Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Missing Players = Plotting & Getting Cool New Shiny Things

So last night, only two of us out of six PCs ended up at the DM's place. Two gave notices that they had family functions ahead of time. One made a last minute cancelation 15 minutes before we were suppose to start and one didn't show up.
Our DM wanted to try and scale down the encounters and still play but we came to the conclussion that the effort has been put down to play a proper session. So let's wait to play a proper session with the intended amount of people. We ended our last session entering a new city so we decided to plot out what kind of trouble we could get into.
We played around with some random event generator tables and tweaked it a bit to the three of our likings and flavour to fit what our characters would be up to.
After the initial disappointment that we wouldn't be "playing", the night still ended on a positive note. Skull (Holly's character) has now lit a portion of the city on fire and Memphis (my character) is on the down low as the watch are looking for him after he was conned into a shady business venture.
Details are still being penned out and we were also rewarded cool magic items which I'm still coming up with some back story for it.
What started out as a bummer still proved to be a fun couple of hours and we even got to do a little bit of trouble shooting for a cool mechanic that I am planning to implement for Paper Legends. To tell you the truth, I think that our next session will have a much richer story than what was originally planned as Holly and myself got to pull our characters from first to third person perspectives and partake in the actual shaping of the setting outside of actually playing it. Hopefully that little extra bit of depth and connection that two of the PCs have will bleed over to the rest of the party. Now to see how it actually plays out. Happy gaming even when not actually gaming.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Beast Companions, Familiars & Other Tag-Alongs

I think that having companions in D&D run properly as an actual skill to do well. They can bring enhancing mechanics, liabilities for the party and possible flavour to the game. I personally feel that they really need to be played with character along with some hints of backstory and cues that lead to development. I've seen equipment with more personality in some cases.
My premier experience was from the first ever campaign that I got to play in. Our Wizard had a Falcon Familiar that he would use to channel his powers through. Outside of encounters, this thing rarely ever showed up and aside from when it was mentioned that he was using the falcon to cast _____, it wasn't much more to me than a tiny based mini that sometimes sat on the battlemat grid. Nothing against the player of the Wizard as he's a really great guy but was just not taking advantage of the roleplaying possibilities that this bird could have brought to the table.
The next one that I would have the pleasure of "meeting" had absolutely no game mechanics whatsoever. In that same first campaign set in Eberron, the Dwarf Warden went into the slums of Sharn and hired an Orc hanging around some street corner. This Orc would become his minstrel hired for more than two shinies and the DM even came up with some basic songs that he would sing. On many occassions when Volstag the Mighty (Dwarf Warden) was doing something or our DM was describing what Gorsh (the stupid Orc) was up to, I would catch myself singing his songs at the table. He added a ton of flavour to our sessions and prior to my leaving that campaign, I was even thinking about taking on the role of Gorsh as my Changeling Rogue was now staying in a kingdom posing as the recent secretly murdered king. Mechanic wise, Gorsh had nothing in terms of rules and was never presented on the board even though in most cases he was assumed to be in the room when fights broke out.
The shortest lived companion I would see came from the first Session of Paper Legends. Ulfr was originally created as a Beastmaster Ranger. The rules behind how the beast companion worked in tandem with the Ranger proved way too limiting and frustrating for Ross that all the coolness factor behind having a panther following you around town was lost. Ross ended up letting the cat die in the middle of the session and retooled his Ranger's fighting style. The only thing that would've saved this panther would've been character attachment. Or maybe not.
I've seen a couple more show up but they were in store games with players coming and going that they meant absolutely nothing to me.
Here's my current favourite example of a tag-along. In the first session of Paper Legends, Kris's character, Vincent Moren decided to keep the Kobold that they had interrogated as a pet and named him Puppy. I had this Kobold killed later that night and it drove the character into a frenzy. For the third session, Kris had requested that Puppy's body be reanimated and I agreed to have an NPC do a ritual making him into a Zombie Kobold. Puppy has proven to be amazing story telling element in and out of combat situations to where this Zombie has more flavour than many PCs. Very funny (or sad), especially when you consider he doesn't speak or really do much of anything aside from follow Vincent around and make sandwhiches. I myself might have as much attachment to Puppy as Kris does as we're always talking about different ways to justify Puppy's preservation from you know...decomposing, etc and how we'd like him to evolve. When interacting with NPCs, they're always trying to figure out what's up with "that smelly thing". Puppy makes for great conversation starters within the world of Paper Legends, prepares sandwhiches (we've actually house ruled a Daily Power out of this) and allows Vincent to shows his "tender" side as he is a very OCD and self-centered character until Puppy is put into danger.
Now for our newest Familiar. In the campaign that I'm playing called "On The Bones Of Dead God aka Heavy Metal D&D", which is DMed by Kris that plays as Vincent in my setting, our Sorceress recently acquired a Dragon Familiar. This to be named tiny Dragon is the half-brother of our Drow Sorceress. Her mother, the Queen of Spine is married to a Black Dragon after having her previous husband assassinated. Don't ask me if this little guy was hatched or birthed and we met him as he snuck up on our party following Matilda (who prefers to be called Skull) in order to protect her. Holly has played it up that Skull is repulsed by the little guy (mostly due to the concept of a Drow and Dragon breeding)and my character, Memphis Green(a gun toting Elf Seeker) has been interacting with her Dragon Familiar more than she has. Kris roleplays on behalf of the little guy (thank God as I do not want to see Holly talking to herself when trying to be both characters)and I hope that during this campaign, even though the Familiar makes Holly's Sorceress more badass, he will actually be more attached to my Seeker.
In summary after a long ramble of my experiences and using many brackets, I just want to say that these tag-alongs in an RPG can be so much more than "items" to your PCs. They are characters just waiting to be explored, especially when you realize that they're going thru hell and high water with your party.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Paper Legends: Session 2.5 "I Got To Meet A Dragon..."

The little Kobold and the Firebugs have an akward little stare down. After a moment, the Kobold cautiously approaches them and makes his way towards the Shardmind. When within arm's reach, he studies "Dave" out of fascination by the translucent build. Noticing that no one has raised a hand or their voice, the Kobold grabs "Dave's" hand and drags him to the tunnel that he was peeking from. The entire crew follows them into a cavern, complete with rocky spires and small hoard of valuables. A little further in lay a Green Dragon, fully shackled, badly wounded with his wings mangled beyond recognition. The Kobold approaches the creature with full reverence.
He is Maugen, originally from the Forest of Maine. He had come to the Millwoods Forest with the remnants of his Dragonborn and Kobold subjects after being defeated and exiled by other Dragons from his homeland. Maugen continued to explain that he came here to regroup and rebuild but in his weakened state, Thalos Calgarron, his second in command rallied the other Dragonborn around him to overthrow Maugen while keeping the truth known to the Kobolds who simply thought Maugen was in the cave recovering. Through a ritual, Calgarron was able to tie his life source with that of Maugen. This explains to the party how he was able to take such a beating and that everytime they struck Calgarron, Maugen also suffered from the blow.
Bellows continues his suspision but the rest of the party, particularly Korgath and "Dave" feel pity for the Dragon and offer aid to bring him back to health. Korgath insists that he be allowed to start the healing process and Maugen snaps back with the request for death. Upon further coaxing, Maugen says that if he were not in such pethatic circumstances, he would be picking his teeth with their bones by this time with absolutely no remorse.
With that answer, the Firebugs look among their ranks to figure out who will do the honors. Ulfr steps up to the wounded Dragon, lifts a row of scales on Maugen's chest and thrusts his longsword straight into the beast's heart. The party refrains from taking much of the treasure in the lair as they know that OOPS will have to catalog and redistribute the valuables to their rightful owners.
The heroes part way with the Kobold make their way back to Old Strathcona after Vincent recovers the body of Puppy. After returning to The Warped One, Fireman Tim is nowhere to be seen around his office. They make way further down into the second basement arena to find Fireman Tim organizing bets on the bleachers. In the ring, Thor Frostfang. Not recalled to aid another unit in a scouting operation but to be the main event.
*End Session 2*

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Letting Go Of The Tracks & Tossing Them Into The Mosh Pit...I Mean Sand Box.

Last night was a neat session, we had a rather long encounter (about three hours) but it didn't turn into a painful grind and after we ended the gaming for the night, I began talking with my players about wanting to give them more of the reigns to lead Paper Legends more and more into a sandbox for them to explore. I even put the PCs on a train and had the tank engine blow up with the thing stopping before their destination to literally say "Hey, we're screwing with the railroading and to really make this OUR game". We talked a bit about where I'd like things to go and really have their input. And I even had them crash not too far from a town so that I could be forced into practicing something that I need to grow in; lots of possible NPCs for the party to interact with and for them to be memorable. Thanks Christian, your post blatantly pointed it out to me that it was an area that I needed growth in.

It was also really cool to talk to one of the players outside of the session about a neat plot twist I have in mind, and he himself blatantly said that it'd be okay to kill his character if that's what it takes to make this happen and that he really appreciated that I had discussed this possible plot turn with him to get his feedback. The funny thing is... I never said that his character would have to die for this event to take place.

RPGs have been so rewarding and fun for me. I really wish that it wasn't tagged with the "negative" side of nerd/geek stereotypes as it is such an amazing form of group entertainment. It's also pretty amazing to see one of my old classmates who has very little exposure to geek culture, play out his character. Josh is new to the whole gaming thing, and while he is relatively quiet at the table, when the cogs turn and he describes what he wants Thor Frostfang, his Ranger to do, it usually ends up sounding like something I would love to see in a movie. Many times it puts me on my toes as to how I will have to figure out how to house rule it so that he can do the amazing things that he wants to do.
I am so blessed to be able to throw dice down with these guys!