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July 12, 2010 7:59 PM   Subscribe

D&D Nerd Help Wanted: I'm running a campaign for a couple of first level characters. How do I create maximum hack and slash with game balance? Game system of player's choice: AD&D2

I want to run a campaign for lunchtime at work, with an eye to something fun and light, that'll keep my bosses (one of whom warned 'I like to play evil characters') happy. Problem is that I've played a lot more whitewolf and free form RPGs, and while I'm great at story telling, my players were always more into the use of clever puns and complicated plots. Dice were often not involved, and challenges were often settled with rock paper scissors.

So yeah, I need to fill my nicely drawn dungeon map (over run silver mine) with just enough goblins and a couple of orcs to keep two to three first level characters excited, challenged but not instantly dead or ruling the known world in three game sessions.

So how many goblins, in how big a group? Armed with what? Please note, I'm frantically reading the game manuals as I type this, and I have a big eyed middle manager trying to wheedle his way into a magic sword.
posted by Phalene to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Kobolds. You want kobolds. They're even wimpier than goblins. They might as well be wearing red shirts. They die if you look at them hard.
posted by adipocere at 8:09 PM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

They're called modules, and a lot of them are free online, and a lot of them are in really cool worlds.

Steal away!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:11 PM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

In addition, a good D&D battle at it's best is 1 of 3 things:

A whole lot of the same kind of thing with tiny amounts of hit points (kobolds, mentioned above) that do a little bit of damage but are fun to churn through. OR 1 big massive bastard with a million hit points that nevertheless can only attack once as the heroes poke at it.

OR (and this is the one that isn't in any video game I know of) the bad guys are sentient NPCs with a lot of spunk and creativity to their fight...then you can use surroundings, weird magic items, and all kinds of improvised shit-talk and tactics to make the game more interesting than: "I attack." "I dodge." Don't be afraid to dole out capricious +s and -s based on innovation.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:17 PM on July 12, 2010

Response by poster: @Potomac

Hmmm, would that be for ripping the monsters out and sticking them into my game? I don't really need a game world, I can make those up on the fly, at a bus stop.
posted by Phalene at 8:18 PM on July 12, 2010

I'd also recommend kobolds. In the literature, I believe they often come to blows with gnomes and dwarves over territory, and can do a bit of mining. They're also great for their trapmaking skills, and no self respecting dungeon doesn't have it's share of devious trapsmiths.

Add a couple of shamans, maybe a pet Troll, and they can scale up surprisingly well. Just be sure that you know what you're doing if you end up stocking the dungeon with Tucker's Kobolds.
posted by ktrey at 8:21 PM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

2nding modules. Keep in mind that everything related to AD&D has been scanned and may be located somewhere.

Remember: goblins rush and attack. They're meat-fodder. Kobolds, on the other hand, can come up with basic plans, ambushes, etc. Think of it this way: a goblin will try to knock you down with a push, whereas a kobold will have a guy on all fours behind you to make sure you fall over.

To keep things interesting, make sure to send out at least one more powerful goblin (maybe mounted or a classed fighter/magic user) with each group of fodder-goblins. Keeps things more interesting and forces them to work as a team to prioritize combat.

Is there a reason you're starting off at first level? If there isn't, start at 3 or 4. Characters tend to be a bit more fleshed-out in ability and the individuality of the classes shines through a bit better.
posted by griphus at 8:21 PM on July 12, 2010

Hmmm, would that be for ripping the monsters out and sticking them into my game?

Yep. Module monsters tend to be a little more creative and unusual than the heavily-Tolkien-derived stuff in the Monster Manual. Unless you're into that sort of thing.
posted by griphus at 8:23 PM on July 12, 2010

Final note: In my opinion characters in 2E should start at like 3rd level. First level is just way too wimpy. Plus then they get to invent backstory with more guidance.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:51 PM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Just came in to say Kobolds! See that's been covered, so Yay Nerds!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:28 PM on July 12, 2010

Kobolds run by evil 3rd level wizard in old ruins. Ruin has clue to new adventure treasure in next dungeon, but must get sage in town to decipher, so they gotta cough up the gold. They are frustrated and eager to get more gold for training. Next adventure has enough to get them up to next level and pay for training. So they are left penniless and wanting more. Eventually they get more gold, but never quite enough to be satisfied.

Multipart adventures "the seven gems of the door of Arakon" are the best. Final adventure, all gems collected, door opened, bad-ass boss to fight.

This is how you do campaigns. Never give them enough. They gripe and gripe but are never bored any always come back.

Knew that shit would come in handy some day.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:17 PM on July 12, 2010

You could equip them all from the outset with special healing capes that only work when not in combat. Or, y'know, you're the DM, you can bend or break the rules as much as you want. If their thac0 roll is insufficient to smash the kobold that is just about to run them though, then there is a gust of breeze in their favour (for the paper dart-throwing classes), or an image of their sweetheart flashes in their mind and they fight with renewed vigour (for the priapists).
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:49 PM on July 12, 2010

Tell the story first, play by the rules secondarily.

Don't kill the hero off in the first scene.. there's 90 minutes more of film to fill...
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:00 PM on July 12, 2010

The general answer is that nothing really substitutes for experience, and that you will probably always be calibrating and correcting for misjudgments on the fly. So lowball at first with small easy fights and slowly escalate on later fights. Yeah yeah, I didn't think that would help.

Low-level PCs are pretty fragile. You probably want small pockets of these enemies, no more than 1-6 of them at a time. Six is too many but the party may have an occasional ability to win tough fights (like with the sleep spell), and they can always run away. And the goblins themselves should not be very coordinated or intelligent, anyway so that a lot are not fought at once. So maybe 30 of them total, armed with crapola short swordish things that do 1d3 damage.

They will be unorganized, they will bicker amongst themselves. If captured, they will be stupid and self-concerned and give wrong information. They will be lax in their work. Some might run away on first sight of the party, some will be competent and pissed off that they are surrounded by fools. When the tribe is attacked, some might try to make off with the tribe's intellectual property treasures/religious texts and start their own tribe. Or maybe this group already is a "goblin startup" that did exactly that. The goblin tribe as a parody of corporate culture might be funny for a lunch game.

Besides fun and comic effect, this means you don't have to be ultra careful about their numbers, tactically. More can appear who were late to the fight, half the group can run away if you think the fight is too difficult. Furthermore, if you conceive of them as a group, and know how to imagine instances of them in rooms doing stuff, then you won't be locked into thinking of just 2 goblins in room 12, 3 goblins in room 5, all standing around waiting for the door to open to activate them.

All the stuff you know from your White Wolfery can work in D&D. I think there's a tendency for some DMs to dumb themselves way down when running it. It's not a videogame. Monsters don't default to: "attack on sight; fight to the death; pursue at all costs; never take prisoners."

A couple other things:

Skeletons and zombies are easy. No one will complain when they shamble up stupidly to the slaughter, or when the party comes back to a room weeks later to find them in the exact same place, nor will they be captured and interrogated, nor will anyone wonder about their bathrooms, kitchens, beds, personal effects, languages, political structure, the nature vs. nurture of their evilness, or the moral question of killing their young. As a bonus, the necromancer(s) behind it all are usually fun enemies. (Just skeletons and zombies. The rest of the undead are bastards. Ghouls especially are a common source of accidental mass death because they paralyze people, which while not "save or die" is definitely "save or fucked.")

Keep in mind, though, a cleric will blast through them like a hot mace through warm butter, except of course when he doesn't. And there are many other cases where a fight you thought might be difficult is easy peasy, and vice versa. What's important is that the PCs be able to run away, or to a lesser extent be able to trick, bypass, and parley with enemies. I.e. often be able to pick their fights. This is actually a huge part of the balance and smooth operation of the game, and something you might find to be at odds with your story-heavy style.
posted by fleacircus at 4:13 AM on July 13, 2010

Response by poster: It's a human mine, in a remote area with silver that makes for extra spiffy holy symbols, but in formerly orc territory. The plot hook is an outright assignment from the local religion to make sure that the metal keeps coming. The kobolds/goblins/whatever are the minions of some beleaguered orcish freedom fighters. I'll start adding dead falls and stuff. ^_^

I was intending to have a half orc who'd be just tough enough to have a chance of surviving to live and fight another day, and provide either a reoccurring villain or a nice boss to kill.
posted by Phalene at 5:05 AM on July 13, 2010

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