Thursday, June 30, 2011

RAVE: The Original Pitches

Guess which one the group went for...

***In Her Majesty's Secret Service***

For years the elder Ghaele of Winter kept the surrounding lands in as much order as a fey ruler could. Peace was uneasy, but it was indeed peace. Now the Ghaele is dead and all hope for continuity of order rests with his young daughter, now the Ghaele herself. Vested with all the powers of fey winter, the young monarch is powerful, yet naive. The machinations of her court draw her attention from proper rulership and threaten to tear the land apart with unrest - or worse, weaken them enough that threats from without could rise again.

To drive her court to distraction, the young Ghaele petitions each surrounding settlement to send their heroes to her court, that they may serve as heralds for her new order. The myriad members of the Court of Winter have their own ideas, but the question of renaissance or ruin will ultimately be answered by those that heed the Ghaele's call.

Themes: Court, Intrigue, Arthurian Questing, Politics, King(Queen)-making
Characters: Any, the surrounding lands a deliberately vague. You'll get to define your homeland and assist with cooperative world-building.

***Larry Mason and the Warlock's Rock***

Boarpimple's School for Young Arcane Adventurers has a long-lasting legacy of producing some of the finest adventurers the world has ever known (mostly wizards, but we're integrated now). From the beginning, nascent doers of heroic deeds are trained, tested, trained some more, tested some more, and driven to the dual brinks of insanity and exhaustion - all to have their level best wrenched from them and presented on the shiniest plates of success.

You'll assume the role of first-year student adventurers and have, well, adventures. All the while learning the proper ways to adventure adventurously. You'll fight battles, attend classes, play games, make friends, interact with a staff of instructors beyond reproach (even the evil ones), make enemies and rivals (or be assigned them, if you are found lacking in this ever-so-important aspect of adventuring life), and eventually get caught up in a healthy dose of world-saving (but not until at least second semester, as World-Saving is an advanced course).

Themes: Learning to Play, Dry British Humor, School Uniforms, Not taking ourselves too seriously, Quiddich (or sports that aren't copyrighted).
Characters: At least one person will have to be an Arcane hero (destiny not included). Everyone else can either be an arcane peer or part of the entourage of "colorful integrated students" that are most assuredly not considered second-class citizens. An "All Wizard" party will spend a lot of time getting killed, so we won't be doing that.

***To Go Boldly***

Generations ago, life was what more folks would call normal. Somewhere in a far-away kingdom, the seeds of destruction were sown and the heroes of the age were unable to stop the harvest. Life as everyone knew it ended in fire, cataclysm, and the opening of seals never meant to be tampered with. But that was a long time ago, and life in the underground city of Leifheim has continued on normally since then.

Constructed by one of the last bygone heroes, Leif the Sequestering, Leifheim has all the amenities of a surface city and none of the apocalyptic dangers that lurk beyond its vaulted locks. Magical lights on the domed ceiling indicate night and day, a steady diet of indigenous fungi keeps everyone healthy, and the traditions of the ancient heroes survive mostly intact - as if a concerted effort was made to gather those traditions under one roof.

Unfortunately, the lights have started flickering and the elders believe that the enchantments keeping the outside world outside where it should be are failing. Rather than wait for the bubble to burst, they summon those with great potential to go out into the world and find out if the worst has passed. These brave souls are handed the chance to explore new spaces, get into fistfights with new civilizations, and go boldly where folks have likely been before.

Themes: Exploration, Sandbox Gaming, Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy, Survival, Think "Heavy Metal" meets "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" and you're tracking.
Character: Hale and Hearty Heroes that have (no kidding), lived their entire lives under a rock in the middle of nowhere (that means you can pretty much play anything)

***Bleak Iron***

The Library of Bleak Iron houses great knowledge and is sacred to its patron, the god Asmodeus. Housed in the library are tomes and rituals of great power - but also secrets best left buried in the moulded stacks. One such book draws the attention of the party - a tome containing a secret so dire that it could drive the most evil of men to heroic action.

Blinded by ambition and desire for power, the party follows the tome to the tomb of the forgotten exarch, where their entire world changes forever. Exposure to the last remnants of Amoth, slain god of Light and Good, awakens consciences long-repressed. Knowledge of Good and Evil can be a dangerous thing - especially when your home is in the Nine Hells.

Themes: Evil, Redemption, Scholarship, Heresy, more Redemption, some Intrigue, Morality
Characters: Everyone starts out evil, but will they (can they?) stay that way?

Friday, October 01, 2010

RAVE: The Pitch Meeting

In August of 2009, my old campaign did this thing called dying - mostly because my son was busy trying to be born. The game was your usual "run some adventures and learn how to DM 4E" sort of affair anywho, so I didn't really mourn its' passing overmuch. The fact that I was busy not sleeping and trying to keep my work clothes from getting covered in yark (that's Harris-household for anything that comes out of a child's mouth) didn't make the loss any harder to take.

Fast-forward a year. I've got this jones in my bones to tell a story. I really don't care what kind of story, but I've got to do something. Unbounded and unfocused creativity is my bane. My muse won't stop meowing until I feed her. I started thinking about settings and stories, just knowing that my brain would latch onto one and I'd be golden.

My brain latched on to FIVE. Usually, when the brain gets to storming I can force it down a path. This time, it wasn't having any of my pesky focusing. Five ideas that wouldn't be denied swelled in the old brain. I had to pick one to sell to some players so I could get my fix, but narrowing the field proved impossible for me alone. I spent precious minutes trying to figure out a way to pare the list down at least a bit. Mash them together? No, too diverse. Run one per tier? Good, but they're still too diverse for that to be cohesive. Player-driven, interest-based steel cage match? Damn, that's a good idea.

So I sold my players with "I'm running D&D. Want to play?" and it worked. We dusted off the old Facebook group, added the new blood, and used the discussion board function to toss out ideas. I threw mine out there for the world to see and invited the players to do the same. Then we voted. It was one part virtual pitch meeting, one part brainstorming session, and many parts fun. As a DM, it also gave me a lot of insight into what my players want from a game. If you've ever got too many (or absolutely no) ideas floating around, give it a whirl.

How do you figure out what story you're going to tell?

Have fun,


P.S. If there's any interest at all, I'll post the ideas.

Friday, September 24, 2010

RANT: Racial Profiling

So I've seen a lot of chatter lately about how the Essentials line of products is destroying the collaborative spirit of Dungeons & Dragons. The theft of our daily powers in exchange for higher raw damage output has left many in a lurch. Is it a dumbing down? Is it the nostalgia hydra rearing an ugly head at those who don't really miss it? I don't know. Frankly, I'd prefer to spend my time preparing for my next session rather than caring.

What I do know is that the Essentials line features compatible, fully optional rules (meaning they'll be the standard for future production going forward). Some of those rules are pretty neat (flexible stat bonuses for some races) , some are pretty crunchy (feats that are far less conditional for their bonus that their previous counterparts), and some I downright don't care for (changing roles for classes, essentially making each build a class by itself, etc.). Overall, they strike the same chord with me that edition resets in CCGs do. Is it necessary for growth? Probably. Does that mean I have to like/accept it? Since I don't play competitively, I sure don't.

The thing that's bugging me is that the Essentials line doesn't do much to really push the envelope. Sure, we're getting Heroes of Shadow later in the year, but there are lots of games that let us play badguys/antiheroes already. Fourth Edition did an awesome job of pushing the boundaries of what D&D was and how it was played. As a DM, I've got an amazing toolbox full of fun because the design math is finally transparent. As a Player, I've got one of those rare games where nobody has to sit and twiddle their thumbs while the combats happen - everyone gets to contribute. Heck, as a Fan, I've got endless stuff to read and write about.

But I want my new stuff to be new. I want to kick things over a notch and turn classic assumptions on their ears. I want my heroes to break rules and push boundaries. I want something like this:

Against the Grain
You are an extraordinary member of your race, possessed of unusual potential and faculty. Are you a mutation? Are you the future? Only time will tell how your talents shape your destiny.
Prerequisite: character creation only, non-human
Effect: You lose your racial bonuses to attributes and gain +2 to two different attributes of your choice. This feat choice may not be taken or retrained without DM approval.

Balanced, elegant, and above all else, game-changing - it's an expansion on the idea that any race can be any class, kicked up a notch so that now any race can be good at any class. I could finally make a decent half-elf ranger (or warforged bard or gnome barbarian or a dwarf wizard).

In short, I want groundbreaking. I want new. I want to see something I haven't seen before or to gain a new way of thinking about something I see all the time. I want enough of the old that I still feel like I'm playing a new edition of the game, but enough new that I still feel like I'm doing something better. D&D will be good no matter whether an edition or supplement improves it or not (and the results will be just as hotly debated by purists and edition campers and the like). That means the key to designing new stuff is to change things (as improvement or detriment will always be subjective) and see what happens.

Have fun,


Friday, July 03, 2009

[RANT] Yeah, that's somehow fair

This is JR Smith of the Denver Nuggets. He's been sentenced to 30 days in jail because of an accident that resulted in the death of his friend. He didn't cause the accident, the death, or the friendship, but the weight of all three bears heavily on his shoulders.

I can't help but think about what I'd do if one of my friends suddenly fell over dead. I've lost some close friends and family members, but the causes have always been either freakishly surreal (Kelly) or natural causes (gre-Uma and grandpa). It's never been unexplained or accidental.

I suppose I'd pray about it, but I damn sure hope I wouldn't wind up in jail over it.

God's lookin' down on you JR. Keep the faith.

Monday, September 22, 2008

RAVE: Love

Love is a many-splendored thing.
Love, exciting and new.
Can't buy me love.
Cannot kill my love buzz.
All we need is love.
Make not a bond of love.

Love, I have known it.
Beneath cherry blossom trees
'tis the wise lotus.

So, I'm feeling really really really good lately. I'm talking not-scaring-off-the-Mormon-missionaries good, just-had-a-big-dinner good, that kind of good that keeps you going when the day gets shitty. It's due in no small part to that elusive and oft-maligned four-letter word that we all enjoy so much.

No silly, not "Fuck!" but that's a good one too.

I'm talking about love. L-O-V-to the-E. I've felt it before, had it felt for me before, even been fooled into thinking I was feeling it before. I've developed a pretty good indicator for the fooling part, in no small way thanks to Guen, some good friends, and some past experiences. I gotta tell ya, even the fake stuff feels really good, but I'm here today to chat about spotting and experiencing the real thing. Here's some helpful hints:

Love something more than your lover, and make sure they love something more than you. I shouldn't say "more." I should say "other." I just need to drive home the point, and I really think more is better. My mistake in the past was making my partners the central figure in my life, or allowing myself to become the central figure in theirs. Love your children, love God, love your parents, love your cat, love your country, love something else. When you only love one thing or one person, it's easy to forget that there is so much more out there. The focus of your love becomes your sole source of validation, and it becomes easier to forget what's most important.

Love yourself. Seriously, you're useless, boring, annoying, needy, unattractive, petty, not pretty, and a myriad other bad things when you don't love yourself. If you're getting love from somewhere and you don't love yourself, then you're a parasite - pure and simple. If you can't figure out how to love yourself, get introspective on your own ass. Odds are, you're a pretty cool person or you wouldn't be reading this blog. If nothing else, follow circular masturbation logic: by masturbating, I love my hand, my hand is part of me, thus I love me. See? That wasn't so hard now was it?

Don't mistake frequent fucking for love. Sometimes we like to do things. Sometimes we do them more than once. That doesn't mean we love that thing, just that we like doing it. Sex clouds pretty much every issue. If you want to know if something is for real, ask yourself "Would I still feel this way if I were unable to give and/or receive hot dickings to/from this person?" If the answer is no, then you're not in love. You're either trading sex for affection, or you're chalking up frequent fucker miles. That's okay, just remember that there's a difference.

It's like faith. That tingling you might feel, that's hormones. If you're still fulfilled and on top of the fucking world when that tingling subsides, then you're on the right track. Power to ya.

That's all I've got for now. I really hope that everyone gets to experience this, 'cause it's awesome.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

RAVE: Out of the Closet

Sometimes I sleep
Sometimes it's not for days
The people I meet
Always go their separate ways
Sometimes you tell the day
By the bottle that you drink
Sometimes when you're alone
All you do is think...

I've gotten my fair share of alone time lately, and I've had cause to do a lot of thinking. I don't mind, really, because I enjoy flexing the old mental muscles. For the past nine months or so, I've had cause to think about my spiritual life. Since I've reached a sort of crossroads, I figured I'd spew about my progress for a spell.

First, I'm a bad person. The truth is, you're the weak and I'm the tyranny of evil men, but I'm trying real hard to be the shepherd. I know that a fearless, unrepentant bastard shepherd probably isn't what most people think would be a good thing, but it's who I am. Thing is, just like Mr. Wallace, I've got a gleaming beautiful soul in my briefcase. Lots of people look to me as an example whether I want them to or not. Bushido dictates a certain level of obligation to those who look up to you, and because I choose to follow those tenets I have to honor that obligation.

Second, I started this line of inquiry for all the wrong reasons. I fell really hard for a Christian woman, and our spiritual differences were going to become a sticking point somewhere along the line. I decided to look into some different things to see if I could find a way to reconcile bushido-driven metheism with her peculiar brand of Jesus-freaking. I left all of my other books at home while I was traveling and set out to read the Bible - desperately searching for something that said I could be a good person without Christ. I found a bunch, but they all kept coming back to this one really important point...

Third, God loves me anyway. He loves me so much that he sent his only son to die for the sins of the world - my sins. If you held a gun to Guen's head and said that I had to choose between her life and the lives of ten people in the next room, well, I'd ask who those people were and the decision would still be agonizing. God loves me like I love my cat, with a pure and faithful love that sees beyond foibles and the occasional wet spot of the sofa. Say what you will, but I believe that. In the long run, that's really all that matters.

So having said all this, I'm still faced with some challenges. I have a very personal belief system and code of conduct that I need to reconcile with my newfound faith. I have a badboy reputation to protect, and I'm still a fearless and mostly-unrepentant bastard. I still think science and mathematics are the purest expressions of God's thoughts. And I patently refuse to rest on my laurels knowing that I've got a place waiting for me when I die (meaning I still think that living for the afterlife really misses the point). My spiritual advice thusfar has been to read more and to seek out like-minded fellowship. I'm working on the first part and struggling with the second, and I'm absolutely convinced that I'll never figure everything out.

I'm okay with that, but that doesn't mean I have to stop trying.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

RANT/RAVE: I'm Still Inside You

I've got this thing with NIN (and with Tori Amos, but not so often) where I'll go months without listening to them. It's like being celibate for a time so you can remember how awesome sex really is (not that I've ever done that by choice, but sometimes the nookie just slows to a trickle). When I finally return to them, it's like discovering something new again. I liken it to shagging an ex or watching a movie I haven't seen in awhile but remember liking - you get to remember what brought you to it in the first place all over again.

The video above is a fan-vid for my current favorite NIN song. It's on the Wanted soundtrack and, for awhile, it was pretty much the story of my life. I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling like sometimes life is just droning on. Sure, the globe gets warmer and the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, but the average person just kinda keeps the ol' head down, learns the menu, and gets by. The thing to remember is that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I think Immortal Technique summed it up by saying "When you attempt to change the system from within, you find eventually that the system has changed you." You're keeping in step, in the line. Got your head held high and you feel just fine. 'Cause you do, what you're told, but inside your heart it is black and it's hollow and it's cold. (That's more Nine Inch Nails.)

I guess my point is that going through the motions is monotonous. It's a bunch of bullshit. Anyone who tells you different is a fucking lethargic devil. Sure, you may wake up every day at the same time, report to the same job, hang out with the same people on the weekends, but that doesn't mean that each day need be a carbon copy of the previous one. Change things up just a smidgen. Walk a different route, get lost and be late, relocate, explore, talk to different people, shag someone else, trade up. Just don't become your fucking khakis.

If nothing else, know that you can sell out and get what you're worth without becoming a cog in the machine or another fucking drone - even in the corporate world.