Monday, November 30, 2009

Do Over

Dear Pilgrims,
I accidentally fell through time and have become my younger self's stepfather. I honestly don't remember being such an immature, whiny, irresponsible asshat. Can you help teach the young me how to grow up a little?

First of what might be several posts in reference to Do, a game my friend Daniel is writing

Dear Pilgrims,
Due to some sort of accidental time warp, an older version of myself has become my stepfather. Sadly, I'm kind of an asshat in the future. Can you help?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Personae Non Grata

See, Josh? I can use Latin too!

Okay, folks, here's the deal. I've got a gaming group that's been going semi-strong for a few years now. Life intervenes, but that happens when you're old. We've been running, jumping, climbing trees and putting on makeup while we're up there for some time now. Problem is, we ran out of makeup. So, we just ran, jumped and climbed more trees. But the luster had gone. We needed more makeup and I was gonna provide it!

So, whilst lamenting with Josh the utter encroachment of hack-and-slash style gaming in my once story-driven group, I happened upon an article by WotC describing the White Lotus Academy. Poof! Instant makeup! Opportunities galore for bigger, better story elements and infinite flexibility!

I ran my idea by Josh. He goobered all over it, stole it from me (as I stole it from WotC) and now here you go. Same premise, different results!

Each of the characters are attending the Academy (yet to be named something cooler than that) for "Master's Level graduate studies". Each has achieved an undergraduate degree in their chosen discipline from their previous educational institutions (ie, Magician Master, Convent, Monastery, etc). Each has been granted admissions to the Academy for different reasons. The Academy has all three levels of degree, Bachelor's, Master's, & PhD.

My company consists of:

One, the Eladrin Wizard (High Elf), is the academic achievement student. He is the proverbial elven mage with nose in the air. Snooty patooty. Book smart, but zero street smarts. Just begging for a beating. Which is funny because he plans on playing a "super mean" practical joke on the "biggest baddest" student there with the intention of demonstrating "his power". I see EPIC FAILURE in his future. But then, I've always been a meany.

Another, the Elf Druid (Wild Elf), is the Legacy student. Her family has attended the Academy for generations back and even donated the Aboretum to the school. She's a bit of an outcast from the family though. She's a bunny rubbing, dolphin kissing, tree hugging elf. All her relatives were arcane caster types and rather disappointed she's so different from everyone before her. Except her great grandmother. The Hierophant Druid. You know? The one that donated the Arboretum? Lots of story to play with here.

Another, the Gnome Sorcerer, is an escaped slave from the Formorians. She's super skittish, jumps at her own shadow, fights back only if cornered in a very bad way. She was accepted to the school for "doing something really cool". She's a bit of a thief and survived after escaping by nicking small loaves of bread, loose apples, etc and was caught, harassed and threatened over and above what was necessary, so she electrified the entire market block in an attempt to escape. It took the combined efforts of every arcane person in the town to remove the lingering shocking spell. One of these was an Academy instructor who persuaded the town not to imprison someone of her capacity, allow her to attend school where she could learn how to control her power and what it meant to be a free individual. I'm waiting for the school bully to do something stupid (not to her) but to someone else that is "weak" and see what she does!

The last, the Deva Invoker, is the scholarship kid. A divine caster from the poorest of poor towns, with the one room church/school/town hall, with great potential was granted a scholarship by the church to attend the Academy. He's the hardest one to judge potential story arcs for. The player typically goes for power characters with attitude (not necessarily arrogant, just powerful) and wants to play this one as a humble servant of the gods. We don't think he can do it, but are encouraging him to stretch outside his comfort zone. Should be interesting to watch. And I can't wait for the bully to start a pissing contest to see if this "humble servant" takes part or turns the other cheek.

The first game session went very well. It was very much an introductory voice over by me, talking about the town nearest to the Academy, having them spend one night there before checking into the school so that they could get a feel for the area. Having them attend the Admissions Day with the other eight new master's students (8 + 4 players = 12 total). Giving them the introductory speech by the Headmaster and ending with them meeting with the Bursar (a devil who is also the Infernal Warlock instructor) for room assignments, fees, banking etc. The highlight of the game came right at the end when the Deva was getting his room assignment.

The conversation started thusly:

Deva: "What kind of demon are you?" (Demon <> Devil; it's like asking an Australian what part of England he's from....really bad idea). It was a complete brainfart and unintentional, but I had the Bursar throw a fit.

Devil Bursar: "Demon?!?! Boy, get the f--- out until you can tell me what I am!"

The Deva decided to apologize rather than leave quietly like a good mook.

Deva: "I am terribly sorry to have offended you, sir. I didn't mean anything by it."

Devil Bursar: "Harrumph"

Deva: "I've never met a demon before, I was just making conversation."

Devil Busar: "OUT! GET THE F--- OUT!!!" Bamf! Small explosions. Sulphur smelling clouds. Mad dancing and jumping about! "OUT!!

Exit Deva like a good little mook.

It was priceless! My only wish was that the Deva was an Infernal Warlock. What a way to meet your major professor!

The next game is this Friday. And the fun continues.....

My cast of characters

Before I get into the actual premise of the game or start scanning in maps I drew freehand on notebook paper (sometimes I think I never stopped being in 8th grade) I'd like to introduce my cast of characters. So in no particular order, I present the miscreants and scofflaws that make up my personae dramatis.

William Donovan - Crown Prince of Avalon, heir to the House of Donovan, Duke of Someplace, Earl of the Other and a bunch of other titles as well. Will is the All Avalonian Boy; handsome, witty, athletic, rich and little embarassed by all the attention he gets. Will has some big shoes to fill at home...and it's honestly starting to make him a little nervous. Grandpa was known as King Donovan the Good by everybody but the nobles who rebelled against him. Dad is known as Donovan the Cadet due to the young age at which he showed spectacular battlefield prowess when he defeated the rebellious nobles that murdered his father. William's barely known as anything but the Crown Prince. He wants to make his father proud, hold up the proud heritage of his family and be as good a king as his father and grandfather. But he also wants to go someplace where he won't be treated like the Crown Prince all the time; someplace where he can get to know some people who'll be Will's friends, not the friends of the Prince. To further both goals he's been sent to the Academy to study in the College of Intrigue. On the inside, Will's a boiling turmoil of self doubt about himself and his abilities. You'd never know it to look at him; a cool and collected 14 year old, his trademark smoked glasses hide more than the glare of the sun.

Bink Q. Nimblefingers - A Halfling knave (do NOT call him a thief) who hails from the most hustling and bustling city his people have to offer, Halflington. Bink is an inveterate gambler, liar and...liberator of other people's stuff. He's lived to the ripe old age of 13 based pretty much on his amazingly affable nature and his ability to befriend nearly anyone even if he was caught with his hand in his pocket. Not much is known about Bink except that he arrived at the Academy with a letter from Dr. Adalricus Eitentho, the Dean of Shadows, and that he would be studying in the College of Shadows. Bink's got some secrets that he's keeping even from his new friends at the Academy, so this is probably all I should say about him right now.

Cronk Crushbone - An Ork (think Pict but with a face like this) Obeah, the youngest of six brothers and something of a disappointment to his family, Cronk was surprised to find he was an honored guest at the Academy. Cronk's dad is the war chieftain of Clan Crushbone which as risen to great prominence amongst the other Ork clans but that isn't why he's so special (after all, four of his brothers beat him to that punch at the Academy). Cronk has been accepted into the Apocalyptic College so that the more traditional wizards can learn about the shamanistic ways the Orks use magic. Cronk is a little put upon at home. His brothers pick on him because he's small and cerebral and will never make a good warrior. Although he wields considerable power as an Obeah, the majority of Obeahs are women and so he has spent more time at the feet of Mothers than he has wrestling and getting into trouble with the other boys. A lot of students at the Academy think Orks are just a step above wild pigs and Cronk is content to hide behind the literal mask that is his badge of office as well as the figurative mask of monosyllabic grunts and wild behavior. He's already been adopted by Bink which means he'll have more friends, and trouble, than he knows what to do with.

Hröthgar sone of Hrödegeir - For Hröthgar you need to picture Conan as a teenager and then try and picture that kid sitting in a classroom. Hröthgar is a true child of the Geats, a group of people who live in the frozen north and make their living as marauders and vikings. Hrödegeir has seen Avalon and Montaigne rise to prominence as true nations and wants that for his people. He's decided that a good first step is taking over some of the wilder country in the eastern reaches of Montaigne and a better second step is an economy fueled by something other than booty. Hrödegeir chose several of the most promising young Geats and sent them to the Academy to study in the Court of Intrigue in hopes that they'd come home and explain to the rest of their people how to be a nation. He also sent Hröthgar but that's mainly in hopes that the boy can learn a type of diplomacy that doesn't involve spitting and a two handed axe. Hrothgar is a mountain of a man and he's barely 13 winters. Lean and lanky, his height has so far outstripped his people's typical brawny physique. While not exactly stupid, Hrothgar is definitely more cunning than intelligent and about as simple as a sack of rocks. Hrothgar is a fish out of water that hasn't stopped flopping around long enough to figure out the environment's changed. For years he's been lauded as the next great chieftain of his people...right up until his dad decided to completely change the rules on him. He hasn't quite figured out what that means for his future, but getting sent to the Court of Intrigue is starting to make it obvious even to him.

Drem Bloodforge - A gifted dwarf and one of many sons born to the head of Clan Bloodforge, Drem hails from the Iron Heel Mountains just north of the Academy. Drem has a gift for engineering although, after blowing off half his face and causing several cave-ins, his father calls it "Gnome Shenanigans." And he only calls it that when he takes a break from swearing at the top of his lungs. On the suggestion of the Nigglewrench Head Mechanic, the leader of the Gnomish family that has been living and working with the Bloodforge for centuries, Drem is being sent to the Academy to hone his skills at forge and anvil. When it comes to his worldview, Drem can be as simple as Hröthgar, but Hröthgar would never figure out how to manufacture Gnomish Boom Powder and then use it to power a tunnel sled. Drem combines the bloody mindedness of every true Dwarf with a Gnome's willingness to strap himself to high powered machinery to stress test it before the ink on the blueprints has even dried.

The Flip Side

So anybody who ever visited this blog might see that we haven't updated in over two years. Speaking for myself that's because a little over two years ago I love 99% of comics and 99% of comics loved me. Flash forward a bit and the blush had definitely come off the rose. The way of the comics world is totally flipped and now the much larger percentage of comics don't love me so I don't love them back.

This isn't necessarily a reflection on their actual quality. That's a subjective standard that I won't even begin to fight about (although I'm always happy to discuss the merits of one or another specific runs, graphic novels or titles). But my perceived quality of the VAST majority of DC and Marvel is that it's all varying levels of crap. And for a variety of reasons, I want superheroes from my comics. There's good stuff out there but I'm taking the lazy infielder's approach to finding it.

In the meantime, I started writing for a roleplaying game publisher, Precis Intermedia the makers of many fine games including Two Fisted Tales. I haven't done much roleplaying in the last few years and some of that void had been filled by World of Warcraft. Well WoW started to feel like a job and the job I had writing for Precis started to feel like a bunch of fun I was making for everybody but me and my closest pals. So I first got in on a game, moved some atrophied muscles, blew the dust off my dice, that kind of thing. Then I offered to give the GM a break so I could run some stuff and it has been an amazing amount of fun.

I was going to run a superheroes game, naturally, but in speaking with my friend Rob he told me about a basic idea for a fantasy game. I vibed on it, we kept chatting and the more I thought about it the more clever it seemed. The group got sold on the idea and for the last few weeks I've been setting the stage for what we jokingly call Adventure Academy. In the meantime, Rob started with his group using the same basic concept but going in a wildly different direction.

I've been meaning to blog about the process a little bit to help flex those unused GM muscles even more and this seemed like a good opportunity to do so. Plus Rob will be joining me so that we can show how the same basic premise can end up in wildly different territory depending on players and GM. We hope you enjoy it!