Well, after about eight months of hum-ing and hah-ing, the lads rolled up some characters this evening and began their first adventure. They bought some equipment, made an excellent speech in the marketplace about how they'd overcome the monsters menacing the town, negotiated with some NPCs to get supplies, henchmen and information, and set off into the woods towards the Old Watchtower.
Two fights down, and one of the NPCs and and one of the PCs only survived due to a house-rule I've picked up through the OSR. I cannot now remember where I saw it, it was way back six or more months ago, but I wish I could because I'd thank the person who blogged about it.
The long and short is, for us Basic types, combat is especially deadly because there's no 'hits to unconscious'. If you reach 0hp you're dead. So what are you to do after the first maybe hour of play, a couple of minutes into the first combat and one of the PCs (who only had 3 hp to start with) is hit by an arrow (at AC3... I mean, come on!)? I really did think 6 members of the party were likely to hold their own against 2 bandits. But no, Jericho the Elf had to go and die on me.
This particular house rule is that, if given emergency first aid (the battle was over a minute later, the bandits dealt with, and the party now gathered round their fallen comrade staunching the bleeding and so on) and sufficient rest, a character can survive - if they make a CON roll - but at the cost of permanently losing 1 point of Constitution. The idea is that they can never fully recover from that near-fatal injury.
I like it. It means that there isn't so much possibility that they'll die in a low-powered conflict, but they're not unkillable; they still have to be very careful as CON isn't inexhaustible and anyway, the more you lose the fewer hp you're going to be getting, not to mention that each time it happens the system shock is just straight off more likely to kill you; but you don't have to hide every time you see a dagger.
They made it - after resting up - to the Old Watchtower. They successfully (and somewhat luckily) killed the Gnoll and 3 of the 4 Hobgoblins inhabiting the place, though poor Mohag the Wanderer (NPC Fighter) took a nasty dose of sword to the head. But the first-aid and the CON roll mean he'll survive (the PCs don't know that yet, it's a 'web exclusive'!). When the last Hobgoblin surrendered, they killed it anyway. The Cleric wasn't happy about that.
They haven't found the secret room yet. Nor have they investigated the roof. That comes next time, I guess, and then if they survive that, they're going hunting in the woods for giant spiders. Or do they stay and work out who built the watchtower and who the watchmen were? I don't know yet!