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Archive for April, 2010

Wheeee

I’ve been in a super productive state of mind recently. And when that happens, it usually means I actually work on projects that have been sitting on the back burner for far too long. Projects like Generiquest. Anyway, I actually got around to finishing up a couple of sprite sheets, which I think may be the first progress that has happened in about a year and a half.

Did I mention that there are roughly four of us working on this project?

I quite enjoy working on Generiquest when I get the chance. It’s a fun project, and I really do enjoy working with sprites. And how often do you get to make sprites of men in kilts? I mean, just look at how dainty his feet are! I think Bartus over there will be my favorite sprite for a long, long time. Anyway, as I was saying before I got distracted by men in kilts, I really like this project. It’s kinda nice to be able to work on this as I get free time, and not feel pressured because my output isn’t high enough. And I get to try new things! For example, I’m currently making a sprite from scratch. It’s… a lot harder than I thought. But for the sake of inserting every cliche into the game possible, I’m willing to take one for the team!

Seriously, I have no idea what animal this is supposed to be. It might be a cat, or possibly a mouse? It might even be a horse.

Uhm, maybe the team should back me up, here. Because the more I look at that, the more it’s starting to look like an aardvark to me. Or maybe Miss Piggy.

I’ve been working on some other projects, but nothing that I can post yet. You see, my 10 year old scanner doesn’t work with Vista. And so my range of adorable to macabre drawings of Blythe and William (two of the former PCs in Endwin’s d6 game) are unloved and unfinished. It’s very, very sad.

To summarise: 1) I’ve been on a huge art kick recently, hence why I’m not writing about D&D 2) Because of RL conflicts, I’ve been away from my group for about 3 weeks, making it hard for me to get too motivated to write on D&D 3) Lists are fun 4) I have no idea what animal that thing above is supposed to be. Let’s go with raccoon. Yeah… a raccoon…. or maybe a horse?

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A Simple Question

I was going through some boxes when I came across an old journal. I flipped through it, trying to place when it when I wrote it, when my eyes fell on one particular sentence.

“What do you want out of life?”

Simple words, words from a lifetime ago. Setting the book down, my original quest forgotten, I pondered the question again, like I had so many years ago. The journal was from right after I graduated from college, a time of transition and flux.

“What do you want out of life?”

The obvious answer to that question is happiness. Around that time, I wasn’t sure what would make me happy in the long run. I had a vague idea that I should go for a career in technical theater, but had no clue on how to make that a reality. That said, I was pretty content with the day-to-day stuff. Reading books in the sunshine; playing with the cats; watching movies in my room and eating edamame. I got a job doing what makes me happiest: keeping active and solving problems. Things were on the up-and-up.

But none of that had happened yet when I wrote that journal entry, at the end of a two-year long breakdown. Writing that entry, I was staring into my future and only seeing an everlasting nothing.

“What do you want out of life?”

Hindsight being what it is, I can interpret this sentence in so many ways. It’s a cry for help, a plea to hold on, an exasperated outburst venting my frustration at my inability to get my act together. Maybe it was my mind trying to find something, anything to attach hope for the future. To tell the truth, I’m uncertain what was really my intent in writing that entry. But I want to think that I was trying to reach out and grab hold of something in the distance. To find some source of happiness that would be coming my way, if I just wait and work hard for it.

“What do you want out of life?”

Sometimes, I forget how lucky I am. I have a lot of what I want out of life. I have friends, family. The ability to work towards my long-term goals. I have things to laugh about, and people to laugh with. Sometimes, it’s good to be reminded that I’m on the right track; that despite the odds, despite people who doubt, despite those pesky quirks of genetics, I am content.

Isn’t that what we all really want?

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A Rambling Post

At our last D&D session, one of the players asked if I was going to be the permanent DM. And I had to stop and pause for a moment, because I’d never thought about it. No, really. I just kind of assumed that I was filling in until somebody stepped up. And then I realized that I’ve been the DM for about a year. My goodness. This might be the longest I’ve stuck with something. I’m horrible at keeping up with things, as evidenced by my rather spotty blog updates.

I’ve learned a lot in this year. Far more than I ever thought I would know about D&D, about social gaming, about campaign crafting and running. Before a year and a half ago, I had played D&D twice. Ever.

What Have I Learned?

  • I’ve learned that 4th edition combat is ridiculously easy. Seriously, I think my players could take on a Terrasque if they wanted to. Jeez.
  • My best campaign ideas are the ones I’m the least confident in. I was petrified before I rolled the temporal incursions and swapping bodies, afraid that people would hate it. Fear is a natural reaction to a good idea, because you actually care if the idea makes it or not.
  • I am really really bad at running combat. I need to come up with an actual system. I’ve been pondering ideas, but nothing concrete yet.
  • It takes at least 2 hours of solid work to make a decent session. That’s a lot of prep time.
  • If your players don’t make you (internally) say “what?!,” you’re doing it wrong.
  • D&D really needs a dodge check. Or, at least I need to stop asking my players for dodge checks. Too much time playing a d6 system, I guess.
  • That I really, really like productivity software. Perhaps an unhealthy amount.

I’m sure there’s other stuff I’ve learned, as well. But as I try to think, my mind goes blank.

But even with that, I can’t really, 100 percent commit to being full-time DM. I think I laughed, and said something to the equivalent of ‘meh. whatever.’ I love coming up with stories, and seeing how people react to what I throw at them. But really, what I like best, is having fun once a week with good people. As long as everybody is having fun, well, that’s what’s really important.

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When we last left our players, shit got real. Everybody is swapping bodies, and ending up in times unknown.

At the Army Camp
Israfel/Pentaros, intrigued by what’s going on, decides to talk a little more with Jilad.
Israfel/Pentaros: S’up?
Jilad: Are you ready for the battle tomorrow? It promises to be quite the fight.
At the mention of possible fighting, Israfel/Pentaros perks up a little. Flipping a coin, he pauses, and makes a decision.
Israfel/Pentaros: Now. We attack now.
Jilad (and the DM): What?!
Israfel: I’m in charge, right? They’re not expecting us to attack now.
He pulls Pentaros’s ax from its holder, and starts walking to the edge of camp. Reaching the battlefield, he gives a rousing cry, and starts running towards the castle. Behind him, the sounds of trumpets and men yelling carry him onwards. Israfel/Pentaros grins, as everything fades to black…

In The Forest
Pentaros, in Rila’s body, finds himself/herself running in a forest. It is raining, a hard rain. The sort of rain that creates a mud that clings to everything. Judging by her appearance, Rila has fallen more than once in her desperate run.  While unsure of exactly what is going on, Pentaros/Rila knows that s/he has to get the the symbol of Mystra to the village of Ingleham, and that she’s close. A thick black plume of smoke in the direction Pentaros/Rila is running just spurs him/her to run even faster. After a short while, and several more falls, s/he arrives. Approaching Ingleham, Pentaros/Rila notices that the village has been burnt to the ground. After a successful perception check, Pentaros/Rila finds a small trapdoor buried under some rubble in what appears to be a church. Opening it, he/she finds a late-middle aged man and a young girl huddled as far away from the door as possible. Despite never having laid eyes on them before, Pentaros/Rila knows that these are the people s/he’s been looking for. Pentaros/Rila, trying to figure out what’s going on, asks what’s going on.

“What’s your name?,” s/he asks.

“Kurt and Shana,” the man says, gesturing to himself, and then to the girl. “I’m a cleric of Lathander, and she is my apprentice. You got here just in time. We have no time to spare. Do you have the symbol?”

Pentaros/Rila nods, and hands over the symbol, but not without asking one more question. “Why do you need it?”
“Something dangerous is coming. Something that may destroy us all. We need to–” Kurt stops suddenly, his face draining of color. Shana freezes in her spot. As Pentaros/Rila turns around, everything goes to black.

Canti Tower
The reaction of the remaining party members can be described as “What. The Hell.” Also, not helped by Cedrick and Sylph vanishing as soon as they entered the next room….

To Be Continued!

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Aaah, I am mostly functional again. As such, I’ve been strolling through the blogsphere again. Critical Hits posted an interesting link touching on my previous blog post, and written much more clearly and concisely than my own. So, give it a read (actually read the entire blog, it’s good stuff). I don’t really have much more to add to this conversation, so I’ll stop there. But it really is good to know that I’m not the only one frustrated in this matter.

Inspiration, that tricky and mutable beast. It is a fearsome beast to tame, but with some patience, it is possible. But for those that don’t have the time or patience, there is one easy solution for inspiration in a gaming setting. Steal, steal, steal. It worked for Shakespeare, it worked for Neil Gaiman, and it can work for you, too. Is there a character from a book or movie that you think about constantly? Introduce them as an NPC, to help or hinder the party. An image from a horror movie that haunts your nightmares? Incorporate it into your campaign somehow!  Or is there a movie/play/novel you absolutely hate? Why not use that as a basis to ‘get it right?’

Exactly like this

For the record, I’ve used all three of these techniques with varying degrees of success. Limited success with the NPCs, but the other two have been working out pretty well for me, overall. But if that fails, I like to flip through books, especially fluff books like Faiths and Pantheons or The Underdark, and see what catches my eye. Even if something doesn’t fit in with my campaign at the moment, I jot a note down in my ever-growing DM binder.

My current campaign is a mixture of flipping through my husband’s Forgotten Realms books and finding the whole pantheon they had set up pretty sweet (this was about three years ago, now), and confusion about why, in a world centered around magic and the like, WOTC had decided to kill of the god of magic, with no replacement. I mean, yeah, they kill Mystra all the time. But this time, I felt the need to ‘fix’ what had been done, or in the least explore the consequences of killing one of the most powerful beings in existence (with a couple of other homages thrown in for good measure). So, uh, thanks for killing Mystra (again), WOTC! Write down everything that interests you, no matter how small, somewhere. Look it over when you’re scrambling for ideas. Who knows, maybe a D&D version of L.A. Confidential would make an awesome game session, or you might want to rework that pretentious art film into an enjoyable social experience (even though I actually quite like La Jetee, it’s not exactly something I would watch with other people). Anything and everything around is a potential piece of inspiration, if it just gets used right.

This is what I aim for in each and every campaign I craft. Maybe that's not the healthiest additude to take.

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I think I’ve gotten more sick this year than I have in the past three years combined. Sorry for the silence, here’s some videos for amusement.

I can’t get enough of Downfall parodies. They make me giggle, and I’m not sure why.

Hooray for the Lady Of Pain! (for the planescape fans out there)

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Sometimes, in my tiny little corner of the blogosphere, I forget that I’m part of a larger group. I’ve never submitted an application, never paid any dues, but regardless, I’ve somehow joined the Brotherhood of Geek. It was a post from ChattyDM earlier today that got me thinking on this topic.

This image, courtesy of Penny Arcade, really sums up his point

Chatty didn’t write a manifesto, just a personal piece about how he felt on the subject. But it leads to a question I’ve been dealing with, in some form or fashion, for the better part of fifteen years. What do you do about trolls and other such people?

Of course, the obvious answer is “don’t feed the trolls.” It’s a good mantra, honest, but I think that it needs to be replaced by something else. Something along the lines of “don’t be an asshat.” It’s a bit abrasive, but in my mind, it’s needed shock therapy. The unknown They have a slogan: “for the lulz.” Why shouldn’t we have one as well? One that’s catchy and sparks debate, so people actually start to think about what it means to be civil on the internet! Well, a girl can dream, anyway, right? Maybe someday that slogan will come along, but for now, I’ll be sticking with my own personal slogan, for the time being.

Every time I respond to someone, I ask myself ” am I being an asshat?” Am I being inflammatory? Am I being snide or snotty to someone who may well be earnest? Am I enabling the bad behaviors of others on this forum? Am I being a whiny elitist snob? If I answer yes to any of these questions I delete my comment, move away from the tread, and forget about it. I do not have to add to the noise. The internet will not have its feelings hurt because I chose not to respond to a particular blog or commenter. On the other hand, there are times when members of a community need to be told that they’re acting like asshats. It’s not an asshatish thing to let somebody know they’re being an asshat, if you do it with tact and decorum (I admit, I just linked that video because it’s a great movie). Of course, being silent while somebody is being trolled is also an asshat thing to do. Here is where I become more unsure of what to do: on one hand, I want to defend the person being trolled. On the other, feeding the troll will most likely make the situation worse. So, what to do?

PM people, let them know they’re not alone. /ignore trolls, if possible. Report the situation to a mod or admin. Don’t be an asshat. Really, I should package this message up and become a motivational speaker. It’s a better way to live, honest. Don’t be an asshat. Don’t be cruel just for being cruel. Speak out when others are being cruel. It’s so simple, they even teach it to children. I believe we can do it! It’ll take some work, but we’ll get there, in the end.

“When darkness surrounds us, some choose to decry it. Others choose to light a torch,” Chatty mentioned in his editorial. Beware the darkness, that’s where the grue live. But they can only exist in the darkness. With light, they run away to where they will be safe. Any light will do; we don’t need a bonfire when a candle will do. Peace out, friends.

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