Wednesday, July 9, 2014

One-on-One D&D: I did it.

So. After waking up the other day with a yearning for some D&D and a willing friend, I made the one-on-one D&D happen. I'm going to save the review-type comments on Fighter's Challenge for a latter post (or repeat the ones I make here), but I do want to reflect on how it went: both running AD&D 2nd edition, one-on-one, and the specific module. So here's my list of things that I just thought about while reflecting on the game I ran. Its a spew reflection, not a well-thought Colonel Gentleman list.

First, I did something I'm not usually that comfortable with, because the module kinda demanded it. I did the voices. And doing this almost always pulls me away from the more grimdark mood that I tend to yearn for. But I think it worked. Light-hearted D&D is usually how things turn out anyway, since I used to play with someone known for naming his characters after brand-names of condoms or boner drugs. There were too many NPCs in the module for my taste and many stuck around, but I think it worked well overall and probably enhanced the game. But I decided right away that I'd do voices and try to make the NPCs distinct, so I think it worked. The module was light-hearted itself, so matching my tone with the module and the player definitely helped.

Second, one-on-one D&D is tiring. I definitely took the opportunity to refresh my drink a few times just so I could get a little break. When I ran a 4e Dark Sun game, I had enough time during the player turns to look through my massive pile of printed out monsters and traps to adjust the current and upcoming encounters on the fly, but one-on-one you don't have any of that group discussion time or PC turn downtime. You're everything the one player interacts with the whole time. Plan for some breaks. I even let us go off on a few tangents during the game about D&D rules or work and such. I suppose playing three nights in a row (about 16 hours!) didn't help me feeling a little exhausted. I know I star-wiped or montaged through a couple scenes the last night.

Third, I apparently must have some sense of which encounters are hard, but I should have given the player enough XP for a 4th level fighter, not a 3rd level one (He was a Gnome Fighter/Illusionist 2/2). It was tough. I knew it would be tough. The module said one level 2-4 warrior. There was more than a few enemies with more than 5 hit dice. And in 2nd edition, things don't go down in one or two hits unless they're pretty low-level. It might have been different if the PC had been single classed or used the Skills and Power rules so he could have had weapon specialization (an extra +1 to hit and +2 damage would have been sweet). But still. The adventure was difficult. He went down 3 times, but I managed to find non-cheesy ways for him to avoid death, though it took a little work. When I first opened the module and skimmed it, I thought it would be hard. I should have trusted my gut there. I did, at least, give him a magic weapon and rolled for a couple magic items for him (Ring of Sustenance and Potion of Gaseous Form, both came in super handy).

Fourth, there was a lot of rules look-up. I was trying to run it relatively by-the-book. In part because as a player, I like to know which of my actions will work and which will not. In part, I'm curious to see how 2nd Edition runs by the book. Early edition stat-blocks do not give enough info to run most creatures with special attacks, so there was Mostrous Manualing. Can a monster's natural weapons damage a creature than can only be hit by +1 weapons (yes, depending on hit-dice). What happens when I charge? Or flank? When an enemy is prone? It wasn't too bad, but towards the end it did get a little much. Though if we were playing the system more, we'da know a lot of that I suppose. And if it took too long I just winged it.

Fifth, we misremembered a few things, applying later-edition rules to 2nd Edition. Like the Identify spell: you apparently don't learn a magic item's plusses through that. So I'm not quite sure how you would. Ever. Spell ranges are wicked far compared to 4e, where 20 squares is about the max of any spell. Or the Death's Door rule: zero HP is dying, not somehow automatically stable. It wasn't really clear if the Armor spell should stack with cloaks/rings of protection or not. Some things seem less powerful, others seem more.

Sixth, henchmen can take a lot of time. I should have had the PC roll for them, but I foolishly kept doing it. If I had been more prepared, I'da written their stats out or printed little cards so he could have at least made the rolls, even if I decided the actions. I'm much happier with porters and torchbearers and quartermasters who aren't combatants though.

Seven, I should have prepped the module better. In a module, you're always going to miss a few things, but I think I missed a couple more than I ought to have. Of course, the module could have done a slightly better job with an overview/summary and pointing out how some of the encounters were linked better (there were two side quests the player didn't do because there was no reason for him to go explore there, as far as I can tell). But a flow-chart of the different paths might have done me good. Also a summary of the possible henchmen and their attack stats. I figured out halfway through that they didn't have strength/dexterity attack modifiers added in to their THAC0, but they did seem to be in the AC. Or I could have at least looked up the damage for the weapons they were using (again, something you'd memorize through play, so eventually you wouldn't need to).

Eight, I didn't do a lot of encourage the player to stay in character. I think it would have made the game a lot more exhausting, but its something I think about for the larger games. I don't think I'm particularly good as addressing characters over players, NPC personalities/voices (see above), etc. But ultimately you can really only pick one or two things to work on each game and worry about getting the rest down later. At least I did the voices.

Nine, I did a good job. If I wasn't enjoying it, I would have railroaded the player through the main plot and finished. Instead he did every sub-plot and side-treck possible and came back two days in a row. Glad I did it. And I foolishly suggested we flip so now I've got a Half-Elven Cleric/Mage ready for tomorrow's Wizard's Challenge.

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