Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Old-School AD&D Game: The Characters

It occurred to me that I’ve been posting the recaps for the AD&D old-school game through Module S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks that I’m running, and I’ve mentioned a few of the characters in the recaps, but it could be confusing if you don’t know who they all are. 

I got the idea of running this module last Fall when one of the players in our monthly Call of Cthulhu game forwarded me a review he read about the old 1st Edition module S3 with a personal note that said, “This sounds like fun.”  I have a pretty sizeable collection of old 1st Edition AD&D and Basic/Expert D&D modules from when I was in Jr. High, and I’d say that probably at least 85% of them I’ve never actually run before.  I used to do a lot more playing than refereeing, but I used to like to collect modules to read just for the fun, inspiring, and let’s face it, wacky ideas in them.  A spaceship crash lands in Greyhawk?  A family from medieval France somehow gets transported through space and time to the Known World?  (Note: I still call it the Known World, because I think Mystara is a stupid name.  It doesn’t sound like the name of a planet.  It sounds like the name a marketing company would give a planet to make it sound kewl). 

Anyway, I got really excited at the thought of actually running the monthly CoC players through this module using the original 1st Edition AD&D rules.  I’d been playing d20-based D&D for the past 10 years, and I was itching to trying something different.  I’ve also been reading James Maliszewski’s old-school Grognardia blog and reading his reviews and reminisces about old-school D&D did make me a little nostalgic to want to pull out and actually use my old rulebooks.

I got the gang on board to play and I immediately decided that I would create and then assign them characters, versus having them create the characters themselves.  This had two advantages, the first and most practical of which was that most of these guys either never owned or had gotten rid of their 1st Edition books.  But, just as important to me was that a few years ago, my friend Cal ran a 4th Edition D&D one-shot game in which he assigned us characters and because he created their backgrounds, he was able to do some really interesting things with them.  I have to say my favorite was discovering that my character, a Warlord, was controlled by the right head of an Ettin.  For those of you who don’t have much geek cred (although I would suspect that you wouldn’t be reading this blog), an Ettin is basically a two-headed giant.  Much to my surprise, I found that another player in the game was a Fighter who was, you guessed it, controlled by the left head of the same Ettin.  So, on each round, we argued with each other over our course of action.  My character was the “smart half” of the Ettin (Intelligence 6, if I remember correctly), whereas the Fighter character was Intelligence 3.  And, we had completely different “kewl powerz” (to use 4th Edition fanboy terminology).  But, it made for a really fun game.

I chose not to go to quite that level of humor when creating the characters for my AD&D one-shot, but I did have some fun.  Each character has secret information contained in their background which I don’t want to share here yet because the players are reading my blog, but once we’ve completed the module I’ll post each character’s description and background. 

In the meantime, here’s a quick list so you can follow the recaps easier.  Each player has a main character and also a back-up character in case one of their characters dies during the course of the module.

  • DOUGAL CAIMBEUL: 12th level Human Thief (male)
    • Dougal is the “sneaky and silent” type who doesn’t speak much and, when he does speak, has a very weird accent which the other adventurers have been hard-pressed to identify.  He also smells bad.
    • The player of Dougal, Brian, chose to have Dougal speak in short choppy one-syllable words so that he sounds like a stereotypical movie Indian from the 1940’s. 
    • Brian’s back-up character is a human monk named LI MU BAI’S COUSIN. 
  • ELDGRIM “PAUNCH-SHAKER” BOLTHORSON: 10th level Human Cleric (male)
    • Eldgrim is a barbarian cleric, or godi, from the Kingdom of Frutzii (the “Frost Barbarians”) in the World of Greyhawk.  He serves as a skald and storyteller to his people.
    • As an odd choice for a barbarian cleric, Eldgrim follows Lydia, the ancient Suelese goddess of Knowledge, Music, and Daylight.
    • Eldgrim carries a warclub he calls Skull-basher, but is more often seen with a tambourine and pint of ale in his hand.
    • The player of Eldgrim, Sean, likes to shout loudly that he’s bringing the “Light of Lydia” to the people and then says that he’s launching into a rousing song.  We keep waiting for him to actually compose an original drinking song. 
    • Sean’s back-up character was a male half-elf ranger named LORD CELEPHORN IV.  He died during the third session. 
  • SIR CLENNAN ATHOL INNES-KERR III: 10th Level Human Paladin (Male)
    • Innes-Kerr is the party leader and his background talks about how he used his natural charisma and the exploits of his triumph over a tribe of savage orcs in order to win the other adventurers over to his cause.
    • He speaks in a thick Scottish brogue and the player, Jeff Ferguson, actually did commit to this during our first session.  He’s been slacking a bit lately.  But, Jeff does like to get up out of his chair and speak in an animated fashion to deliver Innes-Kerr’s supposedly inspirational speeches and to direct the other characters around.
    • Jeff’s back-up character is a male human fighter named ARWAIN, who is basically a squire and herald for Innes-Kerr.
  • ALTMAN MAXIMANDIUS: 11th Level Human Illusionist (Male)
    • Altman, or “Max”, is significantly older (some would say “past his prime”) than the other adventurers, but that just means that Innes-Kerr was able to hire him at a bargain rate compared to the other adventurers.
    • He is fond of pointing out that “these kids today” don’t do things the way they were done “back in my day.”
    • Max has some pretty powerful bad breath, which is made worse by constantly eating raw onions.  Max’s player, Jeff Franz, actually brings an onion that has been cut open to every game and set it on the table in front of him so they smell can waft throughout the dining room. 
    • Jeff’s back-up character is a male dwarf fighter/cleric named WULFGAR STONEGUT.
  • (PRINCE) LANLISS HELDALEL: High Elf 7th Level Fighter / 10th Level Magic-User (Male)
    • Lanliss’ player, Cal, was very annoyed when I assigned him to play an Elf in this game, and decided that since 1st Edition elves kind of had a reputation for being “snooty”, that Lanliss wears a cape, top hot, and monocle, and carries a sword cane.  This image is helped by the voice that Cal affects for Lanliss, which is kind of a combination of Martin Short’s Jiminy Glick character and Bean from KROQ’s Kevin & Bean morning show when he tries too hard to sound smart during an interview.
    • Lanliss is fascinated by the short-lived humans among whom he finds himself, and constantly points out helpful things regarding how the other characters probably won’t live long enough to know certain things that he himself has learned over the years. This fascination with the life and death of non-elves causes him to do some odd things, like collect small tokens from every intelligent creature he slays.
    • Cal’s back-up character is a female halfling thief named LYRIA.

What kind of goofy, odd, or just plain fun characters have you created or played over the years?

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