It’s been nearly a year since I first heard of and played The Old Hellfire Club. I am very pleased to announce that they are now live on Kickstarter. Here is why you should now go and check it out and back their campaign.
I’m not much of a “Spell Component” guy, at least not material components, but the visual effect of one fusing chemicals in one’s bear hands to create fire or toxin, or vial of consecrated soil that shatters and causes the undead to flee before you, it’s all very stunning, I just find it a nuisance to track.
But to stumble across a rare material or strange artifact that might imbue a spell with power beyond its typical capabilities, even as a singular use consumable treasure, makes for an interesting treasure with unique appeal that might capture the imagination of your favourite spellslinger. (more…)
Have any of you been watching the revealed cards in War of the Spark, the next Magic: the Gathering set to be released and it is heavy on the narrative value. Nicol Bolas, dragon, planeswalker, pharaoh, and one of the big three ultra-villains, has assembled an army, tinkered with fate, and installed himself as the ultimate power in the multiverse, leaving only an extermination of the disloyal, gathered together in Ravnica, the endless city. He’s got an army of Eternal Champions, zombies harvested over generations on a plane he crafted in his own image, and he’s spread his influence far and wide. (more…)
Warhammer 40,000 is a tabletop miniature wargame, created by Rick Priestley and produced en masse by Games Workshop. The game is essentially the sci-fi version of the Fantasy game, Warhammer. If you were ever to walk into a Games Workshop store, you can be sure that you’d be taken in by all of the craft, all of the skill and indeed all of the amazing paints. But what race would you pick? Here is a brief summary of each of the races.
“Slightly fatigued with Mary-Sues” of Liverpool writes:
Whenever I start up a game, or try to join an RP online (Star Trek or otherwise), almost every other player seems to want to break the boundaries of class or race to make their character ‘the exception to the rule’. I don’t mean multiclassing (which of course also happens) but more like “Yeah I’m a Vulcan, but this Vulcan has emotions”, or “I’m a high elf who’s actually a dark elf”, or “I’m a paladin, but I’m a pirate bard warmonger. Oh yeah, they deity I’m devoted to is the lawful good pantheon head”. Even stuff like “Oh we’re doing normal D&D? Cool, then I’d like to play a half-orc, half-Aasimar barbarian, and my character path is that I’m the son of a divine being and my powers will slowly develop as time goes on”.
The question is: do you experience this as well? Does it piss you off? Do you find that characters like that are actually interesting?
Also how do you deal with it? Do you kill one of their legs and raise it from the dead? (I know it happens, don’t try and tell me it doesn’t!)
And final question – do you find that characters that are rolled within the worldly norms (Sun elf bladesinger in forgotten realms/good old fashioned Barbarian etc) actually work better and give people more of a chance to be exceptional by playing the story rather than trying to force it at creation stage?
The exiled drow rejected by the society he knew and unable to be accepted by the society he chooses to fight for is not an unheard of cliche, it might well be that there was a time when one could hardly move through a game shop without stumbling across a Drizzt Do’Urden or variation thereof, and while the hobby is supposed to be about imagination, and while heroes are supposed to be exceptional examples of their kind… yeah, yeah, there is a definite trend towards “I’m an X but Y” where in the written lore the two variables are – not mutually exclusive, but outlandish and absurd.
Now there’s nothing wrong with playing a quirky character, and there’s nothing wrong with playing an outcast, happy people with cushy lives don’t go out adventuring… unless they do, you have to play the guy who got bored with life and took up the sword and fireballs at some point.
For example, you can be the pirate paladin, hells, I’ve literally just done it, an enforcer of the honour amongst thieves, share your loot, say nothing to the cops, and if you don’t play nice with your other underhanded brethren expect to be smote in your sleep (I can do that, my god said I could). But there is a balance to be struck between quirky and different and wacky and outlandish. Fantasy is supposed to be outlandish, so is sci-fi to an extent, but there is a difference between a Ferengi whose bad at business and decides to join Star Fleet, and a Ferengi who hates greed and money grubbing behaviour and lives like a peasant out of choice, that Ferengi would be stoned to death, like the guy who decided to roll that character. That character would be a pariah, that character should be a pariah, and that’s how the world would treat them, and that player would have to come to terms with that before they sit down or have a miserable time at the table.
Giving your character a place in the world, ties to nations, loyalty to factions, all offer potential for characters to be part of the world, opening avenues of role play and adventure, not to mention having allies may prove essential if a character is a loner and outcast. A character with family is – of course – asking for more trouble than the half-klingon-half-tiefling warlock of Salvatore, but it’s more dramatic and awesome trouble than it is painful and contrived awesome. It is more epic to have to leap to your death to save your estranged brother than it is to have everyone in every town you enter ask what the hell you are.
Hybrid characters are relatively easy to dismiss as a concept, you can play the pure biology card: “the pairing doesn’t work, no offspring can come of the union” or in the case of divinely or fiend-touched bloodlines, one lineage dominates, but if your player can present you with a well-reasoned, well balanced race that fits the world then by all means let it through… but let’s be honest here, it sounds like that’s not the kind of player we’re talking about here.
I for one have been lucky, I only rarely have to deal with such characters and they are usually only in single-game adventures, the kind that you want the obscene and ridiculous concepts so you can squeeze as much ridiculousness out of three hours as possible, however, might I suggest requesting from players that they either:
- Follow guidelines to character creation, such as making membership to a faction mandatory, like Star Fleet, or a Ravnica guild as examples, or excluding certain races. It may seem harsh at first but given justification you’d be surprised how many players can get behind “the plan”.
- Have new players pitch two or three character concepts. Clearly you’re dealing with some excessively creative people… maybe too creative… and giving them that brief will let them explore a few ideas, while allowing you to pick a selection that you think will gel together best.
- Talk to the players once they’ve given their characters, and impress upon them the hard life they face as their chosen character, and ask if they’re willing to face that played out in game.
If, after all of the above, they still can’t play your way, clearly, yours is not the group for them.
And for the record, it was both legs, and it was one time! He was fine! He was walking around on them for months of game time with surprisingly little issue. He just spent a lot on replacing leg-wear.
If you have a question… ask it! I might even answer in this ridiculously long and rambling format. I’m not promising to turn this into a series, but when if it happens, it happens, and I’m perfectly fine with it. Other people have made a series of “Dear Dungeon Master” letters, but don’t let that stop you coming to me… this is fun!
Gigantic eagles circle the bay, plucking seagulls clean from the sky, as the gangplank is run out from the Merchant Knave. You push your way past the rushing deckhands down to the complex network of piers and jetties stretching out from below the bluff, that spirals up to the height of the city. As you step down you can hear the hollering of people in the simple armour of guardsmen, calling out in a variety of languages, and in a few moments you find one shouting over the crowd in a language you understand:
“Welcome to Meadsbridge! While within the confines of the city you will abide by the following laws…”
It’s something I’ve considered doing for a while but I’ve never had the recruitment power for it, a world big enough, and so full of adventure that it could support multiple groups. A couple of years ago, before resolving to be a DM for hire, I watched a video about a particular style of gameplay, The West Marches that put better form to the idle thought, and now I have a way of reaching new players.
Adventurers are centred in a single area, a point of civilisation on the brink of wilderness, within which lies adventure. There can be dozens of players, all gathered in the city of Meadsbridge, talking, communicating, sharing what they’ve found, recruiting for expeditions in the great green beyond to learn more and more about their surroundings, and follow rumours about some of the plot hooks that I have seeded throughout the small-nation sized space mapped out beyond… my map, they’re not allowed to see it.
Of course you may not want – or be able to share information, some players have already landed themselves far from Meadsbridge in one of the outlying settlements with no easy way to communicate with the larger settlements nearby, and have already got a couple of secrets they’d rather not share with everyone… but they’ll soon learn that without friends, they’ll find themselves in fatal situations with no one to depend upon for help.
The players will need to keep their ears out for rumours and plot hooks, not just from one another, but also the citizens of the cities and settlements, and the wandering caravans beyond. Wandering into the wilds will yield some results, but the true treasures must be sought, rather than stumbled across.
Every hex on the map (built in hexographer if you’re interested) works out to roughly half a day’s travel on foot, about fifteen miles, and for every half-day of travel there is an enormous random encounter table, with changing regional effects, different possibilities depending on the intent of travel, some fixed landmarks that can help with navigation, such as the estuary or certain distant forests, ridges, and settlements. The region is awash with bandits, gnolls, incursions of demons, hidden enclaves of halflings, dwarven mines, hives of serpentflies, nests of manticores and griffons, and the spawning lakes of whales. There are about a dozen side-quests, dungeons, and wandering monsters to pursue with more being added constantly, and amidst all of it a hidden story, scattered like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle between the people who set out from that single point of light and into the darkness.
Which sounds grandiose for a project that is little more than a Facebook community page, but as the first dozen players are starting to scratch the surface, now felt like the time to share the ridiculous scope of the Meadsbrdige wilderness.
For this MMTTRPG I’ve made the process of character creation a guided affair for two reasons:
The first is to try and keep things fair. Players still roll dice to determine their statistics, but those rolls have an inverse effect on your character choices later on. Points are used to buy things like the ability to choose your race and class, or to start with a magic item, or a map, or additional information, and the better your stats, the fewer of those points you receive. A player with bad stats can choose to start at second level rather than first. It makes people whose dice rolls have turned against them feel a little more empowered.
And second is to create something a little more unique and immersive. Four human nations, a twist on the subraces of both halflings and dwarves, a little more personality granted to elves, and four different human nations. Additionally I have traded the classic exotic races (dragonborn, gnomes, half elves, half orcs, and tieflings) with a collection from Volo’s Guide to Monsters, aasimar to reflect that the world is young, and the blood of gods still flows in mortal veins, goliaths and firbolgs, as giants are prolific across the world, and kenku and lizardfolk from far-off lands to lend some mystery to the world at large.
Once a character is made each player gets a short .pdf with all the information they need to get started, and a hefty chunk of lore that they can dive into for inspiration. Any character options, like their magic items, extra rumours, or anything else they might have chosen gets added to this file. After a few levels of play, players may want to retire their character, because doing so yields more options at character creation, with additional points depending on the successes and deeds of their last character, and the positive behaviours of the player.
The Shropshire Dungeon Master IX
So this is kind of a business diary, because this grand idea of mine (that I stole) currently has thirteen players, of which only seven have played, and four more at the weekend. recruiting isn’t too difficult, as interest is always high, the problem will be finding venues for games as most of the groups will eventually be strangers to one another (to start with) and will want to meet on neutral ground, at least for their first few sessions. Pubs are often busy, and most private spaces require a fee – usually more than my margin, thus negating the point of running games as a living.
As regular readers know – especially if you read my old DMing 101 series – I do not like playing online, it’s fine for some, and has some amazing benefits, but I find it hinders the enjoyment of the game and as my players now pay to be at the table, I want them to have the best experience possible.
I have been working on this project for months and it is so gratifying to roll it out to real players, but I knew there would be pitfalls and problems, and there’s a certain amount of fun to be found in overcoming those problems, but when your players are your customers it’s always better to be on top of the minor issues so that the game is the focus of the experience, not the days spent finding a table at which to play.
This April I will be disappearing a long way north for a week to run a long game of D&D at the Wargaming Nationals that I attended last year, and then shortly thereafter at Insomnia in Birmingham. Additionally in June, I have a table at Comics Salopia and upcoming celebration of Shropshire’s deep connection to the comic book industry, the wealth of local artists and writers, and I will be raising by geeky standard and running games for anyone who comes to see.
Ok, we started Kickstarter Highlights to shine a light on smaller or lesser known projects that we wanted to see shine, or managed by people we love, but occasionally we like to talk about projects that we love that really don’t need the help. Case in point, Critical Role, the series that broke MCM London, a bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors who play Dungeons & Dragons live on the internet for a few hours every week and draw massive viewership and crowds, and have been partially responsible to the exponential boom in popularity of the hobby!
I’ve talked about them before. They’re a good – if inaccurate – representation of the hobby, vastly more entertaining to watch as it’s being played by actual performers, voice actors who know about taking turns when talking so that there’s no cross-talking, who can totally immerse themselves in their character so deeply that we can more clearly envision the action, and who get visibly emotional about the narrative, reacting appropriately to every moment of drama and capable of deftly improvising moments of their own.
So it makes sense for a bunch of actors with characters that they love and live, with connections in the industry who also love D&D, to club together and make a cartoon! One to go alongside the comics written by Matt Colville, and all of the other products, the books, the art, the live appearances… you get the idea they’re doing well.
The project will be supported by the studio Titmouse Inc, famous for shows like Metalocalypse, Venture Bros., Tigtone that I put on my to-do list lately, and Avatar: The Last Airbender, alongside a host of other major projects, so the animation will be in excellent hands. The cast will be played by themselves, with Matt Mercer serving the bulk of the NPCs… or rather those characters who are not the protagonists.
The test will be how well a D&D style narrative can be translated into a linear format, as it rarely crosses well into other formats – at least those that endeavour to capture the spirit of tabletop RP. As this project is dedicating itself more to existent characters and a well developed and explored world, things could be very different.
So, to the campaign itself. The target is $750,000 to fund the actual animation to a high standard, with a projected release of late 2020. Backer rewards do not include access to a digital stream or download of the final result, rather heavily implying that the final product will be available for everyone to enjoy, likely via their (newly independent of Geek & Sundry) YouTube channel and probably Twitch as it is their principle platform.
The rewards backers receive are instead encouraged to pledge for loot, some digital downloads of music uniquely composed for Critical Role, including a piece written and (partially) performed by the cast. Dice, sticker packs, art prints, cuddly toys, accessories for roleplay and memorabilia, and of course the upper echelons include personalised artwork by Titmouse, producer credits, and when you hit a five figure sum you get a studio tour and more.
Those upper echelon rewards? All gone. I would not be surprised to find a lot of D&D executives towards the top of that list, and possibly Matt Colville himself. The campaign? When I started writing it was at about $2.1 million, it’s now approaching $2.4M, and the campaign started less than five hours ago. IGN managed to squeeze out an article last night a few minutes after the project passed $1M, and I won’t be publishing this for another ten hours, who knows how much money might have poured into the pot. Stretch goals are disappearing, and the twenty-two minute animated short will be treble the length before I go to bed, and will be a feature length film by morning unless pledges slow down.
Sam Riegel and Travis Willingham have apparently been talking to producers for a while, and the attachment of the hobby still makes studios reluctant to engage with projects, presumably offers may have been made with limitations or changes. Crowd funding may lack security for the consumer… fairly certain the same group have ripped me off twice now… but it does put creativity in the hands of those passionate about a project. The CR team have proven time and time again that they are capable of producing high quality content. Here’s to another one.
Oh… there goes $2.5 million!
Side note…! Hot damn, 514% funding on Lasers and Liches!! Go check out this awesome project blending sci-fi and D&D, and adds bonus dinosaurs, perfect for anyone wanting to RP their way through Kung Fury or a Shadowrun Rave. You still have a week to get involved, and there are still stretch goals left to reach.
~Text message from Tim~
What do you mean it was made by a “different Chris”?
This article has a weird back story so bear with me! I was just relaxing one evening and looking through my notifications and noticed I had a new follower on Twitter. Now I usually am quite curious about people who follow me on Twitter. I wonder if they don’t know me personally then I wonder which bit of random content bought them to me. So I begin to head down the so-called rabbit hole which led me to somewhere rather interesting.