Friday, March 26, 2010

Twingol's Tales: Aurora Campaign Chronicle #1

Other than the B2 Caves of Chaos one-shot, the most recent game session for my D&D group marked the beginning a new campaign, as we unwrapped new characters for adventures in the land of “Aurora”.

What follows is the first installment of a campaign chronicle, written as the personal journal of one of my characters: Twingol the Gnome Illusionist. The account was composed a week or two after the actual session, so I’ve used creative license to fill gaps in my recollection, as well as to punch up the narrative. An example of the latter would be Twingol’s reference to “Foundry Day”, an event which marks the first day a young dwarf is deemed eligible to work as a blacksmith unsupervised. Think of it as something of a Dwarven “Sweet 16”, a day of celebration for the normally dour race, and one of much, much drinking.

[edit: When I first made this post, I was having trouble recalling all of the names of the characters. Consequently, I was forced make numerous references to "the other gnome wizard", which is a very clunky and unsatisfying way of identifying a subject. So in a bit of post ret-conning, here is the cast of characters:

Oliver:  DM

Montgomery Drake Scott, Esquire -
Human Cavalier
Zeb (no clan name given)  - Gnome Thief/Mage

Jane Proudfinger -
Human Cleric
Gareth Ravenmantle - Gnome Paladin

Beorn Sigrunsen -
Human Barbarian
Twingol "Twinkle" Fiddlesap, Image Master Red Class - Gnome Illusionist (Image Maker kit)]

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Juggling Worlds

As I've mentioned before, I'm currently playing in three different 1e/2e campaigns. Essentially, my D&D group rotates between three different sets of PCs in three different game worlds directed by three different DMs. In addition, others will occasionally run one-shot games, sometimes with an existing particular combination of PCs and World, other times with a completely new cast, location, or even game system. We settled on this arrangement because we are blessed (or cursed) with a surfeit of DMs, none of whom really have the time to devote to the preparations a regular game would require. The end effect is that a given DM may go a month or more between running a session; during which interval he is reduced to the lowly status of player in the games of the other DMs.

Each regular player in each campaign typically rolls up 2 PCs to play, giving a total of 8 active characters. This allows us to accommodate those players who are only able to attend sessions infrequently, as well as curious passers-by who want to try out the game. The guest player will assume control of an absent regular's PCs, or one of the attending regulars will loan him one of theirs.

As you might expect, this jumble of worlds and players can lead to a bit of confusion -

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The old made new again: TARGA and Labyrinth Lord

This week is International Traditional Gaming Week, and in observation, the Austin D&D Meetup group featured a one-shot of the B2 Caves of Chaos module. Our system of choice: Labyrinth Lord, a "retro-clone" of the Dungeons and Dragons Basic Set.

Our group was made up of mostly of old-school players, several of whom had fond memories of B2 from their dusty gaming past, but we also had a couple of players, including myself, who broke into the hobby w/ the later editions. So for me, the anticipation was two-fold: 1st, that I was going to get to play an edition I'd never touched before, and one that has drawn rave reviews from the "Old School Renaissance" (OSR) community. 2nd, in playing B2 itself, I felt almost like I would be undergoing something of a Rite of Passage for gamers, the kind of a shared experience that unites a community of like-minded folk, and gives them a basis for communication.

This was in addition to my typical eagerness for any chance to game. So what did this new-school player think of old-school play? Read on, fellow traveler...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Jozan come lately

[To better understand my perspective on games, it might be useful to know a little history about me. I apologize in advance if these preliminary "throat-clearing" posts are boring, but I can't seem to get started without organizing my thoughts this way. Please feel free to skip ahead if you like.]

I'm a relative latecomer to tabletop RPGs, having only started playing about four years ago. I had wanted to play for a long time, but various factors prevented it. Probably the greatest obstacles were:

1) In the 80s, for those of us who grew up in Christian environments, playing D&D was considered a hop, skip and a jump away from sacrificing virgins to Satan himself. My parents knew such a thing had no place in a good Baptist family like ours. They let me know in such stark terms, I never even asked for the game. I didn't personally feel that playing would make me start painting pentagrams on the floor with the blood of a black goat, but I was a good kid who minded his parents.

2) Apart from the religious condemnation of RPGs, the social stigma attached to those who played D&D and other games remained strong. So even when I felt more freedom in college, and when churches weren't quite so preoccupied with the dangers of D&D, I still stayed away. Call it a lack of self-esteem or self-confidence, but I actually was worried if playing RPGs would hurt my chances with the ladies. In my mind, it was bad enough that I played scifi/fantasy video games and read scifi/fantasy novels, actually pretending to be a wizard myself would be too much of a risk for my social life.

So fast foward a few more years to when I'm married. My wife has a few quirks of her own, and in a lot of ways doesn't feel bound to convention. She knows I like fantasy books and games, so when I ran across an announcement for a D&D 3.5ed one shot game through the local RPG Meetup group, she actually encouraged me to go.

I went, and I loved it.

We didn't get very far that day, as the DM (Norm, of Troll and Flame fame) had to walk me through character creation, and I'm sure I annoyed the other players with my constant questions. But it was a ton of fun anyway. I still recall how our entire party nearly got wiped out by a few flame-breathing kobolds. They were sitting at the top of a tall makeshift barricade made from the piled remains of broken furniture and other trash, and I could not make a Climb check to reach the buggers to save my life.

So now I've been bitten by the RP bug, and I'm trying to play catch up for all the years of gaming I've missed. I've played in a D&D 3.5e campaign, and have played one shots of Savage Worlds, Tunnels and Trolls, Mutants and Masterminds, and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. I'm currently playing in 3, yes 3, rotating D&D hybrid 1e/2e campaigns. Because that's not enough, I've got couple of Labyrinth Lord one shots lined up, and I'm joining another group playing Call of Cthuhlu.

In the posts to come, I'll give a more complete recount of each gaming experience. I plan both to blog about what I recall of my older games, and also give a comprehensive overview of my current games. I'll use these as a base to explore the mechanics, styles and flavors of the different systems, as well as the experiences they produce.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Post, the first

Socrates said "The unexamined life is not worth living." Perhaps a tad hyperbolic, but his point is well taken. I'll modify that point, and offer this paraphrase: "The unexamined game is not worth playing." Again, hyperbole, but essentially, while it's perfectly fine and enjoyable to plop down and roll some dice, killing non-existent monsters and stealing their imaginary loot, you leave a lot of fun on the table if that's all you ever do.

But how to examine one's game? Unfortunately, I find I never know what I really feel/believe/know until I've written it down. I can't truly test my thoughts and beliefs until I'm forced to translate them into words on paper (or the screen). This process often reveals innumerable inconsistencies and errors which must each be dealt with before I'm satisfied, even if it means scrapping the whole thing and starting over. It makes for achingly slow writing, but I think (hope) the end product is the better for it.

Hence, this blog.

In addition to tabletop gaming stuff, focused mostly on what I'm currently playing, I'll occasionally throw in other items of geekery to break things up a bit. I'll try to keep things interesting and/or informative, and at least honest.