JP On Gaming

Monday, December 28, 2009

World Building: Pantheons and deities

I have always been of the opinion that pantheons are as tied to the world as the names of its nations and the uniqueness of a game setting. Each world should have a pantheon of its own giving it flair, flavor, and distinctiveness.

When one creates a cleric or a character with a divine-feel, the choice of the deity greatly influence what type of character will result. A cleric dedicated to the god of death as opposed to a god of healing and life usually play very differently. A holy warrior of the god of war or the god of commerce does not have the same outlook on things. Their choice of deity changes how the PC will approach certain situations.

Existing vs. New Pantheon

There is much to be said about reusing a pantheon when creating a new campaign world. First, it allows the creator to use something he and his players know. No need to spend a long time explaining the god represents what. "You reached the temple of Zeus in town." Most players would know that he is god of lightning and royalty. However, he brings with him a lot of baggage and myths you may not want in your world: his constant womanizing may not be something you wish to include in your campaign, or Hera’s jealousy and constant vengeance upon his loves.

Creating a new pantheon is exciting. It is an opportunity to create a unique cosmology for your world. How was the world created? Did the god of the sea and the god of fire wrestle? Did the sky god and the earth goddess fall in love? However you wish to spin it, the gods and the cosmology of the world are tightly woven together.

What are the relations between the gods? How do they interact with each other? Why is there one who rules over them? Is there a head of the gods? Why?

Regional vs. Global Pantheon

I like having a common, core pantheon of a few greater deities who are worshipped pretty much everywhere. Those deities should be few in number: six to twelve are a good number. Other deities would be local and add flavor.

Changing the pantheon when one travels throughout the world is just complex. It forces so much work on the DM/creator and generally confuses the players. Isn’t Abagug the god of fire? Regional pantheons should add a few gods to the overall, and not make the world much more complex. Locally certain deities might appear major, but when one leaves their centers of worship, they are quickly forgotten.

How many Gods are too many?

If there is more than twenty major gods, there are too many for a unique world. Most of the others simply become redundant or lacking in flavor. Local and minor gods can be added in infinite numbers, being limited in influence.

Yes, the Greeks had hundreds of Gods, but of those only twelve were widely worshiped. The "big twelve" were: Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Athena, Hermes, Apollo, and either: Demeter, Ares, Hephaestus, Aphrodite, Artemis, and Hestia OR Alpheus, Cronus, Rhea and the Charites (the three Graces) (depending on the source). Of those big twelve, each city usually had a patron they worshipped over the others. Thus there were usually two or three main gods worshipped in a given town.

How many Gods are too few?

Obviously, this is a fantasy game and a monotheistic model is not the most interesting thing to have. Similarly limiting a players’ choice to ten or less deities is overly restrictive. I think twenty is a good medium. It allows for variety.

Unclear Pantheon: The "Arcanis" Model

I think Paradigm (creators of Arcanis) first came out with this concept I call the "unclear pantheon". In traditional D&D, a god is given a clear alignment and his church follows that alignement. Any off-the-path cult is usually manipulated or masquerading as worshippers of that god. The unclear pantheon is fuzzier. The gods or their church do not have alignment. A deity can have chaotic, evil, good, lawful or neutral followers. Cults regroup people of a similar mentality (evil people flock to evil cults, good to good, etc). This blurs the line between factions and alignment.

This model is best, I believe for a campaign where the line between good and evil are is not clearly defined and where the PCs must decide on the lesser of two evils.

Portfolio: stick to the important stuff

It is impossible to cover everything when creating a pantheon. The major gods should have defined portfolios that cover whatever is most important in the world. Common themes include the sun, water, family, fertility, fire and death. However in a primeval world, the seasons might be most important.

Don’t try to cover everything. Cover the important things first.

The Forgotten Realms Fiasco

Frankly, I include this one for completeness, but I doubt you will ever see a JP setting with this as a premise. I can often be said that "in Forgotten Realms, the gods play poker and they trade followers, portfolios and influence." That is, gods rise, fall, change folio, all within a ridiculously short time span.

To me, the gods are something that hold the world together and while they can either interact with the world a lot, a little or not at all, who they are and what they represent is mostly immutable. The sun god is the sun god! Not the sun god today, the torture god tomorrow and the god of thieves next week.

Add to that the ridiculous number of deities in Forgotten Realms and you have it. As the title reads: Forgotten Realms fiasco!

Classifying the gods

I think there should be three classifications of god:

Greater A greater god is a deity that is commonly worship throughout the world, or a large portion of it. Finding temples and shrine to this deity is common anywhere. Usually, the church of this deity is powerful and rich, having fortresses and militant orders. Most people can easily identify the symbol of this god. A good example is Pelor in Greyhawk: his followers can be found pretty much anywhere.

Regional A regional god is a deity whose worship is usually limited to a finite geographical area. Regional gods are well-known and their worship might rival that of a greater god in that area. However, beyond that, they are either unknown or with very limited means. An example of this would be Pholtus in Greyhawk: they are extremely powerful in the Pale, but have limited influence outside the theocracy.

Saint or Hero-god A saint or hero god is usually associated with a single location (lake, mountain) or city. The church of the god is limited outside that area. An example of this would be Marduk, the patron-god of the city of Babylon. His influence was initially limited to the city and the land it controlled.

Final Choice

Even after I wrote this, I am not certain of the avenue I wish to take. I like the core and regional pantheons approach, I like the unclear pantheon, I like to categorize the god with their sphere of influence...

This really has not helped. I am still exactly where I was before!


Friday, December 18, 2009

It’s Christmas!

Now comes a time where most of us head out to see family and friends, it also means a time when gaming is meager as getting table together is hard, particularly if you have a non-gamer spouse or family (hey look! That’s me!) During this time, I always try to get a quick gaming fix, but that’s not always possible (especially this year). So what to do when you can’t play? Well, you WRITE of course! I find it is a great time to sit down and put all kind of ideas to the e-page! So I will be writing for Christmas!

Here’s a little Christmas carol for all of you…

Merry Christmas all


Monday, December 14, 2009

World Building: Nations

Last night, I found myself thinking about a new campaign world, something that was both new and old with some interesting twists. A million unclear ideas came to mind, twists on existing nations from other worlds, from the real world, campaign plots and subplots, adventure locations and unique NPCs. I tried to make some sense out of it all and come up with a way I could quickly separate them from one another. Before getting into the hot and heavy of everything, I needed locations. I needed countries to set my world.

My next step was to come up with a way to break down into a few sentences what I would like to do. Since I did not plan to write a whole gazetteer from day one, I could only define those elements I needed and work from there. The point-of-light theory that WotC used to talk about in the early days of 4e is the path I wish to take when defining this world, build from small to large, adding adventure locations, villages and other towns. The big towns are just dots on the map until they are needed in an adventure.

For now, I am not worried about a pantheon, a cosmology or even a game system (although I do have one in mind). I am only worried about defining a few nations in my world.

The 10 Questions

Describe your country/region using as few words or sentences as you can.

  1. Using a base human culture (ie: Vikings, 13th Century France, Ancient Egypt)
  2. Using an earthly location (ie: Himalayas, South American jungle)
  3. By its main villains (ie: undead lord, humanoids horde)
  4. By its ruler(s)/government (ie: feudal monarchy, council of nobles, druidocracy)
  5. By the major alignment of the government
  6. By the major alignment of the population
  7. By the major races to be found in your country
  8. One strange/unique law
  9. What to do in that country?
  10. Give it a name.

Example 1: Amoran

  1. Byzantine Empire (about 10-11th Century), the central authority is seen by most citizen as important, but a series of weak rulers has eroded its actual power. Provincial governors and an endless stream of viziers really control the bureaucratic government.
  2. Aegean Sea (Archipelago of smaller island surrounded by bigger landmasses)
  3. Humanoid hordes: the kingdom is threatened by roving bands of goblinoids. Though not united, the goblins are lead by 3- a tightly-knight group of shamans. Many oultying provinces have been lost to the goblins.
  4. The government is a traditional feudal monarchy ruled by King Alexos III. The king is a sickly young man of about 20. Although his health is failing, he wants to restore his prestige and power. Real power is in the hands of the many Viziers, local prefects and ministers.
  5. The king is N(G) but the many administrator make the government as a whole a CN state. Provincial government' alignment cover all of the neutral alignments (LN/NG/N/NE/CN).
  6. As a whole, the population would be described as N.
  7. Humans, half-orc and halflings mostly. Elf, half-elf and gnomes uncommon. Dwarves are rare (usually foreign mercenaries).
  8. Permits have to be obtained for any excavation or exploration of any dungeon or crypt. Those permits grant the state a 40% share of any loot found AND first pick of any treasure found. Fines for "smuggling antiques" are very steep. However, the many ancient crypts and ruins are often filled with treasure which makes the permits a good idea for most adventurers.
  9. The King is seeking to redress the country and regain the power the crown once held. The Viziers & governors wish to keep their power.
  10. The Kingdom of Amoran

Example 2: Dwarven Lands of Enmel

  1. Early Celtic Ireland: scattering of clans and tribes linked together through a complex system of alliances.
  2. Switzerland: hilly valley separated from the world by tall mountains
  3. Foreign Influence: a neighboring power is attempting to invade the valley. The foreign power tries to take over by any means they can.
  4. One of the clan leaders is elected by the other kings as High King for 10 years. The High King is King Kernan, a lazy hedonist with no redeeming quality.
  5. The government of the high king is clearly CN. Most clans lean towards N, NG or CG.
  6. The people are of the same alignment as their local government: N, NG or CG
  7. Dwarves and Gnomes are most common. Humans and Halfling are rarely seen. Elves, half-elves and half-orcs are rarely encountered
  8. Family legacies are traced through the mother. Thus the eldest woman (or the one with the most children) holds the effective power in a clan. Her word is law to her children.
  9. There are few ruins and crypts, but there are many ancient mines and tunnels. Many of which are controlled by derro and other creatures from the Underworld.
  10. The Lands of Enmel

Example 3: Selimen of the South

  1. Ancient Egypt: central government on mostly docile people
  2. One could hardly think of an Egyptian-style country without the desert and a large, Nile-like river. As a twist, the country is composed of a land of many lakes of varying sizes, mixing to Minnesota and Venice together. Around those lakes would be a vast desert.
  3. The main villains here would be dark creatures from the desert, the Aredjim. They would be a mix of genies and undead, a race of creatures that in the long-long ago ruled the land. They now wish to sink the country beneath the sands.
  4. The God-King is Horemheb, an aging king who was a great warrior in his youth. Most of his sons have been killed fighting against the Aredjim or invaders. Only a few are left and there is much discussion as to which one he will chose to succeed him.
  5. The government is strongly LN.
  6. The people are LN, but LG, LE and N are also very common.
  7. Humans composed the near totality of the population, most other races are rarely found here.
  8. Every citizen must serve as a slave in one of the great building project every 10 years. This service is unpaid, but they are fed, clothed and sheltered. The only way to avoid this service is to join the army.
  9. The desert is full of Aredjim ruins hidden in the sands.
  10. Selimen

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Diversifying: Writing Wargaming Articles

As most of you know by now, I have an intense love affair with history. The Roman Empire, 17th Century France, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Era, the 19th century and the early 20th, hold a dear place in my heart. I read many things about the subject as a point of personal interest. My love of history extends into my other hobbies: role-playing and miniature gaming. I own an extensive collection of miniatures for most of the eras above.

When Wargames Foundry (a UK-based company that produces some of the best miniatures around) posted on their mailing list that they were looking for new writers to write miniature gaming, modeling and historical articles, the temptation was too strong and I sent my name.

I was very happy when, a few days later an email from Foundry popped up in my inbox with instruction and guidelines. I devoured the whole thing, had a look at their website for ideas. I did not wait long for inspiration. Hitting a few choice websites, books and wargames magazines I owned, I tried to find something about the Great Illyrian Rebellion. Although there was some information, I could find nothing I could take with me to a gaming table. My choice was made. It would be about the Great Illyrian Rebellion of 6-9AD. The conflict pitted the elite of the Roman Empire against the wild mountain men of Dalmatia (pretty much Yugoslavia).

At this time, I asked some friends to review my work and give me their impression, the Colorado Spring Historical Group and Linda chief among them. Reviews are positive so far. I can’t wait to submit the final draft. I think the article is solid, but I want to be sure.

More details later.


Monday, November 30, 2009

NaNoWriMo: After the Ordeal

I’m sure most of you know by now, that I finally completed my self-appointed task of winning NaNoWriMo, writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It was a challenge, and a fun one. Creating characters and trying to make it all into a cohesive story. To be really honest, my novel’s story is not very concise. It is not tightly wrapped together. It needs a lot of editing (not just for grammar & syntax, but for continuity). However, I now have, in my personal files a more-less completed novel. I’m quite proud of that myself.

But, other than eating up all of my time, what did I learn from the experience and how can I use that experience in adventure writing (which is why most of you read this blog).

As I started to write, I used some of the "tricks" I developed for adventure writing. But definitely the most important method was the "four questions" that can be found in this article. Once I had my basic characters (good guys and bad guys) defined, I began to write stories in a random way (at least for the first four). The stories I would write from a few different angles, based on the questions.

With the characters in mind, I would create a story header with some comments (anyone I ever edited knows my fondness for word comments) about what the story should be about. For example, "Sir Azrel was part of a battle where he crushed some rebels" and I would expand upon that. This method is similar to biblical apocryphal writings, where a new text is written to explain something that does not make clear sense. For example, if Adam & Eve had only two sons, who did they marry and have children with? (No, do not ask, I know not the answer).

Because of the greater freedom in using the environment, freedom to decide a character’s reactions to the world, his motivations, his thought pattern, and even apply external pressures that rarely work in RPGs. When writing an adventure, those are things that the author must help the DM point the PCs towards, but cannot force upon them (a least in a good adventure). Those intangibles can only result of good teamwork between the author and DM, with the PCs as willing actors.

In the end, I must draw the conclusion that writing a novel has NOT made me a better adventure writer. The biggest thing I draw from this is that a novel and an adventure are both hard to complete and tighten into a nice package, but for different reason. In a novel, the author also serves as the DM and the player, with the ultimate goal of pleasing the reader. In an adventure, he is but one part of the whole, with the ultimate goal of pleasing both DM and player (who take the role of readers).

It’s a different mindset, and both are enjoyable to me, in different ways (like eating steak vs. chicken: both are great, depending on when & how). I encourage everyone to try writing a novel once. It’s very entertaining!


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NaNoWriMo: I'm gonna make it!

I'm gonna make it! As of right now, my NaNoWriMo project, "The Peddler" should allow me to complete the challenge of 50k words in under 30 days! I am only short 550 words and I have a ideas for way more than the 50k required.

That's why I haven't been posting as much to you all dear readers. But Do not despair... I am involved in a number of other project before the end of 2009! More on that later.

Monday, November 23, 2009

4e Fixing Skill Challenges: A Response

Linda, my good friend posted the following reply on facebook.

I'm somewhat misquoted here, but you got the gist of it, I think. My main point was that, in a convention setting, most DMs and players will cut the skill challenge short so they can finish the module. The way most of the modules are written, you have to really have a synchronized team of players who know each others’ player strengths, player weaknesses, preferred combat tactics as well as character strengths and character weaknesses. That just doesn't happen in a convention setting and 4 hours is somewhat unrealistic for a group of relative strangers stumbling through a scenario.

In running LFR modules with no time constraint, I find that most of them are pretty satisfactory in a 4.5 - 5.5 hour setting. Plenty of time for effective skill challenges, role playing and combat.

Linda is quite right. People who don’t know each other tend to focus on number-crunching and showing off their powers/items instead of playing their character and make something fun out of them. They just focus on Finish. Finish. Finish. As though there nothing else of importance. That is part of the bad culture I mentioned. LFR’s culture minimizes the importance of story in favor of fights. Favoring dice rolls over interaction, clever thinking and creative problem-solving.

However, I have seen many DMs who took 5 and 6 hours to run adventures act the same way, cutting all but the fights and drag those on forever. That is not unique to LFR, but is something I have found in a number of RPGA games. Even LG often had that problem. The confines of a 4 hour time slot at a con are not a problem. The problem is that many feel that if they are not fighting, they are not doing anything and that they "don’t need to get involved in those boring parts." I, for one, usually like those "boring" parts.

The most important thing to do, as a player is: knowing what your character is good at and what he is not good at, and PLAY THAT! If you are the one who keeps talking put your points where your mouth is. Literally. If your play style is very quiet, don’t create a character that is fully decked out to interact. Do not limit your interaction with NPCs to “I have +12 Diplomacy. Tell me everything.” You are playing a *character*, not just a miniature on a game board, not just a series of stats on a sheet. Get into your role and have fun with it. When you do all the talking, you should be the one to make the rolls, not the guy next to you just because he has a bigger bonus.

In a home game setting, a DM usually tailors his adventure and encounters to his party. When a table plays together week-in, week-out, players quickly learn who is what and the strength of their fellow players. So a table that is big into socializing with the NPCs and one that is focused mostly on combats usually face different types of challenges.

Some of the recent LFR adventures (to cite them, DALE1-7 and DRAG1-7) all recommend the DM drop the skill challenges in favor of combat. What have the skill challenge been reduced to? A series of boring and useless dice rolls whose only goal is to fill an XP budget. If the powers that be have decided they are an XP-sink (aka "free XP"), then the questions to ask one are. Should we even bother to write them? Is it really worth wasting time writing non-combat stuff? Would it be better to simply have one more big fight or two smaller ones?

The culture is bad, what else can I say?


Monday, November 16, 2009

Fixing 4e Skill Challenges: Part 4

The LFR culture is bad

I won’t go into too many details... It’s just, bad. I’ll focus on two points (for now).


Kill the replay rule. Just kill it. Players usually try to be clever the first time, and rarely the second time, but by the third time, they merely roll dice and wait for their loot. Yes number of tables played has gone up, but the quality of play at those tables is somewhere at the bottom of the Abyss. But then again, *I* must be wrong, asking for a better level of gaming.

Want to see why I’m so much against replay? Run two tables of the same LFR adventure. One table is composed of players new to LFR and the other has half re-players. One table will try to be creative with the challenge. The other will roll dice.

Because of the padded stats, I doubt this will ever go away. However, I have taken a decision and I no longer run any adventure to re-players (I don’t DM anymore, except My Realms adventures); I do not burn then play and do not replay myself. Therefore, every adventure I play is fresh and exciting. I can only encourage others to do the same. Raise the level of the game.

"Get to the fights"While thinking about this post, I spoke to my friend Linda about this and she pointed out that many skill challenges are rushed by DMs and players alike just to be save more time for the fights. News flash people! Even if the leadership insist that D&D is only about the fights that is not true! If the game is just a series of fights, then I would recommend people stop wasting their time on some small skirmishes and graduate to real tactics and play war games. That way your turn will be longer and you will be able to move a number of creatures/ units.

The non-combat parts are where the story resides. It is why you would jeopardize your life for 5gp. I would assume that most NPCs value their lives more than you do yours. If you do not care about what is happening, that’s fine. But remember there are some people around the table who might be interested in those parts and their play experience is no less important that yours.

This mentality of dropping everything but the battles as "boring fluff" or "drop the role-play parts" really gets to me as it removes any chance of role-play. Many player who had experience in previous campaigns that try to get into LFR often comment how "simple" the adventures are because one of two players do not pay attention.

Do your thing and do not denigrate other peoples’ interest in the game. If you are sitting down just for the fight, wait for your turn to shine. This is D&D, you’ll get your fight soon enough.

Group Challenge vs. Individual Challenge vs. Mixed Challenge

The DMG talks about Group checks and individual checks but does not go into enough details. I offer the following break down and method of running.

A Group Challenge is when the entire party is involved in an activity at the same time. There is no time to assist each other. Each PC must make his check alone. Success and failure would be measured by the majority of PCs. Individual successes or failure would affect each PC independently.

For example a pursuit, if the PCs succeed, they catch their target. If they fail the quarry gets away. A PC failing the skill check may lose a healing surge. A PC who decides not to take part is deemed removed from the challenge and cannot take part any further.

An Individual Challenge is more akin to "usual" challenge. Here one PC is the primary roller and other possibly PCs assisting that PC. Success and failure is resolved upon that "single" dice roll. Penalties are applied either to all those involved or to every PC.

An example is an information gathering session where the PCs are looking for someone. They make the check and success or failure is assessed immediately.

A Mixed Challenge is, as its name implies, a halfway solution. Here the PCs need do two or more things simultaneously to be successful. Success requires both actions to be successful. I will admit that mixed challenges

Complex traps make good examples. The PCs are stuck in a deep pit. Every round, a random section of the wall slams the other side. To escape, the PCs must reach the lever just outside the trap. While some PCs climb out, the rest must try to avoid the walls. Success is measured as a whole. If the climber fails OR if the PCs at the bottom are getting beat up by the wall, the party is not in any better shape.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Fixing 4e Skill Challenges: Part 3


In "real" or "traditional" D&D, beyond a certain level, everything could be done using magic and skills become meaningless. Having Arcana in every skill challenge is repetitive. Find something else.

Multi-phase challenge I like multi-phase challenge. It is when the party start a skill challenge doing one thing, but after a certain number of successes, the situation changes and new avenues open up for the PCs. So the PCs start by attempting to enter a close city (phase 1, Athletics, Stealth). But as soon as they get in, they are pursued by the guards (phase 2, Endurance, Stealth, Streetwise).

Evolving challenge The evolving challenge has similarities to the Multi-phase but is a challenge where the PCs, by getting certain successes get a chance to gather more of them through some avenue that was not open before. The PCs are looking for a man in a town. A PC succeeds at a History check and recalls that there used to be a powerful cult in the area. The PCs could try to investigate that avenue (with a series of unique skills), or they can continue searching using the means they had before.

In the end, the PCs have to accumulate the same number of successes, but where they gather those successes will vary from party to party. The end result is the same, but through different paths.

Multi-Scene Challenge this type of challenge presents the PCs with a series of scenes they must complete. It is different from the multi-phase and the evolving challenge. Because here, the location, instead of the situation changes. One good example of this was in Chris Tulach’s preview adventure Escape from Sembia where the players were confronted to a series of locations in town forced to react (at least, that’s how I ran it). Their goal is still the same but they had to run through a market, a section of wall or a sewer, depending on what they did before.

Free-form challenge this is a type of challenge I thought about when faced with investigative challenges that were just tedious and boring, with an endless series of boxed text. What I thought about was to give the DMs a list of skills deemed appropriate for the challenge, a series of X clues (where X was the total number of successes) and 3 false leads, to be given accordingly to the checks. From there, the ball is in the hands of the DM to make the challenge dynamic and fun.

Integrated challenge this type of challenge has the skill challenge as the main component of the encounter and integrates a fight within it. Say a complexity 4 challenge (requiring 10 successes) has a combat with a single monster integrated into it. There are a number of challenges where there is a skill challenge within a combat, and those are often ignored until after the fight, ruining the integration.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fixing 4e Skill Challenges: Part 2

Here are some thoughts I’d like to share with prospective authors about skill challenge.

Real consequences

If you’ve played LFR, you know there are no consequences to failure. At most a healing surge or having the bad guys not be surprised (but set up and as ready to go as they would be otherwise). Whether you make it or fail, the adventure does not change significantly.

In a home game, a challenge where the PCs are involved in a chase, success and failure dictate the flow of the game. The bad guy gets away, forcing the PCs to undertake a new quest to find them. In LFR, the PCs can take ten days to walk across a village and the bad guy is still hiding in the warehouse after all that time... If all you do is waste some time and get some free xp... great.

Work together: Skills that don’t help directly

The DCs are stupidly low for skill checks. The original targets in the DM were MORE than adequate. DC15 at first level is a decent, if easy, challenge for at least mildly competent adventurers working together. But the "helping each other" quickly turns into a long series of dice rolls.

One way is to provide a series of skills that do not contribute to the overall skill challenge, but that contribute to help the overall result. For example, the PCs are looking for the thieves’ guild. A player could use his thievery skill to see where he might buy thieves tools (and where there’s smoke...). Successful use of thievery would not give a success, but could give the party a bonus on subsequent primary skills. Because they do not give as many benefits, failing on such skills should not be as penalizing.

After X successes on secondary skills, the PCs may gather an automatic success, depending on what they seek to accomplish.

Reward Creativity

This one I cannot emphasize enough. Although creativity cannot always explain everything (no, not every town has extensive sewers to justify your Dungeoneering or History). A good roll should always help the party in some way (by granting a bonus or closing off some bad avenue of investigation or McGuffin), but should not always grant the PCs a success in the challenge. Use your judgment.

Magic in a Skill Challenge

I remember when they tried to do things like that in 3.5, poor Lenny got pelted with "what a stupid encounter" after a crowd hit by a calm emotions, an Otiluke’s resilient sphere and a wall of force continued to row. It just went against the rules of the game.

Such things in 4e do not exist anymore as most effects go away after a round or two and the rest can be maintained for up to five minutes. Sometimes, the PCs will have a ritual, a power or an item that will further the challenge. I personally limit successes gathered by non-skill usage to one per skill challenge. Why? Because it is a *SKILL* Challenge, not a "look how much crap I’ve stored so far" challenge! So it will work, but the party will have to rely on more than a single source of information to complete the challenge.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

4e Fixing Skill Challenges: Part 1

There are a number of things I could see to fix skill challenges in LFR. I’m sure home-game DMs of 4e campaign do those things, and make them a valuable addition to their adventures, instead of the Xp sink they currently are. LG had what many people referred to as the OTA (Obligatory Thug Encounter) well LFR has the Filler Skill Challenge. It often has a reason to be there, but a quick DM text would usually achieve the same result.

When I first read about skill challenges, I saw them as a storytelling tool. Where the players could assist in telling how the story went. Simply by telling PCs "you need to get out of town, how do you do it?" Or "You must now find the jewel thief in the capital!" Most would begin to form plans and methods on how to accomplish this. In the days before skill challenges, it was common place.

I thought the two would be integrated together to form a coherent -and unique- story. I was *VERY* excited about them. But like most things with 4e/LFR reality came crashing down. It was not the case. Hard-cased, boxed text incrusted challenge whose result for success had about as much impact as rolling a ‘1’ on an attack.

This series of post will feature a number of ideas I have to make challenges more interesting and a better storytelling tool without breaking any of the rules!

In short, skill challenges have a lot of potential, and can be implemented in a number of ways. They should not be seen as an xp-dump or a "boring part", but as a great tool for storytelling. By varying the way you implement your challenge it can be all it promised to be, even in the strict confines of LFR.


Monday, November 9, 2009

4e Bad Skill Challenges

One of the things that really grind my gears when I play LFR is skill challenges. When 4e first came out, I thought they were the best thing in the game. They got me really excited because they provided an interesting way to present an encounter that focused on a character’s ability other than simple spells. I saw a lot of potential to write stories with that.

However, my illusions quickly came crashing down when I began actually playing in the campaign... Skill challenges, instead of being used as story elements, became an endless series of meaningless dice rolls.

The Skill-Shopping Challenge

       DM: You must do X, here are the skills you can think of right off the bat.

       PC: Okay, I’m +6 who is better?

To me this form of challenge is the most boring of them all and the type that is encountered most often. It turns a game that is already all about meta-gaming (which I don’t like) into a series of number crunching and meaningless dice rolls. This skill challenge is about as interesting as a page full of boxed text.

The problem here is a mix of DMs just not caring about the story and players who just want to maximize and show off their abilities without care for the story is usually the reason for this.

When you get to such a challenge, look at the players around the table. See how many are interested in what is happening and how many are already shopping for next skill to use once they know success/failure.

The No-Creativity Challenge

       PC: I try to use my Bluff to trick the city guard into thinking I’m with the caravan that just left. < <Succeeds>>

       DM: With your Bluff, you disguise yourself and manage to pass yourself as one of the guard.

This challenge is frustrating for a player because you try to come up with a creative use of your skill and your creativity is completely killed by a result that had nothing to do with what you were trying to do. Usually after one or two attempts at creativity, the challenge turns into a Skill-Shopping challenge.

This problem is usually on the DM’s shoulder. Although WotC wanted to have "DMs Empowerment" which they did not tell anyone what it meant or gave a few examples of what they meant until they told people what they could not do with that. That term is now rarely used anything and most DMs simply run-as-written and don’t even care.

The Endless Boxed Text

       PC: < <Succeeds>>

       DM: < <Begins reading boxed text about what the PCs found or learned>>

There is something about boxed text outside of introduction and conclusion that irk me, there is no surprise there. However, in a skill challenge, most of those text assume or dictate a PC’s action "you go here, do this, then that." And that is something I strongly dislike. While in the intro "you all head to the bar" and the conclusion "you go to claim your rewards", during the adventure it is MY time as a player to do what I want.

This problem rest half on the DM and half on the author.

The One Character Challenge

       DM: You can use Arcana, Insight or Religion

       PC: I’m sitting this one out! Call me when you guys are done!

Some skills are a LOT easier than others to come up with a reason to use: Arcana, Diplomacy and Religion are I believe, the most common skills found in skill challenges (Arcana is almost always there). This creates obvious focus on specific characters and leaves others in the background. Rogues are no longer any better than anyone at being skill monkeys. They are just like everyone else.

The problem here is on the author. Thinking of skill challenges that require the use of many skills is hard.

The Skill Challenge in an encounter

First off, let me tell you that not ALL of them are bad. Some make perfect sense and can really help the party, the adventure or the story. Those I am talking about here are those where a PC or three could attempt to do something while the rest of the party is fighting a monster. And as is the case in 99% of those encounters, killing the monster negates the need for the skill challenge. With rogues being the biggest damage dealers in the game, sending him/her to stop a trap is just a waste of time.

This type of thing I became aware some time ago when I wrote "The Sands of Time" for WotC back in June of ‘08. I had an encounter where the PCs were getting beat up to all hell by a trap AND attacked by monsters. The trap was just tearing the PCs to pieces and the monsters did keep them busy. I had a disable skill challenge which I thought was pretty nifty. When I ran the encounter, the PCs did argue that it was stupid for their rogue to spend her entire encounter trying to disable the trap. While perfectly valid, my encounter was flawed simply because it did not make any sense to them. I did argue (as I am wont to do), but they were right.

Another example, during this past weekend’s SPEC1-4 Ice Queen’s Crossing by Shawn Merwin, there was 1 example of such a bad challenge. The fight had a bunch of mooks moving forward and one blaster staying back and firing bolts of something at us (he had decent damage). Behind him there was a statue that fired blasts of energy (doing minor damage and possibly dazing us). Now we could’ve 1- killed the guy or 2- entered a skill challenge against the statue. Let’s sit back and examine this. We can beat up a guy with all of our abilities or split our resources and try to disarm a statue. On a failed check vs. statue something bad happens. On a failed attack, nothing happens. If I take out the guy, the statue is neutralized. Let’s see... touching the statue sound pretty stupid to me. It’s good to have the possibility in there but really there is no need to do so. Realistically, how many parties did he expect would spend time deactivating the statue while some guy attacks them?

This one is a more insidious and harder to figure out. While the author appears to be the one at fault, he is trying to provide option to the PCs in the encounter. Is the DM at fault? Not really, because he presents the encounter as written and if the PCs/NPCs do not play with the environment, then he should not force the environment on the PCs. Then the players must be at fault! Again, the players react to what is most threatening and when there are opponents moving on the field, they naturally focus on them.

There you have it... the most insidious of all skill challenge: the one that sucks and that is no one’s fault! Or maybe is that a little of everyone’s fault?


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

You’re not writing a novel... Wait, I am!

This year, I am taking part in the National Novel Writing Month (or Nanowrimo). The short of it is to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. For full details, visit My username, without any surprises is JPChapleau.

I heard about the idea through Roger French on Facebook and it intrigued me. Writing all those adventure writing articles here for you and no having any "real" writing experience was something I thought would be interesting. After all, I often refer to "you are not writing a novel" so I thought of trying my hand at it.

The experience is very strange for one who has spent so much time writing adventures and trying to cover as many possibilities as I could think of. Well, now my protagonists are fully under my control. I am writing about a knight, Sir Azrel who becomes involved in a number of plots and stories. Sir Azrel, as many of you know was the name of my LG Demon-Hunter character. Well here, he is a holy warrior.

Since I did not have any ideas that could take the character from beginning to end, I chose a format I like a lot: short stories. If you ever read Conan, then the format is similar. The stories happen in random places and random times, with a few common threads. This short story format allows for a lot of creativity without necessarily explaining how the characters got there.

There are a few things I find strange:

  • It is like writing pages upon pages of boxed text!
  • It is like describing a scene and sending PCs (except I play all the characters) through it, writing the results as the scene unfolds.
  • No need for stat blocks! HURRAH!
  • Background is very simple… It’s almost like writing for LFR!

    I’ll keep you updated on how I am doing as I inch towards the finish line. I am already over 16,000.


  • Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    LFR: State of the Moonshaes…

    Well it’s been a while since I posted something directly relevant to the Moonshae Isles.

    I have sent in the first draft of MOON2-1 Darkness falls over Moray to Shawn for further editing and review. I do like the end-result a lot because the adventure does force the PCs to think a little more than usual in LFR. It also features a major decision point and ties to other adventures in LFR. No, I won’t say which ones.

    I have been working together with Otavio from Baldur’s Gate on BALD2-1 Turning Point. Why? Because it is the finale of the “Fey Gates of the Sea of Sword” Major quest that is the first complete multi-regional quest in LFR (yeah for us & BG!). The other parts of the quest are BALD1-5 Lost Refuge and MOON1-5 Lost Love, both 7-10 and can start or continue the quest. It is an interesting finale with a nice epic feel to it. I strongly encourage you, if you can to play those 3 adventures in a short amount of time to do so. Yes, yes, I know the BALD1-5 is late, but that’s out of my control… it should be out any day.

    Today I just sent in MOON2-2 Dark Lords of Oman, which is a 14-17 adventure (what we call P2). I can’t say much about it except that yes, there will be giants. This is also the first adventure where the “Fey Path” is offered for all-fey parties.

    Year 2 in the Moonshaes has a over-arching plotline that encompasses MOON2-2, MOON2-3 and MOON2-4. MOON2-1 and MOON2-5 are assumed to be somewhat stand-alone.


    Monday, November 2, 2009

    FalCon 2009: a review...

    Here is a quick post-mortem about Falcon, the US Air Force Academy’s games convention from the view of a DM. I ran two slots of my Call of Cthulhu "In Darkness, It Waits" adventure and played one game, Mario’s Warhammer FRP game "Living the Nightmare". Because it was Halloween, I could only attend those three slots.

    My expectations were not particularly high. The con having been on a 4 year iatus I did not know what the turnout was going to be. Low numbers on the warhorn site and Compleate running a concurrent event pointed to a low attendance. The fact that it was on Halloween did not help either. So I expected low numbers, with cadets forming the majority of players.

    The venue: Arnold Hall has a lot of good things going for it. First, it has large rooms, easy-to-reach bathroom facilities and a food court next to where we were. Its main problem was that it is hard to find for those of us not from the Academy. My wife got lost, Mario got lost, and Mike got lost… That one could’ve been corrected by having better signs or making sure the people at the gate knew where it was. This also meant that people trickled in.

    The attendance: It was low, but a number of games went off nonetheless. Players and GMs seemed to have a good time with the games. A number of tables merged in the usual chaotic ballet that is a games convention. I think most of it was painless and everyone had a good time. My hope is that if Falcon happens again next year that the attendance will go up. I did expect to see more cadets than were present, but still it was fun to have cadets and “outsiders” sit together and play.

    Costumes: There were a few of us, but really… there should’ve been more!

    Player-Killer Award: Okay, now normally I do not really attach too much importance to this type of thing, but I must report that Johnnie takes the cake… Not content with his first PC to die during my CoC World War II game (by getting shot at by Germans), but then he goes and start playing with a grenade and blows himself up. Then he later gets killed by some Mythos things while Mike’s sanity keeps going down from seeing Johnnie die over and over… Well done Johnnie, you killed more people in a CoC game than I did!

    Overall, the con was fun. I enjoyed myself a lot with those at my tables (I did not have much time in-between game anyway). Good times. Good times. I should be back next year.


    Friday, October 30, 2009

    Moebius Adventures: A playtest review

    Last Tuesday night, I took part in Brian Fitzpatrick’s Moebius Adventure Fantasy game. We had a great group of diverse players coming from a number of different “schools” of gaming. Just by looking at the players I knew the game would be fun and that a lot of ideas and thoughts would be generated by the game (which included Nathan, Shannon, Arpie & Johnnie (there was a new guy, Frank who proved to be a pretty cool guy too)).

    Brian said that he wanted to test the adventure in a magic-less setting. I saw this as an opportunity to do some Conan-style adventure. No magic meant we’d have to rely on our heads a lot more. I must say I was initially very impressed. I sat down and was presented with a 4-pages condensed version of the rules (which I barely read) and a rulebook with art and everything. I was impressed! I was also wary that this would turn into a rule-heavy and clunky system (I was right).

    I picked up a character almost at random (when Shannon arrived I handed her the girl I had picked and took another one) and ended up with the priest, Father Goul. Yeah it’s an awesome name! Me and the priest… a match made in heaven as I like playing priests anyway. So I began to look at the character sheet. SIXTEEN STATS! What?! That was just too much. Eight basic stats are about as much as I can generally tolerate. On top of that each sense had a qualifier. I had “Good Touch”… That made me chuckle…

    I looked over my character. Nothing very exciting, standard Friar Tuck thing. No real combat capabilities to speak of. No great charisma-monkey. The biggest laugh I had was when I saw that my best skill was Fasting. When I asked what that was used for, I was told that it was to “make prayers more powerful”. Great… So I was a useless body! Well… when that’s no problem for me since I generally like to play the parts between combats anyways.

    Brian’s adventure seemed interesting and could easily form the start of a campaign. The premise is simple: the Queen sends a party of adventurers to investigate this bandit problem in a small settlement on the border. For a play test, it was very acceptable. We had some immediate antagonists and something to do right off the bat.

    The game started, we did some talking amongst each other. Good. Then Arpie picks up a dice to do some tracking. BANG! The game stops as no one can really say what he must do. Does he need to roll above or below a characteristic or a target number? The sheet showed two different systems that left everyone confused as all hell! We pitched ideas for the longest time and ended up changing the system completely.

    When I first sat down and was handed a rulebook, I expected to find a game that was mature and established. Instead I then got the impression of a game that was just “getting tried out”. My interest at that point dipped further. Add the fact that, looking at my stats, I was completely useless in a stealth and infiltration mission. I had no useful skills and my characteristics were terrible enough that I would never succeed at anything! (Try rolling 4 or less on 2d6 to do anything physical).

    As the game moved to combat, I lost all feeling of understanding. People were rolling dice to hit the bad guys (that part made sense) and Brian computed damage in his head. I still do not understand how damage worked as Brian was not able to give us a clear explanation. At that point, I completely stopped caring and became a lot more interested in the Warmachine game that was being played at the back of the Haven. I came home and told my wife that I would not be going back next Tuesday if there was another game.

    Okay… that was how the session went for me. Not very good. Having had some time to mull over it (a snow storm in Colorado will give you time to ponder things, I identified a couple of things that really got to me.

  • When I saw the book, I set my expectation pretty high on the game. I expected a game system that had gone through a series of play-tests and reviews. Come to think of it, that book, and the image of a mature game might’ve been what really ruined it for me.
  • I had a character that was completely useless for the mission. He may have had uses in a full-blown campaign, but in a play-test, every player should feel he provides something to the party. My healing “skills” were terrible because my stat meant I would heal people very rarely. Good thing the party did not have to rely on me for anything! When the fight started I had no business getting anywhere near combat (again not great in a play-test).
  • The game is HEAVY. Sixteen characteristics, sense qualifier, skills, combat modifier for every weapon, hit locations, hp by location, hp for armor and a system of actions that made no sense to me. In all, the game felt very heavy and complicated to play with the rules. D&D is heavy, but the basics are now common D20+Modifiers >= Target Number (or opposed roll).
  • The one criticism I have about Brian was his inability to explain the rules to us. I remember asking him “how does damage work” and I only got vague “it’s the attack minus the defense” answers. No example, no clear presentation. I’ll sweep this to a “playing with unknown people” because I really like Brian but that felt frustrating. Since my character had no attack, I decided not to waste my time.

    Therefore, my personal evaluation of the game is that it is just too heavy and not mature enough to be playable. BUT THERE IS GOOD NEWS! Since the game is in play-testing phase, a lot of those hard chinks might be cleared in future iterations.

    Would I play again as is? No.

    Would I give it another shot once Brian has reviewed the game? Yes.


  • Wednesday, October 28, 2009

    FalCon 2009: Rising like a Phoenix

    This year sees the re-emergence of FalCon, the US Air Force Academy’s games convention. Last time it was held was in 2005, just a few weeks before I arrived in Colorado. I remembered thinking how awesome it was that there was a con in Colorado Springs. Then it petered out and died. I don’t quite know what happened (and I don’t really care to tell the truth). The important thing is that the con is back this year!

    Falcon is one rare opportunity where the cadets and the outside gamer population mingle. Note that I said "outside" because Colorado Springs has a large number of military personnel who are not directly affiliated with the USAFA. Before you ask: no, I’m not one of them.

    So I decided to offer an adventure I think the cadets may enjoy. Earlier this year, for V3 (in June), I wrote a Call of Cthulhu adventure with a D-Day theme. The adventure features Canadian para-troopers that took part of the Allied paratrooper drop prior to the landings on June 5th 1944. The adventure received some very positive feedback by the players, some of who had never before played Call of Cthulhu.

    Other events of interest are Mario’s Warhammer Game (Sunday morning) and Jeff’s Gurps games (throughout the weekend), in addition to the LFR stuff that Lenny once again runs and directs. There will be war games throughout the days.

    If there is one negative thing I have about the con is that it is on Halloween day… Because it is on Halloween, I will have to leave after one slot on Saturday to man the fort and keep an eye on little J-Pat… NO, I will not bring J-Pat to the con… though next year… While J-Pat & I stay at home and get begged for candy, the girls will be out trick or treating…

    You can register at the Warhorn site.


    Monday, October 26, 2009

    Shades of Gray... Bringing it together (Part 3)

    Still arguing?

    By now, some of you are complaining about how every choice cannot be a critical, difficult choice, about sometimes a DM must present false choices to players. And you are entirely right! Take for example a campaign where PCs are forced to take sides in a civil war, a religious conflict, a political argument, whatever. Some players may try to duck and avoid the "big choice" by trying to remain neutral in any conflict or by waiting to see who wins. It might be possible for the PCs to avoid choosing for a while. But sooner or later, the choice comes to them and it must be made. Not choosing is making a choice. Rush sums it best in their great song "Freewill".

    You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice

    If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice

    You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill

    Simple and simplified choices are fine most of the time. When setting up a "shades of grey" campaign, try to make the choices more difficult, requiring some thought. And by the same logic, the players should be given time to think about what they want to do about it. Why does the duke want us to go and kill all the bandits in the forest? Those are little more than peasants and he has a large army in his castle?

    Getting the players in the right frame of mind, in the right way of thinking, and eventually bring them to the inevitable choice they have to make rest squarely on the DM’s shoulders. I know, I know I usually say that role-playing is a two-way street, but in this case, you the DM are the only one who can bring the PCs to that point, give them all the rope they need and let them hang themselves! The hard choices are what you are trying to accomplish! The introduction piece of this blog entry presented you with a choice. One I think is rather explicit.

    "Please" mouths your love as your hands are slipping. From behind you, your fellow party members are screaming about the coming arrival of the dark god... Choose.


    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Gold is for chalices, Silver is for coins

    The first time that someone drew my attention to how stingy and ridiculous payment in LFR was, I was at Enchanted Grounds in Denver talking to my good friend Wes about LFR. Our diverging views about the game I always found stimulating. Wes was telling me how ridiculous he thought it was to have an employer send someone to Zenthil Keep with a payment of 10gp per PC. I was stumped and could only laugh with him at the idiots who would do such a thing.

    For the record, my ork Gurbaz was one of those idiots who headed to Gentile Keep a few months later...

    Later, I sat down to write a MyRealms adventure set in the Moonshae Isles, Wes’ words echoed in my mind. MYRE1-1 Blades for the Moonshaes includes a trip from Waterdeep to the Moonshae Isles for the sum of... Yes. Fifty gold pieces per PC! I kept thinking. Man, is that guy cheap! He sends people across hundreds of miles for 50 gold pieces each! I’d never do it!

    I certainly understand that there is a certain level of suspension of disbelief but still... Once the adventure was complete, the question of payment kept annoying me. I thought of a few things: have the employer renege on his offer and pay less (that did not feel right), offer one lump sum (PC x 50gp, although that did sound better, it was still unsatisfying) and offer payment in gems. None of those solutions felt right.

    I did not like it but found no way around it.

    I was talking to someone at Gamers’ Haven who always wondered why coins were minted in anything but gold in D&D. He said that in his game, everything was counted in silver. Silver being more common and harder than gold was better suited for coins. Gold and the fact that it is very stable (does not tarnish or rust) was better used as to create items such as chalices, cups and other items. It was such a revelation! He was right! I wish I remember his name, but I don’t. Silver coins!

    So I got back home and looked at my adventure... Using silver coins allowed me to offer the PCs the same amount of money BUT increase the number, and therefore the sound of the man’s offer. Thinking about it... Silver makes great coins, leaving the rich to surround themselves in gold items.

    Now, I can see some of you going I’m still getting paid 50gp to travel that far! The answer is: yes you are. But it sure SOUNDS better to be paid 500 pieces of silver to do so. Having run my MyRealms a few times by now, the effect is very noticeable and those PCs who are of a more mercenary nature feel they get a good share! The reaction of all was very positive.

    Why not copper pieces then? It would give a bigger number but frankly... copper pieces don’t cut it. When people would offer 5,000 copper pieces to do a task, the word "copper piece" gets stuck in your mind as "worthless". Copper pieces are the Rodney Dangerfield of D&D... They get no respect.

    Silver pieces are a good compromise. They increase the number of the payment and are still seen as valuable. So from now on, future Moonshae adventures will offer payment in silver pieces! You'll get a lot more coin for your services!


    Wednesday, October 14, 2009

    Shades of Gray... The Good and the Bad (part 2)

    What makes a good Shades of Grey?

    A good shades of gray campaign requires two things. Everything can be brought down to those two.

  • A crucial, difficult dilemma At some point in the game, the players have to face a dilemma. This dilemma should change the characters, reinventing them in some way. The dilemma must be presented so that once the PC(s) has the information or is presented with the dilemma, both sides must have advantages OR both sides must present disadvantages. Those choices must not be trivialized or presented in a way that only one is valid.
  • Multi-dimensional characters That means both PCs and NPCs. Bland, vanilla characters rarely manage to catch or get involved in the depth of the plot or make any important decision as they would buy a scroll of cure light wounds. Having interests and ties into the campaign completes the picture. People feel loss more readily when they hit closer to home. Similarly, for the NPC maybe getting his minions scattered and his loot stolen by a bunch of upstarts can change things.

  • I think of Magneto who, around X-Men issue 200 turns from his villainous ways to become the leader of the New Mutant and an X-Man. Later, he realizes that this new way is wrong and he turns evil again, but by now some of the X-Men have a better appreciation for the master villain.
  • One small thing I wish to point out is that you don’t need to have the NPCs fully fleshed out to be multi-dimensional. One way to give that appearance is to have them do something off-camera, while the PCs are not around. When the PCs realize what is happening, they are now in a wasps’ nest. For example, the PCs have taken a dislike to a group of druids. Coming back from a quest, the PCs discover one the druids is now the local constable!
  • Watchmen... The whole plot is just about defines shades of gray. Read/see it.

  • What makes a bad Shades of Grey?

    This list could go on forever. A bad campaign is a bad campaign. Players who refuse to "play the game" generally ruin a DM's best attempt at coming up with something interesting and exciting. But what makes a bad "shades of grey" bad? I will try to focus only on that and ignore the rest of the bad stuff...

  • Bad Setup For the choice to work, the PCs must understand the difference between what they are are about to choose. Poorly setting up the choice destroys the angst and torment you wish to inflict on your PCs at this time. The two most common

  • Trivial Choice You can give the artifact of mega-super-healing to the priests so they can cure the sick little children dying of the plague OR you can keep it to yourselves to try and uncover more of its powers? The way the choice is presented to the PCs gives them the answer to the dilemma. Although some jerk PCs might try to get away with it, it is very likely that the party will vote in favor of helping the kids.
  • Bad Choice The Prince’s 50 highly trained men surround you. "You can give the artifact to me or I can take it from your cold, dead hands..." Although this is presented as a choice, the setup really indicates that the PCs should not try anything funny, making the choice trivial. Some PCs might try to look for a way out, but it seems that most of the ways are blocked.

  • Letting the PCs know the meta-gaming repercussions The PCs should know that keeping that great artifact will bring in thugs, muggers and assassins after them. Having them know that you prepared a full campaign about those thugs will influence the PCs’ decision.
  • DM forcing the choice In RPGs, the illusion of free will is one of the most important things. The players should always feel like they have their complete destiny in their own hands, even when that is not the case. The DM here must be particularly careful not to influence the choice. This means that a more open style of writing must be used. Having a strict Encounter 1-> Encounter 2-> Encounter 3 adventure flow makes it very difficult to follow and give the PCs the impression of free will.
  • Not part of the climax Now... what is the most boring part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy? That’s right... the chapters following the destruction of the One Ring. Once such a choice is made, lives are changed, group dynamics are no longer the same, or the world might breathe differently. I can see why some of you are going "but my best adventure starts with something like that". I do not see how you could create the tension, the dilemma, the angst needed by *starting* with that. When writing a novel, you can... I mean the author gets to inject whatever he wants into the character and through his prose communicate that to the reader. When it comes to role-playing... the best prose cannot give a starting character, of even the best role-player that feeling of personal investment. I’m always willing to hear how you pulled it off but I doubt there will be anything of interest mentioned. If the Lord of the Rings started with Frodo throwing the Ring and walking out of the volcano, it would not be very memorable... But when he comes to the edge and then hesitates about throwing the Ring into the lava below... I still wonder to this day. Would Frodo have destroyed the Ring?

  • How do I make it work?

    Here there are many ways to do this. I leave the individual DM to think about how they would like to accomplish this. Unless a game system is pre-disposed toward gray-ism (such as Elric/Stormbringer, Vampire or Warhammer Fantasy or the D&D settings of Lankhmar and/or Midnight), or the game was not presented to the players as a shades of grey campaign, you have to be sneaky about it.

  • Payback is a bitch! One way to get the players to suddenly realize that things aren't as clear-cut as they wanted it to be is payback. Do you remember that special armor none of us wanted to use that we sold or stored in our vault? Well there was much more going on with that than we thought... Ars Magica's A Winter's Tale uses precisely that plot device to get things going with GREAT effect. What you do here is you draw the PCs into a story about something they knew or assumed in the past and change it so that it now bites them in the rear. Maybe the bejeweled sword was not that of King Arthur... What if it were Mordred's? One of the keys to succeeding here is to allow some time to pass. Make players memories blurry a little, but clear enough that they remember what you are talking about.
  • Do not start a session with the dilemma Wait for the players to get into the get, to get into character and begin to think like they should before springing this on them. Plus a little fatigue mixed with the usual gamer's caffeine-filled evening heighten the tension. You goal is to play on those elements to help the players get into the mindset of the game...
  • Introduce the object of the dilemma early If your dilemma involves a person, introduce that NPC early. If it is about an object, introduce it early. If it is a moral choice, start dropping hints early. The earlier in the adventure you introduce the element, the easier it will be for the PCs to understand and have to make a choice. By then, hopefully they will have some investment in the dilemma. A previous point says not to start with the choice, this point has you introduce the main element of that choice.

  • JP

    Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    Shades of Gray... A difficult choice (part 1)

    You are on a rope bridge over a bottomless pit... In one hand, you hold the love of your life as she grasps your arm and begs for you not to let go. In the other, you strain to hold the very heavy chalice of mega-power that can banish the dark god back to its own dimension forever. Your hands are getting sweaty and you know you can only save one or the other... What is your choice?

    Note that throughout this post I use Campaign, but the same can be used for change of pace or change of theme adventures. Older games in particular have a tendency to migrate towards gray instead of the more obvious black and white they were at the start.

    First things first, what do I mean?

    Shades of gray often portrays a number of factions as good and evil at the same time, with the protagonists having to choose the lesser evil (or the evil they like best). Shades of gray rarely try to convey a sense of morals to the player. Often times the player leaves with a sense of "it could have been worse" or "there was no good choice".

    One system that immediately comes to my mind is Vampire: The Masquerade where the PCs are easily classified as monsters and evil (seeing what some of my old players did... yes, VTM PCs were evil monsters). In Vampire, no one is really good, people have "diverging goals" or "similar interests". At least the good Vampire games worked that way.

    The biggest pitfall is to turn shades of gray into a series of major defeats on the part of the PCs. For the choices to be hard there must be something more than defeat. The heroes must also enjoy triumphs for the choice to be harder.


    Monday, October 5, 2009

    OurRealms: Better than Expected!!!

    OurRealms has come and gone. OurRealms was an all-Saturday madness that brought together around 30 different players around a total of 9 full (and sometimes more than full) tables where 5 local DMs showcased their creations. The DMs were Rich Clark, Timmy! Creese, James Hicks, Linda Weygant and me. A particular shout-out to Linda who really saved my butt by coming up with her adventure at the last minute.

    Between searching for lost treasures, exploring old mines and busting pirates, the vibe was very positive. Cries of "Everyone is bloody" and "Those are way tougher than regular adventures” were heard many, many times. Ahhhh music to an organizer’s ears… Nothing sweeter than the sound of PCs crying out in pain! Makes me feel all nice and fuzzy!

    The games ran in the allotted time slots (which saved my own butt once) and players were on-time (for that, I commend you all for being on-time). Because of the very tight time-limits we had, timeliness was but one of my worries. Food was cheap and plenty.

    Finally, I must thank Rob & Troy of the Gamers’ Haven for the venue. Much appreciated guys! And to Terri who closed the store and had to listen to the many tales of adventure… Thank you again.

    So there it is… OurRealms is done… Maybe next year? We’ll see. Now I have to get back to editing…

    Friday, October 2, 2009

    Pre-Event Jitters: OurRealms

    Anyone who organized events bigger than a single table knows what I’m talking about: Pre-event jitters. Like a singer or athlete feels just before their performance or event, I am now a nervous wreck. You know, when you walked to the end of the 30ft diving platform and though you KNEW you should not look down, you did anyway. I am now standing on that platform looking down. I guess I should try and relax some, but I pride myself in associating my name to events now fondly remembered by people. Make it right, make it big, and make it awesome.

    The jitters aren’t all bad. I mean they get me going. They are an extra jolt of adrenaline to keep me on my toes and trying to preview issues before they happen. I have always been a firm believer in the old saying "If you build it, they will come." and once again pre-registration have proven that there is interest in my wacky ideas.

    Now is the time where the train is steaming full speed into the unknown and there is nothing you can do to stop it. The many pitfalls, obstacles and snags are still up ahead, but by now, things crash and burn OR jump over the obstacles. There is a certain serenity one feels when an event reaches that stage. A certain feel of release. I have prepared almost everything I need to the best of my ability. Things are now in the hands of the DMs and the players…

    Under that blanket of calm is a teaming, bubbling sea of worry. Will all my GM show up? Will they all be on-time? How many walk-ins are we going to have? Will there be a lot of no-shows? Do I have enough sodas? What will the noise-level be like? How will people like the game day? Is every DM ready to go? Did they forget to mention something important? OH God, please don’t let me be that one guy who forgets to shower! (note to self: don’t be that guy) Note to reader: don’t be that guy. Do I have enough certs? Enough tracking sheets? Should I bring extra battle-mats? Should I bring pens & other writing implements and materials? Argh! So little time.

    A poetic view to basically say “You’ve done pretty much all you could. Things go forward from now on for better or worse!” and "Plan for the worse, hope for the best…" Trying to be objective (which rarely am if you read this blog with any measure of frequency), I’m pretty sure that things will go off as well as they could.

    In the end it is about mixing 2 things together: Gamers and Games.

    Dear readers, I will see you on Monday.


    Wednesday, September 30, 2009

    Pathfinder Society Adventures... Some thoughts

    I have played three Pathfinder Society adventures so far and really enjoy them. While those I have played so far are mostly cookie-cutter adventure door-monster-treasure, they have kept me interested and wanting for more. I look forward to the next rounds of adventure. The local community in Denver/Colorado Springs is still small but one that is growing.

    I have tried to bring out some of the good and bad points about the campaign. I plan to revise those as time goes by.

    Strong points

  • The system Drawing on about 8 years of experience in the system, the Pathfinder system is solid and very good. Even during the game, we keep finding out gems that make the game so much more interesting and easy, like staggered.
  • The world I really like Golarion... it has so many different regions each of them with great adventure potential.
  • The Factions I like the factions. All five of them are distinct and have unique flavors of their own to really add a whole other dimension to your PC. An Andoran fighter and a Taldoran fighter would have clearly different adventuring goals and outlook on life, one that is completely based in a role-playing element.
  • Weak points

  • The adventure hooks Simply being ordered to go do something is a simple way to get adventures on-track, but it does lack originality and is quickly redundant. I hope future adventure do break that mold.
  • No regional system The Golarion world cries out for a regional system like Living Greyhawk or Living Arcanis. To have volunteers expand and develop it would help the system grow quicker. It would also help certain (real-life) regions to grow by having a local volunteer run and help with events. Another reason I would like to see this is because when creating a character, one can build characters for specific regions. "Going to Khafeer?! I’ll use my Qadiran character!"
  • The Factions Yes... they are a strength, but they are also a weakness! The Factions should be one of the best things of the game, but they fall a little flat. I would really like to see them play a bigger part in the adventures themselves. Perhaps have something more akin to Living Arcanis' secret societies. I hope they come out with something more geared towards those factions later on, like faction-specific adventures, goals or even interactives.

    In the end, I think the campaign will gain in experience and grow with its strength. A lot of what I find as weak points can be expanded, modified or changed with time. I hope the big-wigs at Paizo are willing to listen to suggestion and push them through the pipe down to the players. Having been on their side of the coin for the last 6 years, I know that many changes like the ones I would like to see take time to trickle down the pipe to the players. Until then... roll those 20s!


  • Tuesday, September 29, 2009


    Whenever that word is mentioned, I keep thinking back to my youth, to reading Marvel Comics. When I anxiously waited for the next issue of the X-men to marvel at the awesome evilness that was Magneto; or the Fantastic Four’s next conflict with Galactus or Dr Doom; or Loki’s next prank that could lead to the end of the world...

    In Marvel comics, the villains made the heroes (DC to me had more interesting heroes than villains, but I won’t go there). It was more important who the villain was than who was stopping him. Dr Doom could face the Fantastic Four, the Avengers or Spider-man. It did not matter. His presence made the story take on a new dimension. One paid attention when he talked because he COULD do what he promised.

    So I was thinking today about what makes a great villain. What makes him an opponent to be feared more? What makes a villain memorable? I’ve tried to boil it down to as few elements as possible.

  • Conviction Any good villain must have conviction and belief in his ultimate goal. So when the Villain calls the UN Security Council to ask for ransom, people know that he means business, that he’s not just another clown in a costume. Conviction is what makes the villain remarkable. My favorite Anime villain of all times, Char Aznable from Gundam: Char’s Counterattack is exactly that way. He says he will do something and he does it.
  • Personality If personality is an important thing to have for the PCs, it is twice as important for the villain. One would not replace Magneto with Dr Doom and expect the story to unfold the same way. Both have personalities that would make them proceed with or stop their plans. Having some unique personality trait gives something special to the villain. Personality often dictates what a villain will do more than how he will do it.
  • Resources Only McGiver can take over the world with 2 elastic bands and an old sock. A good villain has resources that will allow him to being his plan to fruition. A broke overlord is more of a farce than a threat. A super-villain who does not have a good few faceless minions willing to get pounded & blasted by the heroes usually has a very short career.

    There... three points to make a good villain, with a clear superhero stint to this article, but you can easily adapt to any game system/ setting.

    Now that you have a good villain, avoid the most common pitfall of them all: do not let him steal the show! The PCs are still the heroes.


  • Monday, September 28, 2009

    Our Realms is almost here!

    This Saturday, October 3rd, the first OurRealms game day will take place. Run by well-known DMs from the Denver & Colorado Springs region, such as Rich Clark, Timmy Creese, James Hicks, Bill Wimsatt and myself. (Shout out to you guys).

    It’s been a few months already since I first came up with an idea for an all-MyRealms game day. I approached my good friend Lenny with the idea hoping that he would agree to organize the day... He told me to "Git R Done" (not in those words, but that’s what it meant.

    I am not an organizer, for all I’m worth I do not like organizing bigger events. I have difficulty getting things going. Now I have done a few of them, but I still prefer to let those with better organizational skills do the legwork.

    I have a lot to do before Saturday comes around: print the rewards, print my own adventure, prepare the terrain for my own adventure (now you know I have special terrain) and then get the soda and coffee pots ready to go... I’m pretty excited about that whole day.

    I spoke to Rob at the Gamers’ Haven (where the event is taking place). We are covered for playing room and could expand a little if need be.

    With everything falling into place at this time, things are looking good. And I am quite happy of the assistance I had from my DMs and the staff of the ‘Haven (as usual, they have been great to deal with).

    What am I most worried about at this time?

    1. No-Show DM. Seriously that is my greatest fear with this game day. The unfortunate randomness of real life could really hurt the game day. In my planning, I have tried to give each DM one slot off so that he could play at least one slot (my own free slot will be used to get food in and other organizational things). With that "Free Slot", that means I could potentially get to pull one extra DM if need be.
    2. The timeframe we have for this day is going to be very limited and tights. So everything must click correctly from the get-go. For this, I must rely on my DMs to run their adventure(s) in a little under four hours. Knowing they are experienced fellows, I have little doubt that it will be fine.
    3. No-Shows and Late-Shows because waiting on people will not be possible due to the tight schedule. Late-show will be told to wait for the next slot, unless a DM agrees to take them on. I cannot stand the late-shows attitude that since they deigned to grace us with their presence, they must be shown to a table immediately.
    4. Walk-ins could present another issue. They are greatly appreciated and are most welcomed. This time however, I do have a finite number of seats and will not ask any of my DMs (or myself) to run tables of 12. Those are NO fun for the players and even less for the DM.

    If you are interested in playing in Our Realms, I strongly recommend you pre-register using the warhorn site at There are still a number of seats available (but they are going fast).

    Now... I’m going to return to my worrying about everything!


    Friday, September 25, 2009

    Life Changing Moments (in game)

    Having a character suddenly realizing something about him or the world around them and changes his outlook on life really enhances the gaming experience. There is nothing more boring than having a character that never changes no matter what happens around him. The character should learn from experience and adapt. That makes a character come alive.

    And I love that.

    Giving out experience should be more than a matter of beating up monsters or NPCs (though I must say that is a good way to learn). Experience should allow your character to grow. Even in real life, one’s best plans are changed by circumstances or others around us.

    Such events ADD to a character and make that character unique. Although the character should be the same, some aspects of his life change. Think of moments like that for some of your past characters. How did it affect them? What did you change in the way you portrayed the character? How did it affect the game?

    How to do that?

    First thing is that *YOU*, the player must be willing to change your character to adapt to what happens. If you have 15 levels of character pre-determined with everything plotted out... It is unlikely that you will want to do a 180’ turn for your character. Have a goal in mind, but do cast anything in stone.

    I have not said this enough: having a character with motivation and goals helps the GM to write that into the story and you to write yourself into it. A character with depth gives so much. Now there is no reason to write a 20-page background on each character. Usually a few lines and some basic goals are sufficient to start. Work WITH and IN the game. I have never written a character background that was used completely. Only bits and pieces were used. Most often those were elements I added once the game started.

    One way to give your character some depth is to give them a unique quirk. This quirk then adds to your role play. For example, in LFR, I have an ork character who hates statues "because they always animate" so when there are large statues, he growls at them and breaks them. You would be surprised by how many time that quirk comes up (I was). Another of my character (Tiernan McWilbur) constantly talks to himself, his familiar or others, making the concept of moving silently alien to him. Your GM will mess with your mind as often as he can... Just because...

    I guess the most important bit or wisdom I can impart upon you is work with your GM and work with the other players. This is a group and social game. Of course, the final word about your character comes to you, but input or ideas can sometimes give you a different perspective.

    Finally, there must be a certain element of time between those moments. This allows you to re-settle into your character and give time to the GM to find new ways to mess with your head. If those moments happen all the time, your character really never gets to embrace the change and confront his new perspective to the world around him.


  • It’s not about me so I don’t care Ahhh... A common mistake... Although at a table, each player should have their own time and story element, just because another character is getting some attention in a storyline does not mean that you have to completely give up or ignore what is happening... Get involved though let the other player drive the story. You never know when you might suddenly find yourself involved in an interesting situation because of another PC. BAM! That’s another role-play element to add to your character ("Remember when that lady’s husband chased us out of town...").
  • This other PC has a relation with an NPC so I won’t interfere This one is more complex. Sometime your character may not like that your friend is involved with the thieves’ guild. You could fall in love with the same NPC or vie for the attention of the same noble or even take a liking to that other PCs’ sister.
  • Everything about me is secret! You spend a lot of time on the road with the other characters of your party. Chances are, some personal information about you will come around. If you are a total mystery, it is likely that the others around you may become curious about your activities. Or they decide that you are too strange and leave you behind! Give to the others some rope to hang you with...
  • I have no back-story! Now come on... just because you don’t want to create one doesn’t mean that you just plopped into existence. You could just be amnesiac or be somehow cursed. Just because the character does not know does not mean the player and/or the GM should be kept in the dark. And if someone suddenly shows up pretending to be your long-lost [insert relation here]... Work with that... I found that my characters rarely have much back story during the first game and the story forms as the sessions go on.
  • You should do XYZ with your character Don’t go designing or thinking about the path of other party members. If they ask you, then fine, but don’t force the issue if they are not interested.
  • That’s not how I viewed my character! Work with your GM. On the one hand, the GM should not force you to change your character because he wants to. On the other, you must be willing to adapt. It’s a two-way street!

  • Life changing moments: an example

    Anyone who spoke to me recently knows that I take part in Mario’s WHFRP game. And I love it. Love the game, love the party, love the dynamic, love it love it love it. After playing years of short-term missions and adventures, reverting to one where you have to think long-term and where life-changing events happen during the game is... refreshing.

    Characters that each have goals (some public, some less so), each with a unique story and background help make the game more than a mere walk around the Empire.

    In that campaign, my character Werner von Breshlow-Giersbergen started off as a na&itrema;ve young noble out to seek his fortune in the world. Throughout many challenges he became someone who liked to bully people, beat up monsters and collect bounties. Werner’s greatest pride was his beautiful hair.

    Then last night, while praying hard to thank Sigmar for another victory over chaos, Werner had a vision of Sigmar. Wherein he asked for Sigmar’s blessing in battle. The effect: Sigmar turned Werner into an Initiate (prelude to becoming a priest).

    So from a warrior who trusted only in sword, spear and hammer, Werner shaved his hair and embraced this new destiny. Werner is still the same: he sings, talks about fights, tells stories about his grandfather, but his outlook on life and the path ahead has changed.

    I can’t wait for next week to see what will happen to Werner and his 2 colleagues: Lady Violet (who used to be a vigilante but is now an Initiate) and the dwarf Rogny (who used to be a pit fighter but is now a blacksmith’s apprentice).


    Monday, September 14, 2009

    Pathfinder Society, first impressions...

    So this past Saturday, I played at Enchanted Ground in the first of what I hope will be many Pathfinder Society Saturdays. In this post, I will share my thoughts about the game. Not the adventures themselves.

    I always recommend people play in any type of organized play system in game day or convention format, where you can play many adventures in a very short time. Hopefully, this gives you a sample of the game, the system, how adventures run and a mix of players if some of them annoy you. In my case I played a mini-con of Living Greyhawk in a frozen wasteland of a bar back in January of ‘03. The first 3 adventures left me somewhat cold (more than just figuratively but I enjoyed the 4th adventure (TUS3-1 Haunted House of bin-Khadij) so much that I came back for more and the rest is history.

    Although I now consider myself an organized play veteran, I still like to try out something new be playing a burst. At best, I stick around and learn a new system. At worse, I lost a day and don’t have to do it again.

    My Character

    Face it, who does not like to talk about their characters. I certainly do! I thought of three different characters for the game.

    First a cleric, cleric has always been my favorite class (at least until 4e came along). However the table had 2 clerics already, so I canned the idea. Second an elemental sorcerer. Ever since I began to write and play them, sorcerers with their large number of spells per day have been a draw to me. When I made an Arcanis character, I created a sorceress. Third a paladin. Pathfinder paladins really gained a lot and they are high on my "want to play" list.

    So I created a half-elf sorceress. I did like the idea of sorcerers being travelers and merchants so I made a Qadiran sorceress. Though I initially thought of a water sorcerer, I settled on good ol’ fire instead.

    Lessons about Pathfinder society

    One I quickly learned is that Pathfinder is about resource management. The adventures were very resource-intensive, requiring cleaver management of spells and abilities. Do not throw the fireball on the first thug you meet, but do not hold back too much that you need to spend all your healing at the first enemy you meet either. As I said... manage your resources well. That is why I love to play sorcerers (especially beyond the first level).

    Two Cantrips & Orisons are awesome. Because of lesson #1, using 0-level abilities (because they do not use spell slots) is always a valid option. I never saw so many acid splashes & rays of frost being used!

    Three The faction system is a great idea. More than once did we have some minor role-playing arguments about what to do with NPCs. Especially when some PCs maintain that "Slavery is the basis of the economy, freeing slaves results in market instability"... Yes, good times. I have found that the secret societies help people focus their characters and give them some level of distinction (see my many rants on vanilla characters).

    Four Perhaps the most important lesson: Pathfinder is AWESOME. The system is fun and characters all have class abilities that make them unique.

    Will I play again

    I case you have not read the rest of the article, the answer is a big *YES*, I will.


    Friday, September 11, 2009

    Pathfinder Society... Finally here!

    It took some time but finally, Pathfinder is here... Not just here, but HERE, here in the Denver area! With Pathfinder comes the Pathfinder society "Living" Campaign... And there was much joy! The fact that I would not have to be the only DM and would be able to run the adventures did wonders for my morale! This saturday (that's tomorrow) I will be playing two adventures and see who things pan out... I am really excited and look forward to playing...

    I know friends of mine in Montreal have been playing the game for a long time and raved about it, but it hadn’t reached the shadow of the Rockies...

    First I looked at the 3 classes I like to play the most in D&D. 1- Cleric, 2- Sorcerer and 3- Paladin.

    Wow! Great stuff! Clerics are awesome and can be how I like to play them: healers & buffers. Sorcerers gained a lot of versatility and uniqueness by integrating the equivalent of the Draconic/ Arcane origin... And paladins... well they are awesome too...

    So next up I need to sit down and think about what I want to do as my first character... I think I’ll show up with two... a Sorcerer and a Cleric...

    Now if someone can build a Pathfinder Heroforge character generator!


    Thursday, September 3, 2009

    Moonshae Isles Year 2... An Overview

    Well... it took me a good few weeks to sort out everything I needed to come up with the Year 2 Moonshae Storyline... Wasn’t it easy but finally, I got it going. I cannot take all the credit as I received valuable feedback from the authors of MOON2-1 though MOON2-5. I know, I know, the bonus round is not assigned yet, but I have no intention of not getting it. It is a matter of pride. After all, since I took over the plots/ storyline position in Tusmit in 2004, my region ALWAYS managed to come up with all of its adventures, and usually more.

    The Moonshaes will not be that exception. The authors are all very anxious to start on this new year, as am I.

    So looking at the adventures in front of me and not being able to come up with a final part for a major quest (through a Core or by working with another region), I tried to use my own posts as a guide.

    Now before people go barking at the Globals or the other regions about not being willing to help, let me tell you this. Everyone I talked to was very willing to help but has prior engagements. Either the story I was trying to push did not suit them or they did not have adventures of a level-band to make things compatible. Still, we talked and exchanged ideas... Maybe in Year 3.

    So back to the storyline! What do you do when you cannot continue on a story? Why... If comic books thought me anything (and they thought me a lot of stuff), is that when the future can’t be changed, change the past!

    Okay... Now calm down...

    Using my great powers of RetCon (RETroactive CONnection), I began to look back into previous Moonshae adventure for potential links. Since linking to past adventures is, I believe, the best way to create continuity, so I began to look... MOON1-1, MOON1-2, MOON1-3, all the way to MOON2-1 (which as we speak has been at HQ for over a month for review) and a strange pattern began to emerge. Not immediately obvious, but something that was hiding behind the obvious trees...

    So I sat down and began to play with my web of storylines and ideas... Looked at my pool of authors and tried to come up with something that would surprise you (the players) more than a little...

    So next year, we will have a major quest unofficially called "Giants of Oman" or "To Oman and back". The first part of the quest will be EITHER MOON1-3 Black Gold, MOON1-5 Lost Love, MOON2-3 Title TBA or even BALD2-1 Lost Hope (Working Title). So, in any one of those adventure you might get a reward that counts as the first part of the quest. MOON2-2 will really get you out there and have you confront the problem facing the Moonshaes. MOON2-4 is the culmination of the story.

    I heard a lot of people saying that adventures in LFR had no bearing on the world. Well, this story WILL have an impact on the Moonshaes and YOU (the players) will get to be the ones who decide what happens! I always believed that LFR gains by imposing choices upon the players that cannot be resolved by a simple roll of the dice. Well be prepared to make a choice!

    To give you a quick overview of the current plan, here is the breakdown of the adventure locations.

  • MOON2-1 is set on Moray. Although not part of a quest and stand-alone, those who have played MOON1-2 The Sea Drake might find it interesting (wink wink).
  • MOON2-2 is set on Oman. Part 2 of the Major Quest
  • MOON2-3 is set on Alaron. Could be another starting point into a major quest
  • MOON2-4 is set in a number of places... most of them distasteful and bad for you. It is the conclusion of the Major Quest.
  • MOON2-5 is set on Flamsterd island (it’s not in the 4e book... you’ll have to look at an older source to see who Flamsterd is and where the island is located).

    Finally, MOON2-2 and MOON2-4 will have the "elf-intro" that was discussed on the Moonshae Yahoogroup some time ago. I am quite interested in seeing how this play out. Yes, I know they are both high-level adventures. No, I will not change my plan because of that.

    I would really like to set an adventure or two on Gwynneth in Year 3, but I need to wait and see what our level range will be before making any plans.

    Again... everything I post is subject to change without notice (and most likely already has by the time you read this. It is intended to give all of you a small taste of what is coming down the pipe for us.


  • Wednesday, September 2, 2009

    Four Questions: Working down the list

    Here is where you put it all together. At one point or another you will need to answer the following four basic questions. Here, you take your first idea through internal questioning and answer everything one small bite at a time.

  • Who are the PCs?
  • Who is the villain?
  • How does the adventure start?
  • What is the planned finale?

    Putting it together

    Let me work this through one of the above example into an example.

    The Romulan High Command has ordered a task force to destroy a remote Federation outpost. The outpost is vital to the Federation because of its Dilithium mines (who the villains are).

    The adventure starts with the Romulans bombarding the outpost defenses and communication arrays from space while the PCs are away from the outpost (Introduction).

    The PCs are Federation officers who are on a mission to study mineral properties of the planet and see if it can be used in starship design. (Who the PCs are)

    The adventure ends with the PCs beaming up to the Romulan ship and either disabling it or contacting the Federation for assistance (Conclusion).

    I don’t want to be very precise with this because I want the PCs to have latitude regarding the ending of the adventure. But in the end, the PCs must find some way to stop the Romulan plan.

    The middle part is still fuzzy but I have a good idea of what is happening in the adventure and with whom.

    A twist you ask? Well maybe one of the Federation NPC is a Romulan who does not want the destruction of the outpost. At a critical time, his true nature is revealed. How do the PCs react to him? What if the PCs receive help from a Federation spy on-board the Romulan ship?

    Who are the PCs, who are their opponents, how to start and how to end...