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Friday, February 16, 2024

Perrin Conventions and Cinematic Death at DunDraCon #47

(George the Gnome Barbarian.)

Mere weeks after D&D turned 50 years old, DunDraCon 47 was held (should have been #49, exception years were DunDraClone in 1981 and the Covid shutdown year 2021), showing the gaming convention's roots with the world's most popular role playing game.

Friday night has been Arduin night for me at the con. Four of the past five conventions I've run a variety of places in Dave Hargrave's world (Caliban, Green Hell, Talismonde, Dead Watch Mountain). Hargrave eventually had his own rules system published, however, the first three volumes of the Arduin Grimoires from 1977 track very closely to the original D&D's first 3 booklets + supplements I-IV

My own gaming group from the beginning used Arduin's races, classes, tables, etc. as supplements to our 1st edition AD&D game which in the earliest couple years did not have the benefit of the Dungeon Masters Guide (and this tweaked our version of D&D for decades!). As a particular conceit of my convention games I have been attempting to run the Arduin DunDraCom scenarios from the original Arduin Trilogy rules-as-written (using the Arduin Trilogy compendium book by Emperor's Choice Games).

Now, Dave Hargrave in the original trilogy does have a simple no-roll initiative system where combatants basically count down in Dexterity order, with the twist that if a person's dex is twice (or even 3x) their opponent they receive 2 (or 3) extra attacks against them.

Historically our gaming group used AD&D's 1-minute rounds and their internal 6-second segments, reducing actions to discrete numbers of segments to get a more cinematic feel for the action i.e. the dragon will breath in 2 segments, what do you do? Now that we are gaming Advanced Labyrinth Lord's B/X-style 10-second melee rounds, it seemed a natural fit segments = seconds, but I hadn't stumbled upon a satisfactory method for assigning what tasks could be done in what time... until now.

I had heard about The Perrin Conventions by Steve Perrin of Chaosium and distributed at DunDraCon #1 back in 1976. All I really knew was that they were an early attempt to make D&D combat more in the moment rather than the wargaming-style abstractions where hits and damage were not individual swings, rather they were the abstract results from a period of time (often a minute) of melee.

Steve Perrin and just about all of the early west coast D&Ders were members of the faux-medieval Society for Creative Anachronism formed out of UC Berkeley in 1966. Their experience with combat within society events didn't sit right with the OD&D rules, so Perrin endeavored to create more realistic rules in his conventions. Perrin finally published The Perrin Conventions in All the World's Monsters, Volume 2.

Low and behold, I happened to be looking through a copy of All the World's Monsters, Volume 2 for the Pirates of Hagrost game I am running, and right in the first sentence" "SEQUENCE OF PLAY - Melee Round, In a melee round, (which takes up 10 seconds)" (emphasis added) These conventions are for 10 seconds rounds, same as we are using in Labyrinth Lord.

I worked up a version for our campaign that uses still the d6 initiative roll and also my interpretation of speed factor and incorporated the conventions into our supplement for Advanced Labyrinth Lord, New Knights of the All Mind, and play tested the rules at my Friday night Arduin game at DunDraCon.

I had for the first time had a light turnout for the Arduin game, we had only 4 players when previously I had to turn a couple folks away each time. I had each player run 2 characters a piece and we had a blast.

Down at the final battle against the Hell Dragon when he was due to breath napalm breath all across the party, George the Gnome leapt on the dragon's back plunging in a 2-handed sword to divert the dragon's attention. As the dragon flew back down to dive into the magma lake and prepare another attack, our Star Powered metamorphized puma mage managed to read a scroll of part water (5 seconds) to expose only barren rock for the dragon to face-plant upon.

Alas, with 4 seconds to try and save George, there was nothing available to be done and, along with the dragon, George was smashed. (The dragon however had 6 hit points left and did return for a final blow...)

The cinematics of the scene were terrific, and with everyone running 2 characters each that they weren't too attached with, losing a character didn't mean you were out of the game. Great fun.

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