Tuesday, October 5, 2010

3 Questions & a Thought

I have a possibility of a big attendance this Friday.  I'm pretty sure I can handle the logistics of DMing 8, maybe 10 people in combat etc.  But in the dungeon, a party of that size seems like a pretty big group if there are tight passages, stairs, turns, etc.  I remember a big party in a session of mine that seemed more comfortable splitting up and going two directions at once.

1) How does party size affect they way they interact with a map?


OD&D has doors being stuck by default, with a push required to open them.  A roll of 1 or 2 opens, which gives you a stuck door 2/3s of the time.

2) If you play using this rule, do your parties get into situations where they can no longer explore a dungeon because of stuck doors?


Tavis Allison has a great post pointing out the detail filled maps of the Mines of Khunmar, including which direction doors swing open.  Being the noob that I am, door swing direction completly escaped me.  But now thinking on it, I imagine yanking open a stuck door or forcing one open would be equally surprise-ruining.  Is knowing this detail about barring doors?

3) How has door direction come into play in your sessions?


*) After complaining about people making fun of playing D&D, I realized some people might be doing it to ease tension upon entering an unknown social situation.  I mean, most people probably don't know what we do when we play and are afraid of "doing it wrong."  (Although, the young woman I mentioned is probably not an example of this, she seems to look forward to Friday the way someone might look forward to cow-tipping).


And to make your time worthwhile, here is my coin for joesky (sort of like the OSR's boatman):

Portable Fire

A rug weighing a stone and smelling of creosote, when unrolled, reveals a foot-high fire.  When rolled up again, all heat and smoke dissipates, as if there were never a fire.


  1. Remember, stuck doors can be smashed open. There's just no chance to surprise a monster, and possibly an extra wandering monster roll. Flaming oil works, too, but takes longer and still alerts any room occupants, although it shouldn't attract wandering monsters.

    Aside from telling you which side of a door can be barred, door direction indicates where monsters can hide behind doors.

  2. Not to mention a smashed door can't be spiked shut again.

    It's usually not a big issue or likely to get the party stuck (or rather, unable to easily proceed) since each character will get a chance to make a roll. Esp. in a large party such as yours, it's very unlikely that the door won't be opened. To be honest, I'm not sure how that is ruled in OD&D and can't be bothered to get out my little books, but Moldvay reminds us that the character's Strength modifier should be taken into consideration and the PHB seems pretty clear on it.

    Which means that in a large party, it's very unlikely a stuck door is going to slow them much - more likely is that a strong character's bad roll will mean that a weaker and more vulnerable character can give it a try but might be in the most danger when the door opens.

    In practice, my players seem to have found it a little annoying when this happens and it usually has little practical effect, other than embarrassment. "Uh, I must have loosened it for you... {shrug}" But that might be all the more reason to make it have an effect. I've definitely had doors suddenly fly open, sending the character in question sprawling into the room. It also makes that 2nd level Knock spell more attractive. Doors on lower levels might be harder to open too, being even less used or subjected to more weight settling down.

    Anyway, sorry to go on, I find the logistics of large parties underground to be of interest too and have been wanting to do a post on OD&D underground caravans and massive expeditions myself! I wanted to write more here but my wife says I better start cooking 'cos it's gettin' late. And I've still got to get ready for a session later!

  3. Thanks gentlemen. Yeah, I guess with enough people someone will get through. I'm familiar with the "burn it!" approach but am less enamored of it the more I think of it. I'd probably make the place very smoky as the damp wood smoldered for a long time.

    I wonder how many doors are left after parties have ransacked a place like Stonehell.

  4. Door direction is also useful for door-entering tactics: who can hide behind the door, use it as a shield, etc.?

    It's been pointed out to me that even Palace of the Vampire Queen uses door-direction icons, so common usage has regressed since the first published modules. Would you like to see icons that showed whether a door was stuck ahead of time? I feel like knowing this, rather than rolling on the spot, might help me figure out the flow of a dungeon, i.e. which routes do monsters take when they come as reinforcements - but maybe the nature of the mythic underworld means monsters don't care about stuck doors.

    I think that non-gamers making fun of gamers is one part of a mutual process. I've seen too often that some people want to use their mastery of the arcana of RPGs as a way to say "I'm better than you because you don't know what breath weapon a green dragon has". Regardless of who starts it, both sides can get into this put-down mode as both defense and aggression.
    - Tavis