Last night, we finally got back to the game table. Since we were a couple regular players short, I decided we'd roll up some new characters and hit the trail for the Keep on the Borderlands to try out a few new rules and whatnot.
A few of those new rules were:
Critical hits and misses: On a 20, roll twice for damage and take the higher roll. On a 1, roll a save vs. paralysis or suffer some mishap, typically a dropped weapon.
Exploding damage dice to make combat a little more interesting.
Bonus hp at 1st level, equal to half the maximum of the class's hit die. Thus, a fighter starts with 1d8+4, a cleric with 1d6+3, and a thief with 1d4+2. This was to counter-balance the exploding dice to some extent.
I was prepared to use the modified spell point/hit point magic system, but nobody created a magic-user or elf. Now, I'm kind of torn between that and the option of preparing spells for 50 sp x spell level. I suppose there's no real reason why I couldn't allow players to choose which one they'd prefer their characters to use, should we have any spell casters at some point.
Starting money 2d6x5 sp. (We're on a silver standard, so all prices in the equipment lists are assumed to be quoted in silver rather than gold.) This proved to be quite the game-changer, as nobody could afford armor better than leather, and nobody started off with a sword or any kind of bow. Spears and slings were the weapons of choice for the fighter and the halfling, with the cleric choosing a mace and sling, and the thief opting for dagger and sling. The party couldn't afford all the miscellaneous equipment they wanted, either, which means they'll be on the lookout for more.
Of interest, and greatly pleasing to me, is the fact that each of the characters bucked stereotypes as far as choices of class and attributes were concerned. The fighter had a 14 Strength and 13 Dexterity, but got an 8 Constitution. The cleric's highest score is actually his Strength of 16; though his Wisdom of 13 is not too shabby, it was an interesting choice. Likewise for the thief (Intelligence 17, Dexterity 13.) The halfling ended up with Dexterity of 9 but a Strength of 14.
After picking up a few rumors from the patrons of the Keep's tavern, and talking the guard corporal into letting them ascend to the battlements for a look at the lay of the land, the intrepid adventurers set off along the road, hoping to find some sign that would lead them to the Caves of Chaos. The thief, played by my niece, dearly wanted to go exploring in the fens, but was outvoted by the rest of the party. Thanks to a random encounter, they picked up a halfling henchman, who would prove to be a stout hand with a spear later on.
Eventually they reached the Caves, and opted to explore the one nearest the entrance of the ravine, which happened to be the goblin lair. They blundered into one of the two goblin guard posts, and were dismayed to discover that "Bree-yark!" is most definitely not goblin for "We surrender!" Outnumbered and but lightly armored, things looked a bit grim for the party, but the goblins proceeded to roll more natural 1's than I've seen in many a gaming session, and the fumbled weaponry gave the party the opportunity they needed to prevail. The exploding dice rule only came into play once, and that on the side of the monsters, as the henchman halfling took a 7-point shot from a goblin spear which reduced him to a single hp. My sister's halfling was nickel-and-dimed down to 1 hp as well, so after quickly looting the bodies the party decided to beat a hasty retreat.
A commotion from back the way they had come encouraged them to hurry, lest their escape be cut off. They reached the four-way intersection in time to make a break for the cave mouth, and hurried forth into the light of day, where the goblins where loath to follow. One goblin screeched a taunt at them, and advised them not to come back - a taunt that the cleric was not inclined to let slide, and on a serendipitous high roll he took out the offending goblin with a well-placed sling stone to the noggin before hightailing it back toward the Keep.
One more random encounter on the way back proved to be with a group of traders on their way into the Borderlands to try their luck at a mountain pass leading to another realm, and the party gladly parted with their handful of freshly gained silver and copper pieces for a few herbal poultices that heal 1d4 points of damage. (They shrewdly demanded that they be allowed to try one on the injured PC halfling first, with the understanding that they'd pay if it worked. It did, and they bought all they could afford.) On returning to the Keep, they recruited a couple of mercenary fighters, and then rented some rooms at the Traveler's Inn to rest up for the next foray.
The time flew by. Despite the fact that they didn't get far before we had to call it a night, there was only one combat, they came away with very little treasure, and they had to flee to save their skins, my brother declared this the most fun session of our gaming revival so far, and I think the sentiment was shared by the rest of the group as well.
I would like to have had an easier dungeon prepared, especially considering the poverty of equipment I had imposed upon the PCs, but all in all it went marvelously. I'm looking forward to continuing this campaign, and expanding the environs of the Keep as I once did so long ago. Hopefully next time I can give a few other house rules a go, such as my modified combat sequence and wound system.