Sunday, January 22, 2012

No, You Can't be the Cow

Okay, so the newbie game was last Wednesday.  Out of the six of them, one had played once, five had heard of the game and as I said in a previous post, two of them had four, 20-sided dice.  I had a very newbie group.

I created the characters ahead of time and went over what some of the stats meant.  I gave them a very stripped down version.  The spell caster got spell cards so before we started I had the magic-users select two of them.  Also, I did a quick lesson on what dice were which.  This seemed to be the biggest challenge for players.  The 4-sided became 'the pyramid', 6-sider 'the cube', 8-sider 'the diamond', 10-side 'the top', 12-sider 'the baseball' and the 20-sider 'the big die'. 

Before we started the real game I ran them through a sample combat.  I find doing this helps a ton.  They were excited to see the battle board and the miniatures.  The one girl who was playing the elven magic-user wanted to be the cow miniature that Rob had jokingly put in the box.  "Can I be the cow?  Wouldn't it be cool if I was an elven cow who cast spells?"  For a moment I did think that would be pretty cool, but said no.  Let's learn the basics of the game before we run a gonzo version.

The initial attack, the players were greeted with an astounding number of critical failures.  The thief attempted to hide in a bush and instead got stuck in it.  The archer tried to archer and dropped her bow twice.  The mage tried to throw darts and hit a teammate instead and then the thief tried to throw a dagger and it flew into the woods never to be found again.  So the combat went about normal.  They thought their characters sucked, but I reminded them it was bad luck.  What they did learn was the power of a Sleep spell.  When the goblins took a nap the players cheered then the dwarf character said, "Why didn't we do that in the beginning?"

The adventure I ran them through was the one I created for Started Adventures.  They handled a group of maskers well, avoiding trouble.  The thief found a dead body in the forest and kept the minor loot he found himself (bonus xp).  When they reached the dungeon the players showed a good knowledge of tactics.  Covering entrances, having the thief check for traps and so on. 

One quick note on the thief, I stole an idea from Skyrim and all Elder Scroll Games (I've been stealing a lot lately) and thieves now have to buy a number of lockpicks.  If they fail over 20% the pick breaks.  This gives a sense of urgency in a way.  If a thief breaks a few right off that start he may want to conserve the picks for a more interesting score.  I made the picks a finite resource. 

The elven mage charmed one of the goblins they encountered and had a good rp moment.  Then the big battle with the goblins followed.  Again, they showed a lot of good sense.  The guy who played the dwarf used iron spikes to keep the door shut so they would only have to fight them from one way.  As a DM I was stoked to see them really embrace the things they could do in game.  Again it was the mage with the sleep spell that saved the day.  After he jumped into the fray he was immediately cut down by the leader, but the cleric was on the spot and was quick to save him. 

Another fun moment was when the elven mage, who wants to be a cow some day, told the cleric "Get up close and spray him in the eyes with your mace."  I had to take a short DM time out while a laughed. 

Although I had to cut some of the dungeon out they completed their objective with no time to spare.  After the game they were jazzed and talked a mile a minute.  All of them wanted to know what we were playing next.  The morning after the two girls who played said they stayed up all night on a 'gaming buzz'.  Said they couldn't stop talking about it. 

I plan on running it once a month, maybe twice a month.  I'm pleased with the way things turned out.  I look forward to the next game. 


  1. That's amazing and exactly the kind of response you want from new players. It's great to see others with that same sense of wonderment that we all had when we first discovered the game so many years ago.

  2. Sounds brilliant. Congratulations. And I am so stealing the 'lockpick' idea off you ;)

  3. I'm still laughing at the 'mace' comment but it sounded like a great group!

  4. I've almost always received a positive reaction from new players after their first D&D outing (it's the other RPGs with the over-complex rule systems that tend to get the thumbs down). This might have something to do with D&D's initial (and continuing) popularity.

    Care to comment on the age range of the newbies?

  5. The dice can be a problem. My group lost a player because he couldn't get his head around the different die types, despite his enthusiasm for the game in general.

    On the other hand, it's the first time I've ever encountered the "funky dice" problem in twenty years or so of gaming.

  6. Excellent that it went well, can I be the Sleestak and kill the cow....

  7. Sounds likea great first game! I wonder what's different about an elven cow versus a mundane one?

  8. That sounds pretty much ideal. If a new group can get past a warm-up combat like that, they could be ready for everything, and I'll bet it was that sleep spell made the problem-solving approach click. If we could bottle the way that went, the player base would rocket.

    I wonder if a warm-up like that be fudged to order..?

    (Dang - no bonus XP for longish comments.)

  9. Christian Yes, it was great to see that. When they were discovering what they could do and how excited they got when they rolled a 20.

    Tim Knight Steal away. I think it adds a good element to the thief.

    The Dave It was pretty funny and yes they are a good group. Looking forward to see what they do for the second game.

    JB When I initially suggested the game, two of them always wanted to play, but said there were so many books. 4th edition did itself a disservice with having all those books. It turned off a lot of new players I think.

    Ages were five of them were in their 20s and the sixth one is in his 50s.

    Kelvin Sorry to hear you lost a player that way. I plan on making a cheat sheet next game. Have the silhouettes of the dice and what they are underneath. Plus I have really big 20-siders so next time I'll bring those. Will make it easier for them to find it.

    Lurker Any time you want to play a sleestak you let me know. I'll give you a lot of cows to kill.

    Trey I believe it has a 2 in 6 chance of detecting clover. And it has a 90% chance of resisting cow tipping.

    Porky Where have you been? I haven't heard from you in a while. Glad to see you're still around commenting. The warm-up combat is a standard procedure my group does with any game system. It helps a ton. Now mine is a long comment and would get bonus XP.

  10. Semi-secret project after semi-secret project, but all will eventually become clear. One day. Hopefully soon. For now, I can't turn down free experience, whether it's the good old virtual kind or this new-fangled virtual virtual you've found.

    As for the warm-up, maybe that would make a good project after Starter Adventures? You could have a series of sub-games with clear handouts, like that dice silhouette idea, and various kinds of combat and problem-solving based on common in-game situations. There could also be little good practice or theory boxes, maybe with in-character jokes from a survivor of one of your full adventures or campaigns. It could be proper old school new player's handbook.

  11. One thing I've done in the past is to use different color dice for each type of die. Blue d8s, yellow d10s, etc. That way you can just say "roll the red one!"

  12. You are now required to supply game reports of the adventures of THE SPELLCASTING COW.

  13. Sounds like a great first session. I don't get the dice problem though? I never had a problem, and I had to teach myself everything about DnD.

    I think elven cows live longer.

    I now want to invent a mace that sprays mace. Talk about a great weapon. Save versus poison or be blind for 6 rounds. If they fail then they get maced again! With the pointy bits...

  14. @Zanazaz: Elven cows might live longer, but can they cast spells while wearing armor?

    The larger question for everyone is: WILL THE COW HAVE LEVEL LIMITS?

  15. Casting spells while wearing armor? Scott that's udder nonsense. :) Actually, I may have to ruminate on that a bit. Okay I'm out of cowish puns. I've milked it for all it's worth.

    I just noticed I made a mistake. A mace doesn't have pointy bits, I was thinking of a morningstar. Oh well.

  16. I love that! Glad your newbies enjoyed themselves. The mace and cow comments are especially awesome.

  17. I hear you can play a cow in 5th Edition.

    Just sayin'

  18. I believe that cows are restricted to being paladins ("Holy Cow").

    Minus x.p. for that one, I am guessing.

  19. @Rusty: Well played, sir.

    I was waiting for a 'sacred cow' joke or two, but nothing prepared me for that caliber of strike.