the occasional ass-whooping, there is the enjoyability and continued longevity of the campaign to consider. As things turn towards TPK in a long term campaign, the GM’s Toolkit includes pulling back on the optimized use of some abilities: tossing a magic missile when a fireball may dish out 10d6 of campaign ending fury, commanding a charmed PC to attack an ally knowing full well he’ll get that badly needed second save, opting for subdual damage. etc. If it’s too late for that, a dropped PC can be raised or healed by the villains to extract information, letting the play continue and granting an opportunity for the PC’s to salvage the situation.
If there’s no room for resurrection, there’s the occasional wish or divine intervention, opportunities for which might be accrued during play over time to be used at just the right moment. In the case of our Deck of Many Things debacle, we actually played a session where a team of specialists went to free the souls of the trapped card-drawers, making for a fun offbeat extraplanar session that gave players a chance to mix it up with a different PC for 8 hours, and fun was had by all. The nice thing about a fantasy setting is that nothing is impossible with the right factors. A quest to get the item that will allow a resurrection is one good idea away, and may make for an interesting adventure in itself.
You’ve been playing this damn cleric for 79 sessions and if you cast one more Cure Light Wounds spell you’re going to eat your rulebook. While largely a player problem, this is something your GM can help with, too.
Good character design should help to eliminate the onset of ‘Character Fatigue’ – Motivation, Backstory, Goal Setting all give you a roundness that should transcend function. However, especially with support characters, your most effective routines may be the least interesting. Check with your party and see if there can be some give in how roles are played out. Sometimes a few wands or scrolls can free up spell slots to let you take on the role you’re looking for. Depending on your level, there may be time to multi-class, changing you into the character you want to be.
A GM can help this situation a couple different ways. Work with the player to see what they want out of the game, and shape it to meet their needs. Indulge some of their campaign goals, or thrust them into situations where they are in the spotlight, creating unique opportunities.
Character retirement is always an option, and the GM should be able to create an opportunity to phase out one character while creating a compelling reason to feel attached or trusting towards the new PC (or maybe not so trusting, if your game is a little more sinister).
In any adventure path or long running campaign, this danger is one of the most prevalent. Time passes in game and in real life, and the theme of a certain game can grow tired. Individual modules in a series can linger over frustrating details or hair-pulling monotony in many instances, or just a series of frustrations that make continued play feel unrewarding.
Players can attempt to turn the adventure in a way that is more pleasing to them, but this has very limited utility if the GM is not on board. GM’s, of course, have significant influence on this issue, and need to use their discretion to manipulate the campaign to meet the needs of the players. Ideally, this is done without overly telegraphing the modifications. However, if a particular dungeon crawl is literally crawling then removing or hand-waving a few encounters that don’t progress the plot will not usually be lamented by your frustrated players, obvious or not. Sometimes introduction of another element, such as a rival adventuring party, or some sort of internal dispute amongst your antagonists, can create an interesting way of clearing obstacles or adversaries in the path of your party and get them to the epic finale or wherever they may be heading while creating tension in the process.
I have very rarely had a party complain that something is too easy, but make things too difficult and they’ll tell you. There’s a fine line between challenge and frustration and the GM needs to make sure that the party feels like heroes most of the time and that the story keeps moving. Published scenarios should be used as suggestions, and as soon as the party gets bogged down in them, hustle to the next scene change, or take a pleasant detour into something you know they’ll like, to give them the fresh air they’ll need for another dive into peril.
This is bad. If you’ve been playing with the gamers at this campaign for a while, either something outside of the game is interfering with the way friends play together, or worse, the way the game is getting played is making people rub each other the wrong way. Sometimes sitting down to an extended campaign can create a meeting of people that don’t know each other that well, and force them to meet repeatedly for 4 hours a week for years. While it is my belief that gaming can bring many types of people together (that being one of the things that is amazing about it), it sometimes does bring people together that just can’t click.
Players need to try to work out differences between each other, communicating their frustrations. Sometimes this is best done through a third party that can play peacekeeper and keep things from getting too confrontational during a session. The GM holds some responsibility to keep the peace and play referee, but sometimes your GM might be your problem.
With any relationship, communication is key, and identifying the grievance clearly and getting it behind you should be your first step. But, if you’ve aired your grievance and the other party can’t or won’t change their ways, make your excuses and cut bait. Don’t sit frustrated or mopey at a table and poison everyone else’s good time. If everyone shares the frustration regarding the single player, GM’s got to be the one to man up and diplomatically give the guy a last chance to shape up or ship out. The Jackass Rule states, “If one person calls you a jackass, ignore them. If ten people call you a jackass, get a saddle”.
If you’re the problem, don’t get defensive. Review your Gaming Ten Commandments. Take it on faith that you are representing yourself in a way that is making you come off negatively, and proceed with awareness that this is what your fellow player or players think, knowing you need to control yourself. You are not the first socially awkward gamer. I promise.
High-Level Play Sucks
Yes. Yes, it does. That doesn’t mean it has to, but you are going to find a lot of frustrations in high level play if you are not ready for it. First, you need to know your character and how it works. Secondly, you’re going to need to spend some time prepping for each game to make sure you know what you’re doing and how to do it. Third, you’re going to need to mark your pages or bookmark your pdf’s for common complex rules issues you know you’re going to run into: if you have an ability that grapples opponents, get your grapple rules ready, marked and reviewed; be familiar with the conditions you impose through your spells and know what spells your going to cast; if you have equipment purchases you want made, email the GM ahead of time to let them know what you want and update your character sheet as soon as you get the okay; get any sorts of buffs or powers outlined. In general, know how to play the game you’re playing and if you don’t know, read the rules.
GM’s suffer greatly under the yoke of high level play. You’re responsible for everything, and theoretically need to know what the players can do as well as all your monsters, traps, and so on. It’s a heavy burden, but one you can bear with the right prep and the right attitude. First, read your printed material if you’re using a module. Paizo has good message boards regarding it’s published material and they might address errata or other questions other GM’s might have had with your specific module. Look up strange powers in the bestiary and make sure you know how things work on your side of the screen.
Since you’re dealing with the same players over and over, it also would pay to read over the classes they’re bringing to the table if there is something they’re doing that confuses you. Sometimes you’ll find they’re mixed up about something and it may speed up game play if you both know how the power is supposed to function.
However, if you get down to the wire and are playing and you hit a complex rules snag, and you’re getting player burnout due to high-level play rules? Dump it. Make a call, and err on the side of player success: They will bitch to high heaven in you kill them through some sort of blown rules call, but few will make a peep at an error in their favor. Ties go to the runner. This works because it makes for a better story when the good guys win, and keeping play moving at high levels is key.
There are plenty of other frustrations that can kill a campaign, but GM’s and Players alike need to maintain the polestar of Commandment 10 – Thou Shalt Have Fun. Make sure your fellow gamers are having fun with the campaign and that you’re not having fun at their expense. GM’s, make sure your players are enjoying themselves rather than maintaining the rubric of the module at the expense of their enjoyment. And finally, if worst comes to worst, find a good stopping point, set the module aside for a while, and pull out an old favorite or something new and give it a spin around the block for a while. If you come back to it, great. If you don’t, then at least you’re having a good time moving on to the next adventure.
When I started playing D&D in the late 80s, I was the youngest kid on the block. One of my friends showed me these crazy looking dice, we sketched out character sheets on notebook paper, and very likely followed very few of the rules. I did learn what Armor Class is, and what Hit points are, and had a fantastic time.
I was just young enough to miss most of these classic adventures gathered in Dungeons of Dread, but interestingly I did pick up White Plume Mountain in a garage sale when I was a teenager, not even really understanding what I had. Unfortunately that was sold along with so many other treasures from my childhood in the “going off to college” garage sale.
In my RPG renaissance of the last few years, I’ve had a great time gaming with a bunch of different guys, but of the main Skyland Games crew, I’m still the young kid on the block. Most of these guys have played D&D almost since the beginning, and have shelves of books and some of these very adventures. I would hear war stories from The Tomb of Horrors, or Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, but had never played them myself.
This collection offers a great opportunity to immerse yourself in D&D lore by collecting classic, iconic adventures written by the pioneers of the game. It includes the lethal Tomb of Horrors, the quirky and memorable White Plume Mountain, the zany gonzo Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, and finally a little taste of Greyhawk in The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. This hardback format is great for looking through and preserving these in an archival sense, but would be pretty difficult to run from. One of the benefits of the old modules is you can lay them flat behind a DM screen, and show the players the illustrations a bit easier. Also, the maps are at the end of the adventure, so if you are trying to run one of these for a group, I would suggest investing in some page flags so you can easily find those sections while flipping between maps, illustrations, and room descriptions.
Fortuitously, Wizards has released the illustrations for the modules as stand-alone PDFs, making them a lot easier to show to the group. Hopefully, they’ll do something similar for the maps! The maps are in black and white, which I understand from a printing perspective, but they could have earned some serious nostalgia points if they used the original D&D light-blue that was so iconic of the old maps.
If you’re one of the old-guard grognards or a collector and own all these in their original print form, there is no sense purchasing them in this form. If you just missed the boat, or have heard all the old guys talk about how it was when THEY started playing, this is for you. I really enjoy having it on my shelf for reference and inspirational purposes, and look forward to adding the next archive to the shelf, Against the Slave Lords!
Grognards and other fans of 1st Edition D&D will remember some of the greatest illustrations in role-playing being drawn by David A. Trampier (aka ‘TRAMP’ or ‘DAT’). The original cover of the 1st Edition Players Handbook, plus plenty of monsters in both the 1st Edition Monster Manual and from the Gamma World Series were his creations. He designed or played a role in design of several games, like Titan and Divine Right, and was the creator of the long running Dragon Magazine comic strip Wormy. I was always a fan of his work, but never connected the dots that this illustration and this comic and this game all were from him, until much later. Trampier was not only in on the ground floor, but was moving to publish his own collected volume of Wormy, when something strange happened in April of 1988…
Kim Mohan (editor of Dragon Magazine) advised that checks sent to Tramp’s house for work completed were returned uncashed. Phil Foglio (who worked on another strip in the magazine at the time What’s New with Phil & Dixie, and now best known for the excellent web comic Girl Genius) said later, “When an artist’s checks are returned uncashed, he is presumed dead.”
So what happened? Hit by a bus? Suicide? Those paying attention were baffled by Trampier’s disappearance, though Tom Wham (designer of Awful Green Things from Outer Space and Snit’s Revenge) indicated that he believed he was alive. Tom’s sister, Nina Wham, was married to Trampier at the time, indicating he had reason to know Trampier was still drawing breath. Still, Wham indicated that he himself had not been in touch since 1982.
Barbara Manui & Chris Adams, known for their work with another Dragon Magazine comic “Yamara” started information gathering and discovered the possible reason for the disappearance, which they posted from a verified source (name withheld) on their site here.
To summarize, it states that Tramp appeared to be upset, and perhaps delusional or paranoid in regard to events occurring at Dragon Magazine at the time. It goes on to state that he was an uncompromising and perhaps antagonistic artist that made life difficult for himself at the magazine.
While interesting, it still leaves us the mystery of his disappearance. As I began to research the issue, there still were no leads.
Then, in 2005, a reporter named Arin Thompson with the Daily Egyptian wrote a story titled, ‘Coffee, cigarettes and speed bumps: A night with a Carbondale cabby.’ It showed a picture of a bearded man, arm draped over the door of his cab. It was Dave Trampier, back from the dead.
This was groundbreaking. This not only proved that Trampier was alive, but that he was living or at least working in Carbondale, Illinois.
Within a short period of time, Trampier’s home address was accessible through the Jackson County, Illinois public records.
It appears that with this reemergence, a number of individuals attempted to contact Trampier. An individual identifying himself under the handle of “Baj” on the message board of Paizo.com indicated that they had contacted Trampier to discuss the purchase of original artwork. This initial contact began friendly, with Trampier expressing an eagerness for others to view his work, but became more withdrawn and negative over time.
“David was very polite but made it very clear he wanted nothing to do such a project and more importantly nothing to do with gaming and asked that I not contact him again. I got the impression his phone number had been passed around in the industry and I hadn’t been the first to call.”
Wizards of the Coast stated in their 30 year retrospective, “Thirty Years of Adventure” that Trampier was alive and well, but no longer worked in the gaming industry.
And that is where it appears it will stay for the foreseeable future. Luke Gygax posted:
“Tramp was a great old school artist and I wish he still contributed his artwork to the genre. Unfortunately he has no interest in gaming or art at all. I do not know what his reasons are, but I know two folks that have tracked him down and offered him work- one is his brother-in-law. He flatly refused both of them and asked them not to contact him again on the subject.” For reasons entirely his own, Trampier does not plan on submitting his work for publication or self-publishing in the foreseeable future.”
Despite this, his devoted fans remain surprisingly active. The Dave Trampier Fan Club Facebook page counts among its members Luke Gygax, Ernest Gary Gygax Jr., Jolly Blackburn and David Kenzer of Kenzer & Co., and Troll Lord Games. It’s a lot of fandom for an artist who hasn’t published a new piece of art in 25 years.
Others pay tribute through homage and imitation, such as Dungeon Crawl Classics featuring of numerous references or parodies of Trampier’s previous work, recalling classic Trampier art to evoke images core to fantasy role playing.
Whatever Trampier’s reasons for leaving, it is clear that his work is loved and appreciated throughout the gaming world, and should he choose to return, he will be welcome with open arms.
EDIT: We are sad to report that Dave Trampier died March 24, 2014 in Carbondale, IL at Helia Healthcare. He was 59 years old. Tragically, it appears that immediately prior to his death, he made plans to exhibit some of his artwork at a Carbondale Con called Egypt Wars 2014. He advised the organizers that he was suffering from cancer, but that he was overcoming it and would need transportation to the convention. A sample of the art he planned to exhibit is shown below.
The fact that just too late he started to return to the people and fans that loved his work so much absolutely breaks my heart. But with his passing, we see many in the gaming community that loved him, and with it the promise that Dave Trampier will not be forgotten.
Veteran and novice gamers alike can find themselves sliding into bad habits now and again at the game table. We at Skyland Games have a real mixed bag at our tables: New gamers, old gamers, and old timers coming back to the game after a long hiatus. We’ve also been playing a lot of Pathfinder Society, which leads to a crap-shoot when it comes to the players you’re sitting down with and what they think makes for good game etiquette.
Even with the grognards, when things get exciting, or boring, or you just get distracted, you might find yourself in violation of one of the Gaming Ten Commandments.
1) THOU SHALT BE ON TIME
Especially with a four hour time slot for organized-play games, it’s disruptive for the GM and Players alike to start late. If you’ve got another slot to get to afterwards, doubly so. But mainly this, slows the game as a whole, and is inconsiderate of everyone else who made it in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, at Skyland Games, we’re all guilty of this one at some time or another.
2) THOU SHALT COME PREPARED
Nothing slows down play like missing your character sheet, not having dice or a pencil, not knowing what your abilities are or how your character works. It creates delay in the beginning for missing character issues, and slows the pace and play of the game at all other times. Any time you slow play due to your own laziness, you’re really wasting other people’s time. Don’t be that guy.
3) THOU SHALT LEARN THE RULES
Or at least try… Pathfinder, D&D 3.5, Champions, Shadowrun…. these systems are not necessarily easy, but you need to know how your character works before you sit down at the table, and know the basics of movement and combat so as to not impede play. Get a book and read it between sessions. Most if not all the material for Pathfinder and D&D 3.5 is online as an SRD. Add to that a variety of apps that pull up the rules pretty cheaply, and there’s really no excuse for not knowing the basics. Worst case scenario: Listen and learn.
4) THOU SHALT NOT CHEAT
The GM might be allowed to fudge some dice rolls, but as a player, for the good of the game, it’s imperative that you let the dice fall where they may. Some of the greatest stories I’ve seen in gaming come from the epic failures and epic subsequent successes arising from the bad roll, the epic mischance, or the divine blunder. We all sit down to see this story unfold organically, and Mulligans must be solicited from the almighty GM. It also puts other players at a disadvantage, and robs the sweetness from victory when it’s built on deception.
5) THOU SHALT NOT TALK OVER OTHERS
Okay, personal pet peeve, but I’ve played with folks that find that box text is a perfect opportunity to discuss character builds, what they ate for dinner, hilarious YouTube cat videos, etc. This makes it hard for others to keep track of what’s going on, distracts the GM reading it, and creates situations where information has to be repeated or explained to the player as the game unfolds. Some players will interrupt and talk over the GM, which is a great recipe for GM vengeance, but also makes for confusion and can damage the flow of the game. When it’s not the GM, it’s someone trying to have fun and tell their story. Don’t ruin it.
6) THOU SHALT PLAY ONLY THINE OWN CHARACTER
You may think you’re being helpful, telling the guy next to you what he ought to do on his turn, but you’re not. You’re probably breaking character, and possibly the laws of physics, by sharing your thoughts out of game, and generally inhibiting the other player and other character by imposing your vision on them. This also slows down the game as the player digests additional information, weighs new options presented through the advice, and quite often creates a need for the player to justify their character’s action. Novice players can always ask for help, and if they ask, give it to them. Otherwise, let ‘em take a stab at it, and if they’re going to err, let them err boldly.
7) THOU SHALT ABIDE
Sometimes things get a little heated in real life. It might be over loot, it might be incompatible player personalities, or it might be in-game character personalities leading to some real-life frustration. No matter the cause, don’t let things get to the point where it’s a problem. Each situation differs, but stepping away from the problem and communicating usually does the trick. You want to roll with the punches, which goes hand in hand with Commandment 8 and Commandment 10.
8) THOU SHALT WORK FOR THE GOOD OF THE GAME
Every player should work to make the game happen. Someone need a ride? Go five minutes out of your way to help them make the game. Snacks? Drinks? At least take care of yourself, if not everybody. Try to schedule around conflicts, and take affirmative steps to keep game night sacred. Don’t make the GM do all the cat-herding when it comes to scheduling. Return emails about the scenario you want to play. Correspond regularly. Most importantly, when gaming, apply Wheaton’s Law and “Don’t be a Dick”: Don’t fight over loot in game, don’t ragequit when the GM rules against you, don’t pout, and don’t take anything that involves ‘elves’ too seriously. That’s a good life rule, period, actually.
9) THOU SHALT HONOR THY GM AND THY HOST
It is sort of a classic axiom that the ‘GM is Always Right’. I prefer to think of it the way Tony Soprano contests Nietzsche’s hypothesis regarding God being Dead: He may not always be right, but you’re still going to kiss his ass. In the end, the GM can see both sides of the screen, and should (if they’re good at it) keep things challenging, interesting, and fun based on that perspective. Further, a game isn’t a democracy, and a final arbiter has to have supreme authority, right or wrong, so the game can move on.
As far as your host is concerned, it’s easy to forget that someone is cleaning up after you leave. Don’t trash their place, drink the last of their soda, drop food into their couch cushions, or leave your cans scattered and laying about for the ants into get into. Minimal courtesy indicates you should try to leave the space how you found it. If it’s in a game store, don’t bring in outside food and drink if they sell food and drink in store (or you might not have a game store much longer). If you’re in tight confines, make sure you’re maintaining some hygiene fundamentals for the benefit of your fellow gamers and the people who have to live there after you’ve left. Treat your play space better than your own, and you’ll be more likely to be invited back.
10) THOU SHALT HAVE FUN
Sometimes, it can be surprising how this rule gets overlooked, but we game because we like it. Especially in organized play, the objective of achieving a certain level, obtaining certain loot, or finishing certain missions can obscure the fact that the object is to have fun. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong, and need to reprioritize. It might be because you or your group aren’t following the Commandments, or might be because it’s just time for a change of scenery. But make sure you and your fellow gamers are enjoying yourself, and everything else will fall into place.
I’ve had the pleasure of participating in quite a few campaigns in the last 3 or 4 years. Some of which spanned 10-20 character levels. In 4e and increasingly in Pathfinder, the easiest way to level up your character was to open up the character builder, hit the “level up” button, and choose the appropriate options for your character and print it out. I think 4e was a worse offender in this arena, but often the character sheets were between 5-10 pages per PC. On Herolab for Pathfinder, if you’ve got an animal companion or heaven forbid a spellbook, the characters can easily get in to this range as well. My main problem with this is every time you level up, your printing again. If not, you have a game table filled with laptops and all the distractions they can bring.
For the Pirate campaign, I wanted to stop the madness. I printed out a Pathfinder Character sheet, double-sided, that I would use for the duration of that character’s existence. It’s easy on first level. Just run down the requirements for your given race/class combo, buy your gear and start rolling! As the levels progress, things get more complicated. You start getting more bonuses from magical loot you’ve found, or through feats and increasing your ability scores, and a standard character sheet can become a jumbled mess. My character in the pirate campaign is a elven ranger/rogue, and I have about worn a hole in both the ammunition spot on the sheet for my arrows, and the hit point area for when he takes damage.
Overall, I am really enjoying just having the one character sheet. I have kept notes on it from previous sessions, and it just feels more authentic to how I feel like a veteran character sheet should look. That being said, I had one session last week in which I forgot my sheet. I borrowed Steve’s laptop and did my best to recreate him in herolab as quickly as possible. It was wonderful to see all the options that applied to my character all laid out in front of me, allowing me to carefully way my decisions and draw from several source books worth of material quickly and easily. At the end of the process I printed him out: four pages. It would have taken me a lot longer to open all my books to the appropriate pages, evaluate the options, and add them to my existing stats. Even making a first level character with only Pathfinder books, a character sheet and a pencil can take hours if you consider all the possible archetypes and race/class combinations. It would have ground the session to a halt.
So what is the answer? Is one way better than the other? I suppose it comes down to personal preference. For me, I play role-playing games as an escape. I enjoy pouring over the books, and the art in those books. I like finding new things in them like a wizard discovering knowledge in a tome of ancient lore. I suppose it just comes down to personal preference: ease of use and a fair amount of waste, or piles of books and maybe missing out on the best option for your character while your sheet gets dingy with eraser marks and quickly scrawled notes. It all comes down to how you want to roll. How do you role/roll? One sheet or many?