Archive for July, 2010

Art Post

Watching Fellowship of the Ring, I had the sudden urge to draw our D&D characters. Quick sketches of some of the PCs. More to come as I finish them up.

Pentaros, in all his angsty sun-elf glory.

Sarin, having to deal with Cedrick's aftermath... again. I never actually got a description of Sarin, so this is how I picture him in my mind's eye.


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Personally, I’ve never been one for superstitions. Black cats are sweet. The only bad luck I gather from a broken mirror is the possibility of getting cut on a shard. As for stepping under ladders…

Artist's rendition of me carrying a ladder. We call this the Schwarzengrubber maneuver. It's a little something I picked up in the navy. Also the easier and safer way to transport a ladder short distances when alone.

It wasn’t until I said “MacBeth” aloud in front of an actor that I realized how important superstitions are. The actor flipped out, convinced that the show was going to end in disaster. Thinking quickly, I spit on the ground and ran around in a circle three times. That was enough to calm the actor down, and he went out and gave a great performance.

Rituals and rites, especially in a typical fantasy setting, work by belief made manifest. The gods are real because we believe in them, and we believe in them because they are real. It’s a neat cycle, really, thinking about it. And the development of local superstitions can convey information to the players in a  more interesting fashion than straight-up telling them. If, for example, the townsfolk of GenericMcNPCville kill any spider on sight, the players might infer that there have been issues with spiders in GenericMcNPCville in the past, be it the standard giant spider variety or the slightly more divine side of things. Another example: the rival town, Plotdevice City, believes that making direct eye contact will lead to calamitous events. This leads up nicely to some kind of mind control/zombie/possession type scenario.

I’ve done a basic scan of my go-to Forgotten Realms sources, but I haven’t found anything that is really matching up with what I’m looking for. Mixed feelings– it allows for more flexibility on my part, but then again it means more work for me. Boo on work.

Still, even though I know that it’s going to add a stupid amount of work to my planning, but I can’t help but look forward to it. It’s the not-so-suppressed literature nerd in me: I get all giggly over new ways to tell stories. Well, at least new to me. But the point is, I’m curious to see what happens next. And I know whatever I do, my players will throw me a curve ball, and it will be great.

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Alas, there is no D&D this week, since a large chunk of the group is going off to Otakon to “have fun.” Scoff! Scoff, I say! And I’m not just saying that out of thinly veiled envy! However, since I’m not thinking about the upcoming session constantly now, it has been hard for me to focus on writing anything D&D related. And so I suspect that this week will feature sporadic updates with a slant on the non-topical. See, it’s like a vacation for me, as well!

I would have posted something yesterday, but I got caught up in reading a rather excellent book: Dream Park, by Larry Niven. It’s a book that leaves me with some conflicting feelings. It was a gripping read that I couldn’t put down. On the other hand, it’s gotten me thinking, and that’s always dangerous. It’s made me think somewhat about what role-playing is, and what it should be. And it made me think about the role of the DM in all of this. It’s weighty stuff that probably deserves its own post. Maybe that will happen, once I get my thoughts in order. To sum it up slightly: maybe it’s time for a paradigm shift, to couch it in corporate terms. But then again, maybe not. I’m undecided.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently. In addition to Dream Park, I finished a rather excellent book on infrastructure called On the Grid by Scott Huler. I love infrastructure, so I thought it was a great read, although I can understand how it wouldn’t be for everybody. Huler breaks down the processes and explains them in very simple, easy to understand language. Good stuff. And then I guess I decided that I hated thinking, because I picked up a copy of V.C Andrew’s Flowers in the Attic. For those of you who never were twelve year old girls, V.C. Andrews was… urgh, I don’t even know how to summarize her novels. Just filled with squick and wrong. And incest. Seriously, lady, what is your fascination with boning family members argldjdsfkjldsfjdsfjdsf? It might be best to go to her Wikipedia page or something. I don’t even want to link to it, since I feel dirty just admitting that I’ve read her books. Anyway, the reason I’m rereading this is to remind myself a) while Twilight is bad, no family members in the book start making out; b) girls will be exposed to all sorts of horrible messages growing up, and that I need to stop getting my panties in a twist over Twilight; and c) that I was a really, really stupid twelve year old.

EDIT: holy crap, the movie is up on youtube. This promises to be fantastically bad!

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When we last left the party, William the Chronomancer was a gently cooling pile of entrails on the floor, and his killer had essentially challenged those left alive. What were they to do, except fight?

Epic Battle
The battle raged for several rounds. Israfel did much of the damage, using his rogue type attacks , although Cedrick and Alba tied for second. Sylph healed injured party members, and Indirianna and Sarin provided ranged support. This combat went much more smoothly than the harpy encounter, although I was still working out some kinks. Learning D&D is hard. 😦

The monster was fairly tough, using claw attacks and a little magic to attack the party. She focused most of her energy on killing what the beautiful, yet very deadly woman called “the target.”

Wait, Alba, the NPC tied for second in causing damage? Alba hurled several mighty fireballs into the fray, helping the party swiftly defeat the threat of the collared woman. As Israfel stabbed her, one last time, the woman smiled, and said with a sigh, “at least now I can be free.”

Needless to say, the party has some questions, such as “what the hell just happened,” and “you’re not just a baker, are you?” Alba starts to answer the questions, when a sound from down the hall gives them all pause.

“I think…” Alba says, ” I think that may be me, five years ago.”

Not wanting to mess up the time-line any more (that would come later), Alba grabs a talisman from one of the work tables and teleports the party outside the tower. They see Alba’s empty cart before everything goes to black.


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Let’s talk a little about combat. While as a roleplayer and DM, I tend to eschew combat, preferring to focus on puzzles, story, and character interaction, when it comes to actual fighting, I am exactly the opposite. It’s very… relaxing to empty one’s mind and just focus on the issue at hand. Of course, here the issue at hand is “don’t lose / don’t get hurt,” but the principle is the same.

I think a large part of the reason why I don’t really dig combat in D&D is because, well, it’s not really combat. Combat is urgent, and while there is strategy, a lot is done instinctively in a second. In role-playing games, combat is really a lot of waiting. A whole lot of waiting. That’s fine in war games, but less thrilling when a bar fight is supposed to be simulated.

Anyway, yesterday was the first day of moving beyond theory. How did we do that? By playing capture the flag. It’s a good first step to learning how to fight with a group, think strategically, and to bend/break the rules as far as you can. Overall, I think the last lesson is the lesson that has been starting to sink in the most. And that’s good. I like seeing my fellows learn new tricks. But it was a good workout, and I think everybody had fun.

I’ve noticed overall that people seem to prefer fighting with daggers and rondels over actual swords. Currently not sure if it’s a comfort thing or a fighting style thing, or some combination of both. Also not sure if this is really an issue, since we have a current shortage of swords. Something to ponder.

Growing up in Germany, I was never exposed to poison ivy before. I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen it up close and personal. However, I may have rolled into a big old patch of it yesterday. Guess it’s time to find out if I’m allergic or not! It’s been twelve hours and no rash yet, so I hope I’m okay. Also, apparently stinging nettle (to which I’m horribly allergic) doesn’t exist in Ohio? I also had to explain what a marmot was to other sword club members. At the time, all I could remember is that marmots really like eating brake cables. I guess there really aren’t marmots in Ohio either.

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When we last left the party, we had finally finished with everyone swapping bodies! Having gotten all foreshadowing out of the way forever, the plot finally lurches forward.

The Ritual
In roughly the same instant, the party and Alba reappear in a smallish room. The room itself is about 50′ x 50 ‘. The walls are lined with shelves filled with books, magical apparatuses, and preserving jars, filled with jams. In the center of the room is a dome, about 25’ in diameter. Along the outside of it, there are runes. Passing a successful arcana check, Indiriana notices they are runes associated with protection. The dome is silvery, but they can still make out the vague outline of a man inside.

Cedrick attempts to enter the circle, only to run into a solid wall. After pondering the situation for a few minutes, Sylph (who has the symbol of Mystra, as Rila was absent this session), held the symbol against the dome. After some slight resistance, she passed through the dome. Curious to see if it worked both ways, she stepped back through. After several moments of testing how things worked, Sylph discovered that she could bring one person with her at a time while holding the symbol.

The party, now inside the dome, see an old bearded man wearing red robes. He seems deep in concentration, casting some sort of spell over a wooden symbol of Mystra.

I'm pretty sure I've seen this guy somewhere before...

Sylph, continuing to take the lead in this matter, approaches the old man.
“Hey, Old Dude. What’s going on?” Sylph says (I’m paraphrasing here ,but the point still stands).
“And… Finished,” the old man says with a flourish. He turns to the party. “I’m sorry, have we met before? Sometimes I muddle up my timelines in my old age. I’m William, William Pelegrim. Chronomancer.”
After a round of introductions, the party gets down to brass tacks.
“Sir, what date is it?” asks Cedrick.
William gives the date as being five years earlier than the present date. The party exchanges worried looks.
“Hey, isn’t that around the time you die?” Cedrick exclaims. The party facepalms.
“It’s certainly possible, I can never really keep this sort of thing straight.” William says, shrugging.
“You’re taking this remarkably well,” Sylph says.
“Well, we all have to die sometime, and I’ve already seen how it—” William says, stopping abruptly. A pair of claws materializes out of a void-like opening, and into William’s delicate internal organs. As entrails spray everywhere, a woman steps through the portal. She has a collar around her neck.
“Oh good, more playthings.” The woman says, licking the blood from her fingers.


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I’ll be taking a temporary hiatus from posting for the rest of the week. Some “real life” (scoff) issues came up rather unexpectedly (do they come up any other way, really?) and I need some time to sort things out.

Here’s a hint of something coming up in my campaign notes:

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