Thursday, October 16, 2014

Wednesday Dwimmermount: A Few Thoughts on Running the Game (Session 1)


A long time ago, I began to cobble together some GM aids that put all of the pertinent rules of ACKS into a 7 or so page document. Don’t get me wrong, ACKS uses OD&D as its base and is hardly a complicated game. The crunchy bits it introduces to that rules set are all things that I enjoy, such as clear mechanics for hiring henchmen and mercenaries. However, the book’s organization is a wee bit scattered, and I found myself flipping around more than I would have liked. Some of that will go away with experience, of course, but I’m now very motivated to finish said GM aid.

As a further thought on organization, Dwimmermount has a few warts. Some of the important general information is set aside in its own chapter (doors, wandering monsters, etc.), which is very good for finding what you need during GM prep, but not so good when you’re trying to find something in the heat of the moment. For example, Zazik’s coughing fit was supposed to call for an encounter throw each round that it lasted to see if it attracted a wandering monster. This occurs on page 119, and I was able easily find the wandering monster chart at the beginning of the chapter describing the current level (a very logical place). I It took me a bit of searching, however, to find the chance that an actual random encounter occurs (6+ on a d6, way back on page 87). To be fair, that probability never changes (unless otherwise noted in the adventure) and is pretty clearly delineated in the Overview chapter, but it did slow me down during gameplay. I think it would be simple to just put something like (1d6, 6+) at the top of every wanderin monsters chart. It wouldn’t take up too much space and it would save a knuckle-headed DM like myself a bit of time.

Those are minor complaints, of course. Lots of things about the organization of Dwimmermount are very good. The authors clearly put a lot of thought into making the book useable to a GM right there at the table, with sidebars about James’ original campaign, page references for new monsters, info about factions in the dungeon, and other good bits. Once I get more familiar with the dungeon, I’ll be able to prep more effectively and then lean on the tools that are there to make things smoother during actual play.

On Grognardia, James mentioned that he was really thrilled that the party was mapping their way. I tried to encourage this myself, but as I’m playing with a teenager and a pre-teen, mapping slowed things down quite a bit. I’d like to find another solution, but I’m not 100% sure how to proceed. I don’t just want to eliminate the map-making, as I think that the process is a pretty important part of the old-school gaming experience, but I don’t want it to create boredom at the table, either. Perhaps things will just get better with practice? I noticed a lot of pictures from James’ original campaign using dungeon tiles, but I’m in no position to drop a bunch of money on dwarven forge.

This week, I’m going to work on creating my play aids, to include the above-mentioned GM documents, plus some NPC tracking sheets so I can pre-generate a few more local hirelings. This campaign, with only two regular players, is obviously going to need plenty of NPC support.

3 comments:

  1. I'm planning to start my 12-year old son and a friend (or two) on the same journey with ACKS and Dwimmermount. As such I would find your GM's Aid invaluable if you should care to share it? Thanks!

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  2. Great read, there is something really appealing about megadungeons, I'd love to play in one, man so much gaming, so little time. I feel the same way about mapping, on the one hand it seems like a really integral part of the adventure in a big crawl. The group getting farther and farther from daylight, trying to keep a careful record so they can retrace their steps. It also seems like I read rules at one point for parties messing up their mapping and becoming lost as they tried to return, but that could just be my memory playing tricks on me.

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  3. Enjoying the start of your campaign. And I too would love to see your GM's aid.

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