Archive for the ‘Old School Hack’ Category

We played OSH again last night, and the kids had a great time. We continued the story that left off last time with our adventurers having just fought off bat riders that attacked them from a nearby volcano.

After a short rest the group traveled to the base of the volcano where they found a large cave entrance. Just inside the cave they found what appeared to be a long line of various monsters. At the front of the line there appeared to be another monster that was a guard of some kind, with a clipboard, taking monster names and letting a few in at a time through a chained entrance. They decided that this was probably not a good way to enter the volcano.

So they climbed up the side of the mountain to another cave farther up where the bats from the encounter had fled to after the fight. They entered into this cave and found that it opened quickly into a large cavern with stalactites and stalagmites and a natural bridge of sorts leading to a tunnel across the cavern. Along the ceiling were large rings where the bats were gathered.

Sansalar’s new bat friend told her that he was going to head up there and hang out with his friends for a while, so he took off. Just after he took off, 4 Boglins (Bat Riders) appeared across the bridge and announced their presence by firing arrows across the cavern that all went wild (they were two arenas away).

The battle was on, and Dwarvie yelled “Charge!” and charged onto the bridge. The battle moved quickly and two Boglins were dispatched from the bridge and fell to the cavern floor or impaled on a stalagmite. The two remaining decided it was time to run and sound the alarm. To help cover their retreat, a new monster showed up. The caretaker of the bat cave, Llort, arrived. His green, warty skin, large nose, tiny head, and orangutan-like upper body and arms indicated they he often traveled the cavern using the many rings throughout. That’s right, his name is troll spelled backwards, and yes…he is known as Llort of the Rings.

Once everyone recovered from the horrible puns, they engaged the irritating regenerating Llort and were only able to kill one Boglin that was running away. The Llort eventually took to the rings (after being pushed off the bridge by Dwarvie), and tried to dodge arrows while he loosened and dropped stalactites on the party. Eventually, they stuck him enough times to drop him and he fell to his squishy doom onto one of the stalagmites below.

By then, however, the cave swarmed with more boglins, led by one that looked to be in charge. He was announced to be the Boglin Chef, and everyone figured this was just a boglinish way of saying Chief. Well, he was actually an Assistant Chef, but he still looked pretty important. His armor did look a little odd, like cookie sheet breastplate, a colander helmet, and of course, a Military Fork.

The party was overwhelmed and captured, but they were able to take a couple boglins, and the Chef, out beforehand. They were hauled further into the volcano and through a large room that was set up with tables and food in bins. Two conveyor belts cranked large disks of meat over the hot volcanic lava and placed on large loaves of bread that were sliced in half.

Davon did a forehead slap and said, “I fought my butt off to get into here, and it’s just a restaurant?!?!?!”

They were brought before the General Mangler, and he accused them of working as raiders for the competition. Apparently, a rival of Monster Burger has been blockading supply chains and employing raiders to interfere with delivery bats and their routes.

They offered to help stop the raiders if the Mangler would spare their lives and not make them into side dishes. He told his boglins to put them in the cooler for a while so he can consider their offer.

We’ll see how things go next time!

The players have all been asking for another round of Old School Hack, so tonight we gathered at the table and we played again.


Dwarvie the Shortbearded Facesmasher is the only PC that survived a walk through the Gauntlet, and she came out of it with a huge red gem the size of a dragon’s eye.

Sansalar the Cranky Elf Wanderer was true to her names-sake after her trip through the gauntlet and being ejected magically sans all her belongings. ALL of them.

The greedy thief, who also failed the Gauntlet, so grief-stricken over all the stolen property that was also stripped from  him as he was ejected from the Gauntlet, threw himself from a wooden bridge over a canyon near the entrance to the dungeon.

So our story tonight begins as Sansalar, now clothed in rags taken from a dead Orc, and Dwarvie started to head back toward town. Dwarvie stared into the gem because she saw something moving…

…it was a landscape, dark and red, with a volcano pouring out a river of lava. As she stared she felt the air around them warm up, almost like they were there…and then suddenly, they were. As quickly as their scenery had just changed on them, a goblin arrived, breathing hard, and asking if they had seen a short man running this way. Neither of them had, of course, so they decided to set out to explore the volcano to see if he ran into the cave at the base of the mountain.

In the lava river that flowed by, they saw (everyone at the table said it before I could) a lava shark! It looked Hungry.

As they approached the volcano, they could see a black billowing cloud coming out the top and swirling down toward them. The cloud got closer and they could tell it was not a cloud at all, but (again, everyone beat me to to it) giant bats! And they have little dark dervish riders on them, like little ninjas! They swooped down and swooshed and swirled around them, calling to each other to “take them out and get all their goods for the master.”

Dwarvie called out, “Come on Team, let’s get them!”

When a 4 year old playing a dwarf shouts the rallying cry at the table…that gets an awesome point!

The fight was an interesting one, with the the PCs all grabbing rocks and pitching them at the dark dervishes, knocking a couple off their mounts. These guys were carrying bows, so that did well to arm the Elf that had lost all her possessions in the Gauntlet.

Two riders swooped down to have their bats grab at Sansalar and Dwarfie, and pull them up into the “flying” arena. Sansalar got her shot off and missed just before she was grabbed and lifted into the sky. Dwarfie was missed, but then hit her target so hard that she also dazed the bat that came down for a rough landing right near her…which of course just begged for her to check out bat riding as a new sport. In shock at the weight and enthusiasm of his new rider, the bat labored back  up into the air after a successful Cunning roll.

Can you imagine a bat-riding, spikey-armored dwarf twirling her warhammer like Thor and flying right into the rest of the swarm of bat riders? Yeah, there will be trouble for the dark dervishes!

Meanwhile the Elf tries to make friends with the bat that has grabbed her. She has the Animal Friend talent, so this sounded pretty awesome, and she strikes up a conversation with the bat via high-pitched shrieks back and forth. After brief introductions, the conversation boils down to “Do you have better food than he does?” <long pause, knowing that her sole possessions now included a dervish bow and orc rags> “Uh, no, sorry.” “You may be nice and all, but he has the food.” So Sansalar shrugs as she is carried higher into the air.

The goblin has been firing arrows from a bow he picked up from a fallen dark dervish, too, and has been astoundingly accurate, rolling a 10 on his face die with nearly every shot. So in some cases, he not only shot the rider, but winged the bat in the process.

The number of bat riders is dwindling now, but the Goblin now targets the rider of the bat that has the elf. Without a rider, the bat lets go of Sansalar, and she awesomely flips down through the air to land gracefully on the back of another flying bat, and begins shrieking to it as well. This bat however, is completely taken by the elf and they become fast friends.

Dwarfie the Shortbearded Facesmasher lives up to her namesake and barrels through the remaining bat riders like a spinning bowling ball through pins. Lots of face smashing going on. She’s taking them out two at a time while they try to flee in fear. A short bit later, and the skies are clear. The bat carrying Dwarfie has come to its senses and dumped Dwarfie and flown away. Skrii is now Sansalar’s new friend, and the goblin has several new bows and arrows.

The biggest challenge in using the rest of this “old school” game module I wrote over 10 year ago with Old School Hack was two-fold: 1) It’s a typical dungeon crawl, so one of the most fun and dynamic elements of combat, arenas, is difficult to apply, and 2) my players are all 10 and under, and had a huge amount of trouble with the puzzle/riddle in the gauntlet.

In the end, this meant that our 2nd session of Old School Hack was not nearly the success of the first one. But we played it through anyway, and the 4 year old is the only one that passed the puzzle challenge without any trouble. Ah, to be young and innocent! I will post more about the Gauntlet in a later post, but for now suffice it to say that it was a role-playing puzzle to challenge the PCs integrity. No dice rolls needed, just players role-playing. So the novice group of players, in general, blew it.  😉

But the few fights there were to be had were still pretty quick, but it seems the entire scope of possible arenas were limited to “Room” and “Hall”. Boring. There were still some interesting dynamics, from *my* perspective, though. With the Hall being a different arena, ranged attackers were able to stay out there and fire into the Room arena without fearing a melee attack in return. However, the monsters wanted to Move out to that arena, which gave Dwarfie a change to Impede if she wanted to. This makes for a fight that is very different from your normal “trading blows” D&D fight.

If I am understanding the rules correctly, players all basically declare their intent at the beginning of each round, and in my game we use the combat cards with the card holders (those are Awesome, so we use them!), so players put out the card that matches what they want to do, and we begin the round.

So if a player chooses to Attack (which is phase 5), but his intended target chooses to Move (phase 4), then he won’t have a target to attack when 5 rolls around! Likewise if you choose Impede (Phase 3) and no one Moves in 4 for you to impede, then while you are jockeying back and forth trying to keep people from running, they can Attack you in Phase 5, and you get to just grit your teeth back at them. Combat can have some dicey moments based on these kinds of rules.

I am interested in gathering ideas for scenes to use in future fights that have that fantastic dynamic of multiple arenas for players to move around in. Maybe there is room for them on the OSH Bestiary…if not, I will find a place to keep them.

I think it would be good to spend a little time here writing about some of the cool game mechanics that are included in Old School Hack. Initial observations begin with “this ain’t so old school” as you might think. I know Old School. And while there is something to be said about it, I think that in general, old school often means old-fashioned. Some think that is means simple, easy.

My background with RPGs begins in the 70s with Dungeons & Dragons and Tunnels & Trolls as a grade-schooler in Scottsdale, AZ. I was the one who gathered friends and introduced them to the game. I was always the DM. I learned the rules first and taught them to others. These pioneering games were not “easy” because they were foreign. But by most standards, they were pretty simple. There were only a few options, and you just picked between them, and were happy about it. As the industry developed thicker and thicker books hit the shelves that gave you virtually limitless options. And with that came complexity and slower games and combats.

Some people harken back to simpler times, when you could just sit down at the table with some graph paper and pencils, dice, and a single-sided character sheet–and just have some fun. In the quest to provide the ultimate system for your gaming experience, to present the most realistic, or genre-true, game mechanics, we have found ourselves sitting down at the table with stacks of reference books, giving the “walking encyclopedias” and “rules lawyers” a distinct advantage over everyone else, even the DM. I think many a comic strip has illustrated this very issue.

So here I am looking at a simple set of rules. I was able to read in very quickly (literally just minutes), much faster than the original D&D rules when I was a kid–which actually took re-reading several times before starting a game, and referencing often during play because it was so new to me.  Actually the experience of reading the original D&D rules was a lot more like my experience reading D&D4e rules.

So OSH was very easy for my experienced game brain to take in, except for just a couple of the mechanics that I needed to take a little longer to absorb. The easy and familiar included:

  1. Class-based characters, where race *is* a class.
  2. Levels. The game covers Levels 1-4.
  3. Rolling Attributes, but they are only recorded as their “bonus” -2 to +5 by consulting a chart.
  4. Attack rolls, modified by attributes, and Armor Class (AC is target number to beat)
  5. Attribute checks, rolled and modified by the applicable attribute.
  6. Minions as 1-hit foes.
  7. Awesome Points, which are spent by players to get bonuses, avoid damage, etc.

The easy and new ideas included:

  1. Different attack rolls for different kinds of monsters
  2. Minions use a different to-hit roll, and another kind of roll when they can gang up.
  3. Attack rolls are made with 2d10 (or 3d10 in some cases, keeping the two highest).
  4. Attack rolls include one die as a “face die” which means you hit them in the face if you roll at 10 on that die.
  5. Turn sequence – 7 phases each round, with initiative being rolled only when necessary.
  6. Damage is either 1 hit or 2. A face hit adds +1
  7. Awesome Points, as experience, which must be spent in order to level up. Spending 12 APs let’s you level, but *all* players must spend 12 because the party must level together. This is my favorite mechanic because it makes teamwork FUN.  🙂

The new idea that needed a little time:

  1. Arenas. I kept seeing that as “areas” in my head. And when I corrected myself, I kept seeing gladiators in my head. I might have liked to call it Zones instead, just to avoid that bit of distraction.Arenas were hard to get until I ran a mock battle in my head. It’s just a way of splitting the field of battle up in to different places. This is a core element of fighting in the game that has a great deal to do with making combats dynamic and interesting…and manageable.

    This is actually an element that could and maybe even *should* be translated into other game systems. It has changed the way I think about combats in general, and when I am thinking up settings for combats, it becomes an important design element.

    Players are encouraged to narrate new arenas as well, adding additional dimension to each fight, and creating a “new place” to take the battles to. Ranged attacks can fire from one arena to adjacent arenas, but melee is confined to one arena at a time. Archers could then move to “high ground” such as “I climb the tree, moving to the treetops arena so that next round I can fire my bow in the arena below.”

    The concept of Arenas would make T&T infinitely more interesting to play. It would improve game play for a lot of systems I think.

    A single-arena combat becomes droll and boring. This is the single biggest drawback to using arenas. Normal dungeon crawls become significantly more uninteresting.

    I am reworking this old adventure I am running for my kids (Bellicose Keep) to give more varied settings and arenas, and thereby making combats to be had there much more interesting. I’ll post more about my changes later. Until then, happy gaming!