Now, I've never run a game for strangers before and I was looking forward to that challenge though it did cause some butterflies. I got some good advice from the OD&D74 boards which really helped put me at ease.
I ran Swords & Wizardry Core Rules with only some minor adjustments. I titled the game "The Dungeon Crawl Massacre" and ran Jeff Rient's Xlyathan's Tower. Feeling that this has a great mixture of mystery, danger and puzzles it was a good choice to run for this event.
I wanted to let randomness rule the game. I created 20 pre-gens of the standard classic classes (Fighter, Magic User, Cleric, Thief, Elf, Dwarf and Halfling) which were randomly equipped. I added to that Jeff Rient's 100 random starting items to give each player something unique (never underestimate the fun of that list!). Each player then randomly chose one of these characters. Good, bad, weak, strong, they all loved that anything is possible feeling.
There were 7 enthusiastic players at the table. 4 of them had played early versions of the game in the far past but have been playing modern versions in recent years. For them it brought back many memories of the fast-paced, loose rules games of their youth. I had the honor of introducing two new players to D&D. With the simplified character sheets of Swords & Wizardry they were able to jump right in, participate and have a great time. The final player has only played 3rd and 4th ed. He ended up enjoying the game quite a bit and after the session stated that he enjoyed this much, much better. He said now he understood what his brother, a former classic player, was talking about!
I read them my custom intro to Xylarthan's Tower and then handed out random motivation cards. Each card had a different motivation for why their characters were entering the dungeon and it wasn't just all for gold either. This is something that I like to do and it got everyone involved right away.
It was great to see all the excitement at the table. Not one bored face waiting for their turn, just a lot of participation, enthusiastic problem solving and at times horror for what they encountered. But all the payers worked together and laughed a lot. And it made for a fantastic experience for all.
Some game highlights include:
The party's apprehension to approach what turned out to be a large snake scale on the floor within the first few minutes of descending the stairs.
Unleashing an Ogre Wight in the second room explored. The fighter discovered he had a potion of Undead Command in his position (a result of a random roll).
Discovering the secret Hobgoblin password and shouting "Blueberry" in every language but the required Hobgoblinish at the Ogre.
Unleashing some very vicious Giant Killer Frogs on the party.
Igniting a 5 gallon keg of fine brandy that the fighter was carrying around (another result of that random roll) to kill a room full of giant rats.
The party found the flight of stairs to descend to the second level but chose to just explore the first level. They ended up walking away with some nice coin and a large 'statute' of an Efreeti with a missing hand.
I was lucky to get a great group of players for this session. I really do think it's the light rules and the anything can happen aspect of a classic style of gaming that really has the opportunity to bring fun and excitement to the table. It's like I've always stated, if gamers have a chance to play either for the first time or return to a more classic style of play, they always see the fun and excitement that has originally always been present in this game we all love.