Saturday, May 31, 2008

Keep on the Shadowfell: A Good Read

Keep on the Shadowfell has performed its intended purpose: I'm excited about 4e again.

The adventure looks pretty good, but I'm no particular judge of that. It does have a couple of neat miniature (read: whatever weird junk happens to be within reach) placement tricks, which I should have been using already, but at least it didn't take me any longer to find out about them. Just stuff like not putting all the miniatures down at the same time, if a couple members of the group are hiding, or putting the battle map out and letting the PCs move around a bit before starting things up.

If 4e ends up becoming my game of choice (Not that I have one now; I've played more 3.5 than anything, but when I run games, I always have to figure out whether I want to use Iron Heroes or d20 Modern or GURPS or whatever else.) I'll probably get a fair amount of use out of it, because it's got everything I need to start up a game with new players at short notice. I've done that kind of thing before, but this looks like it'll make it a lot easier.

Oh, and there's a gnome in it. Page 31. I guess Mearls and Cordell wanted to let it be known that they haven't forgotten about them. I'll be surprised if there isn't a full gnome write up in the PHB II.

There's not a whole lot more than I can say about the adventure, and the game it represents, without playing it. I'm running a campaign this summer using 4e, and I'll probably use Keep to kick it off, so there'll probably be lots of commentary on it and the system in the coming weeks.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Keep on the Shadowfell and Edition Angst

I did it: I broke down and bought Keep on the Shadowfell.

Even though the rules will be out in a week. Even after hearing about possible printing problems. Even though my group might not even want to play it; the previous plan was to do a bit of Feng Shui, and there's one guy who really wants to do that because he played a bit of KotS and didn't like it.

Partially, it's because I feel kind of bad about getting my core books off of Amazon. This way, I got something at the FLGS. It's not much, maybe, but it's not like I haven't bought things there before.

Partially, it's because I've never run a published module. I tried, with The Heart of Nightfang Spire, but I don't know what was up with that thing; there's a trap at the beginning that I just couldn't figure out, and the whole mood was off, anyway. So I figure, even if we don't end up using it before the rules come out, I can use it to kick off the campaign, take a bit of the design load off while I'm learning the rules.

And (not incidentally) find out just what an adventure is supposed to look like, anyway. I've never had a real good grasp on that. My campaigns always start off with an actual adventure, but it usually trails off into a mess of plot threads and intrigue. If I''m going to do WoAdWriMo, I want to get some idea of what I'm up against.

Mostly, though . . . I want to get some idea, personally, of what the edition actually feels like. I don't have torrent software, no need for it, and at any rate I much prefer to read books for the first time in actual copy. That's important to me, for whatever reason.

But there's an uneasy feeling I have. I hear about 4e a lot, I read about it a lot, I think about it a lot, and all in hearsay and abstract terms. I'd like to get a stronger handle on it, and something I can distract myself with until the edition comes out properly.

Wherein I Discuss Puzzles

Trollsmyth has some cool ideas about applications for the timed dungeon doors thing. This is one of the things I love about blogging. Bouncing ideas off of people, and ending up with things that are even crazier than what I come up with. And, of course, it gives me a good clue to what ideas are actually interesting.

The whole thing got me thinking about puzzles. The calendar/timed doors make pretty good RPG puzzles, as long as the GM is willing to keep track of them, and they don't end up making bottlenecks in the dungeon and stopping the session while one person solves them.

If I worked up a labelling system, and turn them into a cipher-type puzzle that gets easier to solve the more doors they solve, the puzzle people would be really happy. But I've also got a player who just likes to take notes, and keep track of things; even after the puzzle had been solved, she'd still get a kick out of being able to tell the rest of the group which door to go back to.

The best part about these sorts of puzzles is that they're fairly well integrated into the game part of the activity. A puzzle based off of the calendar the DM uses, that you can only solve by exploring the dungeon, and rewards you with even more dungeon, isn't the kind of thing you can pick up in a drug store. And of course, building a bit of world info into a puzzle, a challenge the players can solve, gives them a reason to actually pay attention to the background for once.

Even better, though, are puzzles that I think of as "environment puzzles." I give the players some not-immediately-obvious situation, say, some bit of treasure on a pillar in the middle of an underwater lake. I give them a sketch description of the area, maybe make some modifications if they ask a question that suggests a particularly interesting possibility, and they figure out some way to get to the treasure. The fun part, of course, comes with rolling the dice, because then their plans never go quite the way they want.

I figure most people are already doing this. I got a lot of it, originally, from Roleplaying Tips #5: How to Turn Brain Teasers Into Amazing Roleplaying Opportunities. But this is the kind of thing I didn't know, when I first started out, and I'm still trying to work out, after having been at it for a bit: how to play to the medium's strengths.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Wherein I Discuss Time, and Also Doors

One interesting thing that could be in a dungeon would be doors that open only at certain phases of the moon. This would work best with large dungeons, or if you otherwise had a reason to return to it over time. Then the dungeon would cycle through different areas being open; the players might even need to complete some task or puzzle in one area to get further into another.

Some doors might be open for relatively long periods in the moon's cycle, others for only a single day. And if there was more than one moon, a door might open at certain specific combinations of phases. There'd probably have to be some kind of notation system, a code for the PCs to figure out, that indicated when these doors would be open, so the players wouldn't have to go through and check every door every time they entered the dungeon.

Other time-based doors are fairly simple to imagine. Doors based on time of day, days of the week, months, seasons, and specific times of the year would all be fairly straightforward, though, again, it's a good place for a puzzle, especially if the time when it opens is fairly specific, or a long way away. It wouldn't necessarily have to be code-based (my group likes codes); the information they need might be written down somewhere, or known by other inhabitants of the dungeon.

More exotic time-based requirements are possible. Eberron's planar conjunctions would make an interesting criteria; any fantastical, regularly occurring even would work well, especially if it was somehow important to whoever built the dungeon. (If it was built by mortal hands, that is.) Doors like these would also make a good place to use fantastic calendars. Using the contemporary calendar of the world would encourage the players to actually pay attention to it, while a calendar constructed specifically for the lost civilization responsible for the dungeon could help illuminate its culture and strangeness.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Character Death and a Good Campaign

I've been reading Jeff Rients' tales of PCs past and their rousing adventures, and something odd occurred to me: I've never had a character die. (Properly, in influencable circumstances, I mean. I've been victim of "rocks fall, everyone dies," but I don't know that quite counts.)

And I've had precious few character deaths on the other side of the screen. Three characters died in the "Desert Campaign," the most combat heavy game I ever ran, and the only one that had anything approaching a dungeon crawl. A couple died in the Gnome Town game I ran, but that was exclusively PC-on-PC violence.

In other campaigns, I had the occasional close call, but I always fudged it. Once I got a guy ressurected by the main villain of the piece (long story, it almost made sense at the time) and once I took the more convential route of "misremembering" how the dice came out.

Part of me feels bad about those incidents--lack of character, or something. Part of me thinks it worked for the campaigns. The way I tend to run games, I get very interested in the characters, and what they're going to do, and the history they're building for themselves. When I'm in the moment, running those kinds of games, even if I've said to myself beforehand that I'm going to let the dice fall where they may, killing them just seems like a waste of time.

On the other hand, fudging at the last minute probably isn't the best solution. But it always worked out alright. Those campaigns went fairly well, everyone mostly ended up having fun.

But the "Desert Campaign" was pretty fun, too. When people weren't arguing with me, or complaining that I wouldn't let them play a half-illithid whatever, anyway. But it had a different sort of style to it. We played at lunch, and it was mostly guys who liked building characters, killing things, and taking their stuff, in roughly that order. I flailed around a bit at the beginning, but once I figured out that what they reall wanted was to kick in the door and have a fight every day, things started to go pretty smoothly.

I was a lot less focused on story -- that is, what had happened before in the campaign, and what was going on outside the characters, and what might happen next if they didn't get involved -- and a lot more focused on what was going on in the fight of the day, and prepping the dungeon so I'd be ready for the next day.

Because I didn't particularly care about what the characters had done, or were going to do--they were interesting enough, on an individual level, but the the guy the player came up with next would be, too--I was a lot more comfortable really dropping the hammer on them. I even used a death ray on one of them.

It was fun. The players liked the fights, and the occasionally liked rolling up new characters, and not taking things too seriously. I had one guy who liked arguing, another who liked making just-barely-almost-broken characters, and another who liked playing the weirdest things he could find, but I handled it.

I liked the change of pace from my usual games, and actually getting to use the random monster and treasure tables in the Dungeon Master's Guide, for once. And I liked building the dungeon. The dungeon--which was, in the game, a tower, but in practice it was a dungeon--wasn't particularly good. It wasn't much more than a bunch of rooms filled with monsters and treasure. Very little in the way of traps, description, puzzles, or interaction amongst its inhabitants.

It did have a couple of virtues. It was extremely non-linear. Any place you could get to, you could get to in a couple of different ways. Which was good, because the players could still get to the stairs after they decided that the black dragon, and later the basilisk, just weren't worth messing with.

I think, if I'd continued to run that dungeon, or something like it, that I might have eventually worked out the finer points of dungeon design. But they finished it, killed the sorcerer at the top of the tower, and a short time later the campaign went on permanent hiatus, in favor of a campaign by the guy who liked to argue that ended pretty quickly, too.

It was fun while it lasted. I some important things from that game, even if, at the time, it was a source of serious frustration for me, and it didn't end quite how I would have liked.

I'm thinking about running my summer campaign along similar lines. Improve my dungeon design, because I know a lot more theory than I did then, that I'd like to put into practice. And maybe get more comfortable with PC death, so I don't back down from it as much even in games where specific characters are more important to the players, and to me. I'll have a good mix of players for that style, and it'd be good to test how well 4e can handle it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

4e D&D on the Amazon Best Seller List

The Dungeons and Dragons Core Rulebook Gift Set, 4th Edition, is the 7th item on Amazon's bestselling books list. And its even higher up the hot new releases list.

This gets me to wondering about just how big the release is going to be. Sure, it's huge in the gaming community, but although I occasionally see articles about comics in the paper (the Captain America fiasco, for starters) I've never seen one about tabletop games. I don't expect to see anything about 4th Edition in the papers, but I didn't expect it to get so high up on Amazon, either.

And why is it the Gift Set, rather than the Player's Handbook, that gets that high? I didn't even see the PHB on the list, though it's certainly possible that I simply missed it. But if that's not the case, well, in my group there are more people getting the PHB than the full set, but apparently that's not how it is everywhere. Maybe players are less interested in pre-ordering, or are more likely to do it through their FLGS.

Monday, May 26, 2008

WoAdWriMo: A Declaration

I'm going to do Worldwide Adventure Writing Month this July.

I really, really want to say I'm going to be to busy. I want to hedge, say I'm not ready to commit, I want to wait to see how things are going to turn out. I'll be running a campaign then. I'll be busy. I don't want to completely commit to it, in public, until I'm sure that I can do it.

But that's what I did last year, and I never got around to it. I was never sure.

So screw "sure." I'm going to do it. Even if what I turn in ends up being mostly notes from my campaign, even if it ends up being ridiculous, even if it ends up driving me crazy, I'm still going to turn something in. This is a solemn, public vow, and I am going to hate myself for it come mid-July.

But what the heck. I did NaNoWriMo, right? How bad can it be?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Return of System Obsession

So, I guess the list 'o systems now looks something more like this:

4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons
Feng Shui
Star Wars Saga Edition
Iron Heroes
Castles & Crusades
Mutants & Masterminds
Truth and Justice
Encounter Critical
Savage Worlds
d6 Space
Stargate: SG-1 Roleplaying Game
Ars Magica

Forward . . . to Adventure!

Feng Shui is present on the list, and has taken the second spot, because I now have ownership of the book.

OD&D has scooted up because I've been further enlightened as to its awesome, thanks mostly to Sham's Grog 'n Blog and Square Mans. (Which you should reload a couple of times until you get a glimpse of the wicked cool Dune board game. I need to get my hands on a set.) I'm considering using it to run my college game next year. I fear its power may be necessary to combat the Exalted zombies who have taken over the local scene.

(Nothing against Exalted; the main reason it doesn't make the list is that I'd never go out and buy the rulebooks to start my own game, I'd rather get in on someone else's. It's these specific people, and their attitude, that riles me. Telling me that "D&D isn't fun" is not the way to get on my good side.)

I realized an interest in Savage Worlds, d6 Space, and Ars Magica when I was thinking about what I wanted to get from the Compleat Strategist. d6 Space is the variety I've heard the most about, but I'm also intrigued by Adventure, because I suspect it's something I could run mad scientist nazi smackdowns with.

Oh, and Stargate moved up a bit because I got closer to being willing to spend the money. Still don't have that many people to play it with, though, and enough other things that it's cozy on the backburner.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Compleat Strategist, and Awesome Therein

I just went to the New York location of The Compleat Strategist.

It is awesome.

My local store is pretty good, but it mostly sticks to d20, White Wolf, and GURPS. It might have a smattering of other systems, but I haven't check in a while.

The Compleat Strategist, on the other hand . . .


Shelves full of d20 books I'd never heard of, systems I'd only read about only, and others I'd never even fathomed. Most of it I probably could have gotten online, but I can't browse online. I'm not surrounded by books, can't pick them up and flip through them, can't walk out with a book I only heard about today.

They even had a copy of the Stargate SG-1 book--the one that's out of print, because Sony revoked the license. I very, very badly wanted to get it, but a $50 price tag and a drought of acquaintances who both like gaming and would care that they were playing Stargate stayed my hand.

Instead, I'm now the proud owner of Feng Shui.

A tough choice, between that and d6 Space, (or perhaps Adventure, haven't heard as much about it but it looked cool) and I would have considered Savage Worlds if they'd had it. Something about it being out of print. I dunno.

(Amusingly, none of these were on the list of systems I want. Ah, well.)

So far, I'm happy with Feng Shui. Prep on both sides of the screen is fast a simple, since it encourages everyone to lean on action movie cliches, so it may fill that "one-shot system" hole I've had in my game line-up for a while. I need to get a chance to run it (I've got at least one weekend free before 4e hits . . .) but it looks like it fits my natural style pretty well. Fast, loose, a fair amount of action, but not nothing but fights, and encouraging cool ideas from the players.

We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Love Through Action

There's a cool new blog out there, Love Through Action, and it's worth checking out. Please excuse a bit of deviation from my normal topics, I just thought this would be worth letting people know about. It's about a kid with cancer and doing good deeds and--well, the blog explains better than I would.

Thanks to Qwerty for the link.

Quotes VI

"I'm starting to envisage a massive egg-thief campaign here, progressing from birds of prey, to griffins and hypogriffs, to dragons, but don't think I'd ever be able to justify it." noisms

"We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area." Major Mike Shearer, UK military spokesman

"We're not shooting for authenticity here, but awesome-osity." Jeff Rients

"Being the biggest name in fantasy gaming since 1974, D&D has always attracted more than its share of players who didn't really like it in the first place and wanted to 'fix' it in ways that shredded its very soul." James Maliszewski

"I don't eat. I don't need to eat. When I do eat, I eat rocket fuel." "Bill"

"I eat rope. By the transitive property I could eat a guy named Rope." Mike Gravel

"Whoa, hold on! Are you saying that, should Obama be elected, all the white people won't be put on ships and deported to Africa?" Michael Clear

"Eating snakes is just as bad as being gay." Artemis

"Beowulf makes so much more sense in a tree." Amanda

"He kept throwing up. Until I killed him." Qwerty

"Develop AI, Orbital Mind Control, Google Football League, Buy New Zealand, Build Singularity, Crop Circles, Elimination of Evil." Google's Corporate Goals

"Note that this method works in any game that is awesome." Jeff Rients

"Being born is like being kidnapped. And then sold into slavery." William Shakespeare

"Facing the terrible trio is like some bizarre surrealist dream, where you're in battle against a law firm composed entirely of Egyptian gods and former high school mascots." Scipio

"Bah! Three little boys can't defeat the President! Riding a robot spider!" Franklin D. Roosevelt

"Not releasing Thundarr on DVD is an ongoing crime against awesome." Jeff Rients

"If religion is the opiate of the people, is UU the methadone of the people?" BlackBoc

"If they did three or four more National Treasure movies, getting more and more ridiculous, and then had a movie where Nicolas Cage was running around swearing that the Egyptian Pyramids were put up by Abraham Lincoln as a clue to where Mark Twain hid Franklin Pierce's fabulous treasures, and everyone in the movie called him crazy, and then he was wrong? That would be amazing." Montykins

"....right or wrong? I so want to see that movie now.

Just to see the pyramids start rotating when they push the right sequence of stones just after the put the giant counterweight on the Sphinx to make up for the missing nose that opens the Masonic cache that leads down into the Nile Chamber where the ancient dumbwaiter lowers them into Harriet Tubman's Underground Railroad to Riches." Eric Burns

Monday, May 19, 2008

Players: Inspiration, Aid to Laziness

As much as I like being a game master and a novelist (sorta) it does get to be annoying sometimes. Because right now, when I'm gearing up for a game, and should be focusing my creative energies on that, I suddenly realize that the short story I was working on is not nearly as interesting as what's going on in the background, because there lie the seeds of an epic tale.

This is not the first time this has happened.

But for the most part, it's a good thing. The writing reminds me just how much less work gaming is, when I have the players there to protagonize for me. Though I know I must have done it when I was first starting out, I can't imagine railroading my players past "hey, here's where the game starts, think up some reason to get yourself involved," because then I'd be stuck making all the decisions, and who wants that kind of responsibilty?

Well, novelist-me, I guess.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Gnome Rodeo: Why It's Awesome

Gnome Stew has a new feature that I hope very much becomes a regular one (and that does look like the plan): Gnome Rodeo.

It's a big ol' list of links, mostly about GMing but with a few contests for flavor. Having a large, (and I think Gnome Stew aims to become a mighty force in the GMing blog-o-sphere) active, and consistently useful blog doing this is excellent.

If writing something clever about GMing will get you linked by Gnome Stew, that'll encourage people to write clever things about GMing. And everyone who reads Gnome Stew gets easier access to all those clever things people are writing about GMing, because Gnome Stew (and its readers) are out there, searching the web.

And Gnome Stew's multi-author, comment-encouraging, community driven set up makes it pretty close to the best possible forum for this endeavor.

I haven't gotten a chance yet (limited computer access, it's been a busy weekend) but as soon as I do I need to go through my own list of GMing resources. Can't be extolling the virtues of the program if I'm not going to contribute.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Adjustments to the Look

I'm continuing to make changes to the layout. Added a few blogs to the blogroll, and fiddled with its settings. I may make some more changes to it, and move some more things around. Mostly, I just like tinkering with it.

And while I needed an "about me" type of section, what's there right now might be too much. I'm going for short, entertaining, and relevant, but getting there may take some time.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Gnome Stew

Gnome Stew is up and running!

I don't read as many GMing help-sites as I used to, but Treasure Tables was one of my favorites back in the day, and if Gnome Stew ends up half as good (and so far, it does look very good) it's worth checking out.

I'm not a huge fan of the layout right now, with all the text way over to the left--looks fine above the fold, but once I scroll down it gets a little disorienting. But that's a massively minor nitpick.

The community features intrigue me. If they end up getting used, it could end up as a pretty powerful game blog hub. I'm not aware that we really have one right now. There are some sort of hub-esque things, blogs big enough that most people know about them, but nothing like When Fangirls Attack that keeps everyone talking to each other.

The take home message: Gnome Stew. It's cool. Go there! Do it now!

Why I Keep Geeking Out About A Villain's Life

Man, I already thought A Villain's Life was cool, and sort of sweet, but now I care. Doctor Cataclysm, please be okay!

Yeah, I'm still geeking out about it. It'll pass. In the mean time, a small insight:

Most media has a fairly clear division between real/non-real. Movies have a screen, books have their pages. Even if there's a framing device, in most cases it's still pretty easy to tell, just from the format, that it's fiction. Yes, that book may claim to be a journal, but its still professionally printed with the publishers name in the front.

This kind of fiction, this fictional blogging, has a little less of that. It's still obviously fictional--there are no superheroes, no superpowers, no weather machines. But that's only discernable from the content.

In form, this is just another blog. It's framing device is built into the media itself. I tend to dislike frames in books, just because they're not. You can tell, very easily, that the frame is also false, so it tends to interfere with my suspension of disbelief. Your mileage may vary.

But this is cool. I get information about Doctor Cataclysm in exactly the way I would if he was real. 'tis a trick, rather like a well done game story, that allows for stronger audience/character attachement.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

4th Edition Excerpts: Giants and Epic Destinies

Who and a what huh? Hill giants are just like stone giants? When did that happen? Why was I not informed?

Okay, maybe they play similarly in combat. I wouldn't know, having never had a party of the right level to express my thwarted interest in giants. But how does that translate to "too similar?" They may have the same intelligence, but they don't act the same. Maybe they could use a little mechanical differentiation, as the kids say these days, but I can tell 'em apart.

And I'm all for limited campaigns, and the presented material does look kinda cool, but I'm not so sure I want my game system structuring my campaigns for me. On the other hand, giving characters a concrete way to provide feedback to the DM sounds kind of nifty. "Ah, Dave has taken 'destroyer of zwirfs' as his epic destiny. He must want to fight zwirfs." On yet another hand, shouldn't the DM be able to figure that kind of thing out?

I'm still looking forward to 4e. I've liked all the preview material so far. (Except for the sword wing. No hints of history, and it does nothing horrible to the PCs, fulfilling neither of my main monster criteria.) And, if it plays fun, fast, and with less work, that'll be worth any weirdness in the setting fluff. And any weirdness generally.

But those bits of it strike me as just a little bit off.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Literary Pretensions: Iron Man

Iron Man is about technology. In the movie, he's also very specifically about the corporatization of technology, and the responsibility creators have over their creations. But he also represents a general conversation about the role and effects of technology.

In Iron Man, technology has a dark side. In the movie, Tony Stark creates the suit, but he also creates the villains he uses it to battle. And in the comics, Iron Man's suit has, on occasion, become a villain in its own right.

But Iron Man is a superhero. He's technology personified, and, for the most part, he's a force for good. The wrongs he has done, even inadvertently, he works to right. Technology is a powerful tool in that fight, and he has a unique control over it.

Which is at the heart of the Iron Man concept. How do we control technology? In what ways does it affect us? Tony Stark has a remarkable talent, but he simultaneously depends on technology to survive. His injury was inflicted by a man-made weapon, but another device keeps it from killing him. He uses technology to do good, but the evil he fights is often similarly empowered.

And, of course, it's not just shrapnel in his leg or his liver or something. It's his heart that has shrapnel and a magnet in it, magnifying its importance in both physical and metaphorical terms.

"Technology" isn't the only thing that Iron Man is about. And being "about" things isn't the most important thing about Iron Man--the most important thing is smashing bad guys with fancy gadgets.

But what he's about is important. Superheroes, and other culturally important stories, give us a window into our culture's collective unconscious.

Technology is very much on our minds.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Random Thoughts on Iron Man

I loved Iron Man. Awesome movie. Shame I didn't get a chance to write about it until now, but thems the breaks.

I wasn't expecting it to be so funny. It works. It would have been interesting if they'd put one of those testing videos Tony Stark took on YouTube, but it obviously wasn't necessary.

I love tech-y, shiny, robot type stuff. I knew the movie had the suit in it, but then it turns out to have even more robot awesome, and I am officially happy.

I was impressed by the psychology of the movie. I think this movie has the most coherent explanation for why its superhero became what he is, out of all of them that have come out so far.

And his relationship with Pepper Pots seemed more human than the sort of "no, I can't love you, it's too dangerous" business most superheroes satsify themselves with. I mean, it had that, but it had a lot more than that--we work together and depend on each other but I'm desperately afraid of commitment, etc. Standard pieces for relationship movies, but stretching the superhero box a bit.

And--this is a personal thing, not analysis--I liked Tony Stark. A lot more than I like, say, Peter Parker, or Bruce Wayne. I sympathize with Peter, and Spiderman, and I accept Bruce Wayne as necessary. But I don't even particularly like Batman, as a person, I just think he's cool.

I hadn't realized that, until I saw Iron Man. It made him a likable guy. A messed up guy, but in an understandable way. And, in the end, a mostly decent guy.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Homework for Fun

Every so often I'll be carrying my roleplaying books around with me in public, either as reading material or because I'm working on an adventure or something. And, every so often, someone will ask me, "Are you doing homework?"

Which is, I suppose, understandable. I'm carrying around what a couple of textbooks. They're textbooks about dragons, but they're still textbooks. I'm reading charts, and taking notes, and doing calculations. I look like I'm doing homework.

But I tell them, "No, no, this is fun. This is Dungeons & Dragons."

Which isn't entirely true. It is homework. It's self-imposed homework, it's fun homework, but it's still homework.

It's a weird hobby.

Monday, May 05, 2008

WoAdWriMo: Ideas

Yes, it's that time again: WoAdWriMo is nearly upon us. Word is, it is in dire need of hosting. Unfortunately, the best I can do is pass the request along.

I'd really like to participate this year; didn't last time, mostly out of fear of failure. This time, it's a mix of that (there's always some of that) and time issues. It comes right as I'll be frantically learning the 4e rules and trying to run a campaign, but I could get that to work in my favor, if I just write the adventure using material for the campaign. That way it even gets a tiny bit of playtesting.

I've even got some ideas. Possibilities include:

  • the idiocy I've produced so far for ChattyDM's contest
  • my old, weird idea about verbifying Keep on the Borderlands
  • the same idea relating to Keep on the Shadowfell
  • along similar lines: Fall Off the Shadow Keep (stolen)
  • pilfer something from a (new, improved, more sensical) version of my Very First Campaign
  • pilfer something from my most recent campaign
  • use something I came up with thinking about last years WoAdWriMo (most of the good ones are in the contest entry)
  • fix up some of the material from an Iron Heroes one-shot I never ran
  • fix up some material from the one-shot I ran instead

There are probably some more rattling around in my head somewhere.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Look! More Internets!

Wizards of the Coast plans to bring back old settings. Never played any, always been fascinated.

Plausible Deniability possesses, among other things, an article on Geek Social Fallacies. I've suffered a sort of reverse #4, "no mixing of groups because this one is magic!" I got over it.

Qwertyuiopasd is posting again. About Batman villains. I approve.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Everyone Rides Dinosaurs

Or rather, everyone cool rides dinosaurs. This was one of the best things about Eberron, the dinosaur riding, but they did not, in my opinion, take it far enough.

No. In my setting, the halflings aren't the only ones with access to the dinosaur awesome. Everyone cool rides dinosaurs. The players ride dinosaurs, important NPCs like kings and bartenders ride dinosaurs, major villains in spiky black armor ride dinosaurs. Even plenty of people who are not cool ride dinosaurs. Like bards.

No one rides horses. (Even bards.) They might ride things that are significantly stupider than dinosaurs, but they don't ride horses.

A lot of the different knightly orders have running arguments about which dinosaurs are best. This has evolved into bi-yearly contests in the civilized realms, jousting and that sort of thing, where you're on teams depending on what sort of dinosaur you ride. When two riders of different sorts of dinosaurs meet, they have a tendency to engage in an impromptu dinosaur-measuring contest.

Non-dinosaur riders tend to think this is sort of stupid, but they tend to think that everything relating to dinosaurs is sort of stupid. That's the problem with dinosaurs: they're sort of stupid. You can train them, and some of them are less stupid than others, but there are some definite limits to their intellectual capacity.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Doctor Cataclysm

I mentioned Doctor Cataclysm, and his blog A Villain's Life, in sort of an offhand way, but it really deserves a full, proper post. If you haven't read it, go read it now, so far it's very short. (I further recommend that you add it to your feed, and if you don't have a feed, to get one, but now we're shading into irrelevancy.)

I'm really quite taken with it. I have a mild obsession with non-standard storytelling, and I've been interested in the idea of fictional blogging for a while. And, of course, superheroes are cool. Supervillains even more so--especially mad scientists.

That's all certainly part of it. But Doctor Cataclysm himself is really quite charming. He's a super villain, but he's not psychotic. When he's not engaging in (excellent) supervillainy, he occasionally stops muggers, and worries about being "too much of a moocher." The villainy is entertaining, but it seems like a cross between a job and a hobby, (love your work, I guess) and less like destroy-the-world craziness.

Which is good. It's relatable. And, at times, very sweet. (Though I recommend running through the previous posts before hitting that last.)

My favorite thing about this is that it's not fiction in blog form. It is, in fact, a fictional blog. In addition to recounting his villainy, he blogs about movies, politics, and YouTube videos. The politics and the videos are fictional, which is probably necessary, (though the videos might make an interesting project) but the movies are real, which is excellent.

The only trouble is that there's not very much of it, yet. Which is great for me, and you, and everyone getting into it right now, because there's not much to get into before we're up to speed. But I sure hope it keeps up, at the same level of quality, because it sure is a lot of fun.

(I can think of one other nitpick--the most generic of the generic blog templates. But in some ways, that adds to its charm, and I can't fault a brand new blog for not having figured out it's look yet. I still haven't really figured out mine.)

Oh, and a thank you to Neitherworld Stories, for linking to A Villain's Life in the first place. From there I have also learned of Velvet Marauder, but haven't yet had quite the chunk of time I'd like to get through it.

Questions Relating to Web-based Serial Fiction

Why is it web-comics rather than web-fiction?

Is that what fanfiction is? The text-only equivalent of webcomics?

People like funny stuff. Is funny easier to do with a visual medium?

People like pretty things. But one of the most popular webcomics out there is xkcd, and Penny Arcade was popular even before it looked awesome. (Of course, back then, Penny Arcade had a lot less competition.)

Is pure text fiction significantly harder to serialize than a comic strip? The only serialized fiction I know of is Othar Tryggvassen's Twitter. (By which I am fascinated, as previously discussed.) There has to be something else like that out there.

Does anyone blog fiction? There's Banter Latte and Short Little Stories, (both, oddly, by comics bloggers, at Websnark and Damn Good Comics, respectively) but that's not quite what I mean.

Webcomics, at least the serious/story variety, tell a continuing story over a series of installments. Does anyone use blogs to do a similar thing?

Does anyone read them?

(I would mention Doctor Cataclysm, but that's clearly not fiction.)