Wednesday, May 19, 2010

One Shots, Short Term, and Long Term

Well, I've been doing a lot more philosophizing then playing lately. I guess that's how it goes. So today, I'm thinking a bit more, cause we didn't get to play The Monsters today. Which really kinda pissed me off, cause I gave Po a great scenario. Just going off his original idea, it would be brutal. So looking forward to seeing how he would tweak it. So fun!

Anyway, that didn't happen. We were busy today. So I had some time to think.

There are three types of campaigns. The one shot, the short term, and the long term. It seems that our work long term campaigns don't seem to work. There's just too much that could happen. People are sick, or have a kid's religious ceremony, or we get busy.

Maybe. So I'm thinking we need to change some stuff. First though, some background.

One Shots; Or as I like to call them Ragmoffs. As in ragamuffin. I used to call them that because I'd drive around in my beat up Chevy Astro van and pick up as many of my buddies as I could and run something for a couple of hours. My friends got real good at rolling up a character in less then ten minutes. I think that some of them had characters already rolled up...

Short Term: These are campaigns that usually run only a few sessions. These typically happened because we started a long term campaign, and it fizzled out. There were a few that we actually designed to only last a short term. The Monsters is one of them, and the Dark Sun campaign is another. The beginning of a short term campaign usually has a preset goal and a definitive ending. Though they can be expanded to go to long term.

Long Term: I both love and hate these. The long term campaign is something that takes dedication. It does have a clear starting point, but doesn't necessarily have a set end. It could go from level 1 all the way to epic levels. These are the campaigns that shake the world, the campaigns that PCs talk about endlessly forever. At the end of the campaign, the campaign world is different. These are the types of campaigns that emulate novel series. A typical long term campaign will take a year or more of real time given a session a week.

See, the problem? We really can't do a long term campaign. There's always a chance that someone leaves. Or something comes up. Right now, I'm raking my brain trying to figure out how to make ragmoffs and short terms into a long term.

So I have a few ideas;

1. The Eternal Champion; The original concept was done by Michael Moorcock, it was one guy who kept coming back to life to champion blah, blah, blah. However, in a D&D multiverse, everyone takes a single class and alignment, and has to stick with it. So the character itself is the same, but equipment and the setting change. Even levels will change drastically between each scenario. So it would be like a series of short terms and one shots.
2. 30 Greatest; The thirty greatest adventures as decided by Dungeon magazine awhile back. Some are short single adventures, some are nearly fully campaign length. It might be a good back up.
3. World Tour: There's a lot more games then D&D. I would love to run different variations. Throw some Call of Cthulthu, Alternity, Star Wars d6, Werewolf; The Apocolypse, etc. Just some short stuff from each. Maybe a single adventure each.
4. Problem Solvers: I always wanted to run something like this. Each PC rolls up a bunch of characters. Then I start an adventure, and pick different PCs to take it on. Kind of like GI Joe. When there is a water mission, they sent Deep Six and Shipwreck. Only this would be slightly different. Same idea, but done in a role playing thing, maybe a group of the king's problem solvers. Or harpers, or whatever.

So I think I might put this to the players as a short term before we can get back to what we normally do.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Plot Vs. Characters

There's really two ways to run a role playing campaign. Plot based and character based. In all truth, they can't exist alone. Either one depends on each other, but like a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich, its all about the ratios. Too much of one and not enough of the other creates a bad game. The mixture is right, but sometimes it leans one way or another.

Personally, I love a good plot, but when it comes down to it, its all about the characters and their choices. That's why I really like sandbox games, to steal a phrase from our illegitimate bastard child hobby video games. I love just setting things up and then letting the PCs just find their own pace and explore.

However, in the past, I've run all sorts of games. In one old game I ran during college, I basically railroaded my PCs through several massive plots that had to do with the world in balance. Everyone had fun, but it was really forced. Overly so. There weren't very many choices, and I often manipulated them to go where I needed them to go to further the plot. At the time I justified it to myself because I didn't have anything created except for what I wanted them to do. I wasn't confident enough to let them do what they wanted. I both regret it, and remember it fondly. The important thing is that we had fun.

Later in college though, burned out on D&D we played Vampire; The Masquerade. However, I made the exact opposite side of the cord. The characters did it all, with a few exceptions when things got too stale. There were things that happened, but it was because they were what the characters wanted. Or rather after each session, I asked what the PCs wanted to do, and then tailored each session for them. It was too easy. Just a handful of constant NPCs. We actually ran three separate interconnected campaigns, so each of the three GM's were players in the other campaigns. So it was really really easy. We would swap out PCs and events and such.

Right now, our campaigns are great.

The Plague World campaign has been stalled for a bit, but it started out plot driven, but has quickly become character driven. Its interesting to see how the characters interact. Especially when they plot and plan. I love running a highly tactical game, given my wargame roots. It's awesome to watch them plot and plan, only to see the glaring errors while their doing it.

The Monsters, ah, the Monsters. It's not really plot driven or character driven. It's an odd duck. It fails on both fronts, but it is a pure fun. Possibly because it avoids both of them, it succeeds on both of them.

The Ogres. Well, it is far more plot driven then character, because the characters are cut and paste. It is fun, though, because they started out as such stereotypes, they grown as the plot has gone on. I love seeing how such a simple concept can be taken by some good players and run with.

Darksun. Well, it should be more character driven, but we'll see. It could go either way. I started watching wrasslin again because of it. So it could evolve through it, it will depend entirely on the PCs.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Ah, all things are doomed to failure. Problems with quality at work have caused the banning of books. No books on the floor. We've been scrambling. Converting character sheets to emails, then to .rtfs. Too much too soon. Gah. Partially my fault. I'm one of the ones whose quality is down. However, it isn't from a lack of effort, just a chance of the one or two horrible calls that get scanned. So buckle down and charge ahead full.

So Monsters, been doing a lot of The Monsters lately. Mainly because it is one that if we are missing a character or anything it doesn't effect the rest of the group. Given the Monsters is also a Monster of the Week, it doesn't matter story wise if someone has missed. Easy to catch up on.

So the story is pretty simple, or at least it started out that way. It's gotten more complex. In the beginning it was just a bunch of monsters killing stuff, now there's conspiracies.

It all started with the first session. We fought a Celestial Titan. Big good. Took us a bit, but we whupped it. Now, my character is a pixie, and thus is a trickster. A Celestial Titan is a good creature, regardless of how you split it (down the center is what we went with). So as a good trickster, I blamed someone else. I took the time to set up and execute a frame job. Left some holy books of Lloth lying around and some other stuff that would indicate that it was done by Drow.

All good, right? Wrong. Apparently, there's a CSI; Bytopia. Celestial Squad Investigators. While we were wandering around killing other things (notably other EVIL things), they were investigating the drow.

Which leads us into what is happening right now. Last time we got together as a group, we fought a tetramorph. Which ended up sending most of the group to other planes. The Mindflayer Wizard used his innate plane shift to go back to the prime material plane. The HalfDragon Werewolf Cleric and the Rakasha Sorceror were stuck in the Abyss.

We found out that the Mindflayer decided to cross the underdark to return to Larlock's Crypt, where we were all stationed and being sent out to do the demilich's business. Along the way, he encountered some drow that were running away because 'Mistress is in the Abyss'. He finally took the time to eat...THEIR BRAINS. Later the CSI team came and used the dead drow as a starting point for further investigation of the Drow High Priestess.

Meanwhile in the Abyss, the Halfdragon Werewolf and the Rakasha Sorceror were approached by three succubi, who were trying to contract them on behalf of a Drow High Priestess and her Druegar bodygaurd. The Drow High priestess wants them to kill a Phoenix and get its heart. It seems that those two agreed. Not something I'm too thrilled about. Probably not going to help with that one.

The rest of us decided to take out the Ettin tribe. Which we will do soon.

So long story short, we set up some Drow, those drow get harassed by the CSI, run to the abyss and contract us to take out a phoenix to get a phoenix heart, and then they'll take out the CSI. All nice and neat. However, my ultimate plan is to become part of the Fairy Court. To do that I will spread chaos and trickery via battle across the planes. The greatest test of trickery, deceit, theft, all to permanently alter the course of the Blood War. I'm going to use the group to steal the Ruby Rod of Asmodeus. Trick some more people and end up in the dead book. Rise again from the dead on my wits alone and join the fay. And watch the whole of the lower planes burn. Then figure out how to get the Celestials involved. It shouldn't be too hard. Goody goodies are too goody goody for their own good. If I crash the whole planes, it will be well worth it. Then I might just go back in time and kill myself before I can do it. THAT is how you run with an epic campaign.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Slight Update

So I got an email, but it was more metagame then actual game. Stuff that will be upcoming and such. DM's sharing ideas, ping ponging stuff across. You know the sort of thing. But there was a slight update;

So, today only Josh (Huge Fire Elemental Barbarian) and Jim (Mind Flayer Wizard) teamed up to go fight an Ocean Giant, an Ocean Strider, and a Titanic Toad. Josh almost died at 2 HP (lots of horrid wiltings did things to him). They did in the enemies and such.

Got another email. So I'm just going to cut and paste. More information, but less as well.

From Tim;

Po just ran JIm & Josh up against a giant toad, a dryder & a water giant. Josh finished up at 2 HP (truthfully, I think Po took pity on him & let him live, By what I was hearing while on calls, he probably should have died at least twice over). Tom & I were supposed to do something too but we never got to it. WARNING!!!! Po was looking through the Monster Manual again & I think that we may be going up against a Phoenix at some time. He kept says how THAT was what he should have used as the final boss instead of a Tarrasque. He says that he's finished creating the fearsome 5 of the CSI (Celestial S(omething) Investigators - I forget what he said the "S" stood for, but I know it wasn't "Scene") who are supposed to be some kind of real bad-asses looking into the death of the Titan we killed. Guess we'll see. My only fear is that my next confrontation is going to be just me & Tom (he of the oh so intelligent choices) - gulp

Monday, May 10, 2010

A True and Unabridged Story

Well, today I got some bad news. At lunch my wife had a panic attack so I have to take her to the Doctor tomorrow. So I'm not going in to work tomorrow. So what that means is that there is going to be three uninterrupted days of the Monsters!

What is the Monsters campaign? Well, a bit of background. Cue Doctor Who TARDIS sound; Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. It all started a while back, when I was on the phone. I've got a high pitched men's voice, so I've been called every slanderous synonym for gay that there is. But one day, I got called a new one.


Man, that was classic. I almost couldn't keep myself from laughing. It was hilarious. Afterward, I got out the Savage Species book. Rolled me up a pixie named Twinkletoes Fairypants. I did it as a joke, but Po, one to take a joke to internet proportions, decided to take it to the next level. He had us all roll up monster characters. Fifteenth level monsters. A nice lead in to a high level campaign.

Due to the heavy plot line campaigns that we've been running lately, Po decided to go a little lighter. Total monster of the week. He comes up with stuff that is seemingly impossible, and we beat on it. The background is that Larlock the demilich fouled up his summons and a bunch of prime material monsters got summoned instead of the demons/devils he meant to summon. The purpose was to defeat the Tarrasque. Bum, bum, bum. So he introduced us to Monty Haul, the lich who controls the portal room. The portal room has a bunch of portals with different monsters behind them. We go through, find a baddie, and kick its ass.

So this is a lot of fun, and I'll try to get some updates from Po as this goes on. For we played today, and they'll play tomorrow when I take my wife to the doctor, and then again on Wednesday. So many many updates for the Monsters!

A tad more on Fairypants. His full name as of the end of today's session is Mayor Twinkletoes Fairypants, Dragon Slayer, Giant Bane, Slaad Slayer, Linnorm Perferator, Champion of Titiana. Background is that he is a Warrior Trickster of Titiana, and her choosen champion. He started as a pixie cobbler and part time fletcher as all pixies are. However, a young green dragon moved into his grove. He rose to the challenge and killed it. He then continued his schemes and dealing death to those who threatened his lifestyle. He is the most manly of pixies with purple eyes, neon green hair, and sparkly skin. When he started he was just a pixie with 10 levels of rogue fifteen total levels (5 pixie/10 rogue). Now he's technically a 23 level character (5 pixie, 10 rogue, 8 wizard) and the biggest badass in a group of badasses.

The Group: I'm not sure of the levels or the character names, which is what typically happens when you do monster of the week. It's all about the powers brought to the table. Or rather in our case, the pod.

Me: Twinkletoes Fairypants.
Tim: A cleric halfdragon werewolf.
Po: DM
Jim: Mindflayer wizard.
Megan: Fire Giant Barbarian.
Josh: Fire Elemental Barbarian.
Tom: Rakasha Sorceror.

What has happened before; In our last session, we fought a tetramorph, two balors, a celestial of some kind, some chaos beasts, and a Death Slaad. While I killed the Death Slaad by myself in two rounds (thus giving myself the Slaad Slaughterer title), the tetramorph proved a worse foe. It ended up sending most of the group away. Josh had been absent last week, so he was back at the portal room. Jim, Tom, and Tim were transported to the Abyss. Megan and I defeated the thing and returned back to the portal room. Jim promptly used his plane shift innate ability to go back to the prime material plane, however lacking teleport spells or abilities, he has to walk back to Larlock's castle.

Today: So five days to kill and playing a fairy. Well, easy part was what I was doing with the days. I made Megan a pair of boots of limited flying, and a Huge Masterwork Mighty (+13) Composite Longbow, mainly because she's the only PC that listened to me. Which technically ate up the five days (two for the boots, and three for the non-magical bow). But to get some play time in, I managed to get teleported back to my character's hometown by Monty Haul.

TTFP went home to see his wife, a nymph who married him due to his shoemaking ability. Which is mainly because its funny. He's a manly pixie. Tooling around his hometown, the village mayor told him there was something out in the wilderness hurting the villagers. Since I had mentioned that I wanted a nice low level stomp, I wasn't prepared for what I meet with.

A grey linnorm. Which none of the rest of the group really understood what the problem was. They thought, 'Oh, dragonkin, take it out dragonslayer'. However, I think I put it succinctly when I told them that I had to fight Grendel's mother. Without backup, or proper preparation. Thing was practically created to give TTFP problems. Blindsight out to 120 feet negated my natural invisibility and any type of sneak attack. And its Protection from Arrows at will pretty much negated most of my ranged attacks.

However, I was able to beat it mainly due to keeping the hell away from it, and a timely use of Otto's Irresistible Dance. It took me 7 rounds. Which is impressive and a lot less then the 120 rounds that I had anticipated.

So I took the head off of it and that bit dragged back to the village. Since a nearby village had lost its elder, I put myself up as the elder, citing my age of 872 and the linnorm head as qualifications for the position. This was done for a reason, and that is because I had taken the leadership feat. Which is going to be instrumental in defeating the tarrasque.

Hopefully Po will send me an update either tonight or tommorrow on what has happened so far with the rest of the PCs. At the least Megan and Josh should be able to get something done tonight, and Jim, Tim, and Tom will be there tommorrow to do other things. Well, that's all for now.

As always, drop me a comment to let me know you've seen this.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Trying It Out

Well, today. Today, today, today.

This is the busy day at work. Well, D&D wise, that is. However, I'm not too sure. We barely got to play The Ogres today, and most of that time was spent going over and over rooms they've already been through to try to find a clue of where to go next. Frustrating since they missed the most obvious place. The corpses of the dragon's victims. They also ignored several magic items, mainly because they just didn't bother to have the NPC cast detect magic. Such is life. Frustrating.

Rolled up some Dark Sun characters. Ended up with two Thrikreen and a half elf barbarian. Odd mix. I was thinking that there would be four PCs, but Josh opted out. He stated that it was because he was getting 'D&Ded out'. Which I can understand. Four campaigns a week is a bit much for almost any newbie. So right now, its just the Monsters campaign for him. I think. Maybe also the Plague World. I'm not sure. However, part of me wonders if it was due to my previous comments on this blog. I dunno. Maybe I should ask him. Or I won't. I'm not good at that type of thing.

In real life, I'm rather anti-social and tend to make social mistakes. Simply because I don't think out my thoughts. I have no filter. No Jiminy Cricket telling that saying something is not the wisest thing to say or the smartest action to take. I'm much better then I used to be. MUCH better. However, I still make the occasional social faux paus. Which Firefox says I spelled wrong.

However, Dark Sun started out pretty well. Decided to go with a grand melee to start things out. One hundred men enter, twenty men leave. Since mainly it was NPCs taking out NPCs, it wasn't too strenuous on the PCs. They ended up taking out something like 8 gladiators. Which ain't too shabby for just two PCs, since Megan had to leave early. However, I took the chance to introduce them to some typical gladiator tactics. Things that they will have to get used to. Such as 'tag teams'. One member to take an action that incapacitates the opponent, and the other member to eliminate the opponent. Also the stereotypical and cliche sand thrown into the eyes bit.

Part of me is really looking forward to this campaign. I'm an old school wrestling fan from way back, and back in the hayday of ECW, I liked to think of myself as a smart mark. I still fell for the storylines, but I understood the back business as well. Which is part of why I'm looking forward to this. The other part is that Tom is still a major wrestling fan. He understands the point of marks, pops, heat, heelturns, and such. So I'm really hoping that he can step up his game in this campaign. This is the type of campaign where he can really shine. He knows wrestling, and is fairly passionate about it. Come up with some tactics and some promos, and other great things. I'm thinking of doing an 'Undertaker' type of gladiator. Some unbeatable giant. Or maybe a Rey Mysterio Jr type. Oh, a STING parody! That would be golden.

If you read, please comment. I'm lonely and I want to know who's seen this.

Friday, May 7, 2010


Alright, I'm bored and tired. Gotta kill some time before bed cause eldest child went to a MLB game tonight, so gotta sit up until he comes home. Looking at the score its 3-3 at the bottom of the eighth. Which means approximately nothing to me. Does that mean that they are almost at the end of the inning or the beginning? Dunno. Doesn't really matter. Not what I want to talk about, I want to talk about blooding.

Blooding is something I take very seriously. Many people disagree with me. Some DMs feel that its counterproductive, and others don't understand specifically planning it. What is blooding you ask? Why killing a character, pure and simple. Maybe not pure and simple. What is going on is that I purposely kill a neophytes character.

Why do I do this? Because, it needs to be done. I strongly feel this way. I want to impress on the PCs that it is a game, and characters die. Sometimes from stupid situations, sometimes from bad die rolls, and sometimes because you do something so stupid that you deserve to die. I've seen many people who's characters start out normal, but become some sort of fantasy fulfillment Mary Sue type of thing. Need to nip that sort of thing in the bud. Remind them it is a game, and to just roll up a new character before the next session.

People disagree with me. Some say its counterproductive and just chases new players away. Others think that death will happen naturally and to just let it happen. I don't. Oh, I'm not going to target them straight off. Never do that. Let them get a feel for the game, maybe level once or twice. Then BOOM. Take off the kid gloves. I'll focus the boss on them, or leave out some healing, or just let stupid take its course.

Death is part of D&D. The lesson isn't just to teach them that characters are just numbers on paper and not to get to attached, but also to teach them that the life of an adventurer sometimes ends abruptly.

In Warhammer 40K, there is a rule called 'Death or Glory'. In essence, you either crunch the tank, or the tank crunches you. I can't remember who said it, but there is also the old Latin chestnut 'Fortes fortuna adiuvat' which translates to 'Fortune favors the Bold'. And of course in our modern internet X-treme culture, 'Go Big or Go Home'. That's the point. D&D is an adventure game. You have to take risks, and sometimes those risks don't pan out. The sooner the PCs realize that, the faster they can get into doing cool stuff. Risk can end in failure, but it doesn't matter. Sometimes the risk is worth it.

There's my reasons. First to stop some Mary Sue, second to show the ephemeral nature of characters, and third to teach the PCs to take risks because the reward is so much sweeter.

Soooo LAZY

Ok, I'm not giving up on my other blog Infamous Campaigns but I am not finding the time or energy to really go into it right now. Mainly because we are playing D&D too much and I must create.

So some background;

I do websupport for a major interweb place (3.9 million registered users). Don't be mistaken by the title, its not tech support, at least not most of the time. Mainly it consists of the advanced customer service aspect. In other words, when Cust Service Reps can't figure the problem out, it gets booted up to me. Mainly, it consists of resetting passwords, instructions on how to download Adobe Flash Player, and teaching little old ladies how use the computer. So, in other words, the stuff that most people reading this would not have the patience to do and can do easily themselves.

What that means is that when there is no special promotions going on, we're not taking any calls. Or not enough calls to keep us busy. So we either read or play D&D. This is because most of us are huge geeks, which is how we got our job in the first place.

Right now, our group consists of myself and 5 other people. Here's the breakdown;

Me: An old school gamer that never really gave it up, but never really continued either. I've played almost every game out there. I got my start with Hero Quest, and the Black Box of D&D basic. So call it the early to mid-90's. When my brother in law passed all of his 3.0 stuff on to me, I thought it was a perfect time to start playing at work. When I play, I tend to take odd pairings that work in strange ways (Halfling Barbarian FTW!)
Po: The other DM. He's a vet, and generally plays cautiously but not to the point of CSI: Shadowdale. Probably the most level headed of the group, and the most strategic player.
Jim: Jim's the other vet. He's been playing on and off for a little longer then I have, with almost all of his experience being in 2nd ed. He's the first to get really ticked off at the stupid n00b stuff that the neophytes do. He's also the only person to have multiple player kills in character.
Tim: Tim is a veteran returning after a long hiatus. He started and stopped playing OD&D before I was born. He's a very old school gamer, and almost looks at the game like a wargame. He's not one to start crap and thinks about his actions before hand and rarely makes errors. In character or out of character. So he's a valuable resource. I can count on him.
Tom: Tom is perhaps the odd man out. The other neophytes look at him as a veteran, but he's only been playing with us for a bit longer then them. He tends to make odd mistakes and tactical errors. Or create things that just don't quite work (cough*Half orc bard*cough). He's also had the most characters killed by other characters, a total of 3. Two by Jim and another by Parker, who no longer works with us.
Megan: Meg's great. She was at first reluctant to play, but eventually joined in. She's caught on quick and understands character actions vs. player actions faster then most of the other people. She's much fun and a joy to have in a group. If I ever play a game at home again, I'd invite her so that my wife would have another girl in the group. Oooh. Idea. I should call Danielle too...
Josh: Josh has a lot of bad habits. I blame it on Warcraft, and his inability to understand 'in character' and 'out of character'. However, I think that he's improving. Slowly. Very slowly. He has the only other character killed by another character, which was me.

So the games themselves. We're currently running 4 concurrent games.

Tuesday: Plague World, run by me. A post apocalyptic D&D world where the world ended around the 1960's due to a plague. A little odd, there's guns and mortars and no economy. The PCs are all from the one town that survived the 500 years of plague intact.
Wednesday: The Monsters, run by Po. An Epic campaign, we're all different types of monsters, with character classes. We're currently leveling up to take on the Tarrasque. Total monster of the week. I play a pixie named Twinkletoes Fairypants, Dragonslayer, Giantbane, Slaad Slaughterer, Champion of Titiana (funny story about that name later).
Saturday Morning; The Ogres, run by me. It started as just a couple of Ogres running around, after the previous campaign fell apart. They've become lords of a town full of goblinoids. Its probably the easiest campaign I run, especially since I often use published adventures for it. Right now, I'm running them through the Return to The Temple of Elemental Evil.
Saturday Afternoon: Starting a new campaign this week. Going to be a Darksun campaign set in the gladiator pits of Raam. So it will be another Monster of the Week, with option to expand.

So why am I writing this blog? Well a couple of reasons. First is that non-work often comes up, people call off or whatnot. So with this blog they can keep up to date with what is happening. Second is that I've found myself retelling stories of what my PCs did to my other interwebs friends. Some of it is extraordinarily funny, or noteworthy. Lastly, though, there's also rants. I mean I need somewhere to put my thoughts on 'blooding' new PCs, published vs created adventures, and why we're playing an outdated system.

So sit down, plug in your headset, wait for a call, and read some of the fun stuff here.


Thank you for calling tech support, My name is LAZ, and I'll be your DM..."