This is from the play of an Advanced Dungeons and Dragons campaign. By the way, no spoilers were harmed in the making of this recap, because this is more of an administrative review than an artful one. I'm not even going to mention that the campaign was called The Temple of Elemental Evil.
We used the Classic Fantasy rules to roll up the characters and play the first scenario--the one with the moat house. I challenged my players to use their own names and alliteration to name their characters, using another part of the name to describe the character. They then re-ordered their dice rolls and selected cultures, classes, and skills to fit the descriptive part of the name. Well--you'll see that up with which they came.
They were seven troops, in all. All were rank 1, except Mike the Mace, who was rank 0. Knowing this wasn't enough to know whether their strength matched the scenario, however. I needed to consider their equivalent levels in AD&D. So, I decided to use the lowest of their prerequisite skills on the following chart of my making to help adjudicate this.
Level 0 - up to 49%
Level 1 - up to 54%
Level 2 - up to 59%
Level 3 - up to 64%
Level 4 - up to 69%
I simply added up the levels of the characters, getting 11, which was right at the mid-range for beginning the moat house scenario--perfect. I figured it this way: The moat house scenario recommends a party of 5 to 8 with 1st and 2nd levels and at least 2x 2nd levels. That gave me a range of level totals from 7 to 16. The average is 11.5, so 11 is a little under the midpoint, suggesting challenge, yet a measure of safety from TPK.
Here's a list describing the characters we used at the start the campaign.
1. Tacitus the Tank was a barbarian fighter of level 1 according to my chart above. He tried to defend his allies with a spear, a scutum, and scale armor. He tried to take most of the hits while the rest of the party tried to harass and murder the enemies. He had a huge shield, so he was a defender troop, as well as the leader.
2. Mike the Mace was a barbarian lay member of level 0. He tried to defend his allies with a mace, a kite, and scale armor. He wanted to train his influence skill some day in order to qualify as an initiate, thus gaining level 1 in a hierarchy of cleric-ism. In the mean time, he had been in the party as a defender. No one knew that he wanted to be a cleric some day.
3. Jake the Javelineer was a barbarian fighter of level 2. He tried to harass the enemy with javelins, a pelte, and scale armor. He was a harasser troop with a shield and tried to provide a little cover for the other harassers.
4. Harold the Hammer was a barbarian fighter of level 3. He tried to murder the enemies with a great hammer and scale armor, while a defender tried to give him cover and the harassers tried to distract the enemies.
5. Saul the Slayer was a barbarian fighter of level 1. He tried to murder the enemies with a great ax and scale armor, while a defender tried to give him cover and the harassers tried to distract the enemies.
6. Crosby the Crossbowman was a barbarian fighter of level 2. He tried to harass the enemies with a light crossbow and scale armor. He tried to duck behind Jake when he was trying to reload.
7. Marvin the Magic-Mouth was a civilized journeyman of level 2. He tried to harass the enemies with a sling. He had convinced Tacitus that he was a skirmisher, though the side of a barn might be safe from his rocks and bullets. No one knew he was actually a magic-user. Marvin never ducked behind Jake. Even so, no one ever noticed his invisible magic shield had deflected all of the frog's tongues and enemy missiles from entangling him or harming him--except for that last one.
Moving right along: In strategic time, Tacitus scoured the job boards and canvased with streetwise for two weeks to find a mission from the merchants. Strategic time means two weeks passed in 20 seconds of real time. In local time, then, the merchants negotiated with one Tacitus the Tank, a barbarian of no mean skill on a battlefield (according to himself) over the price of a mission to search and destroy the bandit problem. Local time means that the 20 minute negotiations using several relevant skills in a social conflict with the crafting rule took 30 seconds of real time.
Then, Tacitus had in strategic time recruited for three weeks to assemble this mercenary band. Strategic time means the recruiting was done in 30 seconds of real time. He said how he was looking, how many he wanted, and in what order. I determined that in this order, it would 4 weeks to get that many men, but if women, children, and gnomes were acceptable, then it would take only 3. Then he trained them for three more weeks. He organized them into three types of soldier, then taught them combined arms tactics. By type, the defenders had huge shields (Tacitus and Mike), the murderers had pole arms (Harold and Saul), and the harassers had missile weapons (Jake, Crosby, and Marvin). Tacitus promised, "My tactics are what will make us unstoppable." What they lacked in skill, the tactics gave them in confidence?
Uh-oh. I mean, would you warn your monsters if your players weaponized their characters with overconfidence in your game? Neither did I warn my monsters.
They never had a chance.
In the wilderness, they moved on horses with reasonable riding skill for the task, but lacked stealth. Only their stealth skills were worse than their riding and tracking skills. Anyway, they tracked the bandits in strategic time for several weeks with eventual success. Strategic time means that the weeks passed in 30 seconds of real time, except for the social conflict wherein their own band was bluffing a wandering monster band out of doing battle, which took 70 seconds of real time. Anyway, to explain the tracking difficulty, they had started looking for tracks in the wrong place and it would take weeks to get around to the right place by their own plan, while their best tracking skill was only 33.
Yea, so, since they lacked any real cavalry skills, they ran away from needless fights on their horses, but if an enemy had needed fighting, they would likely have needed to do so on foot in order to avoid some serious skill cap issues. They did once manage to bluff some enemies into thinking they had cavalry skills in order to get them to back down. Marvin explained it, "The gift of gab might be mightier than the slaughter of swords," and Tacitus winced.
That was the 70-second bluff above.
I wondered how if they needed horses to defeat the wilderness, how would they fare in an actual bandit lair. We found out. Do you want to find out too?
Who to be or not to be. That is the question. --Jeffspeare