Saturday, May 29, 2010

Session Log 4

The party awoke within sight of a coastline, several days travel away. Kavan revealed to the party Olidammara’s role in transporting them. It was decided that the blight was fast moving, and their next course of action would be to measure its pace by visiting the Razor Wastes, a far southern continent. The party bartered passage on a ship of amiable sailors and made for themselves a temporary home. Among its passengers were a group of mysterious men, clothed in black. The first night on board was full of merriment and storytelling. One of the men broke his silence, in the midst of the eve, to tell a tale of the dragons that once inhabited the world. He spoke of a dragon’s temple, in the desert of the Wastes, and it was decided the party would investigate the legend firsthand. 
Days on the boat grew long and tiring. One morning, a golden bird flew from the horizon line over the boat, delivering a sealed note to the Lady Dierdre. Meanwhile, the young Birdie met in privacy with the men clothed in black.
One night, as the crew met once more for games and songs, the boat began to shake. Suddenly, a tentacle rose from the water, overwhelming the ship with ease. The adventurers gathered to defend the ship, but Thorn attempted to deter the attacks. He believed the creature to be an ancient, and at his word, Isis calmed the beast. It left the ship at peace, maimed but yet alive.
In a fortnight of travel, the ship had found port at the Southern continent. The party took a day to shop for wares, but Isis was confronted by a group of Rakshasa, violently opposed to her people and the familiar which she kept. Combat erupted, and Isis and Thorn prevailed. When given the chance to kill her attackers, however, Isis was halted by Thorn’s protests, and the two left in anger.
It wasn’t long before the party made their way into the desert, along with the black clothed men from the boat. They decided their next course of action meant finding the oracle who resided in the desert. Days of travel passed, until the sands around them erupted to reveal the forms of three hostile beasts…  

Does Size Really Matter?

Somebody recently brought up the question of how I decide the amount of people I let into my group. This is an interesting question because I think size is an issue too frequently overlooked, especially amongst teenage DMs. All too often when starting a new game you mention it causually to a couple people..then on the day of the event ten PCs show up at the door causing a mini heart attack.
My group at the moment contains 7 PCs, a very large amont for a group. The original number wad an unheard of 8 players. There are certainly a large lists of pros and cons associated with different group sizes.
I decided to let so many people into the group simply because there was a large group interested. My goal was to expose as many girls to dnd as possible. And the experience has been rewarding. It allowed the group a chance to bond, giving them a common connection to talk about in their everyday lives. Having a big group also allows a lot of diversity to come to the table. Great players can mix with the not so great, there is a wide array of pc personalities, and many different story access points for me to use. Similarly it makes the social aspect of dnd very rewarding because it's a big group gathering.
On the flip side large groups can be very difficult to manage. I personally combat this issue by drawing on my experience as a director combined with Machiavellian principles outlined in "The Prince." large groups aremoreprone to disruptive bouts ofconversation and joking that keeps anything from getting done. Keeping sessions regular is also more of an issue. Trying to scedule a day that works for 7 people is significantly more difficult then doing it for 3 or 4. We combat this issue by establishing a quorum rule. The "rule of five" states that we can play if at least 5 PCs are present.
Two days ago I DMed my smallest group ever. Two of my PCs had their own adventure within the adventure. There are definite benefits to groups this size. The game flows more quickly, is easier to control, and easy to scedule. My favorite thing about small groups however, is how truly personal the game can get. DMs can more easily make plot lines that tie directly to PC backstories, making the game all that more interesting. It becomes a pleasure to create situations that cause PCs to question their characters morals and motives. And their is no better feeling then making your pc so attached to their character that they physically tear up or gasp in horror.
In any case, most people have a perfect number that works for them. Every individual though has the ability to make a game perfect for the party size.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Session Log 3

The cloud revealed a powerful demonic creature which seemed to control the abominations at its whim. In the chaos of the attack, the party escaped with Thorn at their side.

When safety was assured, they set up camp, and the druid went off on his own for indefinite causes. Upon his return, he appeared physically drained. This occurrence repeated daily as the group travelled, though remained unexplained.

While no more creatures seemed to follow, the party encountered a group of hostile orcs. Though they were large in number, they were dispatched easily, save one who fled. As the party camped, groups of ravens began to congregate about them. Later that evening, the escaped orc returned with a horde to attack the group’s camp. One of the party members, Dierdre, in the midst of battle unleashed magical capabilities previously unknown to the whole of the party. In the battle, the group received the sudden aid of two twin priests of Wee Jas. Both Dierdre and the group’s rogue, Kavan, took to the priests immediately. Others questioned their motives and capabilities with mistrust.

The two priests affirmed their intention to bring the party to the city of Pallus, wherein an entirely new plague ravaged the city. The group agreed, on the condition they first be brought to Ronin to settle their current mission. There, they found only the soulless shells of the citizens that once resided there. It was then they transported to Pallus, a city that found itself in the midst of plague.

The group set up camp outside the city walls for the night, and it was then that Thorn and Isis were engaged.

The group made its way to the temple of Wee Jas, but found only death and pestilence in its walls. The priests, distraught by the murder of their fellow worshippers, made way to the center of town, where the prime political office was located. Though the building initially appeared abandoned, a familiar shadow moved about the inner hallways. The group found themselves in the presence of the very same demonic form that had devastated the druid camp. With little other means of protection, one of the priests stepped forward to attack. His arts were rendered useless and he was torn limb from limb at the whim of the beast. His sister knowingly sacrificed herself in the cause of allowing the party time to escape. As the party ran through the courtyard, they were met by the figure of Olidammara, The Laughing Rogue, as they dissolved into nothingness…

Friday, May 21, 2010

Trials and Tribulations of a 17-Year Old DM

Speaking from an honest viewpoint, most of the people interested in this blog have played Dnd for 5+ years at the least. I, in all of my 17 years of worldly experience broke into the game about three years ago. In this time I have played under six different DMs and run about four campaigns myself. As you can see I'm a bit behind the experience bandwagon.
Having played (and currently playing) in games with older DM's who have been involved for 20+ years has definitely given me the ability to reflect upon the weaknesses and strengths of my own DM'ing style.
Under both of these Dungeon Masters the games have been absolutely enthralling, capturing my imagination and sending the PC's home with electric excitement making the next session seem too far away...
The DM of the campaign I am currently PC'ing in is actually one of my own player's father, therefore I have dual aspects of reflection from myself and my PC.
There is an undeniable art to DM'ing, there are aspects that must be learned. How to appeal to player's, the balance between established rules and imagination, and how to read the PC's to know just what to put in a game. Not to mention the skill of world-building and story telling. So for now I'm doing my best to observe these skills in action from more experienced DM's in hopes of making my games better.
One of the thing that frightens most people about being a DM is how much you have to know. On the one hand this is a misconception, you do not need to know everything in the rule books. On the other have to have knowledge of the fantasy genre. I was able to come into the game so easily because the sheer fascination for the fantastical I had possessed all my life. Being older allows for a greater scope of that information, and a vast pool to draw from when creating stories.
Being a Dungeon Master is like being an actor, you never stop learning. No matter how many years you've played I think there is some aspect that will need perfecting.

Session Log 2

In light of the danger their quest promised, the party was joined by Pell, one of the most capable men of the logging camp. Dreams began to plague both Mochi and Birdie, two members of the party born and raised in the town of Ronin. Legend spoke of a young woman drowned in the lake beside Ronin, whose spirit watched over the town with benevolence. However, at the blight of stone, the woman’s spirit called for her children’s aid. Leaving the young Bella with the safety of the logging camp, the party ventured to the lakeside, and as night fell, the sound of a woman singing began to echo in the air. At the witching hour, the spirit of the woman made herself known to the party, and called forth her children to commune with her. She spoke to them of a druidic encampment to the north, which perhaps possessed the capability of breaking the curse. With little other option, the party made its way to the northern reach of the continent. For several days they traveled, until the tall grass beside the road began to stir with life. Suddenly, the party found itself face to face with an abomination; a dog-like creature with inverted flesh. They attacked, finding the creature susceptible to the touch of iron, but itself a danger to those who made contact with it. Several more came, but with them only the casualties of two horses with which the group traveled.

After a week of traveling, the party reached a nook of high trees, woodsung with encampments among their branches. Most of the party climbed the trunks with ease, but one of the group’s druids, Isis, slipped, nearly meeting her death. Her life was saved by the magic of a lively druid by the name of Thorn. Weakened by the days of travel, the party awaited the counsel of druids to convene regarding their quandary. While the party rested, romance bloomed between Isis and the young druid, who revealed himself as a half-elf. Upon assembling, the council decided to send forth one of their most gifted men to aid the party. This man was Thorn, and at the price of leaving, he and the party would not be allowed to return.

During their final night in camp, tragedy struck. The same creatures that attacked them on the road began to devastate the camps, paired with an ominous purple cloud…

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Session Log 1

I will be posting session logs of our adventures that were written by Alexis, the party member who plays our human female sorcerer Deirdre (and a little edited by her loving DM :)
First some backround: The majority of the PC's come from from the small town of Ronan, located in a country bordered by snowy mountains and vast coniferous forests. Across the sea to the south is the desert country of Rath'ka (The Razor Wastes). A string of islands connect these two large land formations. Magic is no longer a common occurence in the world, there is a council of mages who have isolated themselves inside a floating city and watch for children who display uncommon ability, they then take them from their parents and train them to become full-fledged members of the council. Most of the magic, and creatures of myothos perished in the dragon wars that tore the lands apart, creating racial divides that still stand in the lands today.

First Session:
Under their own circumstances and motivations, the party gathered in Ronin for a festival dedicated to the God Heironeous. In the midst of a large parade of clerics and knights, the festivities were darkened by a terrified messenger from the north, who begged the knights to gather in the town hall for an emergency call to arms. A logging camp to the north had fallen prey to mysterious attacks by wolf-like creatures, and numbers were dwindling. With the promise of reward, the knights sent forth several candidates to resolve the problem.

The party met for the first time at the logging camp, where they were welcomed by the men of the encampment with festivity and drink. Locals from Ronin named Birdie and Momo were amongst the party. The latter was apprenticed under a druid, named Isis, and both traveled with familiars of an uncommon nature. The adventure had also attracted a young bard, Bella. Much to the surprise of the knights who recruited them, a young noblewoman and her servant had volunteered their services: Lady Dierdre, of the house of Ravenspire, and Kavan of the North. Saelana, a cleric of the order of Pelor was enlisted, as well.

As night fell upon the logging camp, the men grew still with fear. Not long after, dark creatures stalked out from the woods. The party defended to their best efforts, though the camp suffered the casualties of their leader and some of their best fighters. The group decided the best way of unraveling the mystery would lie in the woods, and they followed the creatures through to their dark dwelling. Joined by one of the better fighters of the camp, Hans, they set foot into the beast’s lair, where they found a witch, surrounded by a dozen or more wolves. Adorned with an arcane medallion, the witch summoned the creatures to attack at her whim, and a perilous encounter followed. It was discovered the woman had been using her amulet to turn the men of the camp into wolves, and upon destroying the source of her power, the men could be freed. The witch, in her last moments, cursed one of the adventurers, Bella, and then seemingly vanished.

The men were returned to the camp, though casualties hung high in the air. When all seemed resolved, the cry of a messenger called the party to a new chaos: The people of Ronin had been seemingly turned to stone…

A little bit about my group...

I know I've had a request to describe a little bit about the group I'm running right now, so here goes. This will quickly be followed by session updates thus far as written by the party Sorcerer.

This specific group formed about two months ago and we play every weekend. I've run/played many games before and decided I wanted to start one up with all my girl friends. Only two of the seven had ever played Dnd before.
I personally don't employ technology in-game (except for the occasional bit of music), I don't use grids or figures either. Those details slow me down, because my style is very qick-paced and energetic.
Social dynamics wise...I'm currently engaged in two regular campaigns I'm DM'ing the all-girl as you know, but I'm also PC'ing in a game with two other girls led by a male DM. Honestly, I love having majority female representations. It might just be an age-group thing, but male players tend to take the story elements less seriously. Not to say they don't appreciate it, but in my experience girls use their diplomacy skill almost three times more often then boys. I can trust my PC's will try to resolve conflict with all their weapons, not just steel and spells.
I do have to build my games more carefully for female groups, because they are more willing to voice what is lacking in a game session. I am applauded whenever I provide a balance of role-playing and combat encounters, and if I don't...they let me know :)
The social vibe of an all-girl game is very comfotable. We usually organize pot-luck style sessions with everyone chipping in real food (not the usual munchies fare) and the game rotates from house to house. Like other games there are the periods of socializing, eating, and just as many sex jokes are mentioned during the game as in guy groups...

There are seven players in my party character wise we have:
Birdie, the human female rogue
Dierdre, the human female sorcerer
Kavan, the human male rogue
Pell, the human male scout
Saelana, the human female cleric
Isis, the human female druid
Momo, the human female druid

Yes, two of the girls play male characters. And quite well I might add. They all have great backstories and have formed an interesting web of relationships.

More to come with session logs!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Diversity of Magic Systems

Personally, I love playing/running wizard characters. I've tried almost every base class and yet still find myself once again rolling up a wizard. The appeal to the wizard class for me is two-fold, one: I've wanted to be a wizard since I was five years old having the Hobbit read to me, and two: the marvelous diversity encompassed in the class.
Most DM's approach the subject of magic from their own perspective. DM's are left to build the arcane arts into a world where fireballs and teleportation are realities.
The books leave the subject of magic implementation up for interpretation, some DM's support the notion that anyone can be a wizard just by choice and that every lowly peasant has access to arcane comforts. And this is often a path taken by DM's. Making for a truly interesting game however requires some extra DM homework:
Dungeon Master's have to make demographic decisions about magic, is it commonplace in the world? If so who uses it? What are spellcasters like? What is magic's political role? Answering these questions adds a completely new dimension to the game and also gives spellcasters information to spice up their backstories.
Similarly a DM must decide the actual mechanics of magic. And I'm not just talking verbal and somatic components... Spellcasting makes a huge access point for role-playing. Throughout human history there have been many types of magic and spellcasting and it is up to the DM to decide if these other types of magics exist in the world, and if your PC's could potentially learn them.
A DM is free to decide just how magic works in the world, if it operates by a set of scientific principles or if it comes from a specific source. Some of my favorite games have involved scholar characters who can only perform magic through stringent adherence to rules, it adds a sense of responsibility to the act of casting magic. There are two specific rules traditionally associated with spellcasting that I like my players to incorporate into their game:
1. The Law of Contagion- Things once in contact continue to interact after separation, anything once in contact can be used as a "witness". Traditionally exemplified by the use of a persons hair in creation of a voodoo doll
2. The Law of Sympathy- The idea that if the cause and effect of an action resemble a different action, they have resonance with each other. For example, if you wish to cast a fly spell, you might jump around with feathers like a bird.

Adding rules or systems like these to make scientific principles for magic in your game adds a depth and difficulty to playing arcane classes that the true role-players will definitely appreciate.
I've played under multiple systems of magic (some completely designed from scratch) but traditionally, the more elaborate they are, the happier a wizard I am :)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Means to an End.....the use of rule books when playing DnD

When explaining Dnd, which many have endeavored to do in order to reign in friends as must start by saying it's a game, a game played with only paper and dice. The mechanics of the game all lie in the interface of PC and DM imaginations.
And if this is the case, why do we need rule-books?
With every released edition of Dnd the rules become more encompassing, more specific, and more stringent. This causes a huge gap in the playing styles of older generation players and the new.
Younger players are immersed in a world of technology, video games that provide instant gratification with a couple button clicks are competing with traditional fantasy mediums like novels and of course Dungeons and Dragons. Because of this new generation where the principles of creativity and complex problem-solving are not emphasized, gaming companies have created systems like 4.0 edition. The central focus of the rules is on combat, the system enables easy, non-committal play.
Personally, I know exactly what I want out of the game and it doesn't involve rapid-fire combat. I love creating intense stories that pull in character emotions and reactions. Building worlds that are culturally interesting with diverse and rich histories is like my DM crack. And most of the time the rules just don't fit the bill.
Rulebooks should simply be viewed as supplements, they do not control the game, the DM controls the game. The books are sources of ideas, full of interesting spells, items, and monsters. Using this mentality I create games using multiple systems, I read the AD&D PHB just as frequently as I read the 3.5 PHB. I don't like to stringently commit to one system because I use pieces of many, and often just make up things based on the way I want to do them.
The emphasis on role-playing and story-building in the classic editions gives a gaming structure that speaks to the heart of what Dnd is, but I find its options lacking so I go to the 3.5 books.
All in all the rules for all systems are simply guidelines for those who need them, and never a controlling force.
This is an image of our group in the midst of playing, soon to be followed by our Dnd Video Post