Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Reflections of a middle-aged GM

       As I cruise into midlife I find it rather interesting that there may well be more gamers out there than I ever imagined as a teen playing Dragonquest back in 1981. Perhaps its just that my circle of relationships is so much larger now than as a teen, but I seem to have an abundance of players and not nearly enough time to play the various games that I would like to with them. My hope is that some of them will decide to run games for themselves because my track record for consistent playing is pretty poor. While I enjoy gaming immensely, it is still only a hobby, one among many, that I try to find room for while tending to the realities of my life and ministry.  One player has taken up that task and is running his own Dragonquest game. He is the youngest of the players and I think he has become very fond of the hobby. He is also frighteningly smart, I mean beyond smart. So are his two brothers and sister, I think the plutonium enriched milk really payed off for their parents. I am hoping that he might look at some other games as well. There is an abundance of excellent games.
       The current crop of new gamers rounds out at about 8 girls and 2 boys and 1 dad. The boys have broken into their own group and may add a few other players that I or the gaming prodigy mentioned above may suggest for the game.  Of the girls playing the game 4 of them are really committed to the game and 4 are relatively new. We'll see how they all shake out in the wash as they move through high school and get involved in other things.  2 of the girls rolled up characters for the game, but I suspect only because they hear their oldest sister talking about it and it sounds fun. I hope they play, but I don't know that they really will. My old gaming group from 12 years back would like to strike up something and that would bring in another 3 to 5 players depending on the group size.  It's a great problem to have.
       I keep trying to get the oldest girl playing to consider running a game, but she is more interested in playing. She is the daughter of a DM so it is her DESTINY!  But I don't think she sees it that way.  :(   Gaming is just one hobby among many. She is another of those incredibly smart people and I think she would do great at running a game. She is right on par with the previous prodigy. She has a full plate with the demands of High School, and probably does a better job taking it more seriously than I did.  I tended to think about the game during the last two years of High School and other ways to waste time. I never got any bad grades, but I certainly wasn't working at my full potential.
          Anywhoseit, recent experiences rolling up characters has made me consider some revisions for Dragonquest and the Blood Moon setting for the game. One of my main problems as a GM is my inability to leave the game alone. I am always adding something or doing some minor tweak or revision.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Night Jam - Shinedown

When this CD was released it rocked! It was one of my most played CDs that year and this song ranks among my favorites from it.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Badges for Padre

Tactics It's hard to play Dragonquest and not have some tactics. The combat aspect of the game can often feel like a mini-wargame.  Keeping encounters & conflicts balanced is a real challenge.

Mirror If the characters have a good suggestion I have no qualms about incorporating it into the game. I think it gives them a sense of ownership as well. The game is our collective endeavor. I may host the game, but it really is our story. I only have an inkling as to how it may play out with time.

Improvisation I usually have a final encounter in mind, or the closing act of the session but rarely more than that. How the groups gets to the final conflict/resolution is part of the fun.

Destined I always plan on them becoming destined for greatness, but fate does intervene and random deaths do occur from time to time. My hope is always one of appropriate challenges and entertaining/engaging story lines.

Death  GRIEVOUS! They happen, and someone usually dies. More than a handful of times have I planned for that final encounter only to have one of the players grievous their main opposition and bring the final chapter to an abrupt end.  However, fate is fickle and watching some well developed characters fall to random encounters seem to balance out the karma of the dice.

Beer & Pretzels In the end if it isn't fun I can't imagine getting all that excited about playing. I tend to see this one as a more light-hearted approach to the happenings of the game. Losing a beloved character is painful, but it shouldn't be the end of the world.

Tinker I wish I could leave the game alone as it is, but that will never happen. I will stop modifying Dragonquest once I am dead or have lost my mind.

Thanks Stuart for the awesome badges!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Reality vs Myth

I was recently over at a friend's home for dinner and their two daughters play Dragonquest. In the course of the discussion the daughter that plays Luka Dragonclaw kept asking me if her old mentor/patron was dead or alive.  I have often told her that the bronze dragon mentor was dead. The group has been away from the main campaign world and things got ugly in their absence. One of the lines I blurted out was that I was God (as far as the gaming world went) but any good GM/DM/Narrative Provider can tell that is a myth. While one might fancy themselves the "god" of their little campaign world, the real truth is very much the opposite. You play a cast of thousands, mostly forgettable, many dead, and only a few memorable castings along the way. Memorable NPCs can add a lot to the game and its fun, however they are not the core of a campaign, the players are. Bad GMs flex their nigh-divine might more readily and will probably lose players in the end as a result of their indiscretions and erroneous decisions. Bad GMs tend to make their NPCs overshadow the players as the main agents of narrative flow. When this happens, one has to ask why the players even bother to play? Anyway, just a random comment on a slow morning.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

All present and accounted for

Last night we played Dragonquest and everyone was present. 5 teenagers,  pre-teen and a dad make up the party and I get to supply the rest.  It was a fun evening light on the combat and more of piecing together the story line since we last played in June. Our brave adventurers have returned to their home plane only to find that a few centuries have passed and things have gone to pot in their absence. Many familiar faces and names are gone and replaced by newer hostile ones. They have found a few links with their past, but not many. Kelvin (The Dad in the group) always provides artwork while we play so I will be posting some of his random drawings here shortly. The evening culminated in the group splitting up with Rubella, Luka, Pandora and Jayana discerning the best course of action against the Draconic Kalz-Okrannian Empire (not much of an empire, but dragons do have egos) while Kevlin, Re and Tedzen plan on moving against the Drow who have conquered Marralion and renamed it Shadowfall. It was a fun evening and perhaps Luka will write some narrative accounts of it. (hint,hint)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Night Jam - Marshall Tucker Band

Since The Secret Fire has been on my mind most of this week, this seemed like a fitting Friday Night Jam.  Actually this song could make a good reason for an adventure.  By the way, its cool to hear some other group  use a flute besides Jethro Tull.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Just what every game needs and TSF delivers

Ok, maybe it doesn't deliver it. But it does include it in the rules. Thanks to Tenkar for not only pointing out that section in the text but now giving me a reason to hum this song the rest of the morning.

Monday, August 8, 2011

CROM! - The Secret Fire

"Whenever a PC suffers damage, he may call out for aid to any Elder God in which he has Ranks. This assistance will come automatically and without visible effect, except that it will reduce by half the damage taken by the PC. A character may call for aid once per day for each Elder God in which he has Ranks. For example, twice per day if a PC has Ranks in both the Void and the Great Unknown."

Normally calling out for the gods to do something in Dragonquest has no effect unless one is a cleric, templar or inquisitor. I think letting characters call out an get answers with unknown consequences would certainly be fun. Obviously you don't need this game to include such a thing, but it was a fun read. The game definitely has a more Lovecraftian feel to it than many fantasy RPGs.

"Be warned: These debts never come in the form of simple penalties to Attack, Damage, or Skill checks — they are infinitely more interesting, or bizarre, than that. A PC may wake from unconsciousness to find himself lying in a pool of blood — the blood of his allies, who lie dead at his feet, clearly murdered by his own hand."

While I may never play the game, it has an interesting flavor. The only thing that bugs me a little bit is some of the artwork and some of the footers that looks like more demonic incantation imagery.  I know, I know it's all part of the genre, and its only a game.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

First gut reaction to The Secret Fire

Lookie!   Satan makes it to page two! Ok, even given my profession my first gut reaction is not to do a knee-jerk reaction. My only real complaint is that throwing such artwork right in the beginning creates a certain impression of the game. Too often I think that inclusion of occult imagery in games is like adding nudity to a movie, not essential but often used to juice up the rating. Now does an average fantasy RPG contain demons, more then likely but most games are not centered on dealing with demons, selling souls and such stuff. If they are, that is something that the players and Game Master feel comfortable with as part of gaming.  The two initial pieces of artwork a purchaser of the game sees from the get go is a typical group fighting the dragon and meeting Satan of the Moobs.  Speaking of which, he could really use a chain mail bikini.   Hard to take "The Adversary" seriously with man boobs.

“Life’s too short to spend 60 hours a week crouching in front of a typewriter writing rules. The more you explain, the more you have to keep explaining. Use imagination and initiative, for heaven’s sake!” - Gary Gygax

I have to say this quote makes the game worth reading and potentially playing.

"EP are the most important game mechanic for a TSF player. They represent the untamed forces that propel adventurers ever forward, as well as a player’s strength of character in the face of adversity."

Another great quote and an interesting ability in the game.  Thanks for the nudge Tenkar!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday Night Jam - Bowling for Soup

Was going to put Johnny Cash up here tonight, but wanted something a little lighter and fun. Maybe the Man in  Black will get the post next week.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Red Dragon Inn

The first game introduced us to the four adventuring friends gathering at the Red Dragon Inn to drink, gamble and fight. Zot the wizard with Pookie, Gerki the Sneak, Fiona the Volatile and Deirdre the Priestess each have their strengths and weaknesses while interacting at the inn.    The game is essentially a run to be the last person left at the table. You lose your seat at the table by either getting drunk, suffering too many injuries or running out of money. The cards are very easy to understand with such headings that indicate when they can be used in game play.  Anytime, Something and Action cards the three main cards that a player can chose from in playing the game.  "I don't think so" is the fun denial card that occasionally allows you to prevent someone from spiking your drink, twapping you hard or taking your money via gambling or other means. Play with your friends and make sure there is something to do for those who get knocked out of the table early on in the game. There are two expansions to the game and I will offer some comments one them soon. It's a lot of fun and make sure to read the description of various cards as played, that's part of the flavor and fun of the game.

Here is the link to Slugfest games:

Dungeon World

Of Ireland and the Irish

Of Ireland and the Irish