Player Survival Guide

Equipment

  1. 10 ft. Pole: As in the expression "I wouldn't touch that with a ten foot pole!" Well I guess you could carry a larger one. In a party I once played with, the thief carried a collapsible 10 ft pole, made of sections with threaded ends so they could be screwed together. I think he also had some kind of pulley operated claw at the end. For picking things up, very useful for detecting trip wires and pulling suspicious levers too.
  2. Bandages: Bandages are a must. Unless your DM just kills you and doesn't do unconsciousness or bleeding to death.
  3. Chalk: A good way to keep from getting lost in dungeons and mazes. When you leave a mark, add a small, hardly noticeable detail so that you'll be able to tell if someone has messed around with your signs.
  4. Crowbar: At least one person in the group should carry one. That way, you won't have to start using Excalibur to pry open a wooden chest or door. In an emergency, a crowbar will also serve as a weapon.
  5. Light Sources: Always carry torches, a lantern or some other form of illumination. A coin with continual light cast on it is popular in many AD&D campaigns, though you shouldn't neglect to bring some ordinary light sources with you as well. Otherwise a simple dispel magic could leave you groping in the dark. A burning torch can also be useful as a weapon, especially against animals and regenerating monsters.
  6. Straps: String or leather tie straps are almost as useful as rope. Then you don't have to cut up your much needed climbing rope to tie up a prisoner (or whatever).
  7. Piano Wire: Thin very strong (metal?) wire, can be used to bind things together or for trip wires. Use in conjunction with spikes and drive them in at various heights. While traveling through a dimly lit corridor, the group came to a wooden door. They listened and heard orcish voices on the other side. So they doused all the torches on the walls. Then set up piano wire at head level by driving spikes into the wall and fastening the wire to them. Then the group's fastest runner opened the door, taunted the orcs and took off down the hall. The party had notched the wall where the wire was. And the runner was able to duck and keep running. While the orcs got some nasty headaches.
  8. Fire Starters: Fire is one of the most useful things there is. It can be used for illumination, warmth and destruction. You should always carry the means for making fire, flint and steel should be cheap and common.
  9. Small Mirror On A Stick: Ideal for looking around corners. Also useful if you're being shot at and don't want to stick your head out of cover. (Believe me, taking a quick peek only works in the movies. In real life (well, real role-playing), a quick peek isn't enough to give you any useful information, but it's certainly enough for a sharpshooter to add a third eye).
  10. Rope: Rope, you can never have enough, every PC should carry some, and at least one PC should have a grapple hook. Try to get silk rope, it's lighter and stronger.
  11. Wooden Wedges: Shoving a wedge under a door is a much quicker way of blocking it than by piling up furniture (of course, you should always make sure the door opens in the right direction). Also, a wedge can keep doors from closing behind you (secret doors tend to have this nasty tendency).
  12. Missile Weapons: Always carry a missile weapon with you, even if it's only a couple of darts or a small pistol and even if you don't have the relevant skill. If an enemy is coming at you from a distance, a missile weapon basically means you get some free attacks. Also, there will be times when a gun or bow is simply the only way you can reach the enemy. Besides, a missile weapon can be very useful for intimidation purposes.
  13. Alert Snares: For instance, brass bells on a string can be set up as an early warning device. Be creative!
  14. Protective Clothing: You never know what you're going to have to touch or walk on, so a pair of heavy gloves and strong boots should definitely be part of your inventory.
  15. Paper & Pen: Useful for drawing maps, writing messages, doing calculations, drawing portraits ("Have you seen this man?"). The paper can also be used as kindling, to wrap things, etc... Also the paper can be waved in front of a guard while stating "Important message for your boss" as you stroll past. As long as they don't get to read your laundry list you may get by. In a similar vein, you can walk around ostentatiously taking notes and asking questions and people may assume you belong.
  16. Sticky Stuff: There are endless uses for glue and such.
  17. Hooks & Whistles: Fish hooks and signal whistles and string. Can you imagine dropping Nestle's Magic Medallion of Unending World Peace down the sewer grate, just as the bad guy with Tenser's Magic Medallion of World Destruction, is about to tear your world apart?

Combat

  1. Standard Operating Procedure: Have an S.O.P. for battles, i.e., these guys in front/left/middle/ right, and these guys in back, clerics casting this and this, and mages casting this and this. There aren't that many different situations you'll encounter. When you're under attack, if you ALWAYS set up the same way for the fight, then you'll get quicker at it and not only will the players react better as a team, but also it can make a difference whether you spend a round coordinating or can get set quickly. i.e., we spent two rounds deciding who does what and in the meantime, the monster was able to close on our mage; or the fighter went to close with the monster, but the mage was casting a lightning bolt at him, so the fighter moved into the path of the bolt and... argh!
  2. Keywords/Phrases: In certain circumstances a character yelling one word or phrase could make everyone do "the right thing". Little things like "double team right" might mean the mage and right fighter are to combine on the right side enemy. Customize the concept to your team and abilities.
  3. Concentrating Attacks: Concentrate as many attacks as possible on one opponent: the quicker one is killed, the sooner there's one less attack on your group.
  4. To Fight Or Not To Fight: Know when NOT to fight- A thief or mage who is out of spells is NOT useless in a fight as long as you realize that you can be valuable while not fighting. Reining up the horses, pulling wounded party members out of combat, throwing burning oil. These can all aid the party without placing a wounded or otherwise non-battle ready party member in jeopardy.
  5. Surrendering: Surrender IS an option- I almost lost a character once because I got too "heroic" and never even considered paying off highwaymen as an option. Learn to recognize when the DM is hinting that you're outnumbered (forty of the king's archers with arrows nocked is a good sign), and learn to be able to eat crow and surrender when appropriate. A good DM will never let your characters rot in jail forever, but will use it to further the plot. What do you think thieves are for?
  6. Cover: Use cover if any is available. Anyone who needlessly stands out in the open during a firefight deserves every arrow he gets. Remember that cover can sometimes be shot "through" (not even stone walls can always provide safety), so try to never give away your exact location.
  7. Melee Against Groups: When fighting against a large group in melee combat, always place your back against a wall or another large object so you can't be attacked from behind. Even better, try fighting from an enclosed space such as a doorway or a narrow pass. That way, even less enemies can get at you, and more importantly, you still have the option of retreat. If you yourself have the advantage of numbers, then be sure to use it. Surround your enemy so there's always someone who can attack from the rear, try to catch the opponent in a crossfire, etc.
  8. Pursuit: If you have an advantageous position, the enemy might try to lure you out of it by retreating. If you were winning before the withdrawal, you'll probably feel a strong urge to pursue and continue the fight. Only do this if you're sure the enemy is truly broken and disorganized.
  9. Shield-Wall: Assuming a dungeon setting... When meeting an opposing group in a corridor, any fight which ensues is almost bound to be 'fair'- i.e. one on one, two on two etc. The odds can easily be weighted in the party's favor if the party is prepared to retreat to the last chamber they were in, then by clustering around the doorway inside the room, they can get maybe as many as three on one. This works best if the room is off the side of the corridor, rather than at an end- otherwise the opposition can 'charge' down the corridor and break through the 'shield-wall' in the room, negating any advantage.

Character Creation Tips

  1. Spell Selection: When choosing your spells (or mutations or psionic powers or whatever) make sure the spell isn't superfluous. A lot of spell effects can be achieved just as well by having the right equipment or by the skills of your fellow party members. For instance, if you're a low-level mage and have several warriors in your party, go light on the combat spells. Most of the time, the damage you can do with them is negligible compared to what the fighters will dish out. Pick something more useful instead.
  2. Skills: With all the combat skills to pick from, it's often easy to overlook the more unobtrusive ones. Don't forget skills like swimming, riding (or driving) and reading/writing. Always have a medical skill. First aid will do (if only one person has such skills, you can be almost guaranteed he'll be the first one in need of those skills when the fighting breaks out).
  3. Group Input: As a group, make your characters as a group. Too often the characters are independently made. This results in holes in the group. By making characters as a group, it is possible to provide a better width and depth to the group. Remember what happened when no one made a cleric or magic user.
  4. Be Interesting: I have had at least one DM change a die roll so that I didn't die, just because he liked my character. In my experience, DM's are much more willing to let boring characters poorly played die, while they will go out of their way to find some way of keeping favorite fun characters alive.

Negotiations:

  1. Basics: Never let on how badly your party needs help. And always be sure to let your most charismatic/silvertongued partymember do the talking.
  2. Talking Is An Option: One overlooked survival technique is to talk.  Many people die because they attack the "too tough for them" creature because "it's there" or "it's evil". But kings have armies, some monsters gate in help, and sometimes you just aren't tough enough. But talking may give you a chance to deal with the enemy, get an idea of its plans, find a weakness, or deal with the villain, while others sneak by to complete the mission. Perhaps he'd GIVE you the goal of the quest if you do something for him. <...> As usual talking requires judgement but may save you a painful death.
  3. Truth: Never assume the other guy is telling the truth. All too often I've seen PC's take the word of any NPC as gospel truth, even if the NPC has obvious reasons to lie (i.e. is having the crap beat out of him by the PC's).
  4. Motivations: Always keep the other guy's motivations in mind. The key to negotiation is figuring out what the other guy wants. Is the other guy a mercenary? Offer double what the other guy's paying. Is the other guy a Techie? How about some flashy tech? Is he a religious devotee? Hope you know enough about theology to convince him that you're in the right.
  5. Lying: Don't lie unless you need to. I've seen many PC's who ended up as pathological liars when talking with NPCs, when there was no known reason to lie. Often, the NPCs eventually found out they were being lied to. This does not make for successful negotiations. And when you do lie, make absolutely sure that you know what you said. Lies are harder to remember. It's often a good idea to make sure that the DM remembers it as well, so that you can at least agree on something.
  6. Losing Face: When you've got your opponent over a barrel, make sure he knows it but be careful not to rub his nose in it too much. If you do, he might decide to refuse your demands, regardless of the consequences. There are people who would rather die than be extorted/humiliated, especially by someone they don't respect, so loss of face should be kept to a minimum.  Staying polite helps. And occasionally you might want to consider giving up something relatively invaluable, so your opponent has something to show his own people that can be interpreted as a victory.

Extreme Environments

  1. Jungle: You want to take machetes with you when you're traveling through the jungle, as our group recently found out. Short swords get real thin when you use them like that. Also, horses aren't a very good form of transport in the jungle, and horsemeat gets a bit boring after a couple of weeks. (That must have been the third batch of horses we went through. And the first of the 4th batch died recently too). Never charge unknown creatures that are slow enough to run away from. Also, bring something waterproof to keep your maps and other papery stuff in. Also, insect nets, poison antidotes, and portable boats.
  2. Desert: water, white clothing, water, compass, water, camels and water, warm clothes (it gets COLD at night), and water.
  3. Arctic: black goggles (to prevent snow-blinding effects), rope to tie each other together to avoid snow-filled chasms, knowledge of how to build an igloo, really warm clothes, ice pick, crampons, etc...

Advice and Strategy

  1. Keeping Your Polish Mine Detector Alive: When exploring a dungeon with a lot of traps, the person who walks point basically acts as a Polish mine detector. Needless to say that this person should have a lot of hit points/dexterity/good saving throws/luck. Since a lot of traps are of the pitfall variety, the point man should always hold on to a rope that is also being held by the other party members. That way, if the floor collapses beneath him, he won't immediately be turned into hero-kebab on the spikes that traditionally line the floor of any self-respecting pitfall.
  2. Marching Orders: Several people have made remarks to me about the importance of this. Though the actual marching orders will vary, depending on the party in question, the general order usually resembles something like this: Point: any character with stealth. Front: Warriors, preferably with distance weapons available. Middle: vulnerable characters. Rear: warriors again or other characters with at least a little bit of combat power.
  3. Splitting Up The Party: Never. Ever. No matter how good an idea it may seem at the time. Remember that divide and conquer works just as well for the enemy. If you are, by some act of God, forced to split up, then at least agree on a rendezvous-point and time, and also on a recognition sign or password (shape shifters can be a real pain in the butt).
  4. The Law: Use the proper authorities whenever possible. Lawful territory or town officials are a lot less likely to think you are an up to something when they see you show up every three month bright and chipper to renew your throwing knife carrying permit.
  5. Low Profile: If you have expensive/military/or hard to get gear, do not flash it around. People would just love to take things away from you if they can.
  6. Planning: When you're making a plan, always make a backup plan for when things go wrong. So don't just say: "We're going to sneak into the temple, steal the Ruby Eye of the Mad God, and then sneak back out again", but also decide in advance what you're going to do if you get discovered halfway and you've got hordes of mad priests and guards coming towards you from all directions, while bells madly toll the alarm.
  7. Unknown Territory: When heading into unknown territory, try to get information beforehand if you can. Try to find out about weather and terrain conditions, monsters you might encounter, local leaders, customs the people might have, laws of nature, laws of super-nature, etc.
  8. Coffins: Don't open coffins. Only stupid people open coffins.
  9. Payment: When accepting a quest or something, try to get as much money in advance as possible. Not only does this reduce the chances of being cheated, it also makes it less likely that your employer will try to stab you in the back, in order to avoid having to pay you. Don't forget to ask if your expenses (hospital costs, ammo, broken equipment etc.) are covered. Also, those surviving should receive the shares of deceased team members.

Alternate Spells Uses

  1. How about a high level druid whipping a warp wood spell at a vampire's wooden coffin around noon? Nasty surprise for old "fang face".
  2. Here's one. A character in our party put magic mouths on his backpack and pockets to shout "Thief ...thief" if anyone besides him opened them.
  3. Put a magic mouth on an arrow that activates upon impact after firing. This can be used to create a diversion over there, far away from where you are trying to do something unnoticed.
  4. How about a magic mouth on a pebble that you can throw down to announce your presence the way a page boy might, e.g. "Here in your presence I announce the great..."
  5. How about having a few scrolls with Explosive Runes on them to leave/post in the dungeon. E.g. tack one on the door of the monster you're visiting and knock.
  6. We put continual light and continual dark spells on beads. You could throw them into rooms to light up / darken & confuse enemies. You could drop them down a hole to see the bottom, etc.
  7. Here's a creative use: We put a large radius continual dark bead next to 2 short radius continual light beads to achieve a circle of light that didn't penetrate the outer dark shell. (You need 2: the first cancels the darkness inside, and the 2nd provides light.) In this way, we could camp in light without being discovered at night.

Creating Character Personality

  1. Look at your ability scores first. Why are his stats the way they are? Does he have a low charisma because he is ugly? Is he dumb because he was hit in the head with a heavy object? Is he strong because he worked in a rock quarry? Things like these make the character unique and interesting.
  2. What does your character look like? Is he tall, short, or average in height? Is he heavy or light? Is it muscle or fat that makes him that way? What color is his hair and eyes? What is his skin color?
  3. Does the character have any distinguishing marks? A birthmark, scar, or tattoo could become a major problem if he is wanted, or a good thing if he must be identified. Always weigh the good and bad of the situation. If he has a tattoo, why did he get it?
  4. What is the PC's distinguishing acts when he is nervous, thinking dirty, contemplating, or upset? Does he shake his leg when nervous or pound his head while thinking? Things like this also make the character unique.
  5. Who is the character's parents and did they raise him? If not, who did raise the character and what did they influence him to do?
  6. Why is the character a member of the class he has? Did the PC's family influence the PC or was it his own choice?
  7. What about siblings and childhood friends? Did he have any? If so, where are they now? Perhaps one is a fellow adventurer in the group?
  8. How was the PC's childhood? Was it happy and peaceful, sad and chaotic? Did he move around a lot? Were his family traveling merchants?
  9. What did the PC do before he became an adventurer? Was the PC in training to become a member of his class? If so, who was his mentor? What the PC's relationship with the mentor? Where is the mentor today?
  10. This ties very closely with some classes and all alignments. What are the PC's moral, ethical, and religious beliefs? Who taught the PC's beliefs? How far will the PC go to defend those beliefs?
  11. Does the character have any unusual habits? If so, where did the PC get them from, and how do others react to them?
  12. How do others react to the PC, and why does the PC think they react like that?
  13. Does the PC have any enemies or close friends? If so, what is their relationship with those people and their history relating to the PC? Why is the relationship between them the way it is?
  14. Does the PC have any fears/phobias? Does he suffer from mental decay or other mental problems?
  15. How does the PC treat and react to people? Is the PC hostile to others, overly trustful? Is the PC gullible? Is the PC shy and kept to him or herself?
  16. What is the character's normal daily routine and how does the PC react when it is interrupted for any reason?
  17. Does the character have a famous ancestor? What did this ancestor do and how do others react when they learn of the PC's heritage?
  18. Where is the PC's homeland? What are the PC's feelings toward their home? Why did the PC leave the homeland for adventuring?
  19. What are the character's goals, ambitions, and dreams? How does the PC plan to attain these?
  20. Does the PC have a hobby? Does the PC collect books, daggers, gems, or nothing at all?
  21. What is the PC's view toward material wealth? Does the PC spend it quickly without thought, does the PC retain it for other purposes, or is the PC totally greedy and try to get as much as they can?
  22. Does the PC want a family someday? If so, with who does the PC want to have the family with and where will they live and raise their children?
  23. Has the PC ever killed? What is the PC's reaction to killing someone? Will they ever kill someone? Will they try to make up for their killing of another human or demi-human life? Do they never kill any members of their own race?
  24. What is their heritage? Are they from a wealthy family or a poor one? Does their family have a castle already or do they only have a little shack?
  25. This is also a question that should be worked out with your DM. How old is your character? How much has he experienced of life and adventure? Is he ready for such a life?
  26. Why does your character have the chosen weapon and non-weapon proficiencies?
  27. What is their opinion of the current ruler and of the government? Are they anti-government or are they wholly in favor of the ruler?
  28. This is the most fun item of all that is listed here. Is the character really who they say they are? Do they have a great dark secret of not telling their name?
  29. Are there any enemies or relatives from the past that might involve themselves with the PC's affairs? If so, what might those people do?  Sabotage a mission, ambush the PC's, or attempt an assassination?
  30. How does the PC relate to those adventurers traveling with him/her?