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[LL/BD&D] Help my players survive!

Pandora Caitiff

Goblin Princess
Validated User
Do you use reaction rolls and morale?
Yes to the first - they've negotiated with kobolds before, but they tend to attack pre-emptively when they smell a fight.

No to the latter - I've tried to used common sense, but mostly the fights have been over before anyone realised they were in danger. I'd let them keep low intelligence monsters at bay with flaming torches, if they thought of trying it.

Do you play that monsters can sometimes be distracted from pursuit by dropping food or treasure (depending on the monster's intelligence)?
I do, but the players have yet to run from a fight ;)

I need to get them to recalibrate their paranoia though. They came across a really obvious trap and set it off to see what it did (amazingly they survived the fireball). Yet they nearly bypassed a treasure hoard because it might be a trap :D
 

parmstrong

Registered User
Validated User
Successful tactics in B/X & LL focus on resource management in order to achieve an end. This "end" is usually defeating or driving off the monsters. These combat resources consist of:

Hit points
# of Attacks (and the related damage output)
Spells
Single use magic items

Successful tactics are ones that maximize these resources for the party while minimizing those of the monsters. B/X & LL have a number of subsystems which help the players in this regard. Many of which have already been mentioned.

Important considerations are:

- Hiring retainers adds to the hit point pool, increase the potential number of attacks a party can make, and possibly adds to the number of useable spells.

- Being wary of wandering monsters and pointless encounters to husband resources for other more important encounters.

- Weapon choices - spears & polearms allow for attacks from the second rank, flaming oil does large damage, missile weapons increase the # of attacks while preserving hit points, etc.

- Managing the environment - creating bottlenecks against large groups of monsters or surrounding a lone monster, etc. to maximize attacks for the party and minimize them for the monsters.

- Avoidance subsystems such as monster reaction rolls, evasion, monsters stopping for dropped food or treasure, and morale allows for the party the achieve the "end" without expending combat resources.

In the larger context of the entire B/X combat system, these avoidance subsystems become a very important part of balancing the fragile nature of B/X characters. The power level of B/X characters is such that it is important for players to consider ways to avoid combat (monster reaction rolls and evasion) or how to manage resources once in combat - for which the morale system helps a great deal.

For example - A low level party is marching off in the direction of the Caves of Chaos when the come upon a large raiding group of hobgoblins. The hobgoblins outnumber the part by a factor of four. Rightfully fearing the outcome of a battle against the hobgoblins, the party tries to evade the hobgoblins but fails. They then try to bribe their way out of their precarious situation but the reaction roll goes against them. Now the party magic-user uses his Sleep spell. The leader of the hobgoblin band and a couple of other hobgoblins fall unconscious. Time for a morale check! The result could be modified due to the fact that the hobgoblins are obviously facing magic and their leader has been incapacitated. The party gets lucky and the the remaining hobgoblins flee into the forest. The party narrowly avoided a dire fate!
 

ZenDog

Take That, You Fiend!
Validated User
Lots of hirelings, 1 or 2 sell-swords per character. I use these for S&W. . .

Swordsmen: AC: 8 [11]; HD:1; HP:8; Attacks:1 Short sword (1d6); Saving Throw:15; Move: 12; Morale: 8 Gear: Shortsword, Shield

Torchbearers: AC: 9 [10] HD: N/A; HP: 2; Attacks: 0 non-combatant; Saving Throw: 18; Move: 14; Morale: 5

1 gp a day/adventure for the torchbearers.

2-5 gp per day for the swordsmen plus 1 share of treasure per 5 men. Buying them better gear ups morale.
 

parmstrong

Registered User
Validated User
Lots of hirelings, 1 or 2 sell-swords per character. I use these for S&W. . .

Swordsmen: AC: 8 [11]; HD:1; HP:8; Attacks:1 Short sword (1d6); Saving Throw:15; Move: 12; Morale: 8 Gear: Shortsword, Shield

Torchbearers: AC: 9 [10] HD: N/A; HP: 2; Attacks: 0 non-combatant; Saving Throw: 18; Move: 14; Morale: 5

1 gp a day/adventure for the torchbearers.

2-5 gp per day for the swordsmen plus 1 share of treasure per 5 men. Buying them better gear ups morale.
I do pretty much the same thing for B/X & LL.

You can hire a Normal Humans (page B40) which costs 1d4 gp for advertising (posters, drinks, etc) and the standard pay is 1 gp per day. They come with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

or

You can hire Veterans (page B44) which cost 1d10 gp for advertising and the standard pay is 3 gp per day and a one-half share of treasure.

Of course, varying from standard pay impacts the roll on the Retainer Reactions Table (page B21) as to whether they accept the character's offer.
 

Galadrin

Registered User
Validated User
Pandora, I don't know about Labyrinth Lord, but if you are talking about Moldvay/Cook B/X D&D, PC's actually have a very high survival probability, when you think about it. Here is my argument, with page citation in bold.

1) If you think about it, by the book, every 1st level character except Magic-Users and Thieves is running around with AC 2 (Plate Mail and Shield is only 70 of the average 110 gp for starting characters, B12). Assuming the average party size of 7 (B19), that means 5 of the 7 characters are only hit 20% of the time (and with an average 5-6 hit points, thanks to the last line of B6, they need to be hit twice on average to inflict a casualty). That means a character must be attacked 10 times (on average) to kill him.

2) Combine this with the caveat that allows a Magic-User to pick his first spell (B16), very likely "Sleep", and you have a pretty tough party.

3) But who needs Sleep, when monsters only attack 28% of the time (B24)?

4) Even when a fight does break out, monsters tend to flee when they take their first casualty (B27).

5) All of these factors make it more likely that you can snag the treasure without a hard slog for it. The lair treasure of 24 Hobgoblins is already more than a quarter of a level for that group of 7, with even more for unguarded treasure, monster XP and so on.

The DM is what makes the adventure hard (and most people like the challenge). By the book, however, the numbers are more gentle.

* * *

However, I recommend playing the game as original "three little books" D&D (available to your LL game via the "Original Edition Characters" supplement). In the original 1974 game, you were expected to make attack rolls with 2d6 (unless you didn't own a copy of Chainmail), where a target with plate and shield would only be hit on a roll of 2 or less.* That means it takes 36 attacks, on average, to hit a 1st level Fighting Man PC (again, plate and shield only cost something like 65 of the initial average 110 gold coins). Not only that, but the XP reward for killing monsters was 100xp per HD, meaning a battle with 10 Orcs would net a clean 1,000xp for the group. When the group did get to the next level, they would reroll all HD and choose the best result. I honestly think the original 1974 game provided the best system for heroic dungeon delving.

* In my games of OEC, combatants just roll 2d6 (minus bonuses). If the roll is equal or less than the AC, the attack hits. If a PC (not a monster) rolls snake-eyes, the attack is a critical hit for a bonus die of damage (while boxcars are automatic misses for everyone). Every time a PC advances into a new "Level Range" (Character Attack Table), they get +1 to hit (i.e. Cleric 4-5 is +1, 6-8 is +2, 9-10 is +3). This corresponds very closely with the Chainmail Man-To-Man fighting table, but doesn't require a table!
 
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Terhali

Serene Green Queen
Validated User
I don't know if they'll go for henchmen. They've been grumbling about the lack of XP/loot when split among the party as I've been keeping the opposition fairly low level.
Perhaps it's time to up the loot, at least until a few PCs reach level 2. Classic dungeoncrawling is a brutal experience for a completely novice group. You might need to reconsider how you run the game, put on kid gloves during the training phase, and reward them for honest effort and baby steps in order to encourage the behavior you want (i.e., what will increase their chances of surviving and wanting to repeat the game). Quite frankly, they're not likely to survive until they learn to start hiring.
 

Pandora Caitiff

Goblin Princess
Validated User
Perhaps it's time to up the loot, at least until a few PCs reach level 2. Classic dungeoncrawling is a brutal experience for a completely novice group. You might need to reconsider how you run the game, put on kid gloves during the training phase, and reward them for honest effort and baby steps in order to encourage the behavior you want (i.e., what will increase their chances of surviving and wanting to repeat the game). Quite frankly, they're not likely to survive until they learn to start hiring.
They might be more likely to hire on help if I explain hirelings only take a 1/2 share of XP. (I've just been reading that section)

Funny thing is, they are enjoying the game and want to continue, they just want the joy of reaching 2nd. As I'm running the game as a contrast to our usual games (oWOD superheroes with fangs style) I'm not going to change the playstyle as some people above have said.

I am however going to increase the loot a bit. And I've emailled the best advice above to my players. We'll see if it makes a difference.

Thanks again.
 

Galadrin

Registered User
Validated User
I'm not going to change the playstyle as some people above have said.
Certainly, to each his/her own! In that case, just remember monster morale (test at the first casualty, and again at 50%), monster reaction rolls, distraction rolls while running from monsters (page 52 of LL Revised) and the other rules in Labyrinth Lord that are sometimes forgotten. Your PC's should do alright : )
 

parmstrong

Registered User
Validated User
1) If you think about it, by the book, every 1st level character except Magic-Users and Thieves is running around with AC 2 (Plate Mail and Shield is only 70 of the average 110 gp for starting characters, B12). Assuming the average party size of 7 (B19), that means 5 of the 7 characters are only hit 20% of the time (and with an average 5-6 hit points, thanks to the last line of B6, they need to be hit twice on average to inflict a casualty). That means a character must be attacked 10 times (on average) to kill him.

2) Combine this with the caveat that allows a Magic-User to pick his first spell (B16), very likely "Sleep", and you have a pretty tough party.

3) But who needs Sleep, when monsters only attack 28% of the time (B24)?

4) Even when a fight does break out, monsters tend to flee when they take their first casualty (B27).

5) All of these factors make it more likely that you can snag the treasure without a hard slog for it. The lair treasure of 24 Hobgoblins is already more than a quarter of a level for that group of 7, with even more for unguarded treasure, monster XP and so on.
Good post!
I think it is players not realizing or playing towards point 3 that gets them into trouble.
 
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