Monthly Archives: October 2009

Music- Setting the Mood..

I’m doing this post to share what I use, and also to see what other people use for their games.

When I run my DnD game I usually tend to play classical music.

Some of the artists I play are:

*Beethoven
*Mozart
*Rachmaninoff
*Carl Orff
*Cirque de Soleil
*Movie Scores
– Last of the Mohicans
– Lord of the Rings Trilogy
– Star Wars
-Worlds of Warcraft music
-Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children

When I run a Vampire or Modern setting session/campaign I usually lean towards rock music or industrial.

Some of the artists/bands I play are:

*NIN
*TOOL
*Type O’ Negative
*Dead Weathers
*Alice in Chains
*Sound Tracks
*Various

What about you?


Let Us Build This World- Using Savage Worlds

MesopotamiaArt2

Two weeks ago Angie and I went to the MET in NYC and decided since we hadn’t been to the Asian exhibits in a long time that is where we would spend our day.

As I stated in my previous post, walking around the MET always gets my creative juices flowing and I find myself looking at weapons, paintings, sculptures, and other pieces getting a plethora of RPG ideas.

As we were walking through the museum, we passed through the Mesopotamia exhibit, the foundation of civilization. I began wondering what it would have been like to live in a harsh environment of bitter cold and harsh winds, dealing with flat land with barely any natural defenses, all survival depending on the fertile crescent (I’m a history major, btw^_^). There was little to no written history, mostly relying on oration. Constant struggles with the environment as crude tools slowly gave way to the discovery and forging of bronze and eventually iron weaponry.

Then it hit me, what a fun era to run a campaign!

Getting Rid of it All

One thing I have experienced as a DM and seen as a player is the complete saturation of a players mind with too many details. When running or playing in a campaign it is hard to keep track of histories, deities, guilds, kingdoms, prominent NPCs, political battles, real battles, machinations, motivations, and other such overloads of information.

This can especially happen when, like me, you’re players are very casual and honestly depend on you to be the information dump.

So I started thinking about what it would mean to start a campaign at the actual beginning of society. There is no history, there are kingdoms. Political machinations are just starting to take hold, ranging from the simplest; of the farmer who wants to covet a neighbor’s cattle and daughter because it will mean more land to him, to the more complicated; that of the first bronze tools, weapons, and crude armor (breastplate) and quality leather, being created and the most powerful citizens of the village vying for it.

A campaign could literally start with the first setting up of a village or town, still using stone weapons, and minimal leather, hatched, and cloth armor. The GM and the party would create the history of the town together, the oration, the desire of the spirits, and the future of the village with their actions.

If you wanted to go a little more detailed you could have the village be founded for 10-20 years, leading into the discover of bronze, thus more advanced weaponry, armor, items, and combat tactics.

A System, a System, I Must Choose a System

So I started mulling what system would work best for such a campaign setting and I think Savage Worlds would work best. I think that the rules lite system and its simplicity would enhance this kind of world, where the d20 system (I swear I love you!!) would bog it down. Also I think the magic system in Savage Worlds, being much more simple and intuitive than d20 would keep that feeling of a fledgling society intact.

My Proposal

I was think it would be fun to have other contribute to this, ideas for weapons, damage, a few deities, possible starting villages, whatever. You can post a comment here and as I accumulate them I will repost them on the blog and start an Obsidian Portal wiki for it.

Just an idea. I’m open to any suggestions or thoughts on the matter.

dragon-of-marduk


Going After the Five Blades, Part 3

Part I, Part II, Part III.

Wow.. Part IV.

I have to say that by doing this recap it has hit me just HOW much we accomplished as a group on Sunday. Like I said, I felt this session was a huge success and can’t wait for 11/8/09.
**

We left off with John facing two Phase Spiders and having a horrible -18 to his Strength since he critically failed his Fortitude Save.

Kaias to the Rescue

The group has the ability to communicate telepathically, so Griffith put out the good, “Oh shit I think I’m dying! For the love of god I’m dying.. Someone help me, because I’m dying” call to all the other party members.

Alberic was dealing with his own enemy, a wright cook that that had embedded a meat cleaver into his back. So needless-to-say, he was unavailable to help.

Drecks and Mo’lock were dealing with the enchanted villagers (more on this in a moment).

Kaias valiantly rushed to Griffith’s aid. When she arrived in the room she shadow jumped above the second spider that was charging, full steam, towards the pinned Griffith, and dispatched the spider with one mighty blow!

Griffith managed to hit the spider pinning him in the eyes with his claws. The spider phased a little distance away and charged at Griffith again. Griffith held his action, and then shifted into mist, the spider going right through him and collided with the wall, spider brains spraying everywhere.

The baddies dispatched, Kaias and Griffith begins searching the room, when suddenly their “my party member just messed up” sense starts going off.

The Drecks Massacre

This was one of those beautiful moments that DM’s live for. The ultimate opportunity to completely mess with the players, and I relished every moment of it.

Drecks and Mo’lock were at the village examining all of the people under some sort of enchantment. As Drecks was wandering around I told him that he noticed two small clay figurines resting on the well in the town center.

Mo’lock looked at them cautiously, then picked up one. I described it looking like a human and having the same shocked expression as the villagers. (Here you could see Omar get excited because here is a link to the problem) Figuring it worked for the one man he freed and his wife, Drecks casts Dispel Magic on the figurine.

ME: The figurine breaks apart and crumbles to dust. Suddenly all the men in the village come out of the enchantment. Moaning and shaking their heads, looking around.

Omar gets that proud look on his face. He’s done it! Drecks picks up the other figurine and says he is going to Dispel Magic on it as well.

ME: Alright. You cast the spell, the figurine breaks apart and crumbles to dust. All the women suddenly scream, and fall to the ground, dead.

Omar’s jaw drops, the room goes silent. It was beautiful.

Omar (Drecks): What?! You’re kidding right.

ME: (slight smile on my face, small shake of the head) Nope.

Omar starts thinking furiously while I describe the chaos that beings. All the men start screaming and crying over the dead bodies of daughters, mothers, wives, sisters. The other party members, sensing this, start heading from the ruins of the university to the village.

Drecks grabs the man he first freed and asks him if there is a priest. Yes there was, he cries. You just killed her! Drecks shakes him, “is there anyone else around that is a priest?! I’ll make this right, but I need you to tell me!”

The young man informs him of another village a days travel away that has a priest. It is also built in the shadow of the ruins of the other university tower. Drecks walks to a tree, telling Mo’lock to tell the group that his is going to the village now and he’ll be back, and tree hops (Druid Power.. Damn tree huggers~.<) to the next village.

Never Split Up the Party

The moment that Drecks steps through the tree all the women suddenly rise as zombies and begin attacking the men who were cradling their once dead bodies (Mwa ha ha). From the remains of the figurine that killed the women an apparition of Barrassu Nass (Necromancer Five Blade) appears and explains how happy he is that someone fell for his trap and that to enjoy these zombies, for they are a special breed.

The men who are attacked by the women also begin rising up as another undead. Mo’lock, Alberic, Griffith, and Kaias all prepare for a fight of 100 zombies. As they begin to roll initiative I describe that some of the female zombies look like their flesh looks like it is waxy and melting off.

Group: What the hell does that mean?

ME: (Smile) I’ll get back to you (Turns to Drecks).

Drecks appears in a village and immediately chanting greets his ears. He sees several people digging a moat around the village. After asking one of the villagers if there was a priest or village leader, he is lead to the center of town to a raised platform and a large black throne, with its back to him.

Villager: Master, we have a guest.

Master: I know.

Liam (Alberic): Oh shit. Omar, I think you found–

ME: The throne turns around, smiling maliciously, looking down at you is–

Liam and ME: Cyrian.

And for the second time in the night, Omar’s jaw drops.

ME: Cyrian chuckles at you, “Silly little cow…” (smile) Roll me initiative.

Drecks: You’re gonna kill me aren’t you?

ME: (shrug and a smile) Maybe.

**
We actually started combat because the group was so into the story, even though it was late (another sign it was a great session!!) but after 3 rounds we placed the “To be Continued” stamp on it and packed up.

For sake of keeping the flow I shall place all of the combat on the next session post 11/9/09!!


Going After the Five Blades, Part 2

Continued from here.

Okay Okay, this is actually post three, but since post 2 was about dealing with a party rift, it didn’t feel right calling it by the session title.

So when we last left off the group had read a book giving evidence of the Five Blades and possible locations of where they grew up and etc.

Ennie, Mennie, Minnie, Mo.. Wait.. Crap There are Five of Them

The group tossed around which one they should go for first.

Excerpt from first post:

Barrassu Nass- (Human, Male) Dread Necromancer lvl ?
Molgor Gran- (Troll, Male) Barbarian lvl ? (almost always with Amara Zeel)
Cyrian Gal (Human, Male) Illusionist lvl ?
Amara Zeel (Human, Female) Rogue lvl ? (almost always with Molgor Gran)
Valreen Ryll (Human, Female) Cleric lvl ?

The group has already had an encounter with Cyrian and Amara. Thus, the group felt best to go after Cyrian first.

After a small amount of debate the group felt that Cyrian would offer the least challenge and decided that that, as responsible heroes, would do.

The book stated that Cyrian went to the university, Arcanix, which floats around the kingdom of Aundair. He was expelled from the school for experimenting with magic on fellow students. The book also mentioned that while there, he felt quite at home (yes I borrowed motivation here from the characters Harry Potter and Voldemort and their affinity with Hogwarts).

The party tells Alberic to really concentrate and not to mess up in teleporting them like last time. Liam concentrates, and they teleport successfully onto the front steps of the university! Everything seemed dandy.. until….

I’m Really Starting to Hate Teleporting

The group starts falling, realizing that the tower has crashed to the ground and they appeared vertical. Falling over 300ft, each character had their own way of slowing their fall.

I described a village about 2 miles away, Drecks and Mo’lock decided to travel there and explore while Griffith, Alberic, and Kaias all explore the remains of the university looking for some clue on Cyrian.

So first I deal with Drecks and Mo’lock. I tell them that they see people outside their homes, frozen, looking at the sky, either with looks of surprise or horror on their faces. Drecks sprang into action, examining the bodies, and looking for clues, all while Mo’lock casually walks around. Finally Drecks casts dispel magic on a male villager, instantly freeing him from the enchantment.

Drecks asks them man what he knows, which was very little.

I then switched to Kaias, Alberic, and Griffith.

Oh goodie! A Game! I Like Games!

This was fun, because I stared off with Kaias, and she entered a window as a bat and was attacked by a Chocker (lvl 3 creature). She dispatched it quite easily and explored the room.

Griffith then went, knowing that when he went through his window of choice, I would throw something at him.

This was a shining encounter.

I had Griffith, in bat form, roll a spot check. Success!

I explained that he could “glimpse” what seemed to be webs that were out of the normal humanoid spectrum. Griffith then turned to his normal Elf form and shot a fire arrow, igniting all of the webs in the room. He heard screeching coming from the fire and saw things sparkling and then winking out of existence.

He turned to explore the room when he heard heavy thudding of something coming towards him. He turned.

ME: You see in the darkness 8 dark orbs, just picking up light from the window, fast approaching you from the other side of the room. There is suddenly a whooshing noise and the eyes are more to the left, and closer still. There is another woosh sound and the eyes are to the far right, and almost to you.

Griffith: Crap! The thing can teleport!

The spider (I love phase spiders) suddenly is on top of Griffith. He pulls out his mighty axe, swings (rolls a mighty 1) and the axe flies from his hands and goes sailing across the room. The spider lands a hit and pierces Griffith with its fang.

ME: I need you to roll me a Fortitude save.

Griffith: (Blows on his d20, rolls… another 1)

ME: Ok. Because you failed, horribly, you will take double damage from the poison.

Griffith: Shit.. Fair enough.

ME: (rolls a d12, comes up a 9). You take 18 points of STR damage.

The whole room goes quiet. Since this was a good point, and I had all the players attention, I decided it was a great opportunity for a “oh crap” moment.

ME: The spider’s fang has you pinned to the wall, and you feel your strength being sapped from your body. You begin to sweat and shake. Dizzy, your head swims. Suddenly you hear a thumping, and in the back of the room you see another set of 8 glowing orbs looking at you. You have the sudden realization that the spider isn’t alone.. it has a friend. (I give the DM evil smile).

Griffith: I really hate you.

Tomorrow: Final recap! The Demise of Griffith and Drecks creates a mess!


Dealing with a Rift Among Players

For first part, click here.

Last session I talked about the layout of my game, how I set it up and the method I chose to use to go after the Five Blades.

At the start of last post I also mentioned that it was a campaign that could have been torn asunder…. We shall address that now.

A Rift in Player Motivations

The characters are reading the book on the Five Blades. These villains are described as bringers of chaos and death. Suddenly Alberic says, “I wanna join the Five Blades.”

ME: You’re kidding right?

Alberic: “No! That’s what my character would want to do. He loves chaos and they can help him explore it AND he can gain power.”

ME: That’s assuming they don’t kill you outright.

Suddenly Mo’Lock chimes in, “I think that’s a good idea. We aren’t saving the world from the Blight anymore. Why not join them?”

I honestly, no offense to my players or any players, HATE when this happens. Character motivations are such a bitch sometimes. While most of the time I am all about character motivations and exploring what your character would and wouldn’t do, there comes a point when, for the betterment of the story and everyone else, you suck up your motivations for that of the game.

So now I have to address this rift.

A Long story short

There was the belief by Drew and Liam that they would retain control of their characters when they joined the Five Blades. When I informed them that I would NPC them and they would become background character- maybe to be fought by the players at some point- Drew quickly withdrew his idea of joining the Five Blades.

Liam still held out, “Fine.. I won’t join for now.”

I had to make a decision, and be a forceful tyrant about it.

ME: “No. You make your decision no. Either you lose control of this character, make a new one that goes along with the campaign and we move on, or you keep control of your current character and drop this, and we move on. Your choice.”

Liam chose to remain as Alberic.

I know some people may scream that this is unfair and kills role-playing, and while I understand and agree in some respect, the other end of the spectrum is that it is a group activity (unless solo sessions) and you have to put the needs of the group, and the story, above everything else.

May role-players cry when a DM/GM hinders their activity, but what about all the hard work a DM/GM has put into a campaign? That deserves to be preserved.

Whenever a rift like this happens, I become leery. In the past I have had such rifts occur and it, literally, ended the campaign. Thankfully Liam and Drew, although wanting to explore a more villainous aspect of their characters and campaign, were willing to back down from their individual motivations for the good of the group.

So thanks be to them.

Tomorrow– The actual game that turned EPIC!


Guest Post with Shawn, Creator of Clockworks webcomic, Wiki, and Homebrew SW RPG!!

I will let Shawn speak for himself about Clockworks (his homebrew steampunk RPG using the Savage Worlds system, and webcomic).

I have been following Shawn’s comic and wiki since about August, and rabidly check every Tuesday and Thursday for the update on the comic!

I love the “fresh” feeling of his comic and steampunk setting. I think that his art style really enhances the steampunk atmosphere and really sets a wonderful mood!

So I’ll end the gushing on all of this and turn it over to Shawn, to who, again, I give a hearty thanks for this awesome opportunity!
___________________________________________________________

Clockworks

Mike asked me if I’d take the time to ramble about Clockworks a bit and I said I’d love to.

For the uninitiated, Clockworks is a steampunk/fantasy webcomic, that updates every Tuesday and Thursday. It’s also a roleplaying game setting, created by yours truly. Eventually there will be a fancy Savage Worlds sourcebook you can buy detailing the world and setting the stage for your adventures there, but for now it’s just my home game every other Sunday and a wiki.

Clockworks grew fairly naturally in to the all encompassing beast it’s become. Late last year I was kicking around ideas for my next campaign, and one of the suggestions I offered up was a sequel of sorts to New Dawn. New Dawn was a Savage worlds campaign set in a steampunk world full of strange monsters, ancient legends, reawakening old gods, emerging magic, and all kinds of high adventure. My players went for it, and the game ended up being set 50 years after our old campaign. At this point, I really had no plans of making a webcomic or published setting or doing anything beyond drawing cool maps and coming up with a great villain. During character creation, I was so entertained by the PCs my players had made that I wrote the following post:

“He’s an inexperienced immigrant monster hunter, she’s a detective searching for her missing parents! They’re friends with a troll with a heart of gold and a thief with a mysterious past! They fight crime!”

Someone commented that they’d watch that TV show, and one of my players half jokingly replied “Or maybe a webcomic? ;)” This stuck in my head and would not let go.

Clockworks: the Game began in March, and Clockworks: the Comic premiered in June. At this point, the pace of the comic is so much slower than the pace of the game that I suspect I’ll be doing Clockworks for another 5 years or so, at least. It’s a good thing I love this setting and these characters.

As for the comic, I’d like it to be the greatest anything ever, eventually. I probably won’t get there, but it’s good to have a goal. In terms of complexity of character, action, humor, and drama, my benchmarks are Buffy: the Vampire Slayer and Avatar: the Last Airbender. I’m not there now, but again, it’s good to have a goal.

Some of the influences on the comic are obvious, some are less so. I grew up on Marvel comics in the 80’s, and then Vertigo comics in the 90’s. But honestly the main influence on my drawing style is Calvin & Hobbes. Bill Watterson is a genius, and although Clockworks is miles apart from Calvin & Hobbes in look and tone, to me the influence is obvious. Other influences include turn of the century propaganda art, German silent films, Yoshitaka Amano, and more.

The setting of Clockworks is a bit more modern than most steampunk stories, a bit more 1920s and a bit less Victorian. (I suppose you could label it Dieselpunk, but the technology is still very much ether, steam, and clockwork even if the society has advanced some.) There’s a bit of a generation gap going on in the setting: where the older characters have more of the classic steampunk feel, and the younger characters (like our heroes) have more of a “punk” feel. This is partly because New Dawn was a bit more of a traditional steampunk setting, and I wanted to show how the world had changed. It’s also partly because I wanted the fun of propaganda posters and heroes in trenchcoats.

So, where’s all this going? Clockworks: the Game will wrap up early next year, but Clockworks: the Comic will continue for a long time after. Clockworks: the Savage Setting should be out in two years. I’m shooting for GenCon 2011. The basic idea is that the comic fans will enjoy the game and gamers will enjoy the comic. (Really, this entire thing is just an elaborate trick to make other people care about my homebrew setting. So far: victory!)

One important part about the comic and game is that the world of Clockworks is a big place, and while our heroes may be the most important people in their adventure, there are thousands of other dangers and plots out there for your group to deal with. I absolutely want to make a setting that’s big enough that the characters from the comic don’t overshadow your own adventures. I think that will become clear as the comic unfolds, and we see places like Irone and the Vori Islands and Upper Clorencia.

I think that’s enough rambling for now. See you every Tuesday and Thursday!

For more information, you can listen to the episode I cohosted of the Podge Cast. And be sure to check out the Clockworks Website if you haven’t done so already!


Going After the Five Blades

Continued from last session, here.

I have to say that this was a GREAT session. It was one of those sessions that, when it started out, could have easily ended with the complete and utter destruction of my campaign, but through group communication and then a final decision on my part it was saved. Once the discussion was done and decision made, the game was propelled forward and ended up being an amazing session! Afterwards I had a smile on my face, was energized, and hungering for the next game!

Players
• Angie (Kaias- Human/Werewolf- Rogue lvl 12)
• John (Griffith- Elf Vampire- Ranger lvl 12)
• Liam (Alberic- Half Green Dragon- Sorcerer lvl 12)
• Drew (Mo’Lock- Ghoul- Rogue lvl 12)
• Omar (Drecks)- Minotaur- Druid lvl 12)

The session starts out with the characters entering the library of Mongrave University searching for information on the Five Blades and on the possible history of Kaias’s family.

I also inform the party that they may do a search check to find up to three books that will give them a +1 in a skill of their choice, but that each one has to different skill. Each of them has luck, finding either 2 or three books.

Kaias then moves on to find a book about the Dragonmarked houses, and genealogy books, and having a total of 25 in her search, she was very damned successful. Finding several books on the subject (that I will cover with her prior to next session- she’s my girlfriend, I can take all the time I need, which is a boon^_^).

The group then sets their sights on finding a book on the Five Blades. After searching for a short while are successful, is successful.

Enter- info stream and organization

The players crack open the book and I begin giving them information on the Five Blades.

Info Stream

I wanted to give the players enough info to figure out where each one of the Five Blades may be, possible motivations, history, and possible weaknesses without overloading them and making their brains go hurty and fizzle.

When first thinking about writing these climactic encounters that will bring about the end of this campaign I was looking for a way to do it that would be loose, allow major player choice, and give me massive flexibility, all the while being simple. Enter Dave The Games, 5×5 Method.

My verdict on 5×5 Method: I love it!

Organization

I’m pretty decent at improve and impromptu DMing, as long as I have some shadow of an idea in my head, and my players are giving me stuff to react to. This is the major thing I love about the 5×5 Method, you can be as detailed or as notes light as you want.

So for each of the Five Blades I gave the players a hint to where they are or a starting point, and a glimpse at their class/powers.

Introducing the Five Blades

Barrassu Nass- (Human, Male) Dread Necromancer lvl ?
Molgor Gran- (Troll, Male) Barbarian lvl ? (almost always with Amara Zeel)
Cyrian Gal (Human, Male) Illusionist lvl ?
Amara Zeel (Human, Female) Rogue lvl ? (almost always with Molgor Gran)
Valreen Ryll (Human, Female) Cleric lvl ?

The group has already had an encounter with Cyrian and Amara. Thus, the group felt best to go after Cyrian first.

Here are the notes I have on Cyrian:

o Cyrian Gal (Human, Male) Illusionist lvl ?
 Travel to Aundair to the ruins of Floating university, Cyrain rumored to love that school.
 Find village that has been put under enchantment by Cyrian.
 Breaking curse also lifts enchantment on local goblinoid tribe that blames village and attacks.
 Find way past enchantments that Cyrain has placed.
• Goblins know of way that will take them past.
 Face Cyrian Gal.

This is all that I had. I had enemy ideas in my head, but nothing written down. I had Cyrians spells and stats in my head and was ready for this whole thing to basically be thrown out the window, which all of it pretty much did, as I’ll describe in the next post.

Next Post on session will be Wednesday, due to guest poster tomorrow!

The Rift Caused by Player Motivations