Today I ran a one-shot for a friend using Eberron and Microlite74. It was a weird blend of conflicting designs that didn’t end up running very smoothly.
Microlite74, of course, focuses on tweaking Microlite to resemble old-school brown-box OD&D — about as old-school as you can get. I would describe it as almost of a gritty feel. Eberron, OTOH, is inspired by movies like Indiana Jones — several steps beyond high fantasy into a sort of pulp and dark adventure feel.
My friend started off by rolling up an elf — acting as a M-U. The adventure started as the intrepid elf stumbled across a body on one of the skyways of Sharn (I was adapting the sample aventure from the back of the Eberron campaign setting for this game). There was a satchel in the corpse’s hand, and as the elf looked through it, a warforged swung up from one side of the bridge and demanded the satchel with a drawn battleaxe.
Two combat rounds later, my friend was rolling up his *second* character (In a regular 3.5 game, I would have expected the PCs to kill or drive off the warforged miscreant within two rounds — not get slain and have to restart with a new character!), this time a dwarf fighter who heard screams of “Murder!” and “Summon the watch!” from a nearby tower. Investigating, he stumbled across the same crime scene. Some poor elf was murdered!
…oh, and there might have been some other body there, too. Or something. So much for the nominal adventure plot.
From there, we had a bit of intrigue with a mysterious cloaked figure giving a hint to a clandestine meeting in the back of a tavern, a patron handing out a quest to retrieve a MacGuffin to the befuddled dwarf, and a boisterous dwarven cleric drinking buddy coming along for the ride.
Going into the dungeon, the scrappy dwarves got themselves ambushed by a pair of shifters and another warforged. That turned out to be a pretty easy fight. While the PC and his NPC ally were both wounded, they won, so they had an easy time retreating and healing back to full HP to continue on. This was another definite jarring moment — the adventure had a bit about fighting in the sewers, valves opening, and water flows affecting the battlefield, but we weren’t using minis for combat, so I wasn’t sure how to incorporate that into the fight. Also, one of the 0e retroclone themes is ‘exploration and treasure hunting above simply killing things’ — and this segment was geared more towards having a simple speed bump combat on the way to the goal (though the bit with the water flows looked cool, if only I could have incorporated it…).
Beyond that, the party ran into a trapped door — when opened, magic symbols shot acid in front of door. Party got zapped three times before they bypassed it by pushing the door open with a 10′ pole! They completely missed the (admittedly subtle) clues about touching a journal in their possession to the symbol on the middle of the door in order to deactivate the trap.
From there, they went down a vertical shaft that gradually angled to the horizontal. First they dropped a corpse from the shifter/warforged fight first, then a torch with a rope tied to it (burned part of the rope off before they hauled it back up and doused it in sewage, ew), then they rappelled down themselves.
At the bottom, they came to a large rubble-strewn chamber. Another short combat ensued where a beetle swarm rushed forth to defend its nest — they had to retreat and distract the swarm to avoid dying — and finally the party made it to the peaceful-looking ruins of an ancient temple. They didn’t search very thoroughly, so they missed the holy water font (the remaining water acts as three Cure Light Wounds potions), and that’s where we broke off the game due to time constraints.
There really were a lot of jarring “oops, these don’t mesh well” moments. In the future, I doubt I’ll use Eberron as a Microlite setting — it seems like it requires too much time and effort to reconcile competing design themes.