Sunday, 29 January 2017

On Having Raided the Merchant’s Crypt

Well done, entourage of ten. You took a beating, and many of you lost a lot of blood, but no lives, largely thanks to the healing powers of two clerics and a paladin present. It was a long battle, but you successfully destroyed all of the skeletons that came into animation and flocked to the sword you were removing from the dead merchant's coffin. 

I want you to remember this adventure well, because any decisions you make in this connexion during the next session are likely to affect you for the duration of your short lives. 

Perhaps it was a bit underhanded of me as a DM to lead you into this adventure by giving information as a 'hook' to the one character whose player wasn't actually present; and to thereby lead you into the skein of circumstances surrounding it, but what the hell—you’re all big boys and girls. You can handle it. Unless, of course, it turns out that you can’t. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 

The basic premise of the quest was fairly innocuous. I filched it from a set of pre-fab adventures called ‘One-Room Dungeons’ which are available online somewhere. This one was called 'The Merchant's Crypt', and if you happen to look it up and read it, you won't find anything more than you knew already by the end of last session. But, scheming fiend that I am, I chose to connect it to something larger and more diabolical just because that’s the way I roll. 

You removed the sword from the mausoleum and at the end of the last session you had decided to carry it to the churchyard and bury it. It is of such weight that it takes two of your men to carry it, so it would clearly require a STR greater than 18 to actually use it in combat. You decided to bury it on hallowed ground because the sword is clearly evil—the paladin detected a loathsome sentience from it at once—and, this being Trinity Sunday, most of the village are feasting at the lord’s hall, so you’re not likely to be spotted going from the cemetery to the church.

The picture below is a basic rendering of the weapon. 

It is two-handed, more than five feet long, and constructed of an uncannily durable black alloy that resisted all of Ragnar’s attempts to break it. It appears to have been forged from a single piece of metal, with the exception of the pommel, which is a sphere of obsidian or some other coal-dark gemstone grasped firmly into talons at the end of the grip. The grip is wound with black leather from some unknown beast, and the chappe is decorated with a demoniac head with eyes made of the same gemstone as the pommel, and horns that wrap around the reverse side of the guard. The blade is considerably wider than that of most two-handed swords. It’s queer-looking, it’s conscious, and it’s malicious. 

I want you to remember all this, because when the actions you take during the next session come back to bite you in the posterior at some later date, I don’t want to hear anyone say, ‘Wait, did we do something with black sword? When did that happen?’

It happened on Trinity Sunday in the 50th year of the Reign of King Edward III. 

Thursday, 12 January 2017

What It's Like to Be Me

The entourage are about to go grave-robbing, because one exuberant member is a heretical, blaspheming heathen, and I don't want to delve too deep into that story until it's underway, so for the nonce I'll just entertain you with a peek inside my psyche.
When I mentioned several posts back how exhausting it was to run the game, one of our players commented that he had had no idea. As an introvert, I draw my energy from time alone, and find it depleted by human interaction. My ideal formula, to really be at my best, is about two hours of time alone for every hour I spent with people other than my wife. (Interestingly, her personality is similar to mine, and even in each other's company we spend prolonged periods without talking. Before going to sleep, we lie beside each other and read our seperate books for an hour, and it's bliss.) Extraverts draw their energy from the 'good vibes' of other people, and usually don't know what it's like for us. Extraversion is, I think, typically interpreted to be the default position because extraverts dominate numerically and socially.
In MBTI terms, our current campaign consists of ESFJ, ESFJ and ENTJ. I normally test INTJ, but have tested ISTJ on a few occasions. (My wife is as likely to test ENTJ as INTJ, depending on her mental space at the time.) This might be unusual; I've read that people who enjoy RPGs and video games tend to be introverts. I don't interact with enough people to be able to draw any kind of statistical relevance from my own experience. But I'll tell you what it's like for me as a DM.
By way of analogy, I'm a person of average fitness going, twice a month for a several hours at a session, to work out with professional athletes. Normally, I exercise alone, and I follow my program at my own pace, following a set plan with no surprises. It's difficult but rewarding, and I feel good at the end. These bimonthly special sessions are a different matter. At the same time I'm trying to relay information as concisely as possible without missing out anything essential, bits of other conversations are flying about, I'm asked questions and expected to know the answer--after all, I'm the DM--and the answer has to be both correct and succinct. I'm trying to hold several strands of information at once while engaging everyone's attention and not making errors. It's sort of like being told,  'Okay, now bench press your own body weight ten times!' As soon as I hit the bench for the first rep, I'm told, 'Wait, before you do that, do a hundred pushups!' So I scramble off the bench and get into position, trying to remember that I have to get back on the bench press as soon as I finish, and another athlete is meanwhile asking, 'What's your body fat percentage? How many pullups can you do? What was the exact protein content of your breakfast?'
When I play a character in AD&D, he is always an ESTP. I always had a phantasy of being an ESTP, like Theodore Roosevelt, Richard Branson, or Jack Sparrow. I couldn't conceivably spend protracted periods in the wild with other adventurers in my real-life personality. I would self-destruct after a few days. The kind of character I play, though, would thrive on it. (I miss the days when someone else was DM and I could be that character, living vicariously in a world that doesn't exist.) Introversion, unfortunately is neither a choice nor a habit, but, as someone once put it, a nervous system setting. That part of my life which requires interacting with the world beyond my garden, fighting crowds, and meeting new people would be much easier if I had my character's personality--but then, I would probably be living a life of adventure, not playing at one from the comfort of my dining room.
I was, incidentally, told once, 'Well, if you don't enjoy it, just don't do it'. I don't believe I'm alone in this--although I may be in something of a minority--but I do a great many things for purposes other than pure 'enjoyment'. Perhaps most people, especially those who have jobs they don't like, go through so much on a day-to-day basis that when they're finished with work, they just want to have fun. Cyndi Lauper wouldn't have sung it if it weren't true. But for me, the chance for exposure to different ways of thinking, the intellectual benefits of types of mental gymnastics far outside my comfort zone, and a visceral immersion into another world, are very much worth the expense of mental and physical energy.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Toward a Better 2017

Happy New Year.
I have nothing of crucial import to relate or even much desire to say anything, but one of my promises to myself for 2017 is that I would get back into the habit of updating this thing once a week. The danger there is that a lack of material will cause me to scrape the barrel and, unable to come up with anything, might post an expose of any of the countless adventures and side quests with which I shower the party, only to say Look at what you fucks missed because you didn't follow that hook!
That wouldn't be nice at all.
One would hope, though--or least I would--that being forced to write something every week might focus energy by the very force of habit and make the writer more prolific. It couldn't hurt to spend more time on the game.
Or could it?
Most of the time, before I game, I prepare orders of magnitude more material than the party is possibly going to use. I sort of go all-out for a week, and really get into the campaign world. I see all sorts of possibilities and exploit them. Unfortunately, we rarely play. We play so rarely these days, in fact, that game time moves more slowly than real time.
I attribute this partly to everyone wanting to accomplish a great deal of things in the space of a few game days. It is rushed, to be sure, but I sort of understand it--lounging around enough for the PCs to recover psychically as well as physically would mean spending money on food, when they could be out there earning more, by adventuring, than they spend per day. Even though it would be the most natural thing in the world after intense action, no one wants their PC to sit around when it's usually just a question of whether leaving today with all the money versus leaving Tuesday minus twelve shillings. To the player, it's the same instant no matter what day we decide it is in the game.
I can tell you, though, if it were me, I wouldn't have my character do much in winter. Somewhere around mid-autumn when it became physically painful to grasp the pommel of a sword and I faced the prospect of my horse getting stuck in snow, I would say That's all for this year, mates, I'm going to batton down the hatches. See you in spring.
(In game time it happens to be spring at the moment, buy I'm saying this because it's ostensibly winter right now in the place in the world where I type this. We have absolutely no weather to show for it.)
Incidentally, one of our players, who happens to be leaving us for foreign shores in the near future, is keen on buying an inn, which I think is a capital idea. It would be a perfect place for his character to retire, while also providing a home base for the rest of the entourage--free lodging plus a little bit of extra cash to spare, if the business is successful.
Currently, the party is in Oxford and hoping to get some clues toward a certain mysterious book they're carrying. Our prospective inn buyer can expect some information on real estate from his sources when he returns to Ludeforde. The entourage is ten strong and all have horses.
We're supposed to play this weekend. Let's see if we do.