Friday, April 9, 2010

Red Box Niagara: Inaugural Session Recap!

Sorry to keep you waiting for the after-action report of the first session of Red Box Niagara. I had two papers to give at conferences (both on D&D) and then the final week of classes. So I'm pretty well beaten down and looking forward to a slower pace over the summer.

If you have been following the blog, you know that I've drawn great inspiration from the Red Box Calgary and particularly the Red Box Vancouver game sessions. After struggling to find a regular group of players I decided to create a promotional poster of sorts that I put up around the University (Brock) and at the (somewhat) FLGS. I was shocked to have 8 people at the first session all between 19-24ish. This group included one veteran role-player, four 4E players, and several people who had never played D&D. Two of the players were former students. Many I met for the first time. Overall, I was extremely pleased and, since our first session, I've had two more express interest. I've never ran a table of 8 players before, so that was unique. I'll return to that theme later. We played from 5:30-9pm

I spent the first 30 minutes going over old school play, what it means, and how it differs from 4E. I made a summary sheet of classic D&D tactics, and a summary sheet that I found (sorry I don't recall where) that summed up the Old School Primer nicely. We discussed some of these assumptions, why they are important, and had a full discussion. I tried to keep it light and I think they appreciated it. After all, some had never played D&D before. I made it clear that regardless of how long this group plays we will always be open to teaching and helping new players.

Character generation was a straight 3d6 in order. Some raised eyebrows but went along with it. The party consisted of:

Dingle Hardbottle: 1st Level Halfling
Kahn Silverson: 1st Level Cleric
Gargamel: 1st Level Magic-User
Karrik Wolfwood: 1st Level Fighter
"Big" Rory Danderfluff: 1st Level Halfling
Kalthazod: 1st Level Cleric
Kilmar: 1st Level Fighter
Gilrus: 1st Level Elf

The party hired two torch-bearers/porters, 2 elven men-at-arms (I know but the dice don't lie), and a human man-at-arms. There were generated using my random hireling generator and name generator.

This session was unique in my D&D gaming as most of the party chose chaos as their alignment. The two clerics choose Tiamat and Orcus as their deities. On top of all that, we laughed HARD for 4 fricken hours. I had the players answer two questions to introduce themselves to the party 1) Ware you? 2) How did you get to stuck in this god-forsaken keep at the ass-end of the civilized realm? I offered experience points for the most creative answers. I tell you, these guys opened up right away and had each other laughing out loud. You know those sessions where you have a lot of fun and still get something done? Ya well, this wasn't one of those. It was just yucking for hours. I think people were a wee bit crispy being the end of the year and term. I like having a laugh too, but I'm secretly hoping for a little more seriousness in the next session.

The party spent a good portion of their time introducing themselves (with accents no less), getting organized, and finding hirelings. Of course they failed to hire a guide. I put the Caves of Chaos two full days march into the wilderness, it is way too close in the module. From there the party found a long-abandoned dwarven trade road and were told to follow it for two days and then head north to find the caves. I had them hex mapping which was a brand new experience. They really agonized over the location of their first campsite. The considered defensive positions, setting up traps to warn them of intruders, the whole nine yards.

We ended with an encounter with a wild boar. The party won initiative and killed the creature with ranged attacks. Once the boar appeared I said "Ok, initiative" at which time almost everybody grabbed a 20-sided die and rolled! Haha. I had to back them up to the d6 and then tell them we were doing a group initiative. Too funny.

So, that's the short and the long of the first session. We finished just a couple hexes away from the Caves.

If I keep getting 8-10 players I'm going to need to break them up into two groups or something. Perhaps normal D&D attrition will take care of it? I dunno. Also, if all the chaotic players aren't playing their alignment I'm going to impose an alignment shift to neutral. I'm open to any an all comments or suggestions on how best to manage a group this size.

Red Box Niagara, Session 1, Party Deaths: 0


  1. Fantastic! I am really excited for you.

  2. Huzzah! and congratulations on your first Redbox session.

    re d20 vs d6 thing, when I ran B2 last weekend I had one guy casting cure light wounds every other round cause he thought it was his "at will" power ala 4th ed.

    > any an all comments or suggestions on how best to manage a group this size.


  3. To be honest, if you are running this with Red Box rules, you might just keep the whole group together. With 0 hit points = death you can use the extra cannon fodder, plus, this allows you to rotate out the wounded fighters into the second row, and allow them to fight with spears.

  4. I say keep them all in one group. I'm regularly running six players with four entourage henchmen using D&D 3.5 rules -- and with simpler rules that would work even better.

  5. Another vote for One Big Group, but corral one of the more experienced players into being the caller/leader. You'll know they're getting into it when they start asking for smaller groups and discouraging too many hirelings--because of the xp drain. :)

    I'm really curious to hear how the initiative and Move, Missile, Magic, Melee cr0mbat system worked out for you. We found it too confining, though it does force some interesting tactical choices by forcing movement up front.

    Also, let me know if you need any help getting this session summary on the wiki.

  6. Here's another vote for keeping them all together, at least for running through B2. There are enough critters in the Caves of Chaos to pose a challenge for even a party of that size, so no one will lack for something to do. If you did break them up into two groups, you might end up just having to merge them again if attrition demanded it.

    I would second the idea of establishing some method of how the party decides on a course of action. Whether that's electing a leader, or taking a vote on every issue where there's disagreement. This is probably something every group should do, but maybe more vital for a bigger group.