Posts Tagged ‘Dungeons & Dragons’

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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Lord Pankiron’s keep, located about 6 hours away from the town of Ingleham, appears completely deserted. What will our party find as they explore?

Answer: A lot of nothing much, with some crazy mixed in. What do I mean by that? Read on!

Exploring the Keep
The keep is eerily deserted, no signs of life can be discerned. On entering the kitchen, the party is assaulted with the smell of rotting food, implying that things have been empty for some time. There are also signs that people left in a hurry, stalls and tables knocked over, everything of value taken away. Everything seems straightforward, until the party comes upon what a woman’s bedroom, dominated by a large vanity desk with mirror. Looking in the mirror, Sarin sees the reflection of Elika! He calls out in his surprise, but the other party members just see his reflection. Several other people look in the mirror, but for the most part, they only see themselves. Notable exceptions: Bimbi sees the reflection of a middle-aged blonde woman, and Israfel sees a reflection of a dark-haired woman wearing blue robes. Finding the mirror trick strange, but not odd enough to dally over, the party presses on upstairs into the keep.

The Throne Room
On entering the top of the stairs, the party sees a large room that was, at one time, quite grand. Vivid tapestries hang in tatters along the walls, the edges smeared with blood. The smell of blood and offal fills the room, the source being the dead harpies, throats and stomachs torn out, at least a half-dozen throughout the room. The end of the room is dominated by two large thrones made of dark polished wood, where a thin and pale man with dark hair sits, deep in concentration. He is cutting his arms and sticking harpy feathers into the wounds.

“What are you doing? Stop that,” says Rila, getting her weapons at the ready.
“I need wings so I can fly, so I can can finally meet the woman in the sky. She’s waiting for me, you know.” the man says, hardly looking up.
“The woman in the sky? Who is that? Who are you?” asks Sarin.
“I am the lord Pankiron. This is my keep. And the woman in the sky is the most wonderful of all. I do love her, you know,” The apparent Lord Pankiron says. He pauses, as if listening to something the party cannot hear. “Oh, you’re my enemy. You wish to stop me from meeting with my lady. Well, we won’t have any of that now, will we? Harpies! Arise and attack them!”
The (previously) dead Harpies in the corner slowly rise up, and shamble towards the party. They are very clearly undead, as seen by the one harpy that is happily chewing on its own entrails as it gets ready to attack. Seeing no other course of action, the party readies their weapons.


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I never really understood method acting. It seems so… contrived in my mind. After all, the audience doesn’t care about what you feel, they’re more interested in what image you present. To paraphrase Lord Olivier: “Try acting, dear boy.”

Given that, it seems paradoxical that I’m spending so much time in character heads while planning out my weekly D&D session. But I assure you, I have good reason. Well, I have a good justification, anyway. Because the thing is the adventures that I think have flowed the best are the ones where I plan “bullet points” and then use my knowledge of the characters (and players, too) to fill in the rest during the session.

Here’s a recent example:

1) Party arrives in Ingleham

2) Kurt isn’t there (local lord re: attacks)

3) Alanna asks party to go to shrine


5) No sign of Alanna’s mother! ZOMG!

6) Footprints head east into swamp area


8 ) Clarice goes crazy again, attacks party.
a) win- [redacted]
b) lose- teleports away, goes to super-secret awesome lair

9) Rescue Tamara and Pankiron (the younger, and he of ever-changing first names).

10) Halfling entrails! ❤

And you know what? I think that was the best dungeon delve I’ve ever done. And even though the party kind of ignored everything saying “GO EAST! THAT’S WHERE THE STUFF IS!” for as long as possible, I didn’t care because, hey, it’s not like my plans were set in stone. And it’s not like bullet point nine HAD to happen as written… or any of them, really, when I think about it (except 10, I was getting antsy for some entrails). I liked having the flexibility, and I certainly plan on using this technique in the future.

But really, part of why I think I can plan sessions like this now is because I’ve spent so much time thinking about the PCs. So much time. A ridiculous amount of time. But it’s a good way for me to plan when I don’t have pen/paper/a computer/recording device handy. And so I spend a good chunk of my daydreaming time thinking about character motivations, responses, and quirks.

Thinking like that can be a bit disorienting sometimes.

But I have to admit, it can be a lot of fun. 🙂

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There must be some kinda way out of here”
Said the joker to the thief
There’s too much confusion
I can’t get no relief

–All Along the Watchtower, Bob Dylan

All Along the Watchtower has become one of my favorite songs to listen to while planning my D&D sessions. The craft and care that went into that song is awe-inspiring. The lyrics work in a circle, one can simply keep repeating the song over and over, but even more interesting for me and my love of non-linear time is that it can be read in reverse. No, really, look!

Two riders were approaching,
the wind began to howl.
Outside in the distance
a wildcat did growl
While all the women came and went,
barefoot servants, too.
All along the watchtower,
princes kept the view
So let us not talk falsely now,
the hour is getting late.
But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate
There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke
No reason to get excited, the thief he kindly spoke
None of them along the line
know what any of it is worth.
Businessmen, they drink my wine,
plowmen dig my earth
There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief
There must be some way out of here said the joker to the thief

Holy crap, Bob Dylan is a freakin’ genius.

But even beyond that, there’s a certain feeling this song that I want to capture in my campaign. A certain sense of frantic despair is the closest description I can come up with. Results up to this point: failure, but I keep pursuing it with dogged determination.

Of course, that’s not the only song that I listen to while planning. Songs rotate in and out as appropriate, but right now my playlist includes Moody Blues “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere;” From Autumn to Ashes “Short Stories with Tragic Endings;” Heather Alexander “March of Cambreadth.”  Here are some links. It’s cool, I’ll wait while you listen.

You done? Awesome. Anyway, perhaps this is why I sometimes feel the general mood of the story  is somewhat disjointed at times. From 80s love ballads to angry angsty songs of lost to a song with lots of killing… well, I always said I had a varied taste in music. Also, once I start throwing in what I perceive as character theme songs, well, it’s a very interesting play list, at least.

Here’s a freebie, since this our resident bard deemed this Cedrick’s theme song. Well, he goes with the original version, but this is what I have on my iGadget.

I don’t really go for lyrics as a direct source of inspiration (well… sometimes *cough*). But I find it helpful for getting myself into a proper mindset.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the individual characters in the campaign, and just trying to figure out what makes them ‘tick.’ I think I have some characters figured out quite well, but others… well… not so much. To try to get a feel for where all the characters stand, plot-wise, I made a spreadsheet. Of course.

Ooh, ooh, time to play 'guess which characters I know stuff about!' I messed around with these columns a bit, so some items are in different character's columns.

So, okay, having used science to figure out what areas I’m lacking in, I came to the realization that the characters that I know how I’m going to use in the future are the players that I’ve talked to on IM (both in and out of game) about their characters.

So what does that mean? I need to bother more players about their characters outside the game. I like non-verbal communication. Some people have clearer character concepts than others. This is not news. At least it’s not to me.

We’re changing things up soon, which is always exciting (and slightly frightening). Things are going to be hectic, I imagine. Maybe now is not the time to be focusing on this sort of issue. I don’t know.

I have a lot of thinking to do, if things go forward as planned.

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First: Something I forgot to add to the Minesweeper puzzle. It is actually possible to cheat at Minesweeper on PC using the code xyzzy. Of course, that’s up to the DMs discretion. After all, after it could be after saying xyzzy nothing happens.  I always heard it pronounced as ‘cheesy,’ but the pronunciation  is certainly open to interpretation.

Second: this week’s theme is going off of my earlier post on superstitions. After I posted it, I realized I could have just made a table listing superstition ideas. Ah well, no time like the present to make up for past mistakes. Change nouns as needed for plot hooks/ideas. Hooray, random charts!

  1. A name or phrase must not be said out loud.
  2. If the branch of a certain type of tree brushes your face, you will be cursed with madness
  3. If you hear bluebells (the flower) ringing, you will die before the next dawn.
  4. Wearing silver attracts the malevolent attention of The Fair Folk.
  5. A specific animal serves dark forces, and their presence foretells misfortune
  6. Bunches of local herbs or flowers repel evil forces
  7. Icons of a respected figure protect against certain diseases
  8. The trunks of birch trees turn white when inhabited by the spirits of those who died violent deaths
  9. Having a part of a person (hair, nails, flakes of skin, ect), gives power over them.
  10. A set gesture (knocking on wood, crossing one’s self) wards off bad luck
  11. A hateful or envious gaze causes misfortune for the recipient
  12. After expressing an optimistic outcome, touch iron to avoid tempting fate
  13. Suicide victims must be buried at a cross-roads, else they return as vampires
  14. Using the belief that like cures like, arsenic is used to treat stomach and intestinal disorders
  15. To give a sword a name makes it loyal to the sword’s true owner. A sword without a name will turn on any who tries to use it.
  16. Children born with a caul are destined for greatness, for good or ill
  17. A concoction of local herbs acts as a potent love potion, if consumed under the right circumstances
  18. A person can foresee their demise by looking into a mirror under the first full moon of the year
  19. One can summon a demon to do one’s bidding by reciting the demon’s name three times in a darkened room. Or maybe the demon will eat the summoner’s face.
  20. Leave a small bowl of cream out, and a fairy will come and aid in certain tasks around the house

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GenCon is going on this weekend, and unfortunately, I am not there. This is very sad, but on the other hand, I get to read all about the keen things WotC is releasing later this year. While we’re not playing 4e anymore, I’m still intrigued by some of the sets coming out.

The Red Box – I’m actually okay with the idea of an essentials line. I am in favor of anything that streamlines the roleplaying process. AND. AND. AND I really like that they used the same design as the original red box– including art by Larry Elmore. That alone makes my girlish heart go pit-a-pat. (Totally off topic, but I love Larry Elmore. Whenever I think of how a dragon should look, I think of Mr. Elmore. Also, because of him, whenever I think of halflings, I actually think of Kender. Aaaargh.)

Box-o-DM – This box set could either be a load of junk, or a lot of really good tidbits. Need more information either way. I hope it’s good.

Gamma World – YEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSS. Easy, streamlined, lighthearted take on the apocalypse. What is not to like? I’m intrigued by the random deck mutation mechanic that is in place. This looks like a lot of fun, and I can’t wait until this comes out in October.

The 2011 releases intrigue me less, although the Fortune Decks sound like they’re building on the mutation mechanic found in Gamma World. WotC implied in Q&A that they want to make the books more ‘readable.’ I’m hoping that will mean there will be more ‘fluff‘ in the rule books, since that’s what’s been most useful to my campaign crafting as a whole. Another interesting thing is that Mike Mearls is working to bring down the amount of errata. I think this is a very good thing.

For more information on the new D&D products seminar, I find the best source to be Critical Hits.

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