February 25, 2011

Recap Session 7 though...???: A clear enemy emerges

So It's been forever since I posted about my D&D campaign, but it has not died off! We had a couple of unfortunate long breaks and lost one player, but the story still forges on with some interesting developments.

Again, legal jargon for all characters and setting that I, d20sapphire, have created.

Last time, it was quite apparent that Ingard, the head of the city guard, had Prince Aeriche in his custody.  The next session Atreyu finally confronted him, when Ingard said the man was found drunk in the woods, recovering from a stupor.  Atreyu called him out for his treachery and sent him along to the capital, where he privately talked to the King Aust.  Ingard was executed, with his wife and child sent to opposite ends of the country, and the party was handsomely rewarded before heading back to the Cornwellian Kingdom, where Queen Elish asked some questions about the state of the Vidrigez kingdom.

After a couple days of rest, Samsana, the holy fighter blessed from a relatively unknown goddess, wanted help from the party to investigate the organization of the Yuan-ti armies.  The party was willing to investigate for the good of the crown, even without the promise of pay.  Samsana navigated the jungle with them, bumping into a couple of monsters and taking a rest at a tribe before they found themselves at half power after a tussle with some Yuan-ti.  Dreamatar and Roto had to head back early due to complications, and the rest of the team realized they weren't strong enough to do it on their own.  They headed back to see the tribe they had stayed with had been attacked, and Samsana found one lone scared child to save.  Another Yuan-ti scuffle on the way before they could go back to the capital and report their findings.

Continuing with their investigation when the first king of Cornwell's body had been stolen, the party made way to the Xephs lands, which border the Monster's Forest.  With the help of one of Bram's old adventuring friends, the adventurers traveled deep into the forest and fought some monsters.  They talked to some minotaurs about people in black robes, and were pointed in the direction of the dangerous range, the thick jungle that no empire or kingdom has ever been able to conquer due to dangerous flora and fauna as well as disease.  A couple days more journeying and they were in the jungle, one that is thicker and more dangerous than the Amazon.  A perfect hiding place.

There they found individuals, later proven to be connected to the Yuan-ti and the Vidrigez Kingdom, training tweens and teenagers of previously unknown origins to be spies.  In fact, these young people could easily change their appearance, and the training improved their metamorphoses as well as their strength.  They killed most of the trainers, sparing one to take back for questioning.  The children went off on their own, except for one who is almost a young man, and decided to follow Escrow back to the Cornwellian Kingdom.  The party went back to Queen Elish to report what they found, only to find Queen Elish would only greet them veiled, gloved and completely covered.  She didn't reveal what ailed her but was very appreciative of the information.

In the meantime, Escrow gave the changeling child a new family,  Roto started a temple for his rare dragon god, Atreyu began to court Swan Hughes with Councilman Fox's close eye, and Bram began to miss the taste of seafood while inland.

Councilman Fox Hughes asked the party to investigate shipments that had been coming in around the South-Eastern ports, in ships seemingly small with cargos reported from all over the place.  The PCs travelled to what was called the "beard" of the continent.  They set up shop very close to the coast and kept watch.  In the wee hours of the morning they noticed a strange shipment come in.  Following it, they lead to an empty building that should've been stacked with 20ft cube boxes.  Finding ribbon  to scry made locating the foreign Teleport Mavericks in the Cornwellian Kingdom easy, and the surprise attack on them in the slums of the capital even easier.  And the Warforged Chargers bursting out a floor below to attack our heros, proving to be the cargo in the crates, only was a minor setback.


Oh man, that was a lot of typing.  Luckily next session will be less catch up and more "Oh, so about Vidrigez... what are we going to do about it?"

Yeah, I love being a DM.

February 21, 2011

My First (amazing) experience with Hero's Banner

The great thing about RPG Chicago (gotta plug my awesome group) is that you get a chance to meet new people and try new games that you'd probably never find out about before.  That's the real reason I decided to step up and run it when the previous leader stepped down--it's a resource that not a lot of nerds have in a hobby requiring you to be social.  With that in mind, a few Friday's ago I decided I needed some nerd time with new people, so I showed up to GamesPlus to play Hero's Banner.

Hero's Banner: The Fury of Free Will is an RPG where the mechanics are there to drive a story along.  There are a lot of games that claim this, when they really mean mechanics aren't based around Dungeons and Dragons style battles.  Hero's Banner actually succeeds at that goal.  Each person plays a character who is a young noble, in a land of four countries who are constantly at odds with each other.  They're at a point in their life where they have three possible paths to take, and someone pushing them towards one or another.  While your story unfolds with the rest of the group, your character is forced to make choices that will eventually sway them to one cause more than the other.  After a certain point, your character will have to decide on one path, and tell the epilogue of how that path went.

There were three of us, so three characters who's stories did intertwine, affecting each other in little ways.  There was Victor, who's fighting family's tradition was clashing with his desire to stay home and write.  There was Uriel, who's mother was a notable Guildmistress, though he thought of leaving the family spice trade for heroic glory.  And there was Danica, my character, who was ready to marry but had the skill to be a great advisor.

Throughout over 6 hours of gaming that happened over 2 session, Victor, Uriel and Danica found their paths, although none of them were without losses.  Victor teetered the line between brazen fighter and comfortable coward, pursuing an army assignment from his father but not to completion, finding information about a spy and taking that back to the information while allowing the court to believe that high general Dragos was killed  He didn't admit to not being able to torture subjects and letting Dragos abandon Victor's leadership to pursue the original mission.  After a tall tale of victory, the traitor was found to be the brother in law of the King, Mihale.  After Mihale was almost publicly executed and awaiting the cruel judgement from the King of Prodan in a jail cell, Mihale's wife pleaded with Victor to recant the story, and with a heavy heart and a convenient distraction due to other more pressing political matters, freed the traitor that he had named, running away from his family and homeland and instead settling down far away to write a a tale that warned of the dangers of lying.

Uriel, after once again being on the run with his mother from a shipment gone wrong , settled in Prodan for a while to sell the spices that he had saved from a burning ship.  Although heroics had helped him before, they later sent him the jail when he and a friend were arrested from a bar fight that got way out of hand.  Apparently Uriel had friends who thought using chairs in a fight was awesome, and not capable of bringing someone close to death.  In jail he heard of the possibility of slaying a "demon" and was released to the church's custody to hopefully become such a hero, only to find the church wished him to slay his own mother.  Stabbing the one priest that was in his way and about to make a run for it, he finds his boyhood crush, Magda, as a stable girl married to a less than desirable husband.  Uriel ended up punching the husband, saving the girl, and with the help of a convenient lady of the court, escaping the capital of Prodan and meeting up with his mother, only to have his mother leave town without him to save her own hide.  Uriel settled down with Magda and had a family, finally finding the love of his life.

Danica's story started out with an attempt of love, from the Prince of Prodan no less.  After her father, a close and trusted advisor to the King, introduced to two and everything was going splendidly at a court function, the King intervened and made sure that both the Prince and Danica's father knew that such an affair was not to be decided on a whim.  The Prince sent a note to Danica later to meet her at night, where he not only confessed his attraction, but that he needed her help in assassinating his own father.  Danica said she'd helped, but towed the line in court when apologizing to the king about what happened between her and the Prince in court.  Danica planned a couple of events to keep suspicion away from her Prince, including a reconciliation between father and son for all to see in church.  She thought she had found a sucker to commit the murder when helping the church preach to those stuck in the local prison, convincing one prisoner that the king was a demon and releasing him to the custody of the church.  She discovered how this plan backfired when she found Josef stabbed through the gut, and through prayer a miracle occurred and she saved his life with the power of the Ancients.  Offended that her Prince never respected the church, she immediately went to the King and confessed the sins of the heir, renouncing everything she had done and preaching the truth of the Ancients, in the hope of unity across all the four kingdoms.

In the end, this game is ridiculously rewarding because it allows the player to become a character with goals and conflicts that they have to figure it out.  Now, the only downside is that this isn't a game for people new to RPGs, especially when it comes to the GM.  The GM has to be ready to take something and make a scene out of it quickly.  Like within a minute or less.  That said, once you have a GM who can master that art, you're bound to have a engaging experience that is unlike any other RPG out there.

I already know this is a game I'm going to be playing and GMing again and again and again for years to come.

February 15, 2011

Breakfast of Awesome... Or is it?

The Boyfriend disagrees, but this weekend I think I had the best breakfast ever concocted: The Chocolate Bacon Waffle Sundae:

Look at the glory!
The waffle is actually chocolate with bacon IN it.  That's delicious enough on it's own, but then I decided to top it with chocolate ice cream, homemade chocolate sauce and pieces of bacon.  Let me tell you, it is one of the better breakfast ideas I've ever had, along the same line of having breakfast late at night and having a breakfast milkshake.

But I want your opinions, reader.  Do you agree with me, that this is a breakfast for deities?  Or do you agree with The Boyfriend, who thinks that the flavor combination makes no sense?

I want your opinion!  Please respond, I am curious.

February 13, 2011

A Great Nerd Tribute: The DnD epsisode of Community

This episode came on about two weeks ago, and I've been meaning to share it.  I always thought that there would be a great way to incorporate RPGs into a tv show without it all being about RPGs played by anti-social nerds who can only be tolerated by each other.  It's an unfortunate stereotype that has been perpetuated by multiple sources of media.  I'm not going to call out against it because hey, a lot of it is really funny.  There's a lot of it made by people in the hobby who know what some of the truths are.  But when it's made by people who don't participate in it, they miss the point and make the joke more about how the people are pathetic in general, something that you don't need RPGs as a template to do.  Many other nerd hobbies suffer this fate, but I feel RPGs are one hobby that makes the least sense to outsiders.

Anyway, it's nice to see the show that uses the RPGs and fantasy setting more for continuing what makes the show entertaining in the first place.  I'm a fan of the comedy Community, partly because I think Joel McHale is hilarious and also because it's so goofy without relying on entirely awkward humor.  This show was able to take Dungeons and Dragons and instead of making it the butt of the joke, the background for the funny story it was telling.  If something mainstream is starting to use it that way, it means that DnD is seen as less of a weird thing and more as a legit hobby.  And that, as a gamer in the real world, makes me smile.

Also, this episode is great all around.

February 9, 2011

Let's Categorize Gamers: Internal and External Explorers.

I was going to start this a different way, but then I realized that this works better in a dual-relationship sort of thing.  With RPGs, I'm realizing that there are two different types of personalities, that of course work more in a spectrum than just one or the other, but it something that exists.  On either end of the spectrum is essentially the kind of games I find exciting, and the kind of games the Boyfriend finds exciting. 

With most RPGs, in the traditional western sense and not exactly JRPGs (or at least not in my experience) there are the Internal Explorers and the External Explorers.  Some of you may have an idea about what I'm getting at, but since I'm blogging about it the whole point is explaining what I think.

The Internal Explorer is very interested in understanding the main character's motivations and goals.  This is the player who loves a deep detailed backstory that influences decisions later on.  This is also the player who is more likely to mingle with other characters in the world and make bonds with them, whether its romance or political allegiances or even declared enemies.  Through these relationships and past experiences, the main character will make choices and grow, making them a dynamic character reacting to social and emotional stimuli.

The External Explorer is more intrigued about the world around them.  The main character is a vehicle for the player to understand more of the material world around them.  Sometimes this is through fighting strange monsters and gaining rare treasures, sometimes it's a little more anthropological in the intrigue, finding out everything concerning history and traditions of the world around them.  The main character is more about discovering something grand and (mostly) tangible.

I'm sure some of you are thinking that you do some of both, which is why I suggest it's a spectrum.  There are a alot of players that do both, but very rarely does a player do both to so much detail due to just pure joy and not just because they're completionist, which applies more to video games then RPGs.  And I can understand using certain games to enjoy both sides of the spectrum.  As much as I consider myself more of an Internal Explorer, I prefer doing more External Exploration goals in Dungeons and Dragons or SLA.

I think the point is to be honest about what kind of game play you're actually doing, and knowing how in depth you want to be.  This is important as a gamer because if you know exactly what kind of experience you're looking for, it's easier to get it.  If you know you enjoy characters that have a tortured past, make sure that tortured past is something that works with the GMs world.  If you know you love rewarding your players with massive amounts of treasure, be upfront as a GM with you players about creating a materially motivated campaign.

This is not to say, however, that a game can only exclusively cater to one explorer or another.  Sure, there are games that are more linked to one of the other.  But with many games, RPGs or video games, you can easily cater to both.  The first example that comes to my mind is Dragon Age.  It is litered with rewards and surprised for both gamers.  The completionist External Explorer can find some of the best treasures, and rare goods with fantastic bonuses are in every level.  The Internal Explorer can communicate to all his or her compatriots and through befriending them gain bonuses.  And both  paths can change the story in monumental ways.

I think herein lies the challenge to many game designers:  Sure, you can easily make a game that caters specifically to one of these players on either extreme of the spectrum.  But it takes a very thoughtful designer to make a game that is fun and lets both types of players the discover the world both ways.

I'm writing this realizing I don't really have a conclusion for the end of this, but more of a suggestion.  For gamers, realize what kind of game play you prefer more, and the figure out how to use as a strength if it's part of your RPG style.  For designers, catering to both is going to be more profitable over time... why not explore these choices in games and reward smart players from either camp?  Let both the Internal and External Explorers have something to look forward to.  You may be surprised how appreciated this can be.