Castles of Mad King Ludwig

Normally, I hate those sorts of Eurogames in which there is either extremely limited or virtually no direct player vs. player interaction.  Then why is it that I love Castles of Mad King Ludwig – a game that has no direct and almost no indirect player interaction – and recommend it as a tool in the arsenal of any DM?

Because Castles of Mad King Ludwig is essentially competitive dungeon building – the player who builds the best dungeon wins.

The game is devilishly simple: players take turns being the “master builder”, assigning rooms (which are essentially dungeon geomorphs) a price, then players pay the builder that price and stick the room somewhere on their castle.  There are different rewards for “finishing” rooms (connecting all doors to other rooms or halls) based on the type of the room; points are awarded for connecting certain types of rooms to certain other types of rooms, and various “goals” (cards you can earn by completing one kind of room) give you extra points for fulfilling certain criteria.

I’ve gotten to where I’m pretty good at it; I don’t know that I could say that I have a solid strategy, but avoiding wasting time on hallways and underground rooms (cool as many of them seem) and instead going for goal cards and just all around finishing rooms in ways that earn the most points seems to work.

So, why do I recommend it as a tool for DMs?  Well, remember how I was talking about Thiefy stuff yesterday and how one of the problems a DM faces is having to come up with rich people’s houses to rob when the Thief is all “I want to rob a rich person’s house”?

A DM need only take a handful of pieces from a set of Castles, arrange them semi-slapdash, and in a matter of moments has a mansion micro-dungeon, complete with dimensions to grid.cast2a-1140x891

Thiefy Stuff

Playing DCC, thieves have become one of my favorite classes, particularly since DCC’s weird, wild and woolly system of magic kind of puts me off of playing any caster classes.  Though DCC works on the d8 Hit Die rather than the d6 Hit Die, meaning Thieves are d6, my character – with all of my really lousy HD rolls and negative modifier to Stamina/Constitution – feels like a d4 Thief!

Naturally, the thing that makes Thieves fun to play is the opportunity to do Thiefy stuff.  The problem is, for both players of Thieves, DMs and the rest of the group, that Thiefy stuff is typically best done without half a dozen guys with swords, chainmail and magic wands derping around and making noise.  Sometimes dungeons provide opportunities to flex those Thief muscles, disarming traps, opening locks and chest, but what you really want to do sometimes as the Thief is some truly daring late-night breaking and entering back in town.  Who hasn’t wanted to relive the thrill of Bafford Manor heist in their D&D game?

The problem is multipart: the Thief usually wants to run this sort of job solo – no sense in having half a dozen guys banging clanking and wisecracking while you’re trying to sneak through a temple or a mansion – which means that most players will have nothing to do while the Thief does his thing.  At most, some members of the party may be wrangled into being look-outs.  The best time to do Thiefy stuff is when only a small group has shown up, if you can’t wrangle your DM into some solo time.  The other issue is that the DM is now obliged to actually map whatever temple or manor you’re hoping to rob.

Where am I going with this?  You’ll find out tomorrow when I post my review of Castles of Mad King Ludwig!

A Story + Some Thiefy stuff

Here is a little story to start us off on Monday morning.  So, there is this raging wild fire.  It is consuming everything in its path, causing mayhem and destruction.  It burns its way through a field, towards a stand of trees.  “Quick,” someone says, “we must cut down the trees!  They are in the path of the fire and will fuel the flames!”  It burns its way towards a house; “Quick,” another says, “that house is in the way, so we must tear it down!”  They tear down the house, and the fire continues to burn.  At no time, however, does anyone say “There is a fire consuming the trees we have planted and houses we have built, so we must put the fire out!”

Anyway…

Seeing some thief-talk on Jeffro’s feed got me thinking: people new and old to the game often don’t understand the role of the thief in a party.  I’ve got some crap from a couple players who are fairly new to RPGs about how I play my thief in the DCC game.  Not like real crap, but the whole “what good are you anyway, why are you in the party again?” sort of thing.  I get it because when initiative is rolled, my first action is always to run and hide.  At most, I might throw a dagger from the shadows for 1 or 2 points of damage, but that generally seems like more trouble than it’s worth, so I’ve skulled and cowered my way through several encounters all the way to level two.  On the other hand, my character is ALWAYS the one who takes point exploring, some 30-40 feet ahead of the party; she disarms the traps, unlocks the doors, and oftentimes solves the puzzles.  What she won’t do is go toe-to-toe with 8 foot fleshy monsters so she can be killed in one hit.  Now that I’ve made level 2, I might try to take advantage of my significantly improved backstab and crit, but so far we’ve tended to fight in such close quarters that I haven’t been able to get into position to take advantage of it yet.

Thieves are not fighters.  They’re not sneaky swordsmen*.  They are individuals who must live by caution and patience, whether in searching for and disarming traps or in waiting for the right moment to go in for the kill.  If you play your thief as a fighter, it will die, usually in a single hit.

I think I’ve also come upon the one thing that I really don’t like about DCC.  I know that they want to do some sort of xp for treasure thing, because that’s so integral to balancing adventure rpgs that you don’t want to just be bug hunts by murder hobos, but I don’t think I can abide by the using GP to buy XP system.  On one hand, it’s a good way to keep your economy from becoming over-liquid, but on the other it very strongly discourages pack-ratting.  In some settings, I can understand wanting to discourage it, but we’re in an urban setting, and it punishes players who’d like to keep a weird collection of trophies (non-coin treasures).  On a third hand, it’ll give me some leverage to keep my own weird stuff separate from the party’s split.

*Grey Mouser was not a straight thief, he was like Fighter/Thief/Illusionist or something, and Fafhrd was a high strength/high constitution bard who sometimes stole things.