On Starting Characters and Equipment

The first session of B/X with my players started quite badly. First of all, I’ve never played B/X before then (ok, I played BECM for years, and they’re not that different), but that wasn’t the problem.

The real issue was addressing the “ZOMG first level PCs suck monkey balls” complaint. Yeah, their experience outside d20 was marginal at best.

Anyway, I opted for the “clement” BECM procedure:

  1. roll 3d6 6 times
  2. reroll if you have a sub-par character
  3. assign them to stats in order
  4. switch primary stat
  5. move points (1:2 rate) to primary stat
  6. max hit points at first level
  7. buy equipment as per manual.

The only step they liked about it was number 5, especially when I told them about bonus XPs. Characters in B/X are quite flimsy and they probably felt like I was forcing them to use nerfed subhumans as some kind of sadistic punishment. They changed their mind after realizing that everyone is a puny weakling in B/X. Heck, with a bit of luck a party of 6 first level characters can kill a white dragon in 1 round: the same white dragon (with its whopping 6 HD) has on average less hp than a d20 ogre, but it will usually kill the same party in 1 round, even if they succeed their saves.

When the second batch of characters was generated (we were playing at the always awesome Casa dei Giochi and their character sheets were left home), I let them get equipment from Lord Kilgore’s starting equipment list (except I allowed to get a second armour upgrade option from mail to plate).

Result? Much faster generation, less expensive but more used/useful equipment and much happier players.

For my b’day game, a few months later, I had four more players at the table, and two of them never played with me. We were bloody late so I went even more minimal and gave each of them

  • a set of clothes
  • 6 torches, box with tinder and flint
  • 1 backpack and 2 bags
  • 15 meters of rope
  • a blanket, not really waterproof
  • a dagger
  • a week worth of food and a waterskin

plus either:

  • leather armour
  • chain mail

and one from:

  • helmet & shield
  • a spell-book
  • thieves tools
  • holy symbol

Plus a weapon of choice, with 20 munitions if needed.

One of them picked a ballista and didn’t tell me until the first round of combat; I can’t really remember whether I overruled or not. The character is a thief. The Gamer’s “I backstab him with a ballista” scene flashed in my mind.

They seemed content with it, to say the least. I also allowed them to rummage through what was left of the burnt remains of village they were supposedly going to defend from a band of hobgoblins (more on Hobgoblin Pride later).

Anyway, I decided to use Troll and Flame’s starting equipment plus draws from Jeff Rients’s “Deck of Stuff” as it’s tastier (but longer and more thinking is required), when I remembered that Kata Kumbas has some very pretty starting equipment rules which, adapted to the circumstances, are:

  • some rags
  • a bag
  • hard bread and dried meat enough for a week and a waterskin
  • 50 sp
  • a knife
  • roll 5 times (3 if you’re an mage) on the relevant class table

Plus one from:

  • armour upgrade (rags -> leather -> chain -> plate)
  • spell-book
  • thieves tools
  • wooden holy symbol
  • weapon of choice (+20 munitions if needed)

Yes, the game has class tables for random starting equipment. Illustrated with individual figures. I scanned a few for your own enjoyment (the game is out of print and has not been on the shelves for years). They’re not supposed to be balanced, kind, politically correct. Yes mages can start with a basilisk in a cage (covered with a big cloth), a sword that deals double damage (as they’re allowed smallish swords in KK), or an axe that never misses. Hyperboreans (fighting-men) can start with slaves or war pigs (pigs in KK are pets and fight like boars). And Roma people (yup, in the game are called Rom) are either jugglers, thieves or witches.

Regarding Kata Kumbas money:

  • the economy is barter-driven
  • cei are square copper pieces (singular is ceo) and are worth more or less like like 2 sp in B/X and it’s the coinage that everybody uses in daily transactions (if barter wasn’t so widespread).
  • a silver coin is worth 10 cei
  • OA stands for Oro Alchemico: alchemical gold bits, worth 10 silver coins each. Manufactured from alchimists, alchemical gold is the ultimate substance so it can’t be broken or filed, hence there’s no need to mint it. Alchemists characters (available to players) learn to do it near the end of their careers, but don’t really abuse it much as, well, money is worth more if kept scarce. 🙂

The text is in Italian as KK is Italian (more about it in a later post, as the game is a shiny gem), but nothing that Google Translate won’t fix.

Anyway, I settled on the following rule for equipment:

Pick any one starting equipment rule and beg the DM for something nice.