Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tweet, Tweet, Tweet

I am now on Twitter. I'm vaguely addicted to it, especially since it gives me an excuse to pop off random observations or thoughts during the day. Also, each Thursday I toss up a question about 4e, just to see what people are doing with the game.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Origins Awards

The nominees for the Origins Awards have been announced. has the list.

For many years, the Origins Awards were mired in in-fighting, plagued by favoritism that stuffed categories with embarrassing nominees, and largely use as a battleground for gaming industry factions to wage their wars.

It's refreshing to watch as, over the past three years, the awards have reformed themselves. Are the lists perfect? I'm sure there are categories where you could argue the merit of overlooked games, but I don't see any gaping holes.

At the end of the day, though, I think the Origins Awards are where they need to be to serve a useful purpose for the industry. I see large and small press games, games that cover a wide range of play styles and tastes.

Nice job, GAMA!

Notes from Monday's Game

A few random observations from my Monday night game:

1. It's always funny when the wrong monster becomes the star. The session led off with a battle, after a flashback to establish a bit of background for the villain. Here's what the PCs faced:

* A cleric of Iuz
* A necromancer
* A devil the two summoned
* A demon the necromancer summoned on round 1

The devil and the demon, despite being lower level than the two casters, were the stars of the show. I think I rolled below a 15 for the devil once. The cleric's big trick was using an illusion to escape with his life (and a map writ on burning dragon hide). The necromancer managed to die horribly in 2 rounds, thanks to the avenger.

2. The best part of the early sessions of a campaign lies in watching one particular die roll or trick shunt the campaign along a path. Such as:

* The aforementioned cleric's successful escape, thanks to some blown Perception checks
* The avenger's laying a spell on the cleric that lets him track him basically forever (thrown on the cleric without any idea he could escape so easily)
* The PCs' seeing through the captured elf diplomat's lies, tracking him to a clandestine meeting with the thieves' guild, confronting him, and watching him die when the demonic heart forcibly implanted in his chest tears his innards to shreds

All those sequences came down to die rolls or player tactics, and they've had a big effect on how things have (and will) play out. I think a good campaign has that throughout, but early on it's more obvious.

3. I started the campaign with a short dungeon crawl, then shifted to a lot more story and investigation. I think that worked well. It gave the players a chance to learn their PCs and work out their basic tactics, plus it set some stuff up early on (the escaped cleric, the rescued diplomat, tensions within the church of Corellon) that paid off in last night's session.

I liked the tempo switch of starting with a small dungeon that had lots of fights spiked with story bits in between, a flashback to establish the villain, a big fight with that villain, and then an extended roleplay/investigative session.

Last night's session ended with the PCs caught in a trap sprung by a treacherous wererat who was supposed to lead them through the sewers to the villain. Running one hour sessions at work has trained me to design just enough concrete stuff to keep things at a brisk pace.

In essence, I try to end each session with a clear line to the next scene. I can spend a lot of time on that scene, knowing it'll take 1/4 to 1/3 of the next session (figure fight/confrontation, plus immediate scene afterward), then line up the possibilities for the game to go from there.

Anyway, that's what's up with my Monday campaign. I should post a bit about my lunch time campaign, too.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Gaming Pics

One of the fun things about running a game at home, as opposed to running at the office, is that I get to bust out the Dwarven Forge. Here are a few photos of tonight's set up.

Here's an overview of the strange temple complex the characters uncovered:

From Gaming Photos

What's the best way to convince a captive duergar wizard to translate the Abyssal runes scrawled on to the lid of a tomb? Tie him to a table, then prop the table (with the duergar hanging upside down) over the lid. In the party's defense, when they asked if he would translate the runes, he answered, "Of course, but you'll need to untie me to bring me to the burial chamber, right?"

From Gaming Photos

The session ended just after the PCs made contact with the spirits of four ancient priests of Corellon Larethien, learned the nature of this place, and were flooded with the priests' memories, a process that left the characters with two distinct lifetimes worth of thoughts jangling in their heads. They also learned how to open the door of water to enter the evil shrine that this place was built to keep sealed shut. Unfortunately, an evil wizard and a cleric of Iuz had already entered the place. The wizard conjured a devil, and the fight is on. At least, it will be next week, as the session ended just as the devil showed up.

From Gaming Photos

A Basic Goal of DMing

The best thing a DM can do (thinking specifically of D&D here), is to do his best to push the party to absolute, utter defeat*, and then watch them try to wiggle their way out, with the party's victory determined solely by their choices and abilities.


(Of course, given how good I am at judging response rates, this is the post that no one will comment on.)

*With defeat defined by the campaign and the group's play style. It could be death at the hands of a growling demon in the lowest level of a dungeon, or the evil archduke's successful ascension to the empire's throne.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

And Another Legend Passes...

(I originally posted this yesterday, but pulled it when the news of Dave's passing turned out to be premature. Sadly, it appears that was but a temporary reprieve.)

I just read over at Grognardia that Dave Arneson has passed away.

I met Dave back in 2007, when the guys at The Source Comics and Games in Minnesota flew me out as part of World Wide D&D Game Day. I had dinner with him, and had a chance to chat with him a bit. My only regret is that I forgot to bring anything for him to sign.

To be blunt, history has largely cast Dave as Gary's second banana, but it's clear from any study of D&D's roots that while Gary tended the flame in those early years, Dave struck the spark. In a perfect world, things would've played out differently. The two elders of our hobby would've guided the game for years, a Fafhrd and Grey Mouser of the tabletop.

Alas, we don't live in a perfect world, but an infinitely human one. That which should be, and that which can be, all too often never come into alignment.

Gygax, Arneson, Moldvay, Bledsaw, these men were more than the pillars of our hobby. They are the pillars of an entire new way of thinking about games, about how we interact with *stuff*.

User generated content? The fundamental concepts of the multi-billion dollar gaming industry? These guys invented it. Maybe the world will forget their names, Hell, maybe it already has, but it'll never forget what they made. These guys taught us that what's in the book doesn't have to be what's played at the table, that the best stories are the ones we make ourselves, that what's on the shelf doesn't compare to what's in our minds.

Rest in peace, Dave, and thanks for blazing that trail.