O: Old School Hack, Session Three


A few weeks ago we managed to pull off another session of Old School Hack right before I went on R&R. Unfortunately we are now in a holding pattern on the game because everyone is going through their R&R, looks like we will not get another session in until sometime in May. This last game went off exceptionally well and I am sure I will have zero problems getting the group together again once everyone returns from leave.

Edit: ย I thought I should include links to previous APs of this game:


Ok, on with the fun!ย 

We started right where we left off, this time we had Con the warrior, Pee Wee the goblin, and the previously absent elf, Mr Awesome (or some other silly name). Orpheus the mage was sleeping, he works night shift, and did not join us. I realized too late that I forgotten to pick up a bag of M&Ms that I used as Awesome Points but I managed to snag one from a box of goodies people have sent to us deployed Soldiers. Thanks again to whomever sent the peanut butter M&Ms!

As a quick side note, I highly recommend the use of edible Awesome Points, I force the players to eat them as they spend them and it adds to the fun around the table. I am really considering that if I run this when I get back to the States I will get something yucky for AP like tamales or chocolate covers ants or something really nuts.

The group went down the winding tunnel with the small rescued goblin, Pug, acting as their guide. Pee Wee distracted Pug for a few moments and was able to lift the golden ring off the fellow goblin and then detected a bit of fear in Pug. Through discussion, Pee Wee gets Pug to open up and tell a tale of fear and danger from farther in the dungeon, seems the slavers are ahead and Pug wants no part of it. His ruse of using the water controlling ring was to hide himself from the slavers and he disliked the idea of continuing farther towards them. The group bid him farewell and continued downward.

About 500 yards farther the tunnel opened up and a wave of heat struck the group. Before them lay an underground lake of lava! The tunnel ended at a short embankment, resting at the bottom were three small lava craft, made of wood but covered in some sort of thin, almost soft metal (I described it much like aluminum but more supple, I wanted the players to fear getting in the boat as the material appeared easily torn…which they discovered later it was). The lake heads out, radiating a soft red glow that allows them to see but not too clearly how far the lake continues. They think they can see the lake continues on for some time, and with no apparent means of going around, the group determines they must use the lavacrafts to get past this.


above is a quick overview of the play area and movement of the lavacrafts

The elf, showing a bit of gusto decides to climb aboard one of the craft, assuming the rest would follow him. Just then, the group hears something akin to the beating of drums. Half way across they see a glow emerge from the sides, they realize that another tunnel connects to the lake and another craft appears in the lava, a much larger one with two large metal cages. Guarding the boat are five, very mean looking orc guards armed with all manner of weapons. A very large one can be seen between the cages, just his large helmet jutting above the six foot high cage. In a moment of strangeness, Con kicks the boat the elf had just stepped onto, causing it to begin floating out into the lava lake, why he did this? No idea, just being a jerk I gather.

Pee Wee immediately sees his goblin kin literally stuffed inside the cages on the back of the slaver boat. I play up their misery with moaning and describing their arms jutting out from between the bars, grasping for freedom. He begins to try to convince the group that they need to help him free them goblins from the slavers. The elf’s boat meanders out into the lake, heading for a bit of cavern stalagmite jutting out of the lake, and away from the slaver boat.

Then a magical moment happens. I spend some Awesome Points to mess with Pee Wee and he noticed that his lost love, wonderfully named on the spot Tinkle, is in one of the cages, he has searched forever for her and here she is right in front of him in the slaver’s hands! This emboldens the little guy to no end and to the surprise of everyone, he begs the warrior to do a little goblin tossing. Con is only too happy to oblige him.

Pee Wee’s player decides to burn some AP to bend the rules slightly (a little game table house ruling has made this a very common aspect of our game, they love pulling off Matrix style or Wire Fu moves by spending a few APs…hey, it works for us) and asked Con to toss him to the boat. I determine this is a call for a Brawn check, the players throw in a few AP to make sure the little guy makes it. Con rolls poorly and I opt to have Pee Wee smash into the cage on landing. He begins struggling to open the cages.

Con, not wanting the little bugger to have all the glory uses some AP to do some fancy jumping from the bow of one of the still docked boats to the slavers boat. He does it in a nice fancy way, describing how he pushes the docked boat hard into the lake, jumped on it, ran to the bow and then lept to the slaver boat, I let it fly because he describes it well and heck, for once he was planning on helping the goblin, a rare occurrence thus far in our games. He lands right in front of the cages and begins pounding on the Cages with little effect. The player reaches for his APs and does a powerful strike to the cages, the AP increasing his damage. The cage doors rip off the hinges. This frees the goblins, they swarm all over the boat. To illustrate this, and add to the confusion on the boat I literally stuffed the boat, placing every spare miniature we had onto the deck. Not an inch of open space was to be had on the boat. It was awesome. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Left out, the elf decides to join the group and does his own fancy spinning jump kick to get to the boat. Aerial acrobatics seem to the norm today. The elf lands on the bow in the midst of the Orc guards, I create a Dense arena here. Calling the goblins the “fiddly but smash-able bits that might get in the way” in the arena. The elf opts to attack and seeing as he is outnumbered 4 to 1, he opts to spend some APs again to go a fancy twirling attack and ‘spin hit’ as many as he can. The player referenced those kungfu movies where people spin and hit multiple attacks. I warn him that there are goblins within his reach as well and he could very well strike them in his crazy antics. He seems not to care. I made some house rule on the spot that if he rolled an even number he would strike a goblin as well as his intended targets, he was cool with it, much to Pee Wee’s anger. He rolled an even number and I determined (via a d4 roll) that he struck 3 goblins. Two guards drop to the deck, as well as three goblins.

Pee Wee is all wound up at this point, but I forced an awareness check on him and he fails. He does not see the elf’s wanton display of goblin murder. The table has a great time with this very un-elf like behavior with Con’s player dropping an AP to try and make him successful. I guess he wanted the goblin to see the elf in a bad light.

At this time I opted to up the ante a little. The boat Con had pushed earlier rams into the slaver’s craft, cracking the hull. I tell the group that the boat was not faring well with all this activity: the goblins all over the deck, Con and the elf jumping on it, and now the boat ramming into it. I give them four rounds before the boat breaks apart.

Con realizes the Orc steering the boat is not “normal” and is huge, he wants to fight him, but something happens here and Con’s player suddenly wants to help the goblins escape. Perhaps it was the mention of the boat sinking, I don’t know. Seeing the boat he pushed earlier along side, be begins ushering the goblins towards it. Pee Wee starts to move to his loved one, only to have the huge boat driver step into his way. The two enter combat and I create a tight arena for them. The battle goes poorly and Pee Wee ends up hanging on a stalactite off on the side of the boat.

As Con starts getting the goblins over (I rolled a d4 each round to see how many made it over to the other boat each round), the elf moves to fight the large Orc, Pee Wee realized that his love Tinkle is hanging on to another goblin that was in the cage with her. She has apparently moved on and found someone else!!! Devastated, but refusing to give in, he leaps back onto the boat and helps the elf combat the large Orc.

The group experiences much stress on saving the goblins, no doubt my adding of the ticking of the clock (the few rounds to save them) and the rolling of the dice to see how many get over to the boat each round. To encourage AP spending, I allowed the players to add an AP one for one to my die roll to ensure more goblins got off the boat. I roll terribly and they are forced to dump APs to ensure most of the goblins get safely to the other boat. By this time each player had already spent their 12 APs and had made the next level, however, as the rules states each additional one spent after those 12 were simply lost and were not counted for the next level. They could have opted to save their points for the next game session, but in a rare moment of real heroism, these guys were dropping extra APs right and left to save the goblins from sinking into the lava. It was a great roleplaying moment for me.

Pee Wee and all the goblins made it over except one as the elf finished off the big Orc. As the last round came and the boat began to sink, the elf really displayed some serious non-elf behavior that had everyone laughing uncontrollably. Realizing that the goblins were slowing him down, the elf pushes the goblin in front of him to use as a bridge to cross from the sinking boat to the safe one. Get this: the goblin he pushed? A little girl goblin. Oh man, it was awesome. Pee Wee’s player was flabbergasted that the elf would do up such a thing. Con’s player added APs to Pee Wee’s Awareness roll to ensure he saw the elf push the girl to use as a bridge. It was a classic moment.

We ended with the goblin very angry with the elf, the slave boat sinking, all the orcs dead and all the goblins saved (minus the six goblins the elf killed in his crazy displays of sword mastery on the deck), and a love triangle between Pee Wee, his lost love and the new man in her life (who of course made it safe to the boat).

All in all, it was a crazy but massively amazing session. Probably one of the better gaming sessions I had have in a long time. We played outside in a sort of picnic area outside the MWR tent and we had three curious people come over to see what we were doing. Who knows, perhaps it will drum up some interest in OSH here, never know!

One thing to add to this. A few days after this session, Con’s player walked up to me with a sort of puzzled look on his face, I asked him what was on his mind. “You know, I am the warrior in the group, I have made third level now and I have yet to actually engage in a combat against someone,” he stopped and then a big smile appeared. “That is freaking awesome! I could never have done that in D&D!”



7 thoughts on “O: Old School Hack, Session Three

  1. I am currently formulating a theory about gaming. Please, tell me if you have heard this before. A campaign has not begun until the third game has been played.

    Of all the gaming I have done, I don’t think I have played a single campaign out (with the exceptions of the ones my monk friend has DMed (and that was two characters, maybe three) that went more than three sessions. Almost 99.999% of the games I’ve been a player in were either one-shots or something broke down in the second session. Brennen’s Mouse Guard game has gotten to this critical point of playing out 2 sessions, and now it is on hold. I’m not sure if it will get picked back up. Even at Brencon, the time I DM’ed redbox hack for 12 hours straight, we managed 2 sessions, with a cliff-hanger ending and the players begging me for more, and still that has been lost to history.

    Neither Will, nor Thomas R., nor Brennen, nor anyone I know who DM’s, with the exception of the Monk, and myself, has ever made it past 2 sessions successfully with the same characters in play. Matching schedules is a hard thing to do and perhaps accounts for most of the problems. But I wonder if it isn’t also the following:

    1. On the first session, there is a strange nostalgic feeling that is formed almost immediately. The situations are fresh, and the characters are fresh. The possibilities are limitless. Everything done is new. It is easy to get into character because anything you do is okay. You haven’t played the character before, so it doesn’t matter how you play him. When the second session comes around, moods have changed. People have had time to look back on the session without their nostalgia/euphoria glasses on. They see how things could have been even better perhaps. Or they see things where their character should have been going in another direction and didn’t. Sometimes, I have noticed that I enjoyed the way I played my character the first time, and wish to duplicate this, but cannot, because my mood has changed, or what I’ve read since that time has changed, or my interests have shifted ever so slightly. The character is not representing me the way he was before.

    2. Usually, the DM starts noticing certain rules he’s overlooked before, or during the second session a rules argument of some kind breaks out (this has been my experience, but maybe not for everyone). These seem to be more common in the second game than the first. The attitude maybe is: “we’re going to have to figure this out now, before we get in this situation later.” The players are more likely to push their characters into reproducing how they behaved before, trying to be consistent with last session but facing new obstacles. Maybe they play a little more shy because they realize their character does, in some small way, represent themselves. What I’ve noticed the trend to be in my gaming sessions is that it is here the game breaks down, in the second session. I am glad to hear that Jackson’s had success here. Maybe this will mean his campaign will continue.

    3. But I think for many people, the second session is like a sequel, unfairly judged based on its predecessor, and never quite making its way to where it ought to be in people’s minds.

    4. I wonder if it might also be the fact that people feel that the more you play with certain characters, the less mysterious they become, and the closer to their ends you get. I don’t know if that was ever true for me, but I would love to know if it was true for other people.

    5. For some, I think they have a bug in their head about a particular character or even just a situation. They only want that character to face that situation and that’s it. They draw up the character for that one thing, to do that one thing, to scratch that particular itch, and then, whether they realize it or not consciously, they’ve scratched their itch and have moved on to other thoughts. I think this may be the source of major breakdown for a lot of people. This might even be the most common reason for me to lose interest in a character, but I can’t speak for everyone.

    If I am not making sense, oh well. I would love to see more campaigns make it, but for whatever reason, that second session is the crucial moment, where people seem to make up their minds to pursue the story or not, and that’s it. Please, chime in and let me know if you disagree or have examples to the otherwise.Edit9:32 am

  2. Oh man, these keep getting better and better. Now you’ve made me jealous of your chances to run OSH. My group wants to do it again, but we’re stuck in scheduling hell.

    And yes, we did edible awesome points in our game as well. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. @Jared – Reading your comment made me think of a few things. Since reaching adulthood, I have had only a few long running games. I think this is more due to GM/player nostalgic feelings…we want the game to be like those from our memories, and they just cannot live up to them. Also I think our busy lives contribute an enormous amount of problems for us. Can you imagine wasting away an entire weekend role-playing like we did as kids? Man! That would be wonderful. I vow here and now to make my new OSH game last longer than ….six sessions! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    @RM – It was really fun, I was approaching this with a bit of trepidation as our last session I felt was so-so. A broad smile covered my face afterwards. There were moments of brilliant role-playing throughout the session. I had a few inspired moments and the players dug everything and went with it.
    I should add that walking into it I knew three things:
    1) a lake of lava would block the PCs path
    2) I wanted a battle on boats, I figured this would be a fun way of doing the arenas, I made a real rough boat shape, cut them out, then drew masts at the table while we got ready, the cages were a quick bit of inspiration on the fly
    3) peanut butter M&Ms are damn yummy!

    1. It was really fun. The way the group has come together and started forming their own ‘personalities’ has made me very happy. The OSH system I see as a sort of perfected Risus system (don’t tell Tim though), the same freeform style with a slightly better structure….and no spiral of death!

      1. My love of OSH in no way diminishes my fondness for Risus. They both have their strengths and weaknesses. OSH presents a much better combat game, while Risus has broader applicability outside the generic fantasy environment (though I have been thinking about how to move either system towards the other cover the gaps).

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