I’m working on an idea I’ve had brewing for a while, which is mixing the fun of a murder mystery party game with the geekiness of a D&D setting. I would most likely create this as a one session game, heavy on roleplay and less emphasis on combat, most likely for a convention run. Basically, I would take the template of what makes a murder mystery party game: dead body, list of suspects that all have good motives for murdering the victim, and every suspect knows some dark secret about each other and is willing to reveal all in order to make themselves seem less culpable. Here is what I’ve written so far in my notes about the game. I’m omitting any information that only the GM should know, just in case anyone who is reading this might later play the game. Don’t want you to have any spoilers.
Bucky, the dead bard
The Set up:
All the players awake in the middle of a dungeon. None of them remember why they are in the dungeon; it appears as if their short term memories have all be magically wiped, so they begin to look around and take stock of their situation. The room is cold and constructed in damp stone, there is a smell of fresh blood, and that is when the players notice the dead body on the floor.
It is the bard! Once a very useful member of their party, the half elven bard, named “Bucky”, lies dead on the mossy stone floor, stabbed with his own rapier, and in a pool of blood. Who could have done such a thing!? Everybody in the party loved Bucky….or did they? With nobody remembering what happened, how will they find out whodunnit?
The Haughty & Pius Paladin
- Why you profess innocence: You are a knight of all that is good and holy. You would never hurt a fly…unless it had evil in its alignment.
The Seductive and Manipulative Sorceress
- Why you profess innocence: You and Bucky were frequent bed mates and would never think of murdering such a caring man who you loved so very much. You are shocked and traumatized by his death and vow to burn alive the murderer who killed your lover!
The Sly and Greedy Rogue
- Why you profess innocence: You and Bucky were great buddies and got along famously. He was always there to cover for you and keep the paladin looking the other way while you stole candy from babies and family heirlooms from poor people. Why would you assassinate such a lucrative business partner in crime?
The irritable and aggressive Barbarian
- Why you profess innocence: You not kill little singing man, he make you feel special! He sing about great barbarian and make you feel like best warrior in battle. You never fought better when he sing behind you. You sad to see little man die in dark with sword in back. No honor in that.
The hippie tree-hugging druid
- Why you profess innocence: You love nature and life and only wish that everyone would just live in harmony with each other and build their houses in trees and stop eating meat. You hug trees, you don’t kill people. All life is sacred! Common people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another….
So that’s what I’ve got written down so far, at least what I can reveal at the moment. Each character obviously also has reasons for why they would kill poor Bucky, however I’m omitting those details on this blog as they are supposed to be revealed throughout the game.
I’m currently debating whether to have the players fight their way back through the dungeon in order to get clues as to the true identity of the killer, or just ensure that different players are given cards with torrid gossips that they secretly know about another character, and just stand back and let everything progress naturally. I’m worried that having a dungeon crawl element as well as the heavy role play of the murder mystery aspect will make the game too long to run at the convention, so I’m leaning towards the option of just letting it be a pure roleplay session, which is more traditional of a murder mystery box game.
Imagine if you will, two male drow from a noble house in the Menzoberanzan. These two drow, a fighter and a rogue, have been doing various missions to help maintain the survival of their house, who’s matron mother has yet to provide a female heir, which makes the house a target for the other houses.
There is a geographic feature in the Underdark called The Rift. The Rift is a giant chasm that’s a few miles long and most likely a kilometer or two deep, that the drow of the Menzoberranzan use as a convenient garbage dump, tossing the bodies of slaves and such into it. There are also a few major houses who perch their towers and fortresses along the edge. There even used to be a series of hamlets built along the rift that housed slaves, however recently there’s been a shortage of slaves in the past year so these spill-over towns are largely abandoned.
The players discover–from happenstance and some investigation–that there was this hive of insectoid like creatures that lived in the deepest crevaces of the rift, feeding off the carcasses that are regularly tossed down over the many hundreds of years that the Menzoberranzan has prospered.
GM Notes: The insectoids used were Vivisectors, CR4 from MM5 pg 200.
Recently, as the slave trade had come on hard times, and slaves were a bit in shortage, there weren’t as many bodies being tossed in the pit, so some of the insectoids, starving from the decreased food, were starting to make their way into the city and preying on living victims. Disappearances were becoming higher than normal, and the different drow houses were secretly blocking up their private tunnel networks, unwilling to admit to anyone that they were having any problems at all.
So, the characters are faced with options on what to do about this. After hundreds of years of dumping bodies down the Rift, this hive is most likely very massive. As GM, I give them a few ideas via an NPC’s personal advice. #1: Figure out why the slave trade is low so, so they can increase the body count again (but this will only put a bandaid on the problem. #2: Try to find a way to sell the information to a more powerful house and profit from it while making it someone else’s problem (a very crafty and very drow thing to do)
The two players, both veteran gamers, decide that they will take their own option…the greatest and most stupid plan I’ve ever heard characters try in my history of DMing.
The Plan: Gather up as many 50 gallon barrels of alchemist fire that they can find (nearly 100 in total), toss them all into the bottom of the rift, throw in some fresh corpses to ensure the hive collects in that area, then throw a flaming corpse down into the rift to set it all on fire, burning up the hive, saving the Menzoberranzan. If the plan succeeds, take credit for it. If the plan fails, run like hell and deny everything.
The players know full well that what they are doing is the stupidest option, however they push ahead with the plan, knowing that their characters would think this is a good idea, and they want to play their characters accurately. Also, I think it was because the two players were feeling mischevious, and wanted to know what the GM would do, fully willing to sacrifice their characters in the process. I won’t get into the details on how they managed to procure this insane quantity of alchemist fire, just that it took them pulling most of their resources, contacts, and an insane amount of luck. Once the characters got everything into place, the barrels were dumped using Bug Bear slaves, the slaves were killed and thrown after the barrels, then lastly, a flaming corpse was thrown into the rift. The characters ran like bats out of hell.
I made a calculation of a 50 gallon barrel = 400 pints. Each pint = one flask of Alchemist fire, which does 1d6 damage, an average of 3 points of damage per flask. The characters just caused 120,000 points of fire damage to the bottom of the rift. This does not include the pockets of methane gas that had developed from years of decaying garbage.
This is the result:
The houses that lived along the edge of the rift are all but decimated. They were either overwhelmed by the swarms of monsters trying to escape the flaming Rift, or fell into the Rift as the pockets of methane gas exploded and sent unstabling tremors that caused sections along the edge of the rift to colapse, bringing the houses perched on those ledges tumbling down
Thousands of medium sized insect creatures swarmed out of the rift like angry wasps who got their hive kicked by a little kid (this hive was really huge, and while the fire killed of a chunk of the population, the rest went wild with rage. Also, ala Starship Troopers, I put in larger insects in the mix too. Gargantuan and Colossal sized Siege Beetles ((MM5 pg152)) came crawling up from the Rift and charged toward the Menzoberranzan. After the population got over the initial shock, powerful priestesses and wizards from all the houses along with quickly scrambled armies began to fight back, but the juggernaut force of some of the Siege Beetles still punched through into the city, and one Colossal sized Siege Beetle ((CR19 once the HD is upped to 35 and the size is increased to Colossal)) was heading straight for the walls of the two characters’ House. Hundreds of drow manned the ballistas, however the situation looked bleak.
Both players are fully aware that their characters are not likely to come out of this alive, and are even starting to jokingly chatter about what their next characters should be. They have a right to be pessimistic. When characters make a mistake this massive, it begs for the massive hand of the gods to come down upon them. To reward the players for letting their characters do something so epicly stupid in sacrifice to an amusing story, the least I could do was to ensure that their deaths were epic and worthy of song. Ballistas fire, but not many successfully hit. The chitin armor on this Beetle gives it an AC in the 30s, and the players are only lvl8. The Siege Beetle launches it’s colossal bulk into the air, buzzing it’s giant wings to help it charge ever faster as it smashes through buildings and stone columns in a bee-line for the fortress walls. It’s the fighter’s turn, and he takes aim with his heavy crossbow, which is only a +1 masterwork weapon.
The player rolls his die, only half paying attention to the game now that he believes his character’s death is all but assured. I ask him what he got. There is a short pause as the character stares at it, then states “Uh…I got a natural 20!”
“Ok, roll to see if you manage to confirm.” I reply. I don’t believe he will, as his fighter has to roll very high to confirm the high AC of the Siege Beetle.
The player, now more interested now, rolls the die again. Another short pause as his eyes light up. “I got another natural 20!”
I almost don’t believe it, but it’s plain to see the die rolled up 20 again, as he rolled it in plain sight of everyone in the room. I say, “Uhmm….well you definitely critical. Wanna roll again?” The reason why I ask him to roll again is because of one of the most accepted house rules in almost any D&D game, which is If three natural 20s are rolled on a dice in consecutive order, then it’s an automatic kill.
I’m not a statistician, however I believe the odds of rolling 3 natural 20s in a row is about 1/8000.
Suffice to say, the colossal siege beetle, a bolt piercing into it’s only vulnerable spot, crashed to a stop just inches in front of the fortress walls. Not skipping a beat, the lucky player stands up and proclaims -in character- to the rest of the shocked drow of his house, “And that is why I should rightfully become house weapons master!”
Less than two weeks ago I was at Charcon (the best small gaming con on the east coast, seriously!) working on the staff, and I had the opportunity to play in a short dungeon crawl titled “Orc and Pie”. Doug, the GM who runs the event every year at Charcon, has players run through an orc infested dungeon littered with traps in search of keys that they collect in hopes that they will find the one key that can open the orc king’s treasure chest. Does the treasure chest hold gold and jewels? Nope, they hold pies, and delicious pies they are. At the end of the game you as a player get to take the keys you’ve collected and try to open the locked chest that Doug has sitting at the table. If one of your keys is the right one, the lock will open and inside are a selection of cute little mini-pies that you can purchase from the local Walmart bakery. Doug runs the game every hour throughout the convention, and it’s become a permanent feature. What’s Doug’s fun little dungeon crawl got to do with the title of this blog? Simple, he uses the rules set from the Pathfinder RPG rulebook.
While my first experience with the rules was extremely brief and limited, the big thing that really caught my eye was the small differences on a pathfinder character sheet as compared to the 3.5 sheets I’ve been so used to working with. As a GM of the 3.5 system, I’ve stoically been holding onto my stacks of 3.5 books with all the stubbornness of an old woman that refuses to let animal control take away her 20 cats. There have always been a few things that I’ve had issues with in this older system, however the rules are comfortable to me, thus I don’t want to let go of them.
I don’t mean to insult any of my readers (all two of you) who might love and enjoy 4th edition, but I spent too much money and time into 3.5 that I don’t want to throw it completely out in favor of a brand new edition. Also, I think all my players might mutiny against me if I switched to the new edition since I’m apparently one of the few GMs left in the Charleston area who still run 3.5. I might not be prejudiced against 4th edition, but there are still a lot of hardcore 3.5 players out there who are, and nowadays I’m starting to find that when they discover a ‘traditionalist GM’, they flock to him/her like gnats to a kool-aid cup.
So when I sit down at the table and look at my pre-made character titled “Ninja Bob”, my interest is immediately piqued when I see that the skills are streamlined, but not too dumbed down. After the game was over, I asked Doug about the streamlined skills, and he explained to me the wonders that is the Pathfinder system, and how it not only fixed many of the hiccups with the original 3.5 system, but also allows for backwards compatability with any of the 3.5 source books that players and GMs might already own.
In summary: Why throw everything out and start over when you can just make a few small fixes?
I don’t think I’ll go page by page into the changes and features in Pathfinder that I absolutely love, as there are plenty of RPG blogs and podcasts out there that already explains things much better than I could. One of the best most comprehensive reviews I’ve seen so far is the Know Direction Podcast #001, so check out that podcast if you want to know the entire thing.
The final word though? One week after the convention I bought the Pathfinder Core Rulebook and am planning on buying the Bestiary soon. Doug is already running a regular Pathfinder game every Sunday at our local game store, and I’m most likely going to upgrade my two currently running games to the Pathfinder system soon. Also, Doug informed me about the Pathfinder Society, and is considering starting up a chapter in the Charleston area. Count me in!
If you live in the Charleston, WV area and would like to join me in my new enthusiasm for Pathfinder, let me know. I also tend to hang out at our local game store, The Rifleman. Come in and say hello!
Recent experiences in games I’ve run has inspired me to write on the topic of D&D alignments. Now, I admit I have not delved into 4th edition yet. I refuse to pick a side in which system is better; the only reason why I still write about 3.5 and run games in 3.5 is because…well…I own almost every 3.5 book out there and I’m not prepared to make the jump away from that extensive collection just yet. 3.5 fits me like a comfy glove and I’ll probably continue to use it until I’m financially able to delve into my wallet to start purchasing 4th edition. So, that being said, this article is about the 3.5 alignment system. More specifically, the Lawful Good alignment.
Lawful Good DOES NOT EQUAL Lawful Asshole
Many players, I’ve come to find, make the biggest rookie mistake when it comes to playing a character with that alignment. Most notably when they play a paladin or cleric character, and that is the thought that Lawful good = Lawful Asshole. Perhaps they’ve gotten the wrong idea from watching the more fanatical religious sects preach on public access stations. Perhaps they’re getting the wrong impression from D&D stereotypes they’ve seen in cartoons. Perhaps the description of the alignments in the players handbook just don’t explain things all that well. Whatever it is, the average newbie player usually ends up playing the Lawful Good character too far into the extreme: Constantly using his “detect evil” ability ad nauseum with every NPC (or sometimes using on the other players!) even when there’s no obvious reason to need to do so, threatening to smite down anyone who doesn’t act as saintly and piously as they do. This usually results in loss of party cohesion, with the rest of the player characters distancing themselves away from the lawful good character to the point where it’s hard for the GM to keep the story running. It’s hard to move the story along when the characters are still stuck in that tavern arguing with the lawful good character whether they are allowed to spend any of the party’s money to drink anything alchoholic.
So, what is Lawful Good anyways? A character’s alignment reflects what his/her personal view of the world is, not necessarily what they think everyone else’s view of the world should be. Just because ones character chose a life of piety and goodness doesn’t necessarily mean that they expect everyone around them to have the same devotion to the law as they do.
Paladins (as it’s a convenient character class to use as an example) have been known to choose to look the other way as the party’s rogue heads off to sneak around and steal something , as long as the act of theivery does not truly hurt anyone and helps to further the goals of the party. The paladin would never dream of sneaking around the back of a building to break in and steal the mayor’s map, as that would be against the town’s law, however the same paladin would not object to the rogue doing it, as the party needs the map to find where the kidnapped princess is hidden, and the mayor won’t give the party the map because he’s secretly a bad guy. See what I’m saying?
To use a more real life analogy, take the Catholic Priest (I have dated a LOT of Catholics in my years of college so I’ve got a good outsider’s perspective on it) The Catholic Priest is extremely devoted to his faith, and is the perfect example of the Lawful Good alignment. He has taken a vow of celebacy (not an easy vow for any adult) and has completely dedicated his life to the study of the bible, the teachings of his faith, and following a life as far away from temptation and sin as he is capable. Does he expect everyone to be as dedicated as he is? No, not everyone can do what he does. Any priest worth his salt does not push his religion upon those who don’t want it, and is understanding of those who follow different faiths, however he is always ready to teach his faith to those who would listen and to help out whenever he can.
In summary, what I’m trying to say is that one’s alignment represents a character’s personal view of the world and him/herself. How eager they are to influence others about his/her view is strictly a decision of personality.
Every summer I have a fun light summer game, much like how folks do some light summer reading. One particular summer game I ran is extremely famous. It was titled “Fellowship of the Wee People” and all players were required that any character they made had to be either a halfling or a gnome, thus the “Wee People” part. This game was made famous not because of the storyline (which I don’t think anyone still remembers despite the large amount of work I put into it) but because of the hilarious interactions between the players, both in character and out of character. I still have players, many who have since moved away from the promised land of the West Virginia hills, send me emails or talk to me online about just how much epic fun they had in the Wee game, reminding me of all the great quotes that came out of it.
I wish I could take full credit for it, but alas I am an honest woman, thus I have to put credit where credit is due: that for one summer, the stars aligned and the gods of gaming shined down upon my tiny apartment and my assortment of chips, famous chili cheese dip, and other gaming snacks, and blessed me with the perfect combination of players. Charles, Randy, Darwin, Bryan, Andrew, and Dave, I’m looking at you! Here’s a “small” list of quotes made famous from the game:
Darwin talking about his character’s riding mount: My weasel is happy.
Dave: If that’s not a euphemism, I don’t know what is.
Bryan on the subject of unidentified food: Eat ‘em, and in a few days we’ll see what you rolled.
Andrew: Somebody’s . . . going . . . camping!
Darwin trying to mimic animal sounds: Croak! Raven noise!
Darwin commenting on the cleric of death: I think he’s a Dracula.
Darwin: Some of the richest, creamiest fat in the world.
Randy: It’s like butta!
Charles commenting on the druid’s small leather bag: That’s actually boar scrotum.
Darwin: You wouldn’t have to worry in the winter. Kobolds are endothermic.
Dave: Oh, look who knows a big word now!
Randy: I use my Knowledge (nature) to tell you how full of crap you are.
Randy looking for the town’s head authority: I spot the sheriff . . .
Darwin & Bryan: . . . but you did not spot the deputy.
Darwin on the cleric of death: I think Count Von Count was what really happened to Mr. Hooper.
Randy: I’m going to send my ravens after them very heterosexually.
Ben declaring what spell he’s casting: Detect Thoughts.
Dave: There’s some thoughts over there!
Dave: Swampalanche isn’t actually a word, you know.
Darwin: It is now!
Darwin: Suck arrow, nefarious foe of virtue!
Dave throwing his only dagger: Take that! Oh damn, I’m out a weapon.
Charles on the barbarian battling something much bigger: Vaila is going to go kershwinky!
Darwin: You’re a cleric of Dracula, right?
Ben who played the cleric of death: Close enough.
Charles trying to convince the barbarian to take first watch: You’re a barbarian. You don’t need to sleep. You just lie there and stink.
Darwin: Shh! Listen! You smell something?
Darwin: When he farts, you can see it.
Dave: Did the zombies smell like pee to begin with?
Randy: Jizzumped in the izzass!
Emily (calling for initiative): Seven?
Darwin, Ben, Bryan & Erin raise their hands
Charles: You pretty much have to fire it right after you lick it.
Dave: You’ve done the math, haven’t you?
Randy: Taste the painbow!
Charles: Just talkin’ ‘bout Master Windu.
Dave: I can dig it.
Emily asking a player what he’s doing on his turn: Finkin?
Charles: He’s summoning a rabbi.
Randy: What’s this? A baby? Dracula don’t eat babies!
Erin: I like playing with Otiluke’s spheres.
Darwin: I can not spell today.
Dave & Bryan: T-O-D-A-Y.
Darwin: You can all eat my ass.
Charles: What are you talking about monkey-gripping?
Erin: So we’re racking up the hypothetical vomit.
Dave: On me.
Darwin: I love America . . . but I love projectile vomiting even more.
Darwin: I dated a female firefighter once.
Dave: That’s “firefightress.”
Dave: Hey baby. I’m the Barry White of kobolds.
Erin: That is wack . . . we are so white.
Emily: I actually did a –
Charles interrupting: Pickle?
Erin: I thought he was going to throw one of his minions.
Dave after casting enlarge on himself: I’m big now. I can do this.
Erin on candy: I ate the biggest Nerd.
Darwin: Zirconiums are cut glass.
Charles: So are my nipples.
Dave commenting on Charles’ misspeaking: The only “merson?”
Charles: Merson? Go to Hell, whore!
Darwin’s battlecry after a party member died: Nobody splits someone I marginally dislike in half!
Dave on bad dice rolls: My dice have shit mojo.
Randy’s redneck dictionary, D&D edition: Mayonnaise kobolds really got you worked up, huh?
Charles coming to the cleric of death’s defense: He’s got a point there: he is not a Dracula.
Charles being sarcastic: Oh dear God no! Not Woodland Stride!
Darwin being more sarcastic: That’s even worse than Find the Path!
Darwin who’s character hates all kobolds: It’s not about the killing; it’s about stopping the kobolds. As long as we do that, I’m all for it.
Randy: I think I could predict that decision.
Randy: . . . or every time he said “kobold” his butt itched.
Randy on people we don’t want showing up at the door to interrupt the game: I’d rather Mormons show up than Jehovah’s witnesses.
Dave: And I’d rather Jehovah’s witnesses than Jason Voorhees.
Charles: And rather Jason Voorhees than aliens.
Dave: And rather aliens than kobolds!
Randy: And rather kobolds than Scientologists!
Dave: And rather Scientologists than Draculas!
Darwin: Kobolds don’t do everything! Are you crazy?
Randy: Shield dragon. Breath weapon: Listerine.
Randy on the DM having difficulty reading part of a module: Emily got the one written by a drunk.
Erin: Yes, aim is definitely important in bed.
Randy: My eye!
Charles: It’s Tony the Tiger! Get your weapons!
Randy: He’s epic-level! We’re f*ked!
Dave: He’s a crazy ranger. He’s a cranger.
Darwin: I’m a ranger, I’m not retarded.
Randy: So you reach into the crack, huh?
Darwin: I measure time in nutrients!
Charles on Emily revealing to the players the significance of swamps to the main storyline: . . . and the little baby swamps were rebellious and had lots of sex, and that’s called incest.
Dave: A huge f*king sandstorm, but no rain.
Dave: I’m going to roll my Knowledge (swamp) check.
Erin: Locate Swamp.
Dave: I don’t have that spell.
Erin: It’s a 3rd-level barbarian spell.
Dave (sniffing): Banjos?
Randy (singing Gregorian chant style): As we invoke the great celestial toad / We call upon the power of its riiiibbit.
Randy: My God, man, without his gallbladder he can’t sustain laughter of this magnitude!
Darwin: I hate you as much as Superman hates milk.
Randy: Butt Grease of Fewer Hemmorhoids.
Charles remarking on the cluttered apartment: Like we don’t have enough crap in the living room.
Bryan: Yeah, Darwin.
Erin: Me neither too.
Bryan: How else you supposed to cough with a bunch of tentacles in your face?
Emily on making money: I doubt I could pawn a character sheet.
Dave: Is that the plastic cups theme song?
Darwin In character: Are you saying I stink?
Bryan Out of character: yes.
Dave to the druid: Summon a squirrel, say, “Get in that pot.”
Randy on his druid’s ability to talk to and summon animals: I’m like the land Aquaman!
Randy: The V secretly stands for P, which stands for “poverty.”
Dave: There’s nothing gay about homosexuality.
Randy: That wasn’t a salt lick! That was an arsenic lick!
Erin: He’s an awesome bitch.
Randy: Let’s sing the song!
Darwin (singing): Our bitch is an awesome bitch . . .
Randy on how too many players had initiative of 4: This encounter was brought to you by the number 4.
Dave: . . . and the letter L and the person John Leguizamo.
Randy: Are you punching John Leguizamo?
Dave: John Leguizamo is an American actor. He can be punched for random numbers.
Erin: I also hate all Men Without Hats’ other songs.
Andrew: They have other songs?
Charles: Ethereal . . . Melissa Ethereal.
Randy: Yay! I rolled a 1!
Bryan: But we’re rolling d6’s now.
Randy: Hey, is this a big blue monkey wearing a Goofy mask?
Charles: I’ve got bad hearing because of my pinky. Why? Because it’s in my ear.
Dave to the barbarian: Not to sound ungrateful, but who are you?
Darwin: Yeah, who are you?
Charles on his character’s religion: Some day you’ll learn that there’s a better god.
Emily asking for initiative: Who’s higher than a 10?
Dave: I’m higher than a kite.
Erin: DNA is made up of things called nucleotides.
Andrew: Is that like a bomb?
Dave about to roll a die: John Leguizamo, don’t fail me now!
Charles: Nicest guy in the world, too . . . the priest, not the f*khole.
Randy: Wow, this mountainside is hot! It’s like boobs!
Erin: And nipples implied.
Charles: And we call them the Grand Tetons!
Randy: Kobolds are the reason men have nipples.
Emily describing the scene: These are dead goblins.
Dave: The best kind!
Bryan: Sorry mistress! Look, you even broke my thingies!
Darwin declaring his move action: I’m going to mount Ripper-Tearer.
Charles: Ooh, hot!
Charles: Where you gonna stick that rubber chicken? I don’t know, why don’t you come over and find out?
Darwin: John Leguizamo is proof that there is a God, and He is mad.
Darwin: That’s why destruction is kinda like Christmas.
Darwin: I wouldn’t rub your butt even if Robin Williams came out and granted me three wishes.
Dave: You drink it and for some reason it tastes like bananas.
Randy: No, it tastes like Tab.
Darwin: No, it tastes like John Leguizamo.
Charles on DM attacking the players with her “kitty swarm”: I’ll give you a fortune: you gonna get some cat.
Charles: She’s just randomly doing finger things over there.
Dave: I’m so gonna overclock my face.
Charles: In Soviet Korea, cat eats you!
Randy after the emo black dragon broke down crying: There is no crying in dragons!
Darwin on the crying emo black dragon: Let’s put him out of my misery. I’m hungry.
Charles to the Emo Dragon: Pay no attention to the insane one who smells like a cesspool bathed in a slaughterhouse.
Charles: The gravy’s made of kobold blood!
Darwin: If I hear the word “pathetic” one more time, I’m killing everything in sight.
Charles: Don’t worry, I’ll get you a mirror.
Darwin: I don’t see mirrors.
Charles: What are you, a Dracula?
Darwin: Stop trying to confuse me with your physics.
Bryan: I’m on your side, Darwin.
Charles: Shut up, Darwin’s Twin.
Dave on another player’s large number of feats: He’s got a feat fetish.
Randy: You can really make a woman laugh by doing naked jumping jacks.
Dave: It’s the poopellor!
Randy: Great, asshole, you shot the sun down! Now what are we gonna do?
Randy: No, I’m being serious: are green hags really green?
Dave: There’s so many dead gerbils!
Charles: Erroneous, erogenous, same difference.
Randy as Erin sifts through Em’s dice bag: As Erin fondles Emily’s things . . .
Darwin: That’s not nearly as sexy as you made it sound.
Charles: Hey Emily! Feel my knife!
Charles: Necrophilia: pop a cold one! Don’t like the hole she’s got? Make a new one!
Dave: How much damage can a penis take?
Charles: 97 points.
Darwin on cannibalism in D&D: If it’s a monstrous humanoid, I say dine away.
Randy: Yeah, well, you’re screwed up.
Dave on an NPC’s alignment: Yeah, he’s like Lawful Nazi.
Bryan: You’re gonna get man-bosom?
Darwin: Every time you roll a die, God punches John Leguizamo.
Darwin: I wonder if giraffes are courageous.
Dave: Hand-to-hand combat with a giraffe?
Darwin: Yo mama’s so fat, she’s a dwarf!
Darwin: I couldn’t put his legs back on and he wanted to die, so . . .
Dave on the halfling run shoe store: The sign says, “Sometimes hobbits actually wear shoes, bitch!”
Bryan: That’s the name of the store.
Darwin after Emily described the shoe shop: whenever a store has that much flavor text, I’ve got to investigate!
Dave: He had to tunnel through eight miles of bullsh*t!
Andrew: Do you have any slippers of silence? Because in black operations, we –
Dave: Yes, anything to shut him up.
Darwin: I don’t want to be the one to F.A.R.T. in the Tomb of Elemental Horrors! (FART is an old acronym for Find And Remove Traps)
Emily describing the store special: Fifty copper each, or ten for –
Darwin: I want to be entombed in a pyramid of shoes.
Darwin to a merchant: I hear you have a belt. (famous last words before buying a belt that changed his gender)
Dave: A little bit tittier, but still you. (after Tosseid donned a belt and got changed into a girl)
Darwin: Now all those shoes I bought won’t fit! (after being changed into a woman)
I don’t know if anyone has ever noticed this (perhaps I’m the only one), but not many gamers that I have ever encountered are actually all that excited at the setting of Oriental Adventures. Whenever I say “hey, interested in an Oriental Adventures game?” and I usually get “meh” responses. And I admit that once, many years back, I would have said “meh” as well. Now I’m a big fan of the setting, but I’ll get into that later.
So why do gamers not like OA? Two theories. The first one is posed by my friend Darwin, who has been GMing for much longer than I have. He says, “They dislike it because it’s different. People don’t like the idea of worlds where they don’t automagically know all the rules.” ((author’s note: not sure whether his misspelling of ‘automagically’ was on purpose or mistake. I’ll let you decide))
This may indeed be a part of it. As people grown up in western culture, we know its history more intuitively than we do Asian culture and myth. Also, most of use played regular D&D before we branched out to other alternate settings and game systems. Therefore, most of us can find comfort in D&D like a warm electric blanket. We know it, we know the classes well, and we know how our characters should react to certain governments and nobility structures. Oriental Adventures is based on different society with ancient customs that might be a bit hard to understand to players who don’t know much about the setting, and it can be a bit disconcerting to have to rely on the GM to guide them along and teach them the way the society works. On the other side, if a GM doesn’t know the setting well, they would be discouraged from diving into it. Learning the OA setting requires more research than a typical D&D game, which automatically cuts down on the number of GMs willing to run it.
The thing that counters the above theory is that of all the players I’ve talked to that don’t like the OA setting, conversely greatly enjoy asian culture in the form of anime, manga, and kick-ass Jackie Chan and Jet Li movies. And I was no different. I avidly enjoyed watching anime, especially ones based off ancient asian myths and legends, however for some reason when I was first asked if I wanted to play in an OA game, my first reaction was “meh”. I really wasn’t interested much. I was surprised by my own reaction, so in spite of my inhibitions, I agreed to play in the game anyways…
…and it was one of the best D&D games I’ve played in. Why? because A: I had a great GM who was talented enough he could make a Poo RPG game less shitty. B: he did a lot of rewriting and reworking to change the OA setting to center more on Japanese myth rather than a miss-match of asian cultures. and C: he new a TON about Japanese culture and history and mythology (it was kinda his college major), thus the concentration on Japanese side of OA.
This brings me to my personal theory on why folks don’t like Oriental Adventures much, which is that the source material…well…kinda sucks.
Well…it’s ok. It just seems like the authors of it wrote the game as an afterthought. (I’m speaking of the 3rd edition books here. I don’t have any experience on the other editions so I’m not sure if they’re any better) The book is a weird mishmash of Chinese and Japanese myths and histories and cultures, and that wouldn’t be annoying if they did it in a better more organized way. They would have been better off sectioning the book into Chinese-inspired and Japanese-inspired chapters, maybe spliting Rokugan into Chinese-esque and Japanese-esque nations, or something. It’s as if they really didn’t do much research into Asian myths to make it all that accurate; they just worked off of what cliche’s they remembered from their childhood and squished them randomly together in a way that would make any self respecting person of Asian heritage weep. The Rokugan setting isn’t that exciting either. Even the Asian area of the map in Forgotten realms seems to be an afterthought too (I’ve heard similar complaints about Maztica).
So whether folks don’t care for OA because they aren’t familiar with it or because they just don’t think the source material is built well enough, I think that needs to change. If you’re willing to put a bit more work into customizing the game and bringing it up to par, it’s an extremely fun game to play in. We all enjoy kung-fu movies and anime, and I’m sure some of us at least felt a little bit pumped to play an OA game after watching Forbidden Kingdom in theaters (very fun movie btw). I took the tentative plung into the genre and I’m all the better for it, so try it out yourself if you haven’t already!
In later articles I shall be working on my own version of OA. New world, my own self-drawn maps of a completely original world, reworking of classes and creatures. I’ll be doing this in 3.5 ed, as I’m not familiar enough with 4th ed to try a major modification, and they haven’t realeased a 4th ed version of Oriental Adventures yet (who knows, they may fix my issues with it with that version when it comes out. I’ll keep optimistic)
So feel free to comment on this. Are you satisfied with the OA setting? Do you have some gripes about it? If so, what about it do you not like? Some particular things you like and you think I should make sure to keep? Things I should make sure to alter?
RPG Blog Article in Summary: Oriental Adventures is an ugly duckling that can become a great game to play in with a little bit of work. If you’ve dismissed it before, why not give it a try in the spirit of the new year?
I’m never a huge fan of listing summaries of sessions I run, for a few reasons. Telling a story about a particularly interesting or funny moment that happens in a game is usually a very interesting read, and everyone loves to hear funny and great moments in gaming history. However, not many folks like to hear an entire dissertation of the play by play events that happened during the entire game. It’s too long for most folks to read unless they have plenty of time on their hands. This is why only a small group of old people still read about bridge games in the local newspaper. The game might have been a blast for you and the other players, but not of much interest to anyone who wasn’t there to enjoy the moment.
Also, one really doesn’t get much benefit from writing down a detailed dissertation of game events unless they wish to write a small novel based on it later. Unless you’re a particularly anal retentive person, sitting down for an hour or two trying to remember everything that happened and record it down is a bit…no, a darn lot of tedium, at least for me. This type of writing down game information is harder for other GMs to interperet into something they can use, as most writing of this type looks more like a stream of conciousness rather than an organized and useful set of information that not only other readers can find useful but also the writer herself can draw upon later.
So, how does one write about their game session so that others and they themselves can find useful? Here’s my personal formula, which basically boils down to being very similar to how D&D modules are written.
- List all the NPCs used and their stats. This is probably the most useful information to write down, and not just for others, but for the author as well (aka now the author can draw back on their archives whenever they need them.) Don’t just list the stats (Bab, AC, fort saves, etc). Also write a short but sweet paragraph of the NPC’s personality (if the players can verbally interact with them) or combat tactics (if the players are meant to fight it)
- Post any maps and other useful pictures. In published modules you’ll find drawings of dungeon layouts or maps of the area the players will be traipsing through. If you have drawn up any of these that you used in your game, then scan them onto your computer and stick them up there. This will be useful simply as a digital back up of your sketches, so you can just print out a copy if your dog eats the original.
- Write a few paragraphs about how the NPCs and pictures are used. Best way to do this is write three main sections (One paragraph per section is usually the shortest way to go). First section is the problem, the conflict that draws the players in. Second section is the climax, the confrontation that the players have as they battle to fix said problem (this is most likely where you’ll list the NPCs the characters may be fighting or the puzzles they are trying to solve). And lastly, the third section is where you’ll write the conclusion, which will contain all the rewards the players recieve for completing the mission (aka experience rewards and treasure the characters will recieve).
I’m going to try and actually follow what I just wrote here when I write about my games. The reason for this article is because I too was the sort of person to want to write a long string of consciousness when it came to writing about a game, and I’m trying to break myself of this habit. In the past I’ve started websites about games I’m in or have run, only to burn out on keeping them updated because I couldn’t keep up with the illogical writing demands I put on myself. This of course was before the wonders of WordPress and other blogging software, when I created every single page on my websites in painstaking html code and no wysiwyg editor (up hill, both ways, in the snow…), but even now trying to write down 4 hours of gaming in extreme play by play detail would be a one way ticket for this site to become another dusty, cobwebbed, abandoned ghost town of a blog on “Teh Interwebs”.
While I will never equal the posting prowess that Chatty DM manages to reach (He’s like the Steven King of RPG Blogging), I do not intend for this blog to go dormant for any long period of time. Thus, my new years resolution is to pace myself. I arleady have many projects I’m working on (not to mention I’m still going to school).
This RPG Blog Article in Summary: If finding a balance is key, follow my Zen Rule of RPG Blogging: pack as much information you can into the smallest and most compact way possible without sacrificing quality.
“Black Sheep” is an experiment of mine. A storytelling challenge of running an “evil” game. All the players involved are instructed to create characters that are male drow. Engaging back stories are always encouraged, however all characters must be brothers (either half or full) of the same noble house in Menzoberranzan, a drow city in the dangerous Underdark. The reason for this is simple. Letting players play different genders will give female characters have an unfair advantage, socially, over male characters, and playing as male characters is much more challenging in the world of the Drow, as men have to strive harder than women to gain influence, thus making for good story.
Now, for information that my fellow GMs may want to use.
Setting: The city of Menzoberranzan, after the events of the War of the Spider Queen. See this link for a more detailed run down of the drow history in Forgotten Realms: http://forgottenrealms.wikia.com/wiki/War_of_the_Spider_Queen
All the players are playing the sons of a Matron of a currently powerful house who has yet to have any daughters. This house rose to power during the time in which Lolth was silent and houses lost their divine power. The Matron was able to do this because she had the more powerful military, thus won her position through brute force. However now that all the houses have divine power from their priestesses, The Matron is considered vulnerable for not having a female heir, and the vultures are circling. It is up to her male sons to find a way to bring their house into Lolth’s favor, so their Mother will finally be blessed with a daughter. If they don’t, then another house might inherit their mother’s power and fortune, and for them that means exile…or worse.
GM NOTES: Feel free to pick an already established house from the Forgotten Realms setting, or create your own. If you have any players who have read every detail on the Forgotten Realms drow, and try to argue with you about the changes you made to the setting, simply remind them that YOU are allowed to take any liberties you wish in order to make the game an enjoyable one for all the players. YOU are god here, and thus can change anything you feel suits the game better. Now, if there are players knowlegable in drow society and are offering to help you with any details you may need to better understand the society, by all means let them help. Players always like knowing they contributed a little to your game. For a 3.5 D&D rules, good resources to use are Forgotten Realms Underdark, and Dungeons and Dragons Drow of the Underdark, and just able anything else you can read about the Underdark. Heck, if you’re enterprising enough (and you’re worried about dealing with players who like to play the “I know more than you about Forgotten Realms Drow” card too often), then I suggest creating an entirely different city and make up new houses and their histories. That way you’ll get less whining if you make more changes to Menzoberranzan than a Drizzt fan may like, and you can build something completely to your liking.
Players: Charles and Tom. I got really lucky in that my first two players are experienced rpers who have played D&D and other RP systems for many years now, and are mature enough to play evil characters correctly.
GM NOTES: I know this may sound odd to some of you, but there are players who can’t handle the maturity or balance needed to successfully play an evil-aligned character. They either play the person too much like a good or neutral character, or they go waaaaay too far the other way and play a character so chaotic and bloodthirsty that they cannot successfully interact or RP with any of the other players, and will more often than not derail anything you try to set up in the game. There’s a reason why most GMs only run good or neutral games, evil games require a lot more work, but if you can pull it off you’ll have a great story to tell.
Characters: Charles is playing Xen’kar Del’Armgo, who is rumored to be the son of Uthegentel Del’Armgo, who was famous for his unusual large size and his ability to sport facial hair. Xen’kar isn’t as tall as his rumored father, but he’s close, and manages to sport a small goatee as well. The Matron Mother is staying mum about the matter. Xen’Kar is training to be the next weapons master of the house, however he secretly worships a male drow god of war, as he knows that Lolth will not bless males with divine power.
GM NOTES: Class levels: Fighter 4, Cleric 2. Domains War and Vile.
Tom is playing a house assassin (who’s name eludes me for the moment. I will edit the post inserting his name later), who takes himself so seriously he almost comes off as comical. He is very good at pushing boundaries just enough to have fun without getting into trouble with his mother or other angered priestesses. He gets frustrated with Xen’s abrupt way of dealing with matters, but over all he and Xen compliment each other quite well. Their best tactic: Xen causes a distraction while his brother goes in for the kill.
GM NOTES: Class Levels: Rogue 5, Uncanny Trickster 1. (Uncanny Trickster is a prestige class found in the Complete Scoundrel D&D sourcebook.
I’m a big fan of RPG blogs. I subscribe to many, such as The Chatty DM and Stupid Ranger, and don’t forget the RPG Bloggers Network! The Chatty DM is one of my favorites, and recently he posted a series of very engaging articles about putting together a Gaming related Blog. While I’m not planning on doing blogging as a profession, the articles inspired me to at least create a place to store my ideas in the hope that I can benefit from having an easy non-paper way to go back into archives and look at my own old material. Perhaps with putting this online friends of mine who also GM can make use of these archives as well.
So, to my future self: make good use of this archive I set up for you dummy!
To others who read this blog: I hope you find this useful!