Friday, May 29, 2009

Process & Procrastination

As usual, while setting up the new campaign I've started obsessing about process and how to format my notes. Handwritten or computer? Files or wiki? Tiddlywiki or Google Page? Rich text files, .doc, or .odt? Binder or notebook? Or both? The list goes on.

While I do have an urge to "go traditional" with this campaign, my gut feeling is that it's an ideological urge, rather than one based on practicality. Given that I'm managing a lot of my player interactions through a campaign blog, it makes sense to keep my notes digital, for easy access and interface with that set up. I've already got a campaign, the megadungeon, that's all hand-written, and I'm still feeling my way through that.

But my usual system of files and folders doesn't quite work. Mostly, I'd like to be able to put things in multiple buckets. It'd be convenient, for instance, to file NPCs all together in an NPC folder, while simultaneously accessing them each from their locations.

I've been fiddling with TiddlyWiki, and I have high hopes that it'll do what I need at least as far as NPC-tracking and at-the-table notes go. But it still gets me stuck on process. How should I set everything up? Am I doing this or that right? What if I change my mind later? Too often, what should be an aid to getting things organized turns into an obstacle to getting them done.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Campaign Toolkits

In between building dungeons, doing character work and planning for Is This Foul? I've been fiddling a bit with an all psionics 3.5 setting. Nothing terribly serious, mind; I have enough games that I'd rather run than 3.5 that it won't see play for a while, if at all. (I am considering converting it to Swords & Wizardry, but that's a whole 'nother ball game.) It's just a fun side-activity when I get bored with my regular games.

In the process, I dug out Sandstorm, one of my favorite 3rd edition supplements. I've never been able to use it as extensively as I'd like, but bits and pieces have found their way into my games over the years. Mostly, I like reading it, and getting ideas.

It's representative of the type of sourcebook that I love the best. I don't have much use for things like Complete Divine or Arcane Power. Player sourcebooks aren't helpful to me as a GM or interesting to me as a player. And while I enjoyed reading Eberron (and still wouldn't mind playing in a game someday) there's generally so much that I rip out of a setting in the process of getting it to conform to my whims that it makes more sense to just whip up a setting from scratch, or something close to it.

Sandstorm has a lot of the obligatory feat and prestige class type crunch endemic to books of that period, and it implies a fair amount of setting detail. But it's all very modular. There are a lot of things that logically fit if you used them all in one game, but no rules as to how they interrelate, no politics, geography, or star NPCs. What it does have is a lot of crunch for building desert-ready characters, some great monsters with intriguing world and plot hooks attached, and a lot of detailed information on desert environments and dungeons. It's a toolbox for building a campaign.

That's what I want out of a sourcebook. Game-focused, researched information. Spells, classes, and monsters that suggest villains and organizations, rather than handing them to me ready made. If that material is interconnected by a theme and sub-themes -- the environment of the desert, its races and their cultures, and the lost civilizations responsible for some of its monsters and traditions -- all the better.

These days, I'm more interested in systems that don't suggest or require as many sourcebooks as does 3rd. But when I go back to it, those are the books I get the most use out of. The environment books, Deities and Demigods, the alternate power sources, The Book of Vile Darkness. And I find that the best parts -- the desert terrain information in Sandstorm, or the classification of different kinds of pantheons in Deities and Demigods, are fundamentally system neutral. I can use them for Swords & Wizardry or 4th edition or even Traveller or Vampire just as easily as I can for 3rd edition.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Round-Robin Worldbuilding

So on Saturday we finished doing set-up for the summer game. (Minus character creation for a player who was in the original game but may or may not be in this one; I'm going to see about getting him to come over and do that sometime this week.) We even set up a campaign blog, complete with title: Is This Foul? Is It?

There was a bit of grumbling from some of the players, since no actual roleplaying occurred during the session, but I was fairly pleased with how it went. We have a decent idea of a starting point for next week's session, and a good level of player excitement and involvement. (Maggienotmegan wrote up everything that's currently on the blog, with no input from me! Go player involvement! I need to come up with a good reward scheme for that kind of thing, whether it's XP, "brownie points," or just more in-game story stuff.)

Most importantly, I've now got a surprisingly good idea of what the local area looks like, thanks to a neat trick I pulled. I worked out all the major locations, and wrote each one's name at the top of a sheet of notebook paper, along with few brief details. Then I passed out one for each of the players, and they each added a detail to theirs and passed it to the next player. This continued until each page was filled. As I told them, I won't use everything they listed (though that was mostly to spur creativity by keeping them from worrying about messing up the setting) but I've got a decent starting point.

And it was a lot of fun. The players enjoyed it, and it built investment in the world and the game. There's now a number of little details scattered about the setting that they'll enjoy interacting with, because they're responsible for them. (Like fire toads!) I enjoyed it, both because I participated to keep the ideas going and because it gave me a lot less work to do.

I liked it so much that I might try it again. It strikes me as a good session warm-up activity, and I've got a number of places that might benefit from the same manner of detailing. The main overland map, the nine cities, and even the five cantons of Xanadu itself would all take well to the technique.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Industry, Armor, and Divine Bards

A couple of things have popped up in blogland lately that deserve a response of some kind, but that I haven't been able to work up a full post for. So I figured I'd do the blog o' links thing, and hit them all at once.

Where the Pros Are Trollsmyth posted a very thoughtful response to my post on industrial irrelevance, pointing out that there are some real benefits to having a healthy industry supporting a hobby, but that the one we have right now isn't quite doing what we need it to, and may even be actively detrimental to play. I'm still not sure how to square the issues he brings up here. Is there a way for industry to remain useful and still make money? The only response I've been able to come up with is that this seems to be something the Old School Renaissance (or parts of it, at least) is trying to answer. It's got it's own specific variation (Is what happened to TSR an inevitable result of selling D&D and D&D supplements, or were there some specific mistakes that, once identified, we can avoid?) but if there's a general answer to that question, that's one obvious place to look for it.

The Failure of the Industry It's not exactly a response since it's really a continuation of what he's been saying for a while, but James Raggi mentioned my post in one of his own, and gave his own answer to what the industry can do to enable play: make adventures. I've never had much use for published adventures, but now that I've got a little more experience with site-based gameplay, I'm beginning to see how they could be useful in an otherwise homebrewed campaign, and he makes some excellent points in that regard. (I particularly like the idea of adventures as models for design and as touchstones for discussion.)

The Foundations of Medieval Europe and The Warrior's Kit in Medieval Europe They're what they sound like: Trollsmyth explains medieval history for the gaming inclined. Pretty anyone who runs D&D-like games should have at least a passing familiarity with the topic, if only so you know what you're ignoring. So go read them.

D&D Armor and Weapon Weights Somewhat less helpful, but entertaining, godlesspaladin rants about armor and weapon weights and how they're all screwy in various D&D editions. He completely misses the point (naturally) but the post is worth a look for the illustrations and the reenactment video. We have a fairly good idea of how fighting in the middle ages worked because the guys doing it wrote it down, and it's not quite how it is in the movies. (It's much, much faster. Less fencing, more "stab the other guy before he stabs you.")

The 4e Divine Bard, Divine Bard Character Sheet, Divine Bard Fluff, and Divine Bard Additions MacGuffin has a very interesting project going on in using alternate power sources for classes. Unfortunately, I'm of limited use in critiquing it due to my relative unfamiliarity with the latest-and-greatest as far as 4e goes. Those of you with more experience with the system, or just an eye for game design, should head on over and have a look.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Beware the Bat!

The second session of my boyfriend's Mayan/Aztec/Ghost Conquistador dungeon ended poorly for my characters. But not for the bat.

We were using Google Voice Chat, since it's summer break and we live in different parts of the state, and aside from a few technical problems that aspect of it worked fairly well. It's not as immersive as text chat, and I could see it quickly getting very confusing with more than two people, but particularly when the DM needs the occasional explanation of what dice to use for an attack roll, it's nice to have the speed of voice.

The game served as a lesson, and a good one for a new DM to learn: it's the players responsibility to get out of dodge when danger threatens, but it's also important for the DM to understand and telegraph that danger. He didn't quite realize how tough the monster was, and so he described it in ways that made it sound less fearsome than it was; much smaller than it should have been, for one. But at the same time, I was knowlingly flirting with danger: I had one PC and a henchmen going up against what I thought was a CL 3 or 4 critter. So I'm not annoyed about it (all my protestations and threats to the contrary), it's just a good lesson. For both of us.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pausing to Appreciate the Game

I haven't been writing much about Trollsmyth's Labyrinth Lord game, even though it's been (pretty much) weekly since late January, and we've had thirteen sessions to date. Mostly this is because, as a player, I'm not so much in the analytical mode that then causes me to write blog posts as I am when I GM, so discussion of the game where I'm a player gets crowded out by my plans for and reactions to whatever game I'm running at the time. But it's too bad, because that game has been blowing my mind on a regular basis.

First off, it introduced me to dungeons. Shortly therafter, I realized that I'm not a drama/actor player (in Robin Laws' player types, later co-opted by the 3rd edition DMG II and 4e DMG), as I'd always assumed since those are the players I get along with best as a GM. Instead, I'm pretty firmly in the explorer category. Which is kind of the opposite of how I am as a GM; I don't usually have the patience for world detail, and it's been ages since I put together a proper homebrew. But I used to love books like Dinotopia, non-fiction about imaginary places, and gaming can scratch exactly that itch.

Now, I'm finding out about the joys of discovering a character throuh play. Thirteen sessions is a long campaign for me, especially as a player. My record on the stranger side of the screen is 22, and I'd be surprised if, before the Labyrinth Lord game, I'd played in a campaign half that long. My first group had a lot of campaign turnover, and I've yet to establish a long-term group since then. While I enjoy the novelty of short campaigns, I now have a much better grasp on what I'd been missing. Figuring out details about a character (and dwarves in general, in this case) in response to the demands of play is fun, and not really practicle in a short game. Likewise, I'm enjoying the process of negotiating between what I think would be fun and "what my character would do."

Most importantly, I'm starting to understand this thing some call "immersion." I've always been aware of it in general terms, but I'm usually too busy responding to three different player queries at once to really get in to. (I wrote a short story once, but that was based on observing my players more than my own experience.) When I do play, I'm usually equally distracted, whether by books or my own weird conspiracy theories. ("Snakes took our hyperdrive!") 

But lately, I really have been getting lost in a fantasy world for a couple of hours a week. Some of it's the length of time I've been playing; I've gotten used to my character and the world and the genral feel of the game. It's also mostly been solo, which might have something to do with it. And a large part of the experience is simply due to the format of online chat. Sure, it's missing that at-the-table social experience, but it's also missing a lot of the distractions of the table, and I'm already pretty well trained to get absorbed into worlds of text.

Still, though it goes contrary to my usual inclination, dissecting the experience isn't as important as the fact that I'm having more fun as a player than I have in years. That's something worth posting about.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Rough Homecoming

So on Friday we did character creation for the Is This Fair sequel that we're playing this summer. Or, I should say, started character creation. Spent five hours and no one's done.

Now, part of that is that the characters the players are making are fairly complex. We're using Arcana Evolved plus a couple skill tweaks from Iron Heroes and items from the Magic Item Compendium, and everyone's running one 10th level character and one 20th level character. About half the group already has a lower level version of their 20th done, but even if the idea's cooked up they've still got all the numbers and fiddling to do. One guy finished his 20th level while on site, but everyone else is still partway through one or both characters; those without pre-existing characters from the last game haven't even started their 10th levels.

Some of the player's really dig the complexity. That's why I decided on 20th level in the first place: one or two of them have been bugging me to run "epic" for a while. Others get kind of lost. They're not as experienced with the system, and what's fairly and simple and fun for the ones into rules-tweakery (and I go into that category; I'm not much of an optimizer but I do enjoy building characters) becomes an ordeal.

Which is what it was. Five hours, and we still weren't halfway done. I've been running Traveller and Swords & Wizardry for the past year, and playing Labyrinth Lord, and it kind of blew my mind. I'd forgetten how much of a pain it can be, wrangling all the skills and feats and everything. Until now, I hadn't fully appreciated just how fast early edition D&D is, compared to 3e. And while Traveller's not quite that fast, at least it's fun, and no one gets lost. You're discovering your character as it goes along, and all the decisions are fairly simple and come one at a time. There's no math, no calculation, no flipping through books and figuring out how much all your magic items cost.

The worst part, though, is that we spent those five hours figuring out stuff I fundamentally don't care about. Fancy combat tricks, largely. Arcana Evolved is not nearly so bad about that as 3.5 D&D proper, and not all of it was combat, but even in the non-combat area, there's a level of calculated codification that, I've realize, I neither want nor need.

What I care about, with these characters, is where they're from and what they're doing in Xanadu. I care about their goals, their enemies, and (for some of them) how they feel about their parents. I care about what they're good at, what they're bad at, what they like doing and what they'd rather avoid. I don't need to know all the situations where they get a +1 bonus to whatever to know any of that, but that's what we spent those five hours figuring out.

I still feel pretty fondly towards the system, and I'm sure things will get better once I'm actually running it, once we can focus on the things that matter and I'm back to running the system I know better than anything. (Though that's another thing that bugged me on Friday. I don't know the system as well as I once did, and what's easily handled if you know it well isn't necessarily so forgiving to someone who's knowledge is a little rusty.) And if we were starting out at 1st level, or somewhere in that neighborhood, I doubt I'd mind at all. But this? This has me just about ready to swear off the high-powered end of the game, at least as a starting point. I doubt the compensations will be worth the trouble.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Six Traveller Campaign and Adventure Ideas

It's tough to plan a Traveller campaign concept ahead of time. Character creation isn't completely random, but it's close enough that any given idea might easily run aground on an ill-fate dice roll. Luckily, that same character creation will usually give you more than enough ideas to hang a campaign on. Mine's been largely shaped by the one player who stuck a 12 in Social Status and then went on to get three boosts to the attribute when he mustered out of Noble. My original ideas about them being an unruly crew of rogue's and scoundrels quickly moved over in favor of this Duke Marlow Burrin's political aspirations, and the campaign's been better for it.

That said, it does help to have some idea of the shape of the campaign, even if it's conceived at the table during character creation. (And with help from the players; incorporating their input can make them fiercely loyal to the game.) The Mongoose Traveller book has a few campaign ideas to start with, but here's a few more specific ideas to help get you going:

The Love Boat: The characters are of the mostly respectable sort, the players enjoy a little interpersonal intrigue, and the ship's outfitted for a pleasure cruise. Pick up passengers, take them interesting places, and inevitably get dragged into their weird personal problems. One week the crew gets hired to find evidence of adultery, the next, they're outrunning bounty hunters and learning too-late about a passenger's criminal past.

The Voyager Knock-Off: Mis-jumps are a hazard in any game, and if you want a short-ish campaign with a set end point, a really bad mis-jump makes a good option. Stranded in an unknown part of space, all the characters want to do is get home, but they're broke. Adventure (and hilarity) ensues. You might work with each player to come up with a specific reason why everyone wants to get home now (Mary Jane will marry another man! The family farm will be repossessed!) or you can leave open the idea that they'll decide this part of space isn't so bad, and settle down into a comfortable existence as traders or freelancers. (And, simultaneously, a more long-term campaign.) The best part of a game like this is it gives you an excuse to throw in a lot of really strange stuff, to keep up the idea that the gang is far from home.

Space Ship Rockstar: This works just as well in space as it does with vampires. The crew is a band (famous or not) "on tour," hopping from planet to planet and holding concerts as they go. There's a couple of different approaches that would make this adventure-worthy. The band could be the Scooby Doo type, always getting involved in trouble on the way to, from, and at the venue. Or the game could focus on the trouble they go through to get paid: all those backwoods planets always have something that's got to get fixed before they'll have the promised cash on hand. Perhaps the most promising option is that the band is cover for another activity, whether it's bounty hunting, trouble-shooting, or smuggling.

Home, Sweet Home: There's no reason your players have to be the itinerant wanderers with a spaceship. Instead, they could be in charge of a space station themselves. Every week, they deal with a different batch of weirdos coming through, causing problems for quiet folks. This also gives them the opportunity to get a lot more involved with whatever the local problems are. Other variations on this option include all the usual possibilities of an urban campaign, (detectives, local politicians, or plain old adventuresome trouble-starters) set in a city that's a major hub of space-trade to allow for lots of Traveller goodness, or even a wilderness exploration game, where the players have been tasked with mapping and taming a wild planet.

The Lost Civilization: Whether it's alien or ancient human, exploring the ruins of another time spread across a sector or subsector makes for a good unifying hook for an exploration and study-based game. They might have been tasked with it by a higher authority, or simply gotten curious; either way, an interlocking series of ruins, with plenty of mysteries to uncover and solve, can be very engaging to a certain type of player. This one plays pretty well with a lot of other more general concepts, too; just drop in a ruin every so often, in between their other adventures.

Big Game Hunter: Travel to distant planets, track down the most exciting local wildlife, and kill it. (Or escort some rich nobles with plans for the same.) Another one that could fit inside a regular campaign without much difficulty, this one could work as a campaign on its own if the players like the idea of developing reputations as some of the best and most dangerous hunters in the galaxy. Beyond just coming up with new and more interesting critters, there's a number of variations that would make this kind of mission interesting: perhaps the creatures are protected by the Imperium for some reason, worshipped by the locals, or more valuable alive than dead. The crew might be tasked with recording the creature's rarely heard cry before they bag it, or have to discover the fates of the last group of fools to go after it. This would also be fun to reverse: perhaps the characters are a far-future version of Greenpeace, out to stop hunters (and other sorts of interplanetary despoilers) by any means necessary.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Industry is Irrelevant

It occurred to me Tuesday night (late Tuesday night) that the roleplaying industry--as distinct from the hobby--is supported primarily by people who aren't playing. Not that they aren't playing at all, but that it's their non-play, outside of game activities are the ones that drive their purchases, rather than their actual at-the-table time.

I'm a prime example. I game a lot. I've currently got one game active (Trollsmyth's Labryinth Lord game), another on hiatus (my Mongoose Traveller game), a third about to start (Arcana Evolved Is This Fair? sequel), and then the dungeoneering with the boyfriend that will soon be getting more regular. I've also got a shelf full of various roleplaying systems and supplements. I'm obviously devoted to the hobby and the industry.

But the two don't mix much. Trollsmyth's game uses one book, Labyrinth Lord, plus his foul and unhinged decrees house rules. The Traveller game is the same deal. Much as I like the Mongoose Traveller core book, I have no interest in or use for any of the supplements, nor do my players. Dungeoneering? Swords & Wizardry. I've used a little material from Fight On! but any major modifications will likely be entirely of my own design. The Arcana Evolved game will likely use a few books from my collection, as the game it's based on did, but that's mostly because I have the books and want to use them. There's nothing I would have gone out and bought for the game.

I like reading roleplaying books. I like trying new systems. I like fiddling with things and building settings and characters and places. (That's how the Traveller game got started: I was bored and wanted to make a subsector. Then, hey, if I was going to make a subsector, why not go ahead and run a game?) It's a peculiar and fortunate feature of the hobby that there are so many peripheral activities to enjoy that aren't play, particularly when play can be so tough to arrange. I know those kinds of "rainy day" activities are a big part of what's kept me interested in roleplaying over the years.

But I don't need them to play. And that's the main thing that I'm here to do. And I don't need the industry to do that. I appreciate having it around, surely. But I don't need it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Permission to Fail

It's weird how things work out sometimes. I'd originally planned for the Mongoose Traveller game to just last for one semester. Plan was, I'd be wrapping that game up around now, and then start a new game (maybe Vampire, maybe Encounter Critical) next year. I didn't have a clear idea of how the Traveller game would end, but I figured that was something that would resolve itself.

Now here I am, getting set to run another semester of it. (At least.) That's not a bad thing; I'm doing it because the players enjoy the campaign, and there's still quite a bit left to wrap up just on the plot threads that are already going. I still don't feel like this is going to be one of those games that lasts forever (could be, but some of the players are already talking about doing something different someday, though they're still having too much fun for someday to be soon) but it's kind of nice to see it go a little longer than planned.

And if it hadn't, that would have been okay, too. Intending for the game to be short (though not building it in to the premise) helped it get this far. There were a couple of points earlier where I was frustrated with the game, and would have considered shutting it down then and there, except that I knew that it was only going to run until the semester ended anyway, and then I could be done with it. Now that I'm there, it's good enough to keep going, but it wouldn't have gotten this far if I hadn't had permission to end it in favor of something new when I got to this point.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Sometimes the Game Master Tweaks Back

Last Friday we had this semester's second-to-last session of the Mongoose Traveller sandbox game. (Last session of the semester was on Wednesday: we moved from the usual date due to finals.) A fun time was had by all; the players got up to enough hijinks that I didn't even need to use the pirate attack scenario I'd whipped up. (Got to use it last night, though. Very impressed with Mongoose Traveller ship combat.)

One of those hijinks got me to thinking. In brief, or something like it: one of the characters, Alice Dice, is a pirate, ruffian, and sex fiend. (Before the campaign started, she'd slept with all the male PCs, and with several important NPCs in the female PCs backstories. Blame the event tables.) Lately, she's been sleeping with Zane Archer/Sir Dave Bowman, space accountant/ship engineer who is terrified of her.

At one point that night, Alice brought a (male) rugby player back to the ship and suggested to Zane that they have a threesome. I'm pretty sure her player (my roommate, incidentally) thought this would be funny, and would freak out Zane, me, and the rest of the table. A typical player antic: she was looking for a reaction.

But Zane turned out to be rather more enthusiastic about the idea than she'd been expecting, which brings me to the point of this story: Game Masters like getting a reaction out of the players just as much as players like freaking out the GM. Now, sure, it fit the character, and I also wanted to make a broader point about the setting and society. But I also knew it'd throw her and the rest of the party for a bit of a loop, especially the player explaining to her that "guys are less open to that than women are." And that's an opportunity too good to pass up.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Traveller Sandbox Starts to Self-Organize

One of the players in the Mongoose Traveller game has finally designed his own ship. I was waiting for this to happen: usually in any given group there's at least someone who likes to do a little building and tweaking. And the ship design rules in Traveller pretty much beg to be used by just such an enterprising player, because while there's a pretty extensive set of pre-made ships (enough to get up and start the campaign without stopping to design your own) players tend to have their own ideas about what's "optimal."

I encourage players to do stuff like this. Every game of serious length that I've run they've ended up making something. I've had players design personal hideouts, come up with new races, research new spells, stat up loyal follwers, and create new character classes. It helps put a personal stamp on a campaign, and encourages the players to invest in the game and the world.

In this case, it seems to be a sign that the campaign is maturing -- and not just in the usual way, where the players get used to each other and their character settle into a comfortable dynamic. The players have started to take control of the campaign themselves; I'm no longer having the trouble I did a couple sessions back where every session was a struggle to constantly generate new happenings. They're doing things now: making plans, coming up with theories, and having adventures.

It's gratifying, because it's a sign that my experiment in a more sandbox-y style of campaign is paying off. I've never been much of a campaign writing kind of a referee, but I do usually start a game with some idea of an overarching storyline; a villain or two at the very least. This time, though, I didn't have anything immediately obvious going into it, and I knew that Mongoose Traveller was built for a more world-oriented style of play, so I decided to go with it. Things were rough for a while, but now I'm starting to see the real appeal of sandbox style play: it's fascinating to see all those separate plot threads start to knit together into something coherent.

Thus, the ship. The player in question has always had a vague idea of what kinds of goals his character, Duke Marlow Burrin, had in mind. (To challenge KordCorp's control over the subsector.) But now that the campaign is coalescing into a more recognizable form, he has a much better idea of how specifically he's going to achieve those goals, and the ship ties into that. And maybe more importantly, he and the rest of the gang seem to be getting much more attached to their characters, and thus more willing to invest in the world. It's a very encouraging sign.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Traveller Plans: Taking Advantage of the Summer Hiatus

Things I want to get done this summer for the Traveller game:
  • Map out the rest of the surrounding subsectors, in preparation for the inevitable misjumps, and so I'm ready if and when the campaign gets less focused on the Kordovia subsector.
  • Detail a bunch more planets. There's a number in Kordovia that I haven't sketched out yet, and I'd like to do at least the major planets in the neighboring subsectors as well.
  • Clean up the planetary notes I already have. Each one has somehow developed it's own unique format; I'd like to standardize their presentation a bit, move everything that's in my chronological notes pertaining to a particular world to its entry, and iron out each world's timeline.
  • Update my NPC list. I have a bunch of notecards, but they currently only cover about half my NPCs. At the very least, I need to get all of my NPCs written down and accounted for. I'd also like to get a hold of a card box and some manila dividers, so I can organize the cards by world, for easy use in play.
  • Update the campaign wiki. I have one, but I stopped using it after doing the session recaps became too much of a chore. I'm not sure I'm going to start doing recaps again, but it would be nice to get at least some kind of "Season 1: the Story So Far" general recap for the whole campaign done. If I'm really feeling ambitious, I'll wiki-fy all my planet notes and NPCs, but to do that I'd have to decide if I wanted it to be a player resource (and thus censored of secret details) or a way for me to keep track of my notes.
  • Make up a better calendar. At least get some holidays on there or something. Both Imperium-wide and planet specific; there are a few planets that I know would have some really entertaining festivals.
  • Get a little bit more of the setting fleshed out. This is really the least important item on the list, but it would be good to give some though to this at some point. I have a few sketchy ideas on this score already, but they mostly pertain to historical backstory. Details, for instance, on Imperial politics could be useful to establish.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Brand New DM's Sunken Ship Dungeon

My boyfriend has put up a post on his own blog (which is otherwise mostly non-gaming) about his experiments in dungeon design and some notes on his sunken ship dungeon. Of particular interest are the pictures he's posted of the part of his first dungeon that I've explored, and the reference material he's using to design the layout of the ship.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Game Master Nostalgia

Watching my boyfriend get into D&D and DMing has brought on some powerful waves of nostalgia. He's been getting all excited about his latest idea for a dungeon, a Napoleonic sailing ship that sunk on its way back from Egypt with mysterious cargo aboard, and it's been fun seeing him research it and plan it out and get to work. It reminds me of my own early game mastering, before I started worrying about whether or not I was "doing it wrong," and just played the game.

I'll be the first to admit, those early games weren't perfect, and I made a lot of mistakes on issues that these days I can handle without a thought. And he's been running into trouble on the skill side, too; he made his rooms way to complicated at one point, which caused some frustration on both our parts when it came into play. But there's a real joy there, when you first start learning and it's all about the sensation of discovery, that I miss.

It's something that the "old school movement" has brought back for me, at least a little bit. The whole "make something up and run with it" approach has reminded me of how I did things back in the day, and it's let me go back to it without also going back to not having any clue what I was doing and screwing up my games in serious ways as a result.