This is technical talk, so scroll down if you just want the story.
A while ago a few friends from work and I decided that we wanted to get into Dungeons and Dragons. None of us have ever really played the real thing, so I started researching the rules. In the end I decided to merely use the actual D&D rules as a template for our game and made up some rules and mechanics to suit the game we wanted to play. This game was much more battle orientated and, as we would soon find out, had some pitfalls that years of game design experience had already ironed out of the real game. Part of our game was an interactive character sheet that would, in theory, calculate the character’s stats and attributes automatically. Along with the combat focus other modifications came as well. For example, I elaborated on the armor system so that instead of having leather or iron armor with a fixed Armor Rating (AR), the armor is split into six parts namely head, hands, torso, legs, feet and shield. Each piece of armor has its own AR so that the player can wear an iron helm and leather boots and basically any combination he or she wants. The players enter their armor into the character sheet along with each individual bit of armor’s stats. The character sheet then automatically calculates the player’s total AR. With this system players could have a maximum of 500 AR. By now we were already a long way from the base game rules, so I needed a way to calculate hits and damage during battle. To solve this problem I created a damage calculator inside the character sheet so that players could calculate the damage they took based on their AR and the enemy rolls. Here is how it worked: when an enemy was attacking a player, the enemy rolled to see if they hit the player by rolling a D20 and adding the appropriate skill to the roll (dexterity for bows, daggers and other speed based weapons, strength for strength based weapons such as hammers and axes and wisdom for magic based weapons). The result is compared to the player’s dexterity plus another D20 roll to see if the player dodges. If the result of the the enemy’s roll is higher than that of the player it is a hit. If the enemy hits the player it triggers the next phase, calculating damage. To do this the enemy rolls the appropriate weapon die, 1d4 for a basic dagger for example, the result is multiplied by ten and entered into the damage calculator. A random number between 100 and 400 is then generated by pressing a button on the calculator, which represents the amount of the player’s AR that is ignored by the attack to simulate randomness. Finally the calculator turns this random number into a percentage of the player’s AR and calculates that percentage of the enemy’s damage roll, the result is the true damage done and this is subtracted from the player’s HP. If the calculator generates a random number higher than the player’s AR the enemy does full damage. And there you have it; a complicated, bulky, time consuming, yet immersive combat system. We only later realised that; however, this system does give the player a lot of immersive options when choosing gear.
Now that I have explained the mechanics of our game to some extent, let’s dive into the story.
Shipwreck and diplomacy
Our story starts with just a handful of adventurers: Ribs, son of a butcher, Kastan, an assassin with a history of violence and drama, Nimiu, an elven mage who lost her farm and family to an orc raid, Talila, a girl of noble birth who ran away from home in search of adventure and Leya, yet another elf with no discernable backstory.
This rag-tag crew were employed by a mercenary organisation who specialized in muscle for hire. They were on their way to a small village named Darkmouth to meet with its mayor who promised a hefty sum of gold in return for their assistance. On their way there, however, our would-be heroes suffered a shipwreck. Their ship was damaged during a storm and sank only a few miles from their destination. The adventurers were the only survivors and lost all of their gear except for a few gold coins in the incident. Note here that Natasha, who role played the character of Nimiu, understood that they had nothing except coins and assumed that they were all naked. She therefore wrapped herself in burlap sacks that washed up on the shore to cover herself.
So it was then that our heroes limped into the town of Darkmouth moist and bruised, all dressed in their traveling clothes except for Nimiu who was wrapped in soaking wet burlap sacks. They were met at the gate of the village by a solitary guard who upon spotting them, called for them to halt and state their business. Instead of stating that they had business with the mayor of Darkmouth, the players, for some reason, decided to try and lie to the guard by attempting to convince him that they were traders. The guard was not buying it. “Traders avoid this place”, he said. The village of Darkmouth had nothing to trade and no money to buy goods and strangers never came here due to recent disappearances. Besides all this he pointed out that they did not seem to have any goods and one of them was even clothed in sacks, what could they possibly trade? He seemed dead set on refusing them entrance. The group then, rather unsubtly, discussed the possibility of overpowering the guard who overheard the whole discussion. This did not help their situation. After a lot of arguing and the guard nearly cutting them to pieces, the group finally decided to admit that they were there by the request of the mayor. The guard was still sceptical as he could not understand why, if they had legitimate business in the village, they would lie about being traders. He was eventually convinced after a lot of diplomatic bungling and let them through.
After being let through the adventurers went in search of the first and best merchant they could find. However, the village seemed nearly abandoned and the few people they saw cowered inside their houses and only peeked out from behind boarded up windows. Finally after some searching, they came upon a shop that seemed to be open. A sign that read “Smith” hung in the front and, inside, movement could be seen. Once inside they saw a greasy, pale-looking man behind the splintering counter. The man greeted them with silent suspicion. Kastan was the first to speak, addressing the man with a friendly greeting and enquiring as to his stock. The man, still eyeing them as if they were just released onto his shop’s floor by a stray cur, replied shortly that he had very little in the way of adventuring gear. Kastan asked to see what he had and the man grudgingly showed them an assortment of rusty daggers, wooden clubs and poorly made shortbows. The merchandise was too expensive for the unlucky heroes and they tried to strike a bargain. The merchant was, however, unmoved and even sceptical of their plight. It didn’t help that they suggested that he provide them with free gear, arguing that they were doing him a favor by coming here to save the town. The merchant grew weary of them and decided to bar them from his shop. In response Nimiu, still wrapped in soaking wet sacks, accused the shop owner of looking suspicious and insinuated that he must have something to do with the disappearances. The man did not take this well and the situation escalated when Nimiu suggested that they simply take what they needed. In the end the guard from the gate had to intervene and escort the would-be heroes to the mayor’s house. The mayor who, as luck would have it was a cousin of the merchant, met them with some distaste. Kastan, shaping up to be the voice of reason albeit one that rarely speaks, did some impressive diplomatic dice rolls and managed to soothe the mayor’s temper. Once the mayor was suitably apologised to they could finally discuss the job at hand. It turns out that the disappearances were not a recent phenomenon. People have been disappearing from the village for many years without raising too much concern as people assumed that they found better prospects elsewhere or succumbed to the region’s many dangers. Only recently have people started vanishing with such frequency that it became a source of concern. The reason the mercenaries were summoned, the mayor explained, was because people were now vanishing from their very homes almost every night. The adventurers were eager to begin their investigation and they asked the mayor where they should start. The mayor told them that the people of the village are quite fearful of the crypt not far from there and some claim to have seen strange activity thereabouts recently. Before they left the group explained their predicament and asked if the mayor could help them acquire some gear. The mayor was resistant at first, being quite poor himself and having already paid the company for their services. In the end he relented, though, and allowed them a small loan and a discount at his cousin’s shop. The adventurers thanked him and went on their way back to the shop. The merchant, having already been notified of his cousin’s decision, met them with stoney passive aggressiveness. He was brought around somewhat by some charismatic shenanigans and soon the group of adventurers were on their way to the crypt armed with clubs, bows and arrows and clad in a ragtag assortment of armor. Ribs, son of a butcher, who had up to this point not spoken a word, took the biggest, gnarliest club he could find, placed his entire bag of gold on the counter without asking the price and left to await the others outside. The burlap sacks, this time, were left behind.