JP On Gaming

Monday, October 10, 2011

Organized Play People: Kitty Curtis [Arcanis, Living Arcanis]

The person who, at the time was really the face of Arcanis in the Denver area was Kitty Curtis. I met Kitty at my first Bencon where she wore those kitty ears – which I always thought funny. At the time, she was the RPG Coordinator.

Then LG was killed and I started to look for something else (Pathfinder was still a long way away) and so I showed up at one of the Thursday nights in Arcanis on a dark November evening. Yadda yadda yadda; I was hooked! Kitty and her crew (Gregg, Ryan, Calvin and many others) kept feeding me my monthly dose of 3.5… We kept playing until we finally called it quits this past September. A number of reasons are involved (which is not the goal of this post).

JP: Hi Kitty and thank you again for participating in this interview.

KC: You're welcome JP! Always glad to do an interview that doesn't involve me on camera.

JP: I had a long chat with Peter from PCI about the new Arcanis system [link]. I wanted to do this interview with you is to focus on the organized play aspect of the new Arcanis system, not so much the system (cursed be ye d12).

KC: Just a note - I personally don't like using a d12 to track what tick you act on next. A decent d12 doesn't have the numbers next to each other, which makes it really awkward. Pen and paper works great for me, and there are a few different versions of the Action Dial running around, although my favorite is to use one of those little clocks that teach grade school kids how to tell time. (The hour hand can even be used to track strain/recovery.) I'm loving the GM Master Clock I have - I'll show you next game.

JP: If you allow me, can we talk a little about the old Living Arcanis (LA)?

KC: Sure!

JP: Can you give us a history of LA?

KC: The old Living Arcanis had a couple of different phases. We started with the 3.0 OGL, and the main difference between Living Arcanis (LA) and Living Greyhawk (LG) was that there were no regions. Sure, there were different geographical areas that events took place in, but every adventure was available to every player without having to travel in the real world.

Then Wizards of the Coast (WotC) upgraded to 3.5 LA held on to 3.0 for quite a while - Paradigm Concepts Inc (PCI) had put out new crunch products and wanted to continue to let players use them without having to pay for an "upgrade". The existing Campaign Staff started to get a little bogged down, and sought to share the wealth, so they introduced the Invisible Kings program. Groups of players and writers were invited to apply. We were to choose a region or secret society and flesh it out, and provide 1-2 years’ worth of outlines for adventures. To take the load off of campaign staff, each group of 3 or more also edited and play-tested our own adventures before sending them to another group for review, and then to campaign staff. In addition, as the campaign ramped up towards its grand finale of high-level play, the Invisible Kings were tasked with continuing to provide adventures for low-level play so that new players would still have adventures available to them, as well as having more localized plot lines for new players to wrap their heads around while learning about this amazing setting.

JP: Then 4e came along…

KC: Then WotC officially announced that 4e was forthcoming. The new 3.5 supplements were once again made obsolete, and it was clear that PCI needed their own rules set if they wanted to be in control of their campaign. Now, I was initially in the camp of not wanting to learn *another* rules system, but I have to tell you, once I started experimenting with the new system, I saw just how much of the old rules system was dedicated to squeezing Arcanis into d20 rules. (At the end of the last arc, our rules document was 79 pages. 79 pages! In the new campaign, we argued for a week whether we *really* wanted to move from 7 pages to 8 pages, including the cover page.)

JP: What other elements did Living Arcanis introduce that were unique to it? I assume those are still in “Chronicles”…

KC: There are two things that I first saw in LA (and haven't seen in any other campaigns, but then again, I don't play them all). One was separating adventures into what we call Hard Points and Soft Points. Hard Points are essentially the core storyline of each arc, and we recommend they be played in order if at all possible. Soft Points are adventures that take place around the central storyline, and we try to label whether the events in that adventure take place after any other adventures. The first story line was a 6-year arc (which stretched across 10 years of real time), so it was really important for players to be able to see whether a particular adventure would make a good "pick-up" game, or whether they would be lost without back story.

JP: [Interrupting] I really like the Hard/Soft point system. So much so that we are introducing something similar in NeoExodus, a campaign setting I am working on… But continue.

KC: The second was the introduction of secret societies – organizations that characters could be a member of - and they might have additional information or goals that the rest of the party didn't have. Sometimes this was just to give the society an item that ended up in party treasure at the end, sometimes it would be a side mission, and occasionally it would put one or more characters in conflict with the rest of the group, which led to some really rich role-playing. They were a "love them or hate them" element, but those that loved them were devoted, and the campaign really played to that. A fair number of players joined a particular legion in the campaign, so they started to get more and more mention at the major events (Roleplaying Interactives and Battle Interactives). There's a large contingent that still has the very snazzy shirts they had made. (Hat tip to Legio Lex!)

JP: Can you give us your RPG-Pedigree?

KC: Well, I don't know that anyone really needs to care who I am, but if you want my gamer history: There are plenty out there that will always see me as a baby gamer. I was kept out of the boys' D&D games in high school, no matter how much I wanted in. Shortly after high school (1999-ish), a friend heard I was interested in playing and put me in touch with a group. We started with AD&D, (darned "rouge" skills!).

After a year or two of playing, when we started to lose players to attrition (in our case, marriage to non-gamers), a friend mentioned Living Greyhawk. A way to get more D&D time AND a way for shy awkward me to actually meet people I had something in common with? Score! I stayed up and read the 3.0 rulebook from page 1 through to spells and attended my first public game day (October Rebellion, in Valhalla's back room, where I met many of my close friends.)

Two weeks later I coordinated my first game day and two months after that I judged my first game. I picked a doozy Fright at Tristor, for those that know it. I was hooked. Over the next two years I judged 2-4 adventures a week, and when I worked the night shift, ran some midnight madness games to get more gaming in. I was furious when they got rid of the points system for GMs less than a week before my Paragon status would have kicked in. I started editing for LG (local, then core and ADPs), and considered Triad, but just couldn't fit it into my life. I started helping at conventions and running more game days.

Meanwhile a friend had been trying to pitch a new setting at me: Arcanis. I kicked and screamed and fought. I didn't have time to learn a new setting, I was too busy coordinating. Then he hit me where it hurt - he told me he needed me to fill a seat at a slot 0 (allowing judges to play an adventure before they run it), or the table wouldn't go off. So I put together a dummy character and decided I would just warm the seat outside of combats. That's where I made my fatal mistake – I listened to the plot, and it was all downhill from there. He loaned me his rule book and I devoured it that night. I judged Arcanis at the first convention in Denver during the first year of the campaign, then coordinated gamedays and the local mailing list, eventually became an Invisible King (or Queen, as the case may be), then Assistant Campaign Director, and now Campaign Director.

JP: Yep… The setting in Arcanis is why we play it… What other games have you played?

KC: As far as my laundry list of games I've played, there's AD&D, d20 3.0 (variety of genres), 3.5 (variety of genres), a little 4.0, ShadowRun, Tales from the Floating Vagabond, The Window, Big Eyes Small Mouth, Vampire, GURPS, Primetime Adventures, Deadlands, Spycraft, a little RoleMaster and of course a couple of complete homebrews from when our groups got cocky and decided we'd make our own from scratch. I'll play just about anything so long as I have a pre-generated character and time, although I particularly want to try out Dread, Grimm, A Faery's Tale, Monsters and Other Childish Things, Savage Worlds, Veggie Patch, Pathfinder, Dogs in the Vineyard, Changeling and Spirit of the Century. I know I left some off of both lists. If I haven't tried, it, I'm game, once I have the free time. :D Oh, and board games, and video games when I had the time. But no CCGs or battle miniatures-I don't have the cash, much less the time.

More with Kitty next week.

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