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I’ve been using pre-fabricated adventures a lot more recently. I know, I know, at one point I swore I would never again do such a thing. But as I was reminded recently by a talking pigeon, one should never say never. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ql1IFJwF0SQ

So what changed? First and foremost, I think a large part of it is a shift in focus. The focus of my last game was more about exploring the Forgotten Realms and solving the mystery of Mystra’s death. This game is a more traditional dungeon delve focused experience and finding clues about an ancient, evil civilization. In my now less-limited experience, this is where pre-fabs really shine. Small details can be added and changed, while still allowing for a good flow of building design and monster encounters. Anything that doesn’t make sense towards the ultimate goal of the story can be tossed out like old Chinese food. 

Another way pre-fabs have been helpful is in teaching me how to run good combat encounters. Combat has long been one of my weakest areas as a GM. Figuring out how to balance monster group size and level to provide a decently paced fight always seemed to be just out of my grasp. But I’m starting to get it, slowly but surely. Maybe with the exception of the headless undead (but not undead) disease-cloud hydra, I think combat has been going pretty well. 

Overall, I think I’m getting to the point where I’m out-growing the use of pre-fabs in this group. But I’m really glad they helped me get some footing as a more traditional DM. 

 

I know I mentioned in the return post that the old D&D group kind of fell apart. What I didn’t mention is that I’m still DMing a much, much smaller group using the Pathfinder system. 

While I appreciated that there were a lot of awesome people in the old D&D group, I don’t have the energy for running and keeping track of 12 people. Right now the hard cap is set at five players. I think this is a good number. There are downsides to having so few players. One is as my rule if at least a third of the players will be absent, the game is cancelled for the week. This led to about a two month span where we had no gaming. 

My thoughts on Pathfinder? Generally, I like it. Combat flows pretty well, and with five players, in a generally balanced manner. No zerg rush!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzMhh8zhTiY

I also appreciate the pretty awesome community that has sprung up around Paizo. Looking up what a skill/spell/ability does is super easy with resources like the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Reference Document. I’ve also been using some pre-fabricated adventures (GASP, especially after I swore I’d never do such a thing again). I’ve been a lot more flexible with the pre-made adventures. They’re more guidelines at this point. 

Overall, I like Pathfinder! It’s a pretty easy system to learn and run in, even if character creation takes roughly forever.

Before I end things, here’s a shot of a random battle. As you can see, we spend hours maintaining and picking our figurines. Actually, building all the Lego figures is kind of fun. 

 Image

A Return!

It has been just over two years since I’ve updated this blog. A lot has changed in two years. 

First and foremost, I got a cat: Image

 

She’s pretty cool, when she’s not a scratchy-bitey ball of hate. I got her around the time I was getting divorced. Yeah, that was a thing that happened, too.

Actually, around that same time, the D&D group I was DMing kind of fell apart, and so that campaign just sort of ended with no resolution… :(  

I’ve started LARPing in earnest. I’ve been working with the very talented Kristin Brumley to make a web series about LARPing. You can find out more at http://basicadventuring101.com/

Also, we made this totally awesome video.

So why return? Why now? 

I don’t know. I’ve been getting the blogging itch again, and I’ve started DMing another group. I think writing about D&D at least once a week helped me really learn the game and focus where I wanted to go with the game next. 

As the Doctor would say:

Image

 

(Shirt can be found at http://www.welovefine.com/2014-allons-y.html#.Um7LIXCsi-0)

Sad Entry

I’ve been struggling a lot with what to post here. I know I left my last post on a sort of cliff-hanger. But it was a great post, so I have that at least. I have some real life stuff going on, as usual, and as such, I can’t really devote the time and energy to this blog that it deserves. I’ve learned a lot running this blog, and I hope to come back to it someday. But things…. things are too chaotic right now.

Wish you all the best, and happy trails!

A post about a fortnight ago at Some Space to Think has me thinking about what tools a DM has to build a ‘personal’ game, as well as what ‘personal’ actually means in a gaming context. Of course, this means that what would, to normal people, be a discussion of role-playing tips and techniques has turned into a lengthy series of posts that might as well be called ‘justifying my BA in English literature.’

I promise that the next post will actually be about role-playing. Honest. But a little literary theory never hurt anybody, and it’s important to understanding what I want to talk about next time.

For someone who majored in English literature, I have a generally antagonistic relationship with literary theory. For example, I tend to frame my analysis of work based off of my knowledge of the time period the work was written. It makes me cranky when people insist that a Freudian analysis of an 1847 work is clearly what the author intended. Other things that make me cranky: anything written by Michel Foucault, deconstruction, New Criticism.

 

If you think this is too hard on literary criticism, read the Wikipedia article on deconstruction

Panel 4 is pretty much how I got through college.

But the point of this article is not to rail against literary criticism, as much as I enjoy doing so. No, the point of this article is to discuss one of the backbones of Gothic literary theory: the sublime and the beautiful. Believe me when I say it’s taking all my willpower to resist speaking at length on the rise and development of the Gothic novel; how socio-political pressures in England influenced the typical Gothic setting; or the subversion/reinforcement of traditional gender roles in these novels. It’s really, really hard.

In modern times, the word sublime has taken on a connotation of something exquisite or transcendental. That’s not the definition Edmund Burke was going for when he wrote A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. Burke drew on the original definition of sublime: a force of great magnitude that the mind has difficulty encapsulating. Infinity is an example of one such force. Darkness is another. Because our perception of these forces is limited, an emotional tension is created. On one side is our natural curiosity—we want to find out more about these mysterious forces. On the other side is our natural fear of the unknown, driven largely by our fear of death. Thus, the sublime is a force that compels us, but can also destroy us.

The beautiful, as Burke defines it, something that is well-made and aesthetically pleasing. A painting or sculpture can be beautiful. If I recall right, milk is also beautiful according to Burke.

On the other hand, maybe he was on to something.....

He goes on to say that the purpose of beautiful objects is to create pleasure, and also to calm the nerves, such as after encountering something sublime.

Burke also has a lot to say about pleasure and pain.

Fun fact: literary criticism is a lot more entertaining if you picture Pinhead reading it out loud to his fellow Cenobites. Just saying.

In fact, he spends more time talking about pleasure and pain than he does the sublime and the beautiful. Which is kind of odd, when you consider the title of his book. Both the sublime and the beautiful create pleasure, although through different means. The beautiful, as I mentioned earlier, drawing from the ‘passion of love’ (and not lust or desire, as Burke takes many pains to state), calms and soothes the soul of the viewer and creator. The sublime creates pleasure through a vicarious thrill—we are scared by it, but also relieved that it’s just a story or it couldn’t happen to me.

I’ve gone on for too long on a relatively minor work of literary criticism. And this is a very surface level description of Burke’s work. But it’s a good starting point for what I want to talk about next time. I might need to elaborate some more as I go on, but I’m hoping I’ve covered the most important parts of the work.

In summary:

1) Things we don’t understand are scary
2) Milk is tasty
3) Literary Criticism is a load of dingo droppings
4) Things we find pretty calm us down

EDIT: A quote from my dearest darling husband: “Lies, a BA in English is never justified, only rationalized.” How true, how true….

I have fallen in love with Minecraft.

Me, head-over-heels for a game with no story. No character development. No stunning character designs. None of the things that normally attract me to a game. And yet, somehow, it’s managed to woo me, leaving me swanning about like a sixteen-year old girl.  I don’t understand. How could this happen? To me, of all people, the avowed cynic, the skeptic, the first with a crushing comment or cruel word?

There’s nothing else for it, but to write poetry. Love poetry. Horrible, horrible purple prose declaring my love of Minecraft. Okay, I’m not very good at poetry. But when one is in love, one must write poetry. To do otherwise would be to deny one’s love, and that’s like not being in love at all.

Ode to Sunrise

It’s not morning until something is on fire
–ancient Minecraft Proverb

Sunrise with thy glorious gradients,
promise us of the sunblock’s radiance.
reds merging from the dark purple of night,
I watch it rise, and prepare to take flight.

I was exploring far when night did fall,
no weapons had I at my beck and call.
A torch, a compass, cuttings from a tree,
these were the tools available to me.

Digdig, digdig, there was no other choice,
Unless by my own petard I wanted to be hoist.
I had sanctum on the side of the hill,
but for one block I forgot to refill.

Sounds of destruction came from all around!
The spider’s slurp, the creeper’s fsss abound
A hideous groan, and then! Twang! Twang! Twang!
My sanctum was breached, and I would be claimed.

When o’er the horizon, a golden line
peeped, and covered the land with its soft shine.
My enemy stopped his deadly assault
I watched until the flaming corpse did halt.

I ran away fast, I ran away strong,
Never did the trip to my base seem so long!
But in the end, with the sun hanging high,
I reach it safely, and let out a sigh.

Sunset with thy glorious gradients,
remind why we need daytime’s radiance.
Reds merging into the dark purple of night,
I watch it set, and prepare to fight.

 

Resolutions

Better late than never, right?

But first, an examination for how I did with my resolutions last year:

I, the guilt party, do henceforth solemnly swear to make a concerted effort to write on a steady basis.
I was doing all right until, you know, I stopped in October-ish. So this past year more has been written for just me than I think I’ve ever really done before. Not too bad. All in all, I’d give myself a B- on this one.

I will stop giving head-space to other people’s storylands and expand on my own.
Actually did a decent job this year on this one. My D&D campaign actually has back story! And my own stories are better for it, as well.

I will push my boundaries, and sometimes I will fail, but I will learn something from having gone further than I’ve ever gone before.
This year I picked up some new hobbies, including some things I swore I would NEVER EVER do. Good job, me!

I will actually get off my butt and exercise .
Sword club counts as exercise, right? I go for lots of walks (especially when working on my other resolution on developing my own stories), and even run sometimes. Exercise! Healthy living!

I will change the world, in small mysterious ways.
Uhm, maybe? I don’t even know what I meant by this one, so… probably did not succeed.

My resolutions for the new year?
1) Start and see a new project through to completion. I don’t know what it will be yet, but I’ve been itching to work on something different for a while.
2) Get better at fighting hand-to-hand/grappling
3) Figure out new and better ways to DM my ever-growing hoard.
4) Make one really awesome costume this year, instead of just talking about it like I always do.
5) Get caught up to the current timeline with the campaign summaries on this blog (this one will probably not happen).
6) Failing number five, I will at least try to post more often here. Given my current track record, this could be as often as TWO times a month.

Any of my faithful readers have any resolutions you’d care to share?

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