Dwarves world design

Man I really loved the whole write up Wallace has at Ludus Ludorum .  He has a great take on Wood elves, and I really like how he’s tied them to the ecology of his world.   So I’m totally shamelessly borrowing that set up to rework the dwarves in a setting I’m working on.   If you didn’t know by now, I’m kind of a tinkerer when it comes to world building.  I love to do it, and I have a thousand ideas all percolating in the back of my brain.   It’s one of the ways I relax.

I won’t go super detailed into the analysis of what we know about Dwarves from 5th ed, we know they’re hardy, poison resistant, slow but steady, and everyone of them knows how to use axes, hammers, medium armor, and shields.  Instead I’m going to jump right to what I’ve got for them.

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Long break

So I’m getting back on the saddle.  D&D kind of fell to the wayside, and we poked around with a few other games such as Edge of the Empire etc, but I feel like I need to get back into the campaign building set, and move forward again.

More to come

Handling Inner party conflict

party conflict

Interparty conflict is a spectre that almost every Gamemaster dreads at the table.   If handled badly, it can lead to hurt feelings, group break ups and in severe cases it can lead to loss of friendships.   I honestly don’t blame most GM’s from banning it outright in their games.

However, I do believe it has a place, and if handled correctly it can add depth and impact to a story, that the gamemaster couldn’t have managed on their own.

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Mirroring Real World Issues

I love the science fiction and fantasy genres for a multitude of reasons.  One of them is the way that we can mirror issues that are happening in the real world and then place them under a microscope and examine them in a way we couldn’t do so.  Who could forget TV”s first real interracial kiss     Or how Battlestar Galactica (reimagined) brought us a poignant look on the fear and paranoia we were facing after 9/11? Some of those themes are still relevant today. Fantasy in some ways has dropped the ball.  Instead we get a certain level of racism inherent to the setting.  It’s easy for us to hate orcs, because they’re orcs and it’s their nature.   There is even criticism leveled against the father of the Genre, Tolkien himself.  While these criticisms aren’t always accurate, there’s a certain inherent level of this kind of racism prevalent in most fantasy systems.  Some of my favorite modern fantasy/horror games are filled with terrible racial stereotypes and tropes that if taken at face value, are just damaging. Honestly, this doesn’t need to be a major theme of any game, or even something most storytellers bring up in the course of play.  Our games are in essence heroic stories in which we can be the hero and triumph over adversary.  Most players give no thought to the issues they face, as they’re more interested in having fun and hanging out with friends. Continue reading

Conflict building

I want the PC’s actions to matter. There needs to be consequences for actions, good or ill.   How frustrating is it when you go to a game and find out the game is scripted so much that the characters are there as little more than footnotes? Likewise what fun is NPC theater for the players?  To me NPC theater is nothing more than storyteller masturbation  The consequences don’t have to be world changing, but they need to change the way the environment interacts with the characters.  Likewise the PC’s need to be the stars.  It’s easy and a common pitfall for ST’s to put a NPC with the party, that is far more powerful than the characters, but it’s always a trap.

One of the things I always do when setting up a game is determine who the major powers are going to be.  Sometimes its as easy as determining which published npc’s or entities to use.  Shadowrun and Cyberpunk are great settings for this as there are a plethora of options to choose  from. Pick a couple of corporations and go from there.  Likewise L5R has built in genre antagonists as do many other systems.

D&D is a bit harder to set up in this manner unless you’re setting using published settings.  The pro and con to using those is the players already know much of the lore of the setting.  While this can definitely be an advantage, it can be just as much as a liability.  The Zhentorum are the bad guys, and your players know this.  So attempting to paint them in another light, oft times is pointless.  Obviously you can twist things etc, play off of the player’s expectations ad nauseum.  I personally found after doing just that multiple times in the Ryoko Owari setting for L5R, that I ended up putting almost as much work into it as I would’ve had i just started from scratch. So why not just start from scratch?

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How Hobgoblins almost wiped my party

A good portion of the campaign I’m running involves an epic war.  The PC’s are heroes transported from another world in an attempt by the gods to balance the scales.  Right now the enemy holds all the advantages and the pressure is on the PC’s to make a difference.

Hobgoblins make up the majority of the forces they’re encountering, and the first patrols they faced, they slaughtered with ease.  It made me rethink how the Hobgoblins worked, and also I decided to make special units that were more challenging for the players to face.   I’ve been trying to impart the feeling of war through a series of tricks.  Obviously I don’t want the PC’s rushing headlong into legions.  They’d simply get slaughtered.  That doesn’t help tension or let us move forward with the game.  Instead, I’ve tried foreshadowing by having them run across villages and hamlets that are hastily abandoned.  I have them run into advance parties of scouts as random encounters.  (Have to rethink some of the goals of those given this column) In short, in some ways I have to think of each session as kind of a LARP con game.  What is the pacing?  What is the theme/mood we’re trying to achieve?

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Darkness Falls- Laketown

One of the main things that keeps me coming back to world building is the creativity it allows me.   One of the things I really loved about the Ryoko Owari boxed set from L5R, is the way that specific elements of the city stood out.  Even though the boxed set detailed a great many things about the city, it seemed like only the really memorable pieces stood out.  Lover’s Gate, the Dragon Bridge, the Temple of the Sun, Teardrop Island, the Green Walls, etc.   I didn’t need to know where everyone stood, and nor did my players. What they remembered was some of the key elements of the city that were brought forth for them.

So, here’s Laketown.

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