Monday, 28 December 2009

Living used to be a whole lot cheaper

Not so long ago, being alive didn't cost much money.

Fruit grew on trees, meat was to be found on wild animals and water just fell from the sky - a gift from nature (or the gods). Houses were found in caves or built from trees, possibly by a parent for a child. Travel was very cheap because we just used our legs, or sat atop an another animal as it moved. When people did things for each other it was out of kindness, or love, or necessity, or possibly to trade favours.

Now, however, for us at least, almost every aspect of life has been successfully monetised by someone, somewhere... and so life is a hell of a lot of expenses.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

The mindless; the enemy of the sentient

Sometimes crazy ideas come to me in fits of creativity and I feel like sharing them through my blog to get other opinions. This is one of those posts.

Wandering monsters are often sentient creatures, but really, why are they? They arrive, mostly fight the party and hopefully are defeated. So why not make all wandering monster lists mindless creatures? By mindless I mean vermin, oozes, zombies and so on.

I'm considering going down this route and seeing what happens. I can even tie it into my light vs dark campaign mythology. Perhaps, the mindless are creatures of the dark, making most sentient races creatures of the light. This might give my campaign a lovecraftian feel as a consequence and it might fit in well: the heroes of the light and its sentient races trying to hold back a tide of the mindless dark and its evil, intelligent manipulators.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

WOTC going after the WOW market

So I heard today that Wizards of the coast is gunning for the World of Warcraft market and this helped shape the design of the fourth edition of Dungeons and Dragons. Now, I don't know how true this is - and I don't play 4th edition myself, although one day I may give it a spin.

Assuming this is true, this strikes me as being very silly indeed. D&D has been the number one roleplaying game for 35 years. It was the first roleplaying game and I know first hand that there is magic in this game. I can't quite say how it is invoked, but it's there in play, captivating us as players and keeping us coming back for more. Some people have been playing it for decades. So does Wizards of the coast perhaps not have faith in its own product any more - that it can't stand on its own legs and must instead copy another game which itself wouldn't exist if it weren't for their own game?

I'll let you into a secret. In thirty five years, all the computer hardware that people are playing World of Warcraft on will be relegated to landfills and museums. The servers will have long ago been switched off or will be running some other game, the next big thing on the massively multiplayer front. World of Warcraft will be remembered fondly but it will be /dead/.

But in 35 more years, there will still be people playing Dungeons and Dragons, picking up polyhedral shaped dice and simulating throwing fireballs around at supernaturally regenerating trolls, kicking doors down and searching chests for traps.

If what I've been told is true, then Wizards of the coast have it all backwards and need a reality check. Competitors to D&D have always experimented with different formats, rules systems, become popular and come and gone. Some of them are still with us, but then so is D&D... because it really was sprinkled with magic by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson all those years ago.

Monday, 21 December 2009

First encounter with a dragon

We've had a sudden flurry of snow over the past few days and many of the roads weren't gritted. This caused transport problems for most of my players, meaning I ran a solo session last night for the player who lives within walking distance of my house. It was a good session, memorable for a few reasons, but mostly for an encounter with a dragon.

The elf was making his way through the Overgrowth - a vast, overgrown and dangerous forest that the locals reckon has been overrun by demons. A mysterious fortress sprang up almost over night within the Overgrowth but a week previously. A visit to a sooth sayer confirmed that the fortress and Rendclaw - a demon that the party mage released from his icey prison - are linked. Vowing to sort this mess out, the elf ventured off alone into the tangled mass of undergrowth and tree branches.

Within this place, he fought many battles and overcame numerous obstacles. He found a trail with large, clawed animals tracks running down it and recognised them as belonging to a dragon. Unperterbed, he continued down the trail. The trail began to grow cold, the briars and bracken becoming freezing, his breath becoming visible in front of his face. The elf, wearing the Mantle of the Ice bear, was unaffected by the cold, and continued on.

Now the party have an average level of seven, about the right sort of level to drop a dragon into the adventures and see what happens. So, this is what I had done and this is what I was about to find out.

The elf continues down the icey path, noting how sudden the temperature has changed. The path opens out into a clearing and the elf makes himself invisible to animals. He then spies a white, reptilian beast eating a wolf. It looks up and he's unsure if its seen him.

The player considers what to do. He looks at his character sheet, his spell cards and his weapons... and decides to try and fight the white dragon - on his own!

He entangles the dragon. Tree roots, plants and vines wrap around the great beast, holding it in place, and he fires an enchanted arrow from his magical bow at the creature. His aim is true and he scores an injury. Then, it opens its mouth and a great blast of incredible cold issues forth like icey death, freezing plants and chilling the elf to the bone. He rolls out of the way but still takes some of the damage.

The player panics and runs away as fast as his legs can carry him!

This is the first encounter any of my group have had with a dragon... the elf may not have defeated it, but he lived to tell the tale!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

New spell : Detect Weapons

Detect Weapons
Level 1
Sphere: Divination
Range 10' per level of the caster
Area of Effect 30' square

This spell is often employed by court wizards and mages that are hired by the royal court, to provide an extra layer of security for rulers. Some High Temples also employ hedge wizards who use this spell, from the shadows, too.

Upon casting, the all weapons within a thirty foot square area will immediately glow a bright red that shows through clothing. In addition, the caster will instantly know what weapons all within the area have in their possession, concealed or not. He will not know if a weapon is magical (i.e. it does not identify it), nor how much ammunition is possessed if a weapon requires it. If a weapon requires assembly and is not assembled, then if any of its parts would be considered weapons (for example, an iron pipe could be wielded as a club) then these will be revealed to the caster, too.

Proof against scrying may defeat this spell at the DM's discretion.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Heroes falling in love... with the villain!

The other week I ran a solo session with one of the players, who uses an Elf character. In the session he had cleared a cave system of nasties and fought his way through a mansion that belonged to a Succubus... he was doing very well, until he set eyes upon the Succubus, that is!

The Lady Gwendolyne is no ordinary succubus, she's an ancient evil that the ancients trapped in ice to rid the world of her. Ossiric, the party wizard, in his infinite quest for knowledge, freed her and since then she's been a naughty girl, seducing powerful men, toying with them, robbing them blind and then introducing them to various gruesome ends. Being an evil manipulator of men, any man that sees her risks becoming charmed and worse: they risk falling in love.

Which is exactly what happened.

Now things started to get complicated! Gwendolyne asked our hero to hand over all of his valuables; which of course he did, to please his love. She then sent him on a quest to get the treasure from the Dire Eel tunnels, which meant lots of swimming through submerged passages to get very old valuable items for her. He did this too, finding some neat magical gear in the process, but all for the love of an otherworldly woman.

The session ended with the player stating he wasn't going to tell the rest of the players that he was charmed, but let them find out later. This was going to be interesting!

In my session yesterday, all the players were back (except for the party's thief). The elf cooked up a story for them, stating he hadn't met the succubus who the party were supposed to slay. Before all of this had taken place, they had made a deal with the Serpent Queen wherein she had provided aid to kill the Ghoul King but in return the Queen wanted the Succubus dead, for she was jealous of her beauty. Being honour bound by duty, the party had set off to do just this.

However, the Succubus had also imparted to the Elf the knowledge of how to leave the Deep Dark, to return to the surface (which is the overall campaign goal!). She had done this when she ordered the Elf to get more gold for her; he was supposed to raid the nearby port town and return. So at the start of the latest session, he's in the raft ready to sail out of the great cave lake in the Deep Dark. He finds it pretty easy to convince the group to go along with his plan - i.e. to sail to the surface.

All is going to plan until the Serpent Queen got involved. To leave the Deep Dark, the group had to sail along an underground river, going right past the Serpent City. Unfortunately, the Serpent Queen had blocked the river with two trireme warships. After showing the party that the Succubus lived, by letting them peer into a crystal ball to see for themselves, she ordered them back to fulfil their end of the bargain. The Succubus had to die or she wouldn't let them out.

So, the party return to face the Succubus... and in the confrontation, they discover that the Elf is in love with her! Not only that, but he will let no harm come to her. To make matters even worse, one of the fighters becomes charmed by her; splitting the heroes in half: two for her, two against.

Undaunted by this recent turn of events, Ossiric the wizard and Brigette the fighter cook up a plan to get rid of her anyway. The mage uses his magic and casts fear upon both the elf and the Succubus - an ingenious solution so they do not have to hurt friend, instead he cowers in the corner of the room and they move past him - while the fighter pushes past the charmed one. This brings the charm to a head: will Boris Blood hurt his friend Brigette Wyvern Hunter? He gets an additional saving throw because of the dilema. He makes it! This breaks the charm and the party go in for the kill on the Succubus. They make short work of her now her powers have been rendered ineffective - she has already played her ace cards. Finally, the world is rid of this ancient manipulator of men, and the elf's love fades as the female demon's life does.

A brilliant conclusion to a complex scenario! :-)

Friday, 11 December 2009

Social networks - genius

If someone came to your door and said, show me all of your photos, tell me everything that you've been doing and everything about yourself, would you?

I know I wouldn't. I'd send the stranger on his way and close the front door quickly. Yet that is exactly what we are doing with the social networking websites. We are telling them everything about ourselves.

But who are they? They are strangers, private corporations who exist to make money (as all businesses do). Their business model is to make money from data. And they go much further than just my simple example above, its more like they come over to your house and photocopy all of your photos and information (simulating how some social networks, such as Facebook, do not ever delete your data even if you close your account).

I used to work for a company that made its entire revenue from selling data. Data is worth money, lots of money. I'm a little disturbed by how easily social networking websites have found it to trick us into surrendering private information to them.

Perhaps that is the real genius of the social networks; you wouldn't tell a stranger you had never met the same information you tell the web... but are happy to tell a faceless corporation the same things because your friends are.

Be careful people. Big business has its own interests at heart.