Saturday, February 16, 2013

Barely Controlled Chaos

Last night, we played in my OD&D campaign (I'll try to get the play report up later today over on Exploring the Outside Inn) and it was again an exercise in controlled chaos.  I think it ran a little smoother than my son's game last week (earlier rant here), not because of my DM-style vs. his, rather because there was less character in-fighting and several players stepped up to control the group and keeps things moving.

It was more than a little crazy though.  We were scheduled to play from 1900 to 2200.  I'd asked for RSVPs but gotten none, although M had some idea who could NOT make it.  By 1900, I think we had three players.  D hasn't been able to make a game in several months so hadn't played in this campaign yet.  S again skyped in from college.  I think she lives about 500 miles away, but thanks to Skype, she makes more games than half the group!  My son, M, was here of course, and I enlisted him to help D create his characters.

By 1945, we were up to twelve players physically present, and one laptop with a Skype window showing player thirteen.  We had one new player, D2, who we expected, and G, who missed the last session or two in this campaign.  In addition, although we thought she wasn't coming, H showed up, and brought S, who we haven't seen before.

D2 and S each opted to leave some of their characters in Milburn Hall, so all told, the 13 players ran a total of 45 characters.  We finally got started about 2005, when I lowered my voice and started bringing them up to date on events.  The players closest to me leaned in, and then turned and yelled at everyone to shut up.  They spent at least 30 minutes planning what to do both at the strategic level and tactically, and I was annoyed at first, but then realized they were finally starting to play like old school players rather than computer gamers!  Once they'd figured out how they wanted to proceed, they went into kobold caves, exploring and carefully mapping a new section.  They ended up in two battles, neither with kobolds, and then headed back to Milburn Hall to end play for the night.

So what can I take from last night's game?  Well, first, for the games I run, I'll be pushing the idea of RSVPs... since apparently that's not common knowledge among high schoolers.  I think I can do a better job as a DM if I know in advance who and how many players will be there, especially since the group is so diverse in terms of play styles.  Second, I was again forced to set up two tables, which I thought had contributed to massive chaos in a prior game, but this time, didn't seem to hurt.  The characters broke into two groups, one to explore while the other guarded the entrance they'd used, so they couldn't be ambushed.  This actually worked well, and the only change I may try is to pre-determine physical seating so experienced players and new players are interspersed a little more.  I'm sure I'll think of other ways to improve the gaming experience, but I've got to get to work both on the actual play report, and on prep for tomorrow's Star Clans game.  Oh, and I just realized I didn't give experience for the 2 fire beetles they fought, so I gotta take care of that as well!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I can't run three games at once...

and I'm already running my Star Clans and OD&D campaigns.  But if I could handle a third, I'd go with this mashup:

Gamma-RIFT-Critical-Future Crawl Classics

It sounds incredible!

The the list of resources Jeremy provided is pretty awesome as well... I'll be collecting some of them for future use.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Article About Gaming (Story-Telling Style)

There's a very interesting article here at The Tao of D&D that, to me, has great explanatory power regarding gaming styles... Check it out!

As an old-school gamer, I found Alexis' commentary to be right on the money, and I'll be the first to admit I'd never looked at the change in gaming styles in quite that way.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

How Do YOU Handle "Problem" Players?

Friday night, my son ran his D&D game.  I play with them, and I think we had nine players this time.  Two of the players had come up with a back story since our last session in my son's world... and it involved mayhem and destruction.  Apparently, one of the characters had raped the dwarven king's daughter, and the other had shot an arrow at the king, accidentally castrating him.  Then they fled the kingdom, and somehow ended up joining our party.

Of the two, one player is new to the group, the other has a history of seeming to believe that, since we're playing a game, there won't be consequences to his actions.  (If you look at my Star Clans blog, you'll find that one of the characters ended up sentenced to fifteen years hard labor in the mines of Tralnor.  Same player.  If you go to my Exploring the Outside Inn blog, you'll find a character that made first level, chose to be a mage, and then attempted to join an orc tribe... only to die in the "trial by combat" they put him through.  Same player again.)  Now I've got nothing against the player... he seems to be a good kid (16 year old, I believe,) and he was playing really well in my game with his mage, until he got himself killed in hand-to-hand combat with an orc.

Back to Friday night:  our very first encounter was with a band of dwarves.  These two characters hid their faces behind their shields, while we spoke to the dwarves... and of course they were on the look-out for two fugitives, believed to have fled here.  Of note is that the majority of our characters had performed a service for the dwarven king several months ago in a prior session, and we'd been named "Friends of the Dwarves," a pretty big deal for us.  After much discussion, both with the dwarves, and amongst ourselves, we decided we wanted to retain that status... so we swarmed the two characters, knocked them out, and turned them over to the dwarves.

Ugly.  Ugly as hell.  I didn't like doing it.  Not only do I seriously dislike PC-on-PC fighting, it wasted a good hour of our time, AND as homeowner and host, I don't like shitting on my guests!  And while the new guy didn't seemed too phased, the kid who's been playing for a long time with us was understandably upset.  He figured we could just remain silent and send the dwarves on their way.  That sent me into "Dad" mode rather than player mode.  I told them that the game wasn't about the two of them alone, it was about all nine players and the DM.  The rest of us wanted to fight monsters, find treasure and live large... and we didn't want to have to hide out from the law because they wanted to kill peasants or attack town guards, or anything else like that... we weren't going to let them ruin our fun.  Then I walked over to my son, and asked if I could see him in the other room... and once there, I told him, "Either they roll up new characters and join the group, or they need to go home for the night.  I won't have them sitting there NOT playing, 'cause the group has enough distractions without two bored teens screwing around."  He looked at me, and agreed.

In front of everyone else, he told them pretty much that:  "Roll up new characters and play WITH the group, or go home now."  Luckily, they rolled up new characters, and we were able to get back to the game.  I acted as caller for the evening (Yeah, I'm THAT old school) and did my darnedest to keep the two of them engaged... and I think it worked out OK in the end.  We'll see what happens next time my son runs his game.

Saturday evening, I apologized to my son for jumping in and telling both him (the DM) and the two players how it had to be.  I also mentioned that I was a little shocked at how blunt he was with them:  "Roll or Go," but he simply said, "Sometimes that's what it takes with (player)."

Now, back in high school, I don't recall us EVER having problems like this... and when I played during my first assignment in the AF, we didn't let new players in without a trial period, to be sure they would get along with the group dynamic we already had.  So this was seriously uncomfortable for me.  It was especially tough since I wasn't even the DM, but I lost control of myself and lectured.

So here are my questions:  Have YOU had to deal with situations like this?  How did you handle them?  Did you remove players?  Change games or gaming styles?  Split the group up and play separately?  I want to do a better job of staying in player mode, and I want to equip my son to handle it on his own next time it happens... what do you suggest?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Weeping Mel

(As told by a grizzled human Belter.)

For as long as we've been in this system, there have been a handful of Melashravishim on The Rock, their home in the Outer Belt.  None ever left The Rock, or traveled anywhere.  Got no idea how they've survived out there.

"The Weeping Mel" was the first exception, though other Mel have since been spotted elsewhere... rumor has it there's even one in residence on the Starbrite!  Anyway, "The Weeping Mel" was the first.  About 45 years ago, it appeared in a public square in Tethorn, a city on Hub.  No one saw it leave a ship, and nobody saw it "appear," it just came walking out of an alleyway, and took a seat in the middle of the square.

The thing was repulsive.  It wasn't more'n a meter and a half tall, but it had to mass 300 kg, and it wore a robe of the shiny grey material they always seem to wear.  It sat down, threw back it's hood, and looked around.  It wouldn't make eye contact with anyone, and then it began to cry.  It sat there, crying, for 14 years.  Nobody ever saw it eat, or excrete, or sleep... it just looked around and cried.  For fourteen blasted years!

At first, it wouldn't talk, it didn't seem to understand GalTrade at all, but people kept trying.  A cult grew up around it for a few years, with people pouring out their hearts to it... Over time, it seemed to learn t he language, and then it would sometimes, very rarely comment on what people were telling it, and even more rarely it would answer questions between sobs.

Finally, after it had been crying there for 14 years, it stood up  It had lost most of it's mass while sitting there, and looked emaciated now.  Still sobbing, it slowly spun in a circle, then it spoke:

"People of The Hub, hear me.  You have asked why I weep, and I would tell you now, before I depart!"

Camera crews arrived within moments, although the personal recordings are far more numerous.  The Mel continued to sob throughout it's speech.

"I weep for what was, and for what is no longer.  I weep for the Firstborn of the Lifegivers, we whose purpose it was to guide our younger siblings to Union.  I weep for the lost glory of the Melashravishim, we whose purpose it was to reap what They had sown.  I weep, for in our hearts we grew jealous of the Younger, and turned from our purpose.  In our hubris we sought to leap beyond ourselves to Union, but we were not ready.  We sought to perfect ourselves, and yet still we were deemed unready, and denied Union.  As our hope turned to despair, we grew bitter, and ignored the Younger, and sought perfection and immortality for ourselves... and finally we found, not perfection, but immortality."

"We travelled from world to world, offering the Gift of Immortality to all Melashravishim, and to the Younger... but it did not work on the Younger, and many of our people repented and refused to accept it, knowing the Younger still needed guidance.  Finally came the day when all our people, everywhere, had made their choice... many accepting the Gift, the majority rejecting it.

And on that Terrible Day, the voice of the Lifegivers rang out everywhere, to all Melashravishim, saying, "You have turned from your path, and so your 'Gift' shall be your Curse.  As you desire, you shall live.  You shall live until ALL of the Younger find Union, until you are the Last of our Children, and then you shall be shown what you have rejected."

I weep, because since that Terrible Day, no Melashravishim have been born.  Those who repented are long since turned to dust, but we who were cursed are still here, still watching, still waiting.

I weep for the Undying, the Cursed, the Melashravishim."

It grew silent then, but continued to sob.  Many minutes passed, and when it was clear the Mel wasn't going to speak again, and that it wasn't answering questions, most of the crowd that had grown around it dispersed.  Sometime during that night, it stood, and pulled it's hood back up, and walked off into the heart of the city.  It wasn't seen in Tethorn again, and no other Mel has ever spoken of this!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Khorred / The Starbrite

The Khorred seem hardwired for music and for mathematics, and you'll find as many Khorred physicists, astronomers and professors as you will Khorred musicians.

This is a picture of Ga'a'atak, playing his usual weekly gig at the Starbrite, a bar/refueling station that regularly travels from Hub out to the belts and back in a six-month circuit.

The Starbrite is a large station, built into a rocky asteroid, which serves as an R&R destination for weary belters.  It features casinos, night clubs, restaurants and various pleasure centers, as well as low cost accommodations for the down-on-their-luck.  Some use it to make the trip from Hub out to the belts, others, like the aforementioned Ga'a'atak, hone their craft in front of station visitors, hoping to make it big later back at Hub.  The Starbrite sells refined fuel, and has a docking bay capable of holding 50 100-ton craft simultaneously.  Humans, Vargr, and Khorred will always be found onboard the Starbrite, while Bwaps (Newts) are almost never seen.  There is always at least one of the Melashravishim to be found somewhere on board, usually in one of the dark, smoky bars, buying drinks for belters in return for their stories.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Ten Second Art

After spending an hour trying to find the correct pictures to use as models for my Khorred, then swapping parts to rough out the look I was going for, I printed the draft, then began sketching... I had forgotten that I have absolutely NO skill drawing realistic arms, legs or hands.  This took place early today.

After church this evening, I showed my son the sketch... he was as appalled as I was.  He decided to work on some drawings of his own.  At one point, he told me he was having trouble drawing a squirrel, so I grabbed a pencil, drew a quick circle with a wobbly potato-shape attached to it, and scribbled a tail on the back. (2 seconds work).

Then I realized what it was really supposed to be, and erased the tail, added golden arches, legs and a face.  (MAYBE 8 more seconds).

Here he is:  One-Eye, the patch-wearing goateed butterfly.  BTW, he's NOT happy that you're staring at him!

I will do my darnedest tomorrow to update the sketch of the Khorred and post it... but we'll see.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Khorred


Intelligent minor race native to Khorrek/Chaynu.

The Khorred average 1 meter in height and mass 25 kg.  They are upright, bipedal, homoeothermic and bisexual, with an internal skeleton and a closed circulatory system.  Khorred have a light layer of hair covering most of their bodies, though their chest, neck and face are usually hairless.  Body hair ranges from white to dirty blond, while the shock of hair sprouting from the top of their heads is usually much darker.  Khorred of both genders have beards sprouting from the bottom of their chins, which typically match the color of their head hair.  Khorred have horns that curve back from their foreheads, and which average about a centimeter in length for every four years they've lived.  Khorred are two toed unguligrades.

Much like the Vargr, who first made contact with them, the Khorred show clear signs of having been genetically manipulated, in this case from small goat-like creatures on Khorrek.  The most obvious modifications are their hands, their heads, and their upright stance.  Their hands, unlike their cloven hooved-feet, have two fingers and two opposing thumbs each.  They can handle standard equipment, but prefer to have items made specifically for them.  Changes to the head include larger braincases, shorter snouts and more forward looking eyes.  In addition, their pelvises and spinal cords have been modified to allow them to walk upright.

Much like their animal forebears, the Khorred are highly susceptible to trancelike states provoked by music.  Although they come to immediately when the music is stopped, they will dance, leap or simply sway in time to music for hours at a time.  A Khor playing a musical instrument will continue to do so for hours, and thus, many are accomplished musicians.  Non-Khorreds listening to Khorred musicians often fall into the same dance-trances that Khorred do.  The Khorred are a very curious race, and strong in mathematics, and tend to go into fields such as music, physics and astronomy.

The Vargr found the Khorred on seven widely separated worlds in Chaynu Subsector:  Narrnnh, Tenn, Krarus, Leeon, Tokala, Nouwyr and Khorrek.  Each of these worlds holds Alien Ruins of a mysterious race of giants identified by the Khorred as the Tana.  The Khorred themselves were clearly not native to six of the worlds, and were just as clearly not the builders of the ruins.  The seventh world, Khorrek, was identified as their homeworld via genetic sampling of other species.

Khorred subtract four from Endurance, but add two to Dexterity and Education.  Enlistment DMs are -3 for the armed forces, +2 for Other, Rogues, and Doctors, and +3 for Scientists.