Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I Need An Adult

Given what is going on lately, there are two things I'm going to be posting about a lot at the moment. They are Pathfinder and Shawn's campaign. I'll say again that I'm really excited about Shawn's campaign and playing DnD. It will be nice to roll some dice and not be in charge of what the results mean. I've spoken of that before though, so there's no need to go ever it again. At some point I want to get a feel for my bard's background. If I'm going to have a bonus stemming from his background, I feel I should at the very least come up with something of one for him. I'm thinking that he was an eladrin orphan raised by a traveling circus. No eladrin, but he was handed over to the family of elf acrobats and knife throwers. He was found to be lacking in the talents of swinging from the trapeze and throwing blades, but he had a good voice and could handle a crowd fairly well, so he became an announcer and singer during half-time acts or whatever. Anyway, as a young eladrin he was found by other eladrin that had come to the circus and they spurred his interest in his people and the Feywild. So he has left the confines of the tents to venture out into the world to learn of his people and their god Corellon. Maybe is Shawn decides that his circus family got murdered he can take some multi-class feats for avenger and be all moody and goth. Heh.

Pathfinder has a hold on me something fierce. I don't know if its that we haven't done anything with GURPS or that Pathfinder is familiar enough to be comforting, but I'm all fixated on it. I have no idea which side of the fence I'm going to come down on when we get to the point where I need to make an argument for one system or the other as the vehicle for my next campaign. I guess I like both systems almost equally. I like GURPS for its complexity that allows one to do so much with it and I like Pathfinder because it takes everything I loved about 3.5 Edition and makes it better. Maybe I'll write out another pro/con list. I did that when I was thinking about gaming again. I have this large Excel spreadsheet that compares d20 Modern/Past to 4th Edition, 3.5 Edition, and GURPS. Or maybe there was nothing about GURPS in there. I'd have to look at it.

(Several hours of work-related interlude.)

I tried a pro and con list and it is annoying. There's nothing in Pathfinder that I can't simply fix with a house rule and there is nothing I can complain about with GURPS. The fixes I need to make, I have. The things I can complain about are: players might find it daunting to pick through the GURPS advantages and might not be able to do exactly what they want when I slap down a lower points level for them to build characters with.

Fuck. I don't know what I want to do now. GURPS appeals to my brain, but Pathfinder appeals to my heart. Fuck it, my vote comes down on Pathfinder/3.5 Edition DnD.

So glad I spent all that time compiling that GURPS advantage/table wiki thing with ZuluPad. I kid, that was actually kind of fun to do, and now I can do it with Pathfinder! Feats and traits, here I come!

Music: In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth 3 - Coheed and Cambria
Music: Three Evils (Embodied in Love and Shadow) Coheed and Cambria

Modern Viscera Reader

There is very little about gaming as a GM that I enjoy more than finding a system, reading about the system, then hacking the system open like some ancient soothsayer and sniffing its guts for portents and universal truths. I've done it pretty extensively with GURPS (one month and two days and we hit the one year anniversary of Jeremy and I sitting like little kids with eyes glued to the screen as we read about Bunnies and Burrows and skills like Accounting and Erotic Art), which is why I can read Powers and honestly say, "Oh, I thought of that. Neat."

Anyway, I've kind of got my teeth up to my gums in Pathfinder at the moment and I am liking what I see. Quite a bit actually. I just cannot get over how they have made the classes awesome compared to their 3.5 Edition counterparts. I would play a barbarian happily now, and I never would have considered doing that in 3.5 Edition (except for my halfling barbarian slinger, he rocked). I'm picking apart the classes and races at the moment, and I find very little to be irritated with. As my previous post indicated, Pathfinder doesn't really differentiate between cultural abilities and genetic abilities, but that is irrelevant because I'm not using Pathfinder's races. More on that in a bit though.

I've got to a point where I'm confident I can make Pathfinder and my campaign work together, so that is cool. The guns thing might be a bit more difficult, but I can make it work I think. When I say stuff like make my campaign work with Pathfinder, I don't mean it in a pretentious fashion or that my campaign is more evolved than Pathfinder's rules or something like that. I have an image of my campaign world, and I really enjoy that image and I want to be true to it. I get a lot more joy out of things if I am true to the nature of the material I've created. Its why I wrote a story about a gay Cenn the Reaver when I had no real reason to, other than as a means to expose Jeremy and Eric to campaign spoilers so that they could know what was coming.

What I've learned, last night actually, is that I need to relax and not worry so much about the rules. My biggest concern is always "If I go off the rails and just make my own shit up, will it be balanced?" I don't like the idea that the game isn't fair for everyone, I don't like random hit points or ability scores, there's too much of an imbalance between players when someone gets lucky and the other person gets unlucky. It bugs me. I want to make sure no one is the cursed player that lags behind with his nine hit points and four eights for his stats. This concern for balance is part of what made me hammer 4th Edition races into a shape that resembled the races in my campaign. It worked ok for the most part, but it still bothered me.

I was working on some notes for my campaign in the event that we choose Pathfinder as our next system and I found myself trying to hammer races into shape again. I cursed myself for a moment, took a deep breath, and deleted all the stupid shit I had written. I need to go off the rails in a few spots and I need to be ok with that. That's part of being a GM, stepping away from the rules and making a decision for yourself. I know enough about the d20 system and my races to be able to make them do what I want, and I can come up with new stuff if I have to. Nothing I create will ever be guaranteed to be balanced. I am one dude with a group of six people that game six or seven times a year, we do not have the resources to playtest. Heh. I just have to be ok with stuff not being balanced and my players need to be aware of the fact that I can and will change stuff if it becomes a problem. I think if I keep that in mind, I'll be ok. This is a game and the rules are there to provide a framework. I'm the GM, I don't need the rules if they don't work for me.

Music: Levitation - Hawkwind

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Synergy

I've finally settled on a character for Shawn's campaign, or whatever you'd like to call it. I'll be playing an Eladrin Bard with a few Rogue elements thrown in as well. I kind of like the character, his name is Erevan and he's kind of a get up in your face with swords and shit character. Most of his attack powers are weapon based and he's got a fairly decent AC. Because of his stats and a Bard feat, he's basically trained in every skill, which is handy. He was a circus performer, that is his background and I think I'm starting to get a good picture of who he is. If someone else ends up playing a Leader, I have an idea for a Seeker, which is a Controller class that is kind of neat. If Dark Sun drops and I find its data appealing, Thri-Kreen Monk, no question.

Lately I've begun walking for about an hour or so in the mornings after I get up. Heather joins me as well most days. On the days I take the walk alone I have a lot of time to think, walking is fairly simple and my mind can kind of wander around for a bit while I do so. I mean, there is the road you have to pay attention to, but other than that walking isn't terribly demanding.

Anyway, this simplistic exercise activity gives me the mental freedom to kind of process things through. It has allowed me to write out the tenth scenario of the campaign. I think I might actually be able to run it without everything written down, which would be cool, but I have time to write it all out, so maybe I should just do that. While I was on my walk today (which is actually Tuesday) I was able to figure out how to make Pathfinder/3.5 DnD work in my campaign setting.

One of the things I really love about 4th Edition DnD is that it separated innate racial traits that would stem from...genetics I guess, from cultural things. So your dwarves have a bonus to Constitution and they have the endurance innate to their species. Their tactics for fighting giants are still there, but you take a feat for them. It never made sense that a dwarf raised among humans or elves or whatever, would have his race's tactics for fighting giants. He would never have been taught those things or have trained with dwarven weaponry.

If we were to switch to Pathfinder or 3.5 Edition, that goofy problem would be back.

I am suddenly forced to laugh at myself. The problem that worried me is not actually a problem now that I think about it. None of the core races in 3.5 or Pathfinder work for my campaign, so I wouldn't even have to bother using the printed races. I tried to hammer elves and dwarves into my campaign once already, not doing that again, it is too confusing and moderately annoying for me. I would basically just need to get physical stats and the stuff that is core to the races.

I do have an idea for a system of traits available to each race, class, and country that characters can choose from at first level. Ideally, everyone would choose a trait based on their class, their race, and then their country, but I'd probably let them mix and match. Each trait would have about the power level of a feat, that way if characters wanted to they could spend feats to get more traits and whatnot.

So good, we can do Pathfinder if we want to. I have a lot of affection for 3.5/d20/etc DnD. It was the first edition in which the math made sense to me. I also loved the selection of classes and the joy of plugging in feats and skill points. Non-weapon proficiencies never appealed to me the way feats and skills do. They always seemed kind of vague or underwhelming.

The only problem with using Pathfinder is that everything is so much easier to get working in GURPS. I can do everything I want to do, and easily. Vyanth have longer appendages, there's an advantage for it. Dwenoren are eyeless and can sense their surroundings via sensory spines, advantage for that. Children of Volung have thick bony plates instead of a more conventional humanoid ribcage, advantage for it.

Also, magic would be way more hostile in Pathfinder than it could be in GURPS. I've found a system in GURPS that does pretty much what I want magic to do in my campaign world, but if we use Pathfinder, I'd go back to my spell misfire Excel spreadsheets I made years ago. A lot of janky things can happen, also, magic ends up coming in different flavors as well, and each of those flavors has specific ways in which it can unexpectedly eat your face off.

I guess the point of all this is that walking is fun and I am prepared for whichever way we go when we get to the conclusion of this campaign. Good times.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Robust!

Robust is an adjective, right? Yeah, I think so. Someone should make it a verb, like robustivity. The act of making something robust. Robust is a good word, I like to wield it like a bright blade of silver as much as possible in my goofier writing and conversations.

I've finally started watching Lost again, I'm just now finishing up the eighteenth episode of season one. I honestly don't give two shits about any of these characters. Sayid and Locke are alright, but other than that I find the survivors boring. I like the island, it is my favorite character. Screw everything else. I find myself really torn at the moment. Do I really want to watch six seasons of hour after hour of Hurley being fat and Jack being the good guy, and Sawyer being so mean and "badass" that it borders on laughable? Or do I just want to read the Wikipedia articles and learn everything I want to know in an afternoon? Watching it does offer the joy of hanging out with Jeremy, and that is pretty cool. So I guess for now I will refrain from the easy route. I'm actually watching a Locke background episode at the moment, they did a fairly good job of making the actor look like he is younger than he is in real life.

I've been talking more and more with Shawn and his friend and it seems like we're on our way to gaming. We're working under the assumption that we'll play some of the published DnD adventures and possibly switch to some Dark Sun stuff once that all comes out. I'll be interested to see how this all works out, I've never used a webcam or videochat or anything like that before. If the whole webcam thing doesn't work out, we should be able to find alternate means. There are a few programs I found last night and this morning that allow for a group to link up via some servers and kind of run a campaign. The main thing I'm concerned about is us all having something to represent a map and where we are on it. All the slides and pushes and whatnot in 4th Edition make maps and miniatures pretty mandatory to play the game. If we can get a couple hours of play time in at least once a month, I think it will be swell. I don't think the three of us will have the stamina for a ten hours sit down session, but finishing adventures and whatnot shouldn't be too big of a problem if we get into a regular schedule. Seeing as how it is just the three of us, it shouldn't be too big of a problem to contact each other and set up an impromptu session when we all happen to be bored at the same time, though that will very likely be a rare occurrence. Regardless of the details, I am pretty psyched to play some shit with Herr Kloha. His friend is a cool individual as well, and I can only assume that his wife is as well, and she might play too.

The question becomes, what should I play? I like complicated classes, and no class in 4th Edition is terribly complicated. Strikers have additional damage mechanics, Defenders have ways to get close to enemies and keep them there, Controllers have ways of managing multiple enemies at once and either taking them out or debuffing them, and Leaders have a lot of ways to buff folks. I find myself partial to Strikers and Defenders though. I've been toying with a variety of stuff in my character builder and haven't really come up with anything I dig. I mean, I'd love to play that Thri-kreen monk, but I have no data for thri-kreen, or Dark Sun. There is a thri-kreen fighter in the Dark Sun Encounters stuff, maybe I can kind of deconstruct him and figure out their abilities...

Edit After The Fact: Wow, that was actually pretty easy. With the character builder as a reference point, it took like ten minutes.

The eighth scenario is complete, fully complete, not just done-ish with a few minor details left to do, and hopefully we'll be able to complete the mandatory portions of it in a one day session. If not, the extra stuff can be tossed in with another later scenario. This excess stuff that can be put aside is going to sort of be Spineplate's background scenario, if they choose to look into it. Spineplate is going to randomly be MIA for the scenario, I've already rolled the Stealth vs. Perception checks necessary for him to sneak away in the night without anyone noticing. The mission is pretty straightforward and pretty combat focused, and I'm hoping that those individuals that find combat boring will enjoy the more skill and investigation focused Spineplate bits and pieces. I'm trying to strike a balance in the scenarios because the group seems pretty divided in what they enjoy. John seems to enjoy fights, and little else. Other individuals have said that fights bore them. Fred seems like he prefers fights, but he gets into the whole map making thing and can come up with some solid plans, even though he professes to not want to be leader of the group. I think Eric and Jeremy like a mix, but I could be wrong. I should actually write these things down somewhere so I can keep track of everyone's likes and dislikes...

Anyway, the ninth scenario is done too.

Yeah, I'm that good. The first chunk of the campaign kind of had the appearance of haphazardness where the group kind of went wherever and did whatever they happened across. This was because I was kind of trying to figure out what they wanted to do. When we eventually settled on joining a rebellion, I had them meander their way down to where the rebellion was happening. This gave me time to plot out the scenarios, I was also able to seed a few things in the previous scenarios that will come back into play in the end game. The campaign is done in my head and it is crazy straightforward. Go here, do this, return, go there, do something else. Etc. Because the players opted to join a rebellion, and not start their own, their part to play is usually small and sort of off to the side of the big names like Cenn and Nakamander. If they had said, "We want to start a rebellion." we'd have had a lot more planning missions that kind of resembled The Heist and Of Course That Wasn't The End Of It, and they would be the big names associated with shit.

Man, I am literally giddy with delight that we have reached this point in the campaign. I'm not happy for it to be almost over. Heh, with our schedule of gaming we probably won't be there until like 2011. I'm excited and giddy because this is where the big deal stuff starts happening. Events in the world around the player's are conspiring to move the rebellion into its final stages, things that happened in the past are about to become very important to the current affairs of the group. Everything is coming together, and because I've been thinking about this stuff for a long time, the scenarios are going to come out a lot faster than they have been. Its only going to be our schedules conflicting that slow us down. Because of my upcoming possible schedule change, that could be a very real and difficult impediment though. If I can get a buffer of one or two scenarios that are ready to go, we can kind of get into the practice of gaming once a month and not necessarily have to stop completely when we finish one scenario, if we still have the energy to keep going that is.

Also, I've never fucking finished a campaign and the fact that we're at the eighth scenario and I can barely contain my excitement over getting to the conclusion is a great sign of my dedication to the campaign. Sixteen years of gaming and this will be the first campaign I finally completed. Amusing.

As is pretty common for me, I'm starting to think about the next campaign and what it might be. Honestly, I would really like to run a sandbox. I don't know that the players are motivated enough to be interested in seeing what is around that next corner, and I don't know if they have the kind of gamer sense that tells you "Hey, we're out of our league. We need to head back the way we've come."

In my previous open ended scenarios, there has been some..." What the fuck are we supposed to be doing?" sentiment, so I don't know if sandbox is the right way to go. Also, a sandbox is hard. Eric thinks the way I make scenarios is hard and time consuming, I guess he thinks you can just make it up as you go along in a sandbox, which is stupid. There has to be a lot there to entice the players. You have to be able to give them a lot of options, and have ways for them to know what they can do and what would be a waste of time. You also have to have a way to say "Hey, get the fuck out of there, this is a fight you can't handle. This is a higher level area." That is one of the aspects I like about a "true" sandbox, in a "real" world, not every threat is going to be properly balanced against the strength of the players. The trick would be letting the players know they're outclassed without saying it directly and pulling them out of the sandbox. They might run into bigger stuff in such a sandbox, and they might die, or they might get through it by the skin of their teeth, and they might like the sensation of taking on something that was truly tough and not balanced against their power level. I'd certainly find it cool if I were in their shoes.

I could go on, but this is long enough. Crimany.

Music: Two Kids - Priestess
Music: I Am The Night, Color Me Black - Priestess
Music: Radio Radio - Elvis Costello
Music: Pills and Soap - Elvis Costello
Music: Sabotage - Beastie Boys

Monday, June 21, 2010

Settle In Friend

This first piece might seem like it is coming out of nowhere, and it is, but that is because I have consciously made an effort to avoid it as a topic of these posts. Part of my process of being a good GM is venting to avoid letting the little things pile up to the point where they transform me into the rage GM. I'm reaching a point where if I don't vent, an aneurysm is going to develop in my brain. Or a sentient tumor that orders me to strangle my players will grow out of my brainstem.

I'm frustrated by the fact that I cannot be just a player. I just feel like I'm starting to choke on all the shit I'm responsible for and I need to play something that I am not completely one hundred percent in charge of. I want to be able to game in a fashion where I can relax and worry about one thing, and not be responsible for handling every little dogdamn detail that crops up and needs handling. I don't want to stop GMing, I want some variety. I want some time where I don't have to hold an entire world in my head in case the players decide that they do want to burn Hell to the ground and wage war on the Governmental Ward of Kusseth City. I exaggerate slightly, but I am always aware that at any moment, the players could decide to do something far outside the bounds of the scenario, and I need to be able to roll with it with at least the appearance of competency.

I just feel like I'm in charge of way too much sometimes. Being in charge is the GM's role, I know that. Especially if you're in the position where you are building a world and deliberately trying to create something that goes against the norm, which I like to think I am attempting to do. I just feel like the whole being in charge thing is choking me to death and I need to game and relax while doing so or I'm going to get all frustrated and shut everything down again. I create characters and backgrounds in various systems and that is kind of how I escape from the whole responsibility for everyone else's enjoyment thing. That's why I have enough characters built in Excel spreadsheets to populate the entire southern rebellion in Reich-5. That's why I have the Robust Five (More Or Less) all ready to go for GURPS, even though GURPS might never get used. I build characters because I get excited and antsy about playing them. I'm an excitable skittish little kid when it comes to this stuff, and I act just like a kid when I don't get what I want. Which is a long running campaign where I get to consistently play a character of my own devising in a social pen-and-paper gaming setting. All I want is to get together on a monthly or better basis and say "Hi. This is Bob the Barbarian King of Eld. When he was a kid, the tiger lords of Eld enslaved his tribe and raised him as an arena fighter for their amusement. When he reached adulthood, he climbed to the top echelons of the arena fighters and was granted an audience with the tiger lords. In that meeting he slew them and took their hides as a prize. Then he did some other stuff and escaped. Those are his credentials for badassery, lets roll some dice and see how many 1s I can get to render that background ridiculous."

I just want to be able to game and not be the man in charge with all the info. That's why I chose 4th Edition. It was different enough that it was new to all of us. So I could kind of learn with the rest of the group as we played. Except no one read the books prior to play and I had been through the DMG twice by the time we finished our first session in my campaign. Then Jeremy got into my campaign and that was hella cool. People being interested in the world makes me happy because it makes me feel like my efforts have been worth it and I've hooked other people as much as I've hooked myself.

Bah, I can only indulge myself for so long. Point: I've been going crazy lately struggling with the need to game and not be completely in charge of everything. Which is a nice segue way into my next topic.

Apparently, Shawn and I are going to possibly enter into DnD gaming group that spans this great nation from coast to cost (almost). Currently, it looks like Shawn or his friend will be running a 4th Edition campaign that will more than likely be a series of linked Wizards published adventures, rather than a campaign. This is very exciting to me, for a lot of reasons I've been whining about for that past few paragraphs. Even better, I might possibly get to game with Shawn on a semi-regular basis for the first time since like high school. Yay. Even better, I may have put forth the idea that we should play some Dark Sun stuff when it comes out in August. This excites me further because I have pined to walk the wastes beneath the bloated sun of Athas as a thri-kreen monk since...well, a while. I like Dark Sun and thri-kreen are awesome. This could be the thing I need to keep me from getting too loopy in the DnD area. A small, kind of relaxed, semi-regular webcam based gaming group of three or four people. I think I could have a lot of fun with that and it might make me a little less crazy on the old blog here.

What follows is only tangentially related to anything else I've typed out here. Jeremy and I were discussing role-playing the other day and today I was watching the second half of The Fellowship of the Ring film and I got to thinking further about role-playing.

Let me say this first, because it is a big misconception a lot of people seem to have. Just because you gain levels and play a class, it doesn't mean you're in a role-playing game or role-playing. Making an attack roll is not role-playing. Gaining a level and some perks on Call of Duty is not role-playing. A good and evil meter in a game is not role-playing and neither is growing horns from your forehead that get progressively bigger the more often you eat crunchy chicks.

Watching The Fellowship of the Ring it occurred to me what exactly role-playing is. Now, role-playing can be being skilled at Stealth or Thievery because your alter ego grew up on the streets because its parents abandoned it or were murdered by minions of the Big-Fuck-Evil of the world or whatever. Another type of role-playing is when Gimli starts talking about his cousin Balin in Moria and laughing as he recalls his cousin. The party (i.e. The Fellowship) aren't in combat or in the midst of a mission or talking to an NPC, they're making camp and hanging out. Nothing is going on, but Gimli is still chatting up a storm and Boromir is training the hobbits. Tolkien, if he were a GM, said, "And then you guys make camp." and paused for a moment before he makes Legolas make a Perception check to notice the inbound Crebbin and in that pause, the players have their characters do stuff. To me, that is role-playing, but role-playing is different for everyone. Trying to tweak his gun for maximum damage output may be role-playing to John, and Eric having Xein consistently (mostly) purchase the best food and drink and clothing and amenities to spoil himself after eight years in Beltan might be considered role-playing as well. Role-playing is a hard thing to define exactly, because it isn't an exact kind of thing. Some people think it is voices and costumes, others think it is anything with levels and experience points. We're all entitled to our opinions, and the above is mine.

Edit After The Fact: I just got an amusing idea for a synopsis of The Lord of the Rings films via DnD terms. For instance: Gandalf epically fails an Insight check vs. Saruman's Bluff check when they begin discussing the One Ring and Sauron. Later, Gandalf makes an Intimidate check to shut everyone up during the meeting about the One Ring. Frodo makes a Diplomacy check to convince everyone he will carry the ring, while Merry and Pippin make Stealth and Perception checks to listen in. I dunno, it struck me as mildly amusing to think of the films in those terms.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Randomosity

Shawn is cool too, FYI.

The eighth scenario is finished and I'm starting work on the ninth.

Stuff.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Band-Aid Removal...

...One quick motion, RIGHT OFF!

For the record, a bandage is what you use to secure a dressing, a dressing is what you actually place on the wound to stop bleeding and keep it covered. I think.

So. I was looking at my story the other night at work, the prologue in particular. Wait, let me say something first. At my current job I don't get a huge amount of downtime. I get a half hour lunch, which is usually a "working" lunch because people always need something from me when I pull out my Fallout 3 lunchbox and my sandwich, and I get two fifteen minute breaks. I can usually squeeze a few five minute take-a-breather-and-get-some-water-or-go-to-the-bathroom type things in there as well, because, you know, humans pee. Last night I used my lunch to work on studying for my test Friday, but I kind of reached study overload for the day and had to set my books down. For my breaks I took my story out and took a hard look at the first chapter and prologue. The prologue is actually newer than the first chapter, but it is still quite a bit older than the tail end of the story. Anyway, I was looking at it and I got to thinking, "Could I write this better?" So I tried and I think I did.

The prologue is now twice as long, but its a little bit better I think. Good deal. I also found that I could not stop writing once I started and roughly twelve hundred words later I decided that I should end my break and get back to work instead of writing an alternate chapter one to my story. Spoiler: Keroen Skathos still wakes up.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Nerved Up

I was over at Jeremy's last night and he and his wife appear to be preparing to take a very serious look at my finished story about Keroen Skathos. That's cool.

...or terrifying.

Eric is my friend and I love him and really appreciate the fact that he read my story before everyone else. He was not very critical though. I believe his synopsis, and I could be remembering this incorrectly, was composed of "Yeah, it was alright." and some questions and clarifications. His efforts were very much appreciated, but I was hoping for something slightly more critical than that. Perhaps with written down notations and things I can look at and go over, and it seems like that is what I'll be getting when Jeremy and his wife look at the thing.

I don't know if I have the stones to withstand that though. The story has a lot of flaws. The plot meanders for the first half of it at least, the punctuation and grammar could use some work, run on sentences, commas, etc. A few of the characters are extremely one-dimensional, and there's a lot of crazy crap the reader gets spammed with in the prologue and the first quarter of the first chapter that could possibly cause terminology overload. There are a lot of nits to pick is what I am saying.

I like the story I told, I like the main characters it was told about. Or at least find the "evil" ones interesting, if not likable. I think that the mechanics of the writing are weak. I did some good descriptions and had quite a few scenes I really really liked, but I don't know how any of it holds up to a critical eye with a background in English.

It was discussed last night that even if it is trash, I am older now, and perhaps a more competent writer. I started portions of the story when I was twenty or twenty-one, and I'm now twenty-seven. I've matured as a writer and a human being I guess. My DnD stuff is certainly pretty good quality compared to what it was at almost a decade ago, ideally my writing would have evolved at a similar rate because a lot of DnD is story writing in addition to that stat work. We discussed the idea that this is in fact still a draft, second draft, so it should not be considered the final version of the story even if I have been working on it (on and off, intermittently) for the past few years. I thought about that for a bit and we went on to discuss that I am "the Cookie Monster of amateur writing" and there is an image and a sound that goes with that description that I cannot convey via text, but it had everyone at the table kind of cracking up.

The point of the Cookie Monster thing: I start my stories and write. I get an idea for a character or a location and I run with it like a spastic child on a sugar high. My fingers type faster than I can properly think and I go on and on for some time. I never start out with a clear picture of where I'm going or what I should be doing as I type my way there, and it would be extremely nice to write the story and know the ending and major contents BEFORE I get over halfway done with it.

So maybe this is just a second draft and after the Pawlak household gets done with it I'll get to work on a third. I think I am ok with that. I guess I just fear a "this is trash" rating on the parts of the story I really like. I still really love that "We are that creature forever!" scene, despite some dialogue that never quite sat right with me. I really like Aubernach's character too, like is probably the wrong word for it, but I like the way he turned out and what happens to him over the course of the book. There are things I would change though. I could pop open the document on my laptop right now and find a few dozen things to change though, so...

Yeah. Done for now I guess.



Music: Camouflage, Camouflage - The Blood Brothers
Music: You're The Dream Unicorn - The Blood Brothers
Music: Spit Shine Your Black Clouds - The Blood Brothers

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Collected Stuff

Ok, so here are the audio files:





I have to warn you, they're pretty bad and pretty rough and the first two and a half hours amount to pretty much nothing. Heh. If I had been thinking of it, I would have collected all the Lost commentary into its own audio file.

Second point, I converted all of the characters of The Robust Five (More Or Less) into GURPS format, except Hector. They're all at 275 points (which is the points level of extremely competent adventurers) and about as good as I could manage converting them from their character classes in 4th Edition DnD. Gideon has no spells because there isn't a chaos random magic thing I could find. I suppose some fire spells and necromancy spells would be fine, but I'd like Jeff to make those decisions rather than me. I picked some spells for Derf because he can already ignite his sword, sheathe it in frost, and electrify it, so I figured those were safe choices. He can also shoot lightning and remove the life sustaining elements of oxygen from air, and I felt that was sufficiently deadly and terror inspiring to fit with Derf's nature. Xein probably needs some more skills too, but this is just a rough creation.

Here is the Excel sheet for them: http://www.mediafire.com/?z2wzfri4km2

There are some other characters in there (Volung's firstborn son, Walthuler, and Savage Doc Managan) but they're mostly irrelevant and pretty outdated from what those characters would be in modern times.

Still working on the campaign book.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Conversion Rates

So, with the progress of my campaign book for The Known World comes the ever increasing urge to play GURPS (we're officially at the ten month mark, August is twelve, FYI). Also, an urge to make a campaign book for Grenaldeen and The Grey Wastes, and The North. Kaleshmar too, why not? Dogdamnit I am a nutter about this stuff. I just enjoy these goofy projects so much I have trouble dragging myself away from them to actually write the next DnD scenario. Almost done on that by the way, and I have over a month to finish it. It is fairly simplistic though. Hopefully it will be a nice break from the past two, without being boring for the folks that don't want to spend eight hours in combat. Combat kind of bores me to be honest. I like talking things out a lot more and making skill checks and whatnot.

Back to my ever increasing urge. I started converting the part into GURPS statistics. I had already done Spineplate, but the version I made of him is kind of his "epic" level state and follows the events of this campaign, assuming he survives. I statted out D'alton and Xein as two hundred and twenty-five character points. It wasn't terribly difficult, most skills in DnD have a pretty clear analogue in GURPS and I already have some material written down for conversions for Fell Human descended humans. I hit the major points, Xein does gadgets, and D'alton is a talker/second story man. I've got to say though, their character sheets in GURPS are just bland looking compared to everything that is going on in DnD.

GURPS is general, that is the point, obviously. It is also on the bland side. There are no flashy names for descriptions or skills. You have moves like "Move and Attack" or "All Out Defense" or "Acrobatic Dodge" not stuff like "Deft Strike", "Switcheroo", "Killer's Ambush". Don't get me wrong, I don't need flash, I can imagine what a pretty good roll looks like in combat without clich├ęd flavor text and all the stuff they plaster the powers with in 4th Edition. I guess my issue is that if you hold D'alton next to D'alton, GURPS D'alton looks bland and uninteresting. The only way to get him to be interesting and complex is to actually play him.

Also, he needs some disadvantages. Xein and D'alton (and Derf as well, but we'll get to him later), have a Secret, that they were in Beltan and escaped with Jack, which makes them interesting to Kusseth because part of Kusseth's contract with Cenn the Reaver is that they keep Hell's Smiling Butcher locked up. The PCs don't actually know anything about Jack, but Kusseth is desperate. The secret is the only disadvantage the two have, other than being Dead Broke, which they have because they started in prison. All players will have Dead Broke and Secret because those are the keystones of the group being a group. They started out together in the prison, even if they used to be a dwarf and didn't join until the third or fourth scenario. Anyway, my belief is that the real...character of the character comes from the disadvantages you give them, and I don't know what disadvantages to give to Xein and D'alton. They appear to be reluctant killers, but does that mean that they need Pacifism (Reluctant Killer), or is that just them being sensible that you shouldn't drop bodies every ten feet? I guess I need input from them. Jeremy, Eric, if you're reading, look at Basic Set: Characters and give me some input.

Derf. Derf was complicated to write, and he isn't finished. I involved his background by using the Enemy disadvantage, plus Dead Broke and Secret. I gave him Callous because he is, and a negative appearance because of his facial scars. Derf was difficult to make because I had to pause in the middle of it and decide which magic system of GURPS I wanted to use (Threshold-Limited with Auras, and Will based). His ability to teleport is obviously analogous to Warp, probably with decreased distance or the Blink limitation. Easy enough to make it work. There is a spell that will allow him to call his sword to him as well. There are spells for fiery swords and lightning swords and cold swords (no cold damage, effects that are "cold" affect Fatigue Points) as well, which is the shtick of the Swordmage, elemental attacks via their weapons. You can even temporarily enchant items so that they cast the spell in GURPS, which works perfectly. Working on Derf was great because I finally found a GURPS magic system I like and some of the Calamity stuff involving Threshold-Limitation magic works great with my wonky version of magic. Still needs some tweaking though.

Words.

Music: Her Sisters They Were Weak - Witchcraft
Music: You Bury Your Head - Witchcraft
Music: God of the Cold White Silence - 3 Inches of Blood
Music: The Great Hall of Feasting - 3 Inches of Blood