Saturday, October 15, 2011

It's Alive!

I haven’t blogged in several months … that’s partly because I’ve been busy – with work, a new nephew, campaign design, etc. – but also because my blog ran away from home.

Okay, what really happened is that when I set up my blog I used my work email address as the contact link. At the time I was planning to switch from Neolithic-era dial-up to quasi-modern high-speed internet at home, and I thought that using a soon-to-evaporate personal email account didn’t make much sense. Ironically, six months have come and gone, and I still haven’t switched to high speed internet; I still plan to do so … any day now, really I do … check back with me in a year or two and we’ll see if I’ve managed to carry through on that plan.

So, I used my work email address, and everything worked like a charm. Then, out of the blue, and several years after assigning me “a new and up-to-date” email account, the inscrutable tinker gnomes in our IT department opened and attached new Google accounts to each employee’s email address.

The IT department didn’t consider it worthwhile warning me about this development but all of a sudden I started getting “alert” notifications from Google every time I tried to access my blog – kind of a, “hey buddy, you seem to have a personal Google account with this email address BUT one of our corporate clients also has a Google account with the same address; you need to move your personal crap somewhere else.”

I have to admit that Google “offered” to make the transition really easy. All I needed to do was give them another email address to which they could attach my existing account. [At this point you can go back to paragraph 2 and reread my rationale for using the work email address in the first place.]

So … I needed another, other, email account. Hmmm, I thought, “If I need a new email address to attach to my Google account, why don’t I open a gmail account?” I did some research, didn’t encounter too many ‘nays’, and subsequently opened a gmail account. This had the added benefit that I could correspond with friends and check their responses from work; something I couldn’t really do with my original “home” account.

Then I tried “migrating” my inaccessible blog [inaccessible partly because the IT gnomes also changed my Google password when they opened the “new” account for me] from the work email to my new gmail account. That’s when I discovered the curious fact that you can move Google accounts to a new email address as long as that email isn’t gmail. Huh? “Our migration system is designed to work with every existing email account in the world except our own.”
I had to open yet another new gmail account just to regain access to my blog. Arrgh, this is bound to be a continuing issue of confusion to me in the years ahead. At least I can post to my own blog again, so I suppose it’s not all bad.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A is for the Ancients

Stories and legends of the enigmatic Ancients abound throughout the Northern Isles. A mysterious race – masters of unsurpassed eldritch power – the Ancients vanished many millennia ago, leaving behind a legacy of cyclopean architecture, wondrous artefacts, and sites of enduring fascination.

Within the Earldom of the Northern Isles itself several relics of the Ancients have long drawn the curious, the greedy, the desperate, and the foolhardy. These include the so-called City of the Ancients and its proximate neighbours, the cloud-piercing Tower of the Moon and the unfathomed Well of Demons; the Twisted Spire; the Hungry Forest; and another cluster of sites: the Crystal Henge, the Avenue of Gods and Demons, and the Mound of the King.

The Ancients used metal in some of their creations but, based on surviving examples of their work favoured the use of stone, crystal, bone, and especially ceramic.

The text below is hereby designated Open Game Content via the Open Game License.

Miscellaneous Magic Item
A collar of submission works its subtle charm
Collar of Submission: found in a range of sizes, from those that would fit a small child to others clearly intended for creatures much larger than man-size, these simple metal or ceramic collars exert a subtle but powerful influence over the - usually reluctant - wearer. Each collar is attuned to a master, simply holding an empty collar for a period of an hour or more makes one the “master.” When placed around a living being’s neck, the collar dissuades the wearer from thoughts or actions hostile to the master. The collar rewards loyalty and obedience with pleasure, and disobedience with pain and despair. In order to take an action in any way hostile to the master, the wearer must make a successful saving throw versus Spells; failure results in the wearer being incapacitated for 1d4 rounds by pain and nausea. In addition, for every month the collar is worn, up to a maximum of 4 months, the wearer gains a +1 bonus to morale checks made in the service of the master. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Plan A

A message from your sponsor … apparently “come back tomorrow” actually meant “drop by next month.” I REALLY didn’t think the hiatus was anywhere near that long. Oh well …

At the minimum a new campaign needs: a) a game system; b) an initial adventure site; and c) some potential victims, uhm players. It’s also a good idea to have at least the rough outline of a campaign setting … assuming you’re not using a commercial product for this purpose.

From personal experience, the impetus or inspiration to put together a new campaign can start with any of these elements. Over the years I can’t remember how many times the purchase of a new game has instantly inflamed the desire to build a new campaign just to try it out. Sometimes my players jumped at the opportunity, sometimes they reluctantly acquiesced, and occasionally they retreated firmly behind their walls and barred the gates – I was NEVER able to convince them to play FGU’s Bunnies & Burrows, which sounded absolutely amazing when I read a campaign article about it back in the early ‘80s.

Sometimes you pick up or read an adventure that just screams to be played. I’ve been reading Monte Cook’s Dungeon-a-Day project whenever I have the time, and it’s really made me want to get back into gaming in a serious way. There is some irony in the fact that this product is not currently on the top of my “to play” list; instead it’s on my “save for the perfect day” list.

Occasionally you pick up an interesting campaign setting or come up with a campaign idea you want to develop yourself, and that can lead to a new campaign too – though, it’s also possible to simply link the new setting to an existing one via conventional travel, gates, planar adventuring, etc.
So … having decided to plan a return to gaming I got to work on Plan A. Here’s how the initial idea looked:

Factor 1: Adventure: “I really want to DM Monte Cook’s Dungeon-a-Day megadungeon.” I’ve never run or adventured in a megadungeon; the first couple of levels look great; and Monte Cook is an amazing designer.

Factor 2: Game System: “I’ll use D&D4E.” I’ve been buying all these neat-looking 4E products but haven’t had a chance to try the system out yet. Okay, admittedly Dungeon-a-Day is specifically designed for D&D3E (and more recently for Pathfinder) but that’s okay; it’ll give me the chance to really figure out how 4E works.

Factor 3: Victims: I “sort of” have potential players: the core – or debris - of my 1980s gaming group. There are a few teeny tiny problems though. One player lives an hour away and doesn’t have the health to travel or game for hours on end (the fact that he thinks another regular is a tad insane is an added complication). Player #2 has expressed reservations about committing any “acts of violence” in a game. I’m not sure exactly how this reconciles with his default preference for playing violent computer games instead, but it definitely could be a problem.
Celtic Chieftain painted by Ben Pecson

Having read over the core D&D4E products I’m immediately struck by the game’s “high beam” focus on combat. Admittedly, D&D in any of its incarnations has always been a combat oriented game but at first glance 4E doesn’t seem to support much else; in other words, if you chose to play a largely non-violent character I’m not sure what you’d actually do for most of the evening. Fortunately, my third regular traditionally likes to wade into combat and kill things. So … if I’m going to use 4E I should probably plan on using it with players 1 and 3; the drawback being that we’d probably get together once a month at most if we were lucky.

Factor 4: Campaign Setting: Monte Cook’s Dungeon-a-Day megadungeon has local detail but is designed to be generic enough to be fit into almost any reasonably standard fantasy setting. At the time, I was playing with the idea of designing a Celtic rather than Feudal Medieval world, and that seemed like a reasonable mesh with Dungeon-a-Day.

Okay, I had a basic plan for how to develop a campaign and get back into gaming. Interestingly enough NONE of these factors worked out in the long term.

Next time … Plan B.

P.S. The painted Celt Chieftain is painted by pro-painter Ben Pecson, and the image comes from his Brush Warriors webpage. Link @

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Hot Elf Chicks Throw Support Behind RPGs

At least one assumes that hot Elf chicks would support RPGs.

A picture in support of the blogosphere Hot Elf Chick movement.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Ghost of Campaigns Yet to Be

They say that no plan survives contact with the enemy. I wonder how many planned roleplaying campaigns survive long enough to make contact with the enem… uhm, players.

Most of mine certainly haven’t.

Call it the will to procrastinate, the distraction of everyday life, or Gamer ADD. Call it what you will, over the years I must have averaged at least five planned campaigns for every one that’s been played. And my record certainly hasn’t been improving.

It occurred to me that what I needed was a plan for planning (at least I didn’t need a Royal Commission to tell me that). Easier said than implemented.

Tomorrow … Plan A.