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Author Topic: Donjon Krawl, first session ever  (Read 6193 times)
Clinton R. Nixon
Posts: 2624

« on: February 08, 2002, 09:08:01 AM »

I don't want to kill anybody. I just want to take their stuff.
--Jules the Hedge Troll, as played by James Cunningham

I'm more than proud to say that the first session of Donjon Krawl run, played last night by Christopher Chinn (Bankuei), James Cunningham, and myself, went absolutely swimmingly. It went better than I expected to be sure, and it seemed that, with a few exceptions, the rules work well.

Adventure creation

The rules for adventure creation were the last thing I created for Donjon Krawl, and as I knocked out all 4,500 words of them in one day, I was more than worried about whether they would work.

I was able to create an entire adventure in one hour, most of that on a bus. It was actually fun (note: fun if you like making fantasy dungeon-type adventures.) The suggested method of creating encounters, not linked to a map in any way, seemed to work well. I'll actually be posting the entire adventure today or this weekend as Donjon Pak 1: Fungus Among Us, so everyone can check out how an adventure might work.

The adventure was set in a fairy-tale-esque fantasy world, similar to what you might see from some of Peter Seckler's d20 work - lots of 'cute' goblins, lots of elemental influence. It was set in a small farming town called Amerla, and the adventure hook was that the mayor, a nature wizard, had the Emerald of Cissela stolen from him, a gem that increased his magic in order to increase the growth of vegetables and increase the harvest of all the local farmers. He was willing to have the town's blacksmith and leatherworker (a married couple) make the best weapons and armor they could for any adventurers who were able to retrieve the Emerald. It was believed to have been stolen by sporegobs - sentient fungi in the shape of little imps - and hidden in a cave in the middle of the Crimson Forest, a nearby forest that got its name from the thick growth of red oak trees. As a bit of flavor, red oak trees have translucent red leaves, turning the light shining through them into a dark red. The interior of the forest looks like the inside of a darkroom, and the two most prolific native species to the forest are blood goblins - little red freaks with a mouth of shark's teeth - and red wolves - wolves the size of foxes, with dark red fur. The major complication I added was that other adventurers had heard about the Emerald, and were going to get it as well.

In play

The two characters were Maldeous, an magician specializing in fear-based illusions, and Jules, a hedge troll. James' hedge troll was an awesome example of character creation - some of his skills were "Bite through Anything," "Leap and Cling with Nasty Claws," "Jump from High Places," and "Pose as Farmer." I thought Pose as Farmer meant that he had good knowledge of farming, but it was the opposite - even though he wasn't that bright, he could actually transform into the shape of a farmer.

We only got through the first step of the adventure, the trek through the Crimson Forest. We got to see a lot of varied action here, though - Jules had a great comic scene trying to get to a nest in the top of a hollow tree where treasure had been spotted. He tried to leap and cling to the tree, and got Total Failure, leaving me to narrate the outcome. He leapt - and the rotten hollow tree collapsed on him, the nest rolling downhill into a river, the treasure swept away.

There were four combats total in the adventure, and all went smoothly. The dice pool system added a lot of Fortune to the situation, and emphasized the different strategies that can be used in combat well. In the first combat, they fought blood goblins, which have low Wherewithal and Hit Dice, but awful, nasty teeth. They mowed through these guys, as the amount of dice they rolled against damage was low enough that knocking them out was easy. In the second combat, they fought monsters of the same level - red wolves - but the wolves got a whopping 4 successes to surprise them. This combat was tense as those four successes rolled into four extra actions for the wolves in combat. In addition, the wolves had 3 Wherewithal and 3 Hit Dice, making it hard for a first level character even to damage them. (Another great comic scene was to be had here - Jules the troll and a wolf had their mouths locked on each other, each with a shoulder in their jaws. They basically chewed until one of them died.)

The changes in damage that Valamir suggested in Indie Game Design worked well - ability score damage is rough, and the players feared it after I started dishing it out.

We did discover that the magic rules need work - Chris's illusionist had real problems casting much of anything. A quick fix was in order, though, and the rules should work now. (If you want a full explanation: you now roll spell dice + Cer instead of just spell dice to cast your spell.) In terms of the word-based magic system, though, it worked well: Chris came up with several fantastic spells using his words of 'demonic,' 'phantasm,' 'shriek,' and 'agony.' He was able to attempt everything from a horrible shriek that disoriented the wolves, lowering their Adroitness (and winning the combat), to making his body into a phantasm in order to escape, to removing agony from an adventurer they found with a broken leg, allowing him to walk back to town.

The treasure and experience systems work as well as I thought they would. We came up with a 'cursed magic item' system during play, which will be implemented, allowing players to try and find better magic items if they also have a curse. The benefits are determined by the player, with the curse determined by the DM.


Bluntly, it was hard to get the players and me to jump into the narration part of the game. This is not a huge problem - narration is optional, and often, you want to use successes to increase your next action instead of narrating. Also, the game is set up so low-level characters (new players) don't narrate as much, leaving them to get used to the concept and use it liberally as they gain experience.

A few difficulties of tasks had to be adjusted. When writing the game, I was worried about player abuse, and made a few things much harder than they should be.

The randomness of using d20's for the dice pool made some rolls surprising. The characters tended to fail more often than expected, solely because I kept rolling 19's and 20's, even when my dice pool was lower than theirs. I think this was a fluke.

Lastly, in combat, the separate attack and damage rolls resulted in several hits that did no damage. From a realism standpoint, this makes sense - armor and all - but from a game standpoint, was a bit dissatisfying. I think a good fix would be that any successful blow does 1 Hit Die damage, with the successes on the damage roll increasing damage, and allowing ability score or Hit Die damage. This will make combat both faster and deadlier.


Gamism is fun. I think we all felt, in the end, "This was like original D&D. But really fun." The system seems to support everything from bloody battles to comic relief, and is not too number-intensive - conflicts seem to move quickly. There are a few rules changes left to be made, but more importantly, there's quite a bit of advice on how to run it that I need to add to the rules, especially in the area of experience for goals. I was liberal with this: any encounter that went successfully for the characters warranted experience, be it a fight, or a trip down a river, or avoiding a trap.

Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games

Posts: 5574

« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2002, 09:30:24 AM »

Glad to see it ran so well.  Given the quality of what was on your site I was suprised to see this was your first actual run.

Aside from the obvious reason to use d20s, do you think it would work better with d10s?  I kind of like when the high dice tie and the second dice tie and the third dice tie and the player starts to get nervous  (when playing Sorcerer I kept my dice hidden and shoved them out one at a time.)  This probably won't happen so much with d20s.

As an alternative fix for the 0 damage problem, maybe try having 0 damage result in a "special effect".  Armor damage, weapon broken, disarm, knockdown, something like that.  Damage reduced to 0?  Make a Save vs whatever.  It would be a way to keep the hit meaning something without something as standard as automatic damage.  It would also be a way to introduce those numerous little combat effects that simulative games go to great lengths to develop huge cumbersome systems for.

Maybe the defender would have a choice between eating an automatic 1 HD wound or making a saving throw.  If the save succeeds no effect, no damage.  If the save fails roll 1d6:

1: stunned lose next action
2: knocked down, 1 action to get up, adroitness only for defense
3: something else
4: Armor damaged, lose 1 die of armor
5: Disarmed
6: Weapon broken

Or perhaps instead of rolling, the attacker would choose one of these possibilities each of which would have a different save (stun might be a Save vs Confusion, Knock down might be vs Petrification, etc) and then the defender could chose to try it or eat it.

Just a thought.

Zak Arntson

Posts: 839

« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2002, 11:18:31 AM »

I'm so glad to hear it works! "Like the original D&D, but really fun" is the entire design goal. And I can't wait to play it on Sunday!!

And Valamir, d20's were kind of a big joke. The plan was to have the rules be written exclusively for d20's. Maybe, maybe a sidebar about different dice. We figured most people (us included) would use d6's or d10's. But it sounds like Clinton used d20's! How did that work out, Clinton?

« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2002, 12:49:31 PM »

Yeah, I'm looking forward to our next session with the cackly glee only dark mages can muster :)

I definitely enjoyed the system, the main reason I feel that we didn't get much into player narration/control is that neither James nor I had built our characters with the types of skills that would aid in it.  I was definitely feeling the cost of NOT having those support skills which would have changed things quite a bit.

Playing straight to the spirit of the game(old school), I randomly rolled the dice and the character I had in mind,  a swashbuckling Indiana Jones type, who would have had fun skills like,"Find heavy things up high", and "Discover things people wouldn't want to fall into", was put on the back burner for a more old school gamist mage.

I'd have to say that Donjon did an incredible job of capturing all the old D&D mentality, from the wanton greed("Can we loot the bodies?", "I bite off the straps of his backpack and run off with it!"), to the extreme fear of getting one's ass kicked in combat("Aw man, here it comes...")

I had no problem coming up with really great spell ideas off of the word list(Demonic, Phantom, Agony, Screaming), which included fun stuff like, Agony from the 10th Pit of Tartarus, Demonic Strength, Screaming Nerves, Damian's Ripping forth of Agony(that was the healing spell... sort of).  What I did have a problem was actually getting any of my spells to work.  I managed to get a few spells off of minor power, and my biggest acheivement was to scare off 2 bloodgoblins, but we'll have to see how magic works at higher levels to make a true judgement of it.

My character concept wasn't so much an actual demonic mage as much as an illusionist/normal mage who uses these freaky and dark looking spells to scare people away by appearing to threaten their very souls.  I found my character was more successful beating the hell out of the foes than magically incapacitating them.  I also found that ability damage is a great thing to hand out to foes to soften them up for the kill.

As far as the "no damage" issue, I'd say a good fix would be to either inflict 1 HD OR 1 ability damage, or to allow the player to narrate a single fact that may serve as an advantage("I push him back into the river").

For anyone who's interested, here's Maldeus, the Psychohell Mage:

Class: Psychohell Mage
Magic-Demonic, Phantom, Agony, Screaming-4
Vicious Staff Beating-4(he's a pretty mean guy)
Look Freaky & Creepy as Hell-1 (my favorite skill that's getting boosted next)
Speak Demonic-1(pretty useless, choose better next time)
Ignor Pain-1(didn't even use this once...hmm.)

Vir 8
Cer 12
Dis 7
Adr 10
Whe 9
Soc 7
(why do I keep seeing Cudgel the Clever here?)

Save vs.
Provisions -2(gotta buy some more)
Wealth-3(started at 2, jacked someone for their gold)
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