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Archive for June, 2010

Backsliding

So, remember that post where I was all like “Ha! I’m going to work on building campaigns, and not my invisible processes?” Okay, I may have gotten a bit ahead of myself, because I’m thinking about overhauling my current system again.

Wait, wait, don’t shake your head in disappointment! I actually have a really good reason!

You see, I saw this article yesterday, and it’s led me to realize that my thought process needs to change. The section that really jumped out at me is one on adversaries. What resources do my adversaries have? It’s such a simple question, but one that I’ve never really explored. Motivation, yeah, I’ve thought about that a lot. I know the why of the Big Bad’s actions, but I need to start focusing on the how. This is another way that effectively resetting the campaign has worked out in my favor.

As so often happens when faced with a tricky problem, I’m making a flow chart.  It is a bit too spoileriffic to post yet, but I’m kind of excited about it. I really like flow charts. It’s useful to see how things currently stand, and if all the fiddly bits are properly connected. Since right now we have so many characters and plot threads hanging, it’s good to see the metaphorical bird’s-eye view of the situation. Also, it allows me to tower over my (still-metaphorical) game summary and yell “COWER BEFORE ME!” while extending my hand forth, much like Galactus.  It’s important to keep everything in perspective, after all.

Yeah, this is pretty much how every planning session ends

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some maniacal cackling to do.

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I was so proud of myself. I had several blog entries ready to go. All I had to do was polish them a little, but no big deal. I was also in the middle of working on some art for a Sunday Art Placeholder. Yes-siree, I was was ready to go.  But then my monitor died around 7 pm last night, leaving me slightly stranded.

Updates will be slightly sporadic. Or at least slightly more sporadic than usual, anyway.

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The Palace
Cedrick, in his brother, Sarin’s, body finds himself in an opulent room. The floor is covered with a rich blue rug, the center of which is a round inset of an eight-pointed spiral. A brown-haired woman, wearing blue robes, paces by an arched window.
“Sarin, did you finish your task?” the blue-robed woman snaps.
“Uh, what,” Cedrick/Sarin replies.”I swear, if I didn’t…” She trails off.
Sighing, she claps her hands together and a spiked collar appears floating in midair before her.
“Put the collar on the prisoner downstairs. And don’t come back until you finish your task,” She says, dismissing Cedrick/Sarin with a wave.

The Dungeon
Plague, still in Israfel’s body, opens her/his eyes. S/he is chained to the wall of a small stone room. S/he strains against the chains, but to no avail. Passing a perception check, s/he hears footsteps approaching the door. Deciding caution is the better part of valor, Plague/Israfel takes no steps to prepare her/himself. The door swings open, and in walks Sarin.
“Balls,” says Plague/Israfel.
“Uh, hey, sorry, I need to put this collar on you. Hold on a moment,” Cedrick/Sarin says, awkwardly.
Placing the collar around Plague/Israfel’s neck, s/he screams. Plague/Israfel’s world is filled with blinding-white pain. S/he pees Israfels pants as everything goes to black.

The Staircase
Sarin, in Cedrick’s body, wakes up in the middle of an impossibly long stone spiral staircase. Sounds of fighting are heard from further up the staircase. Running up the staircase, Sarin reaches a landing. What he sees stops him cold. He sees Sarin and Cedrick fighting each other. The fight is at an apparent standstill. Each blow is countered perfectly.
“Help me!” The brothers cry out, apparently noticing Sarin/Cedrick’s presence.
Sarin/Cedrick is at a loss, and is unsure of whom to help, and why they are fighting to begin with. As he stares in disbelief, Cedrick manages to land a hit. He runs the other Sarin through with his sword. As he withdraws the blade, Cedrick kicks Sarin over the edge of the landing. Cedrick’s normally cheerful face grows hard.
“That was for Elika,” he says, shouldering his way past the stunned Sarin/Cedrick. He can only watch as Cedrick walks down the stairs, as everything fades to black.

TO BE CONTINUED

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Over the past month, my goal has been to break away from the MMORPG conventions that have driven my story planning. The shift to back to 3.5 may have been a much needed shot in the arm. Here’s a list of things I’m trying to break away from mentally:

Grinding for rep: This was the first thing I threw out mentally. There are certainly campaigns that a reputation-based system can be pretty kick-ass. However, I only really implemented this in my head, and didn’t communicate that I was even doing such a thing to the players. If it gets used again later down the road, I will have to adjust my own notions of how to carry it out, first.

Mobs by level: In World of Warcraft, there isn’t much variation in attacking one level 12 mob versus another standard level 12 mob. Average monsters in MMOs tend to be fairly light on the special abilities. Monster toughness in D&D is measured by level, sure, but also by what sort of nasty effects they have, and how they are used. My default is think something along the lines of  ‘this level 5 monster should be tough, since the party is level 3.’ I am trying to think of how to use each mob to its full potential. More effects. More using the landscape strategically. More actually making my flying monsters fly and mess shit up battle-planning in advance.

EXP only for quests: Guilty, guilty, guilty.  Not much to say on this one. My players are awesome, and so should receive more rewards. Everything can be a learning experience!

There are more that I think about, but those are the big three. We’ll see how this week goes, if I fall back into my old habits or not.

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I’ve started sword fighting again.

Sounds dramatic, no? It certainly brings to mind dramatic scenes of yelling and fisticuffs. Blood feuds settled through grueling combat. Victory gained and lost in seconds, by luck, by strength, by skill. It’s all very exciting.

I'm the one in the middle. Please excuse my poor form, but I'm sure I'm being distracted by a passing dog or something.

I really enjoy fighting, even if it’s foolish for somebody with as little reach as I do to sword fight. Sure, speed is an important element, but that doesn’t help much when your only option to hit the opponent is to open yourself up like mad. I’m not much good at it, but a large part of that is my lack of motivation.

I wasn't joking about the dog. Same practice as above, but I gave up all pretense of being "good" or "dedicated."

Of course, this means I’ve been thinking about strategy a lot more than usual lately. This has made me think about how ridiculous D&D combat is, if you think of it in real life terms. With a broadsword, my reach is at about five feet. How can halfling and gnomes even hope to hit enemies in adjacent squares?! Why are dwarfs portrayed as brawlers, when stealth and cunning would probably be more useful for winning battles in deep, dark caverns? And then I chastise myself for taking a fantasy game too seriously, especially when I’m not a huge fan combat in my RPGs.

But I like fighting, and I like mixing my interests and hobbies (I like to think of it as being efficient, myself). Despite that, I don’t think I’ll ever seriously contemplate HOW HORRIBLE AND UNREALISTIC D&D’s combat system is (although I will still complain that it takes forever). I will, however, strive to make D&D combat descriptions more interesting using my long-unused knowledge. Oddly enough, it helps me with combat. The past couple of sessions have been kind of combat heavy, and all in all, I think they flowed pretty well, even when we had ~8 people (plus NPCs).

See, benefits to exercising and hitting things with sticks already!

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Conventions

I somehow managed to notice that Origins is happening this week. I don’t know if I really want to go, but there’s a part of me that says why not get a day pass and check out the exhibit halls. It could be fun and maybe you’ll find something useful to you. heck, maybe you’ll find an open game, and you can be on the other side of the screen for a bit.

That part of me is pretty convincing at times.

It’s funny, but a couple of years ago, I didn’t really care one way or another if I went. But this year, something’s different, and I’m not sure what. Maybe it’s because I don’t spend as much time at the convention center for work as I used to. Maybe it’s because I’m trying to take a more active role in my DM planning and so spend more hours a week thinking about D&D than I thought possible. Maybe it’s because I’ve really wanted to go in the past, but shrugged it off as ‘well, I’m not that sort of gamer, anyway.’

A lot can change in a year and a half, eh?

As it turns out, I have other plans for this week, so I probably won’t go. And to tell the truth, I wouldn’t even know where to begin if I did go. All I’d really want to do is hit the dealer’s room, and then call it a day. But it’s fun to think about, if nothing else!

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Lazy

I’ve been very unproductive the past couple of days. I haven’t worked on any art, I haven’t written anything, haven’t worked on my campaign. What I *have* done is watch Arrested Development. Great show, and I may write about it sometime in the future.

Oh! I also read Dusk, a pretty solid adventure, although not one I could see myself using. But it’s pretty awesome, nonetheless. Check it out!

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