Saturday, September 14, 2013

Some Useful Resources for Ships in D&D

Just wanted to share two resources that I've found very helpful while thinking about sailing in Greyhawk:

Designing a Ship for a Fantasy Novel

Warship Diagram

I tend to favor the 14th century and earlier when looking for inspiration for D&D, but I made an exception when looking at ships. My primary reason is that 15th century ships make better adventure locales than their smaller predecessors.

I felt this was justified since overland travel is so dangerous in Greyhawk and teleport so hard to come by, great ships might have been developed "earlier" than they were in our world.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Favorite Deity/Favorite Character I've Played

I missed a couple days of the D&D 30 Day Challenge, but conveniently, these two work together.

My favorite character was Jean-Pierre, a paladin of Rao, Greyhawk's god of peace, reason, and serenity. I liked the idea of playing a paladin who is a diplomat first. For better or worse, I was playing this paladin in the first two Against the Giant modules, meaning we started each module by attempting to parley with unreasonable, despicably evil giants.

I would like to someday play this character in a sandbox game with like-minded players.

My inspiration for a gifted diplomat with a french name who is able to back up words with action when the situation calls for it?

Attribution: Paramount Pictures,

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The d30 of Doom

My favorite die is my trusty yellow d30, which I bought from Citadel Game Cellar in Groton, CT (a great gaming store for you New Englanders).

Not the actual die as it's not nearby. Attribution: G2 Collectibles & Hobbies

It's a little unusual in its shape and size, which is cool, but this isn't the reason it's my favorite. I bought this die when I was running my AD&D homebrew game set in the world of Auracrux back in college. The way I decided to make use of it was this rule:

"If I have no idea how to go about making a ruling that must be made quickly, I will roll the d30. If I roll a 1, something bad happens."

My game was a game about epic heroics, prophecy, gods fighting, etc. Not the sort of game I'd run now, but fun. Two of the characters, Serrah (a name level Cleric and the prophesied "Daughter of Virtue") and her bodyguard, Varno (originally her friend Alfred, who died and was sent back to finish serving Serrah) had left the plane of Auracrux to request assistance from The Council of the Planes, a panel of 9 gods they had discovered by accident that existed beyond the monotheistic plane of Auracrux.

When they got to the outer planes, they discovered that Auracrux had been sealed off to prevent outsiders from influencing the outcome of the approaching war between good and evil. Refugees could leave, but no one could go in under any circumstances.

In retrospect, this seems sort of silly, but oh well, it happened. Really, the whole plot line of having a multiverse beyond Auracrux was a bad idea. I had recently purchased Manual of the Planes, and I thought I should incorporate it.

Anyway, this required the players to consult with outer planar sages to find another portal into their home plane. After some work, they found the portal and stepped through, without any of their normal auguries, etc. I had not determined where this portal should go, but I knew they had the magical capacity that most places on the plane wouldn't be more than a hiccup, so I invoked the d30 rule.


This led to their teleporting to the south pole, the domain of an insane wizard of incredible power whose dream was disrupting the war between good and evil and elevating himself to the level of a god. Now he had prisoners to use as a bargaining chip. This led to several weeks where the other players and some other PC's controlled by Serrah and Varno's characters penetrated the south pole, slayed the wizard, and rescued the priestess.

That's why I love my d30. I think there are a lot of problems with the way I was running my game at that time, and arguably, this was the "jump the shark" moment of that campaign, but it's the only die I have with its own story.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Why I Love Greyhawk (30 Day D&D Challenge)

My favorite published D&D setting is Greyhawk. The reason I like it so much is that it's built to be a D&D World. Some other settings are very ambitious with all of the elements they include, and those who love the setting are familiar with a deep metaplot. This is fine, if that's what you like, but the Greyhawk box set by Gary Gygax supports a D&D game straight out of the box without any fuss or concern about other people's plots.

I've played in and run adventures in several regions around the Flaeness, but for some reason I keep returning to Ratik, which really has a lot of what I'm looking for in my settings. It's a frontier. It's got barbarians. It's got an evil empire, but not one that's up in your grill every day of your life.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

My Favorite Class (30 Days of D&D)

I'm continuing to do the D&D 30-day-challenge. Today's entry is about my favorite class.

My favorite class is the paladin. Specifically, the first edition paladin. Originally I liked the Paladin because I liked heroic stories with goody two-shoes characters. Now that I prefer a more gray setting, I like the idea of the paladin as a character given extra capacity in order to survive in a world that's not very friendly to his way of doing things.

I now see paladins as sort of doomed, a la (Book 1 of Game of Thrones spoilers here) Ned Stark. Following the rules is a thankless job in a gray world. That being said, death comes to most characters in AD&D, paladins just hope it can be a noble death in the name of something good.

Image attribution: Dos Equis

I think this is general best practice for paladin-hood. Do something cool before everyone gets sick of you.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Humanocentric: My Favorite Playable Race (30 Days of D&D)

My favorite playable race is humans. Boring, right?

A Typical Member of the Species

The main reason is aesthetic. Humans as the core of the setting just feels right. If most of the characters in the setting are strange races, those races aren't strange anymore. Sometimes I question if there's a racist subtext to this attitude, but that way lies madness. All of D&D has an awful racist subtext if taken too seriously. This race is "usually chaotic evil." Are they born that way? If so, shouldn't we kill them all? On the other hand, does their society make them that way? If so, how can we reform that society? etc. That's pretty far off the rails. All I'm saying is I feel like most player characters should be human to ground the setting a bit in a single cultural perspective.

I know that last sentence will grate on some D&D players. "Variety is the spice of life!" Many people will play a race just because they've never played one of those people before (a bottomless cauldron of races exists in later editions of D&D). There seems to be a belief that more races means more story and role playing potential.

My answer to that? Almost all of the incredible stories of the literary canon include one race (human) and one class (fighter, with almost all of the others being 0-level or commoner types). Race and class alone do not make for good story.

Then Again, This Is a Character From Shakespeare...

In fact, I think some of the variety of racial choice becomes a crutch for role playing. "I'm an elf, so I hate dwarves, and I'm aloof." "Well, I'm a half-orc, so I'm big and dumb." Not everyone who plays non-humans does this, obviously, but it does crop up too often for me. I think human characters require the player to step at least a little further away from cliches and put some thought into who their character is.

Favorite human characters:
Justinian, the 1e AD&D cavalier paladin who found a pool transmuting metal to platinum in a randomly generated dungeon. He and Vedron became fabulously wealthy and retired thereafter
Shelby, the 1e AD&D illusionist/magic-user (probably not kosher, but man did he have a lot of spells) who left the comfort of his plush family estate to fight frost giants in G2.
Jean-Pierre, the 1e AD&D PHB paladin who fought the hill giants in G1, fought the frost giants in G2 before being captured by ogre magi and sold into slavery. He was later rescued in D2, before being promptly gutted by a nameless kuo-toa

What's your favorite playable race? If you're doing the 30 Days of D&D Challenge, link your blog in the comments so I can follow you.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Raised from the Dead: How I Got Started (30 Days of D&D)

I think I'm going to get back into doing this blog as I recently started running AD&D again and would like a place to post my reflections.

There's a thing going around called 30 Days of D&D in which some of the bloggers I follow are doing a themed post each day. I figure this is a good way to force myself to seed my blog with some relevant content. Also, the first day is "How I Got Started" which seems an appropriate start up when resurrecting my blog.

Raised From the Dead
Attribution: New Line Cinema via TheOneRing

Growing up, I got into the Super Nintendo generation of role playing games, starting when my cousin, Laura, loaned me Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest. Weird that my girl cousin got me into RPGs, right? Anyway, that game wasn't that great, but I loved it. I became aware later that these video game RPGs were based on table top games where anything was possible, and this intrigued me. However, I had been taught by my fundamentalist upbringing that D&D was evil (we had the famous Chick tract Dark Dungeons in our home and the lesser known Adventures in Odyssey radio drama episode Castles & Cauldrons), so I never sought out the forbidden materials.

Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest
Attribution: Square via Wired

Toward the end of high school, my Spanish teacher, Sra. Miller, told me that her daughter and I had a lot in common, and her daughter (who attended a rival high school) started writing me notes on my homework (probably not ethical educational practice, but oh well). That eventually turned into AIM conversations (this betrays my relatively young age for an Old School Renaissance type). I got the sense that this girl knew a lot about geeky hobbies that I had never had the opportunity to pursue, so on a whim I asked her if she knew about Dungeons & Dragons. It turns out, her dad ran a big AD&D game once a month for his daughters and their friends. So, I got the invite! Weird that a girl got me into table top gaming, right?

Brilliant strategy by the way: luring geeky boys to your home for D&D using your high school age daughters. I thought about posting a picture of a succubus here as a joke, but these girls (now women) are way too cool to be reduced to a sexist cliche.

So how about this instead?
Attribution: swerc on deviantArt

I attended that game only a few times because it wasn't particularly convenient for a guy without a car. So, I bought the first edition AD&D books and started running my own game when I got to college and was free to pursue whatever wickedness I liked. I met some lifelong friends that way, including Vedron of Vedron's Potion Shop.

How did you get started with D&D? If you're doing the 30 Day Challenge, please link your blog in the comments so I can follow you!