Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The Gods Themselves


With three games of any five running in clubland at the moment there is always the tempting and readily available option of whoring oneself about. Whilst it can be useful to make up numbers if a game is a player or two short, a bit like passport stamping, its a quick way of travelling between universes and experiencing a wide variety of play. Over the last few weeks I have been juggling with the nitty grity of D&D 5e, watching the card play of the Phoenix Dawn, popping in and out of GM Max's Warhammer as well as GM Mike's Freeform DnD. The one remaining game off my radar was the Exalted which I have sort of perceived from a distance as a beautiful orrery, spinning out its fate in a mesmerizing dance, but not to be touched in case it explodes in a cloud of springs.


Nevertheless, GM Jack took the opportunity of playing a one off flashback scenario, as I was a guest player and we had the pleasure of Ian's company again who popped in from running the government to say hi. 

The world itself is an infinite flat expanse where the characters walk as Gods, Exalted, akin in some ways to a virtual reality in that many things are abstract but obey their own set of rules. For example, in this particular scenario we had to go to a casino that people were frequenting but not returning from. Basically it transpired that another God was raising stakes whereby people could eventually gamble their souls. It was a bit of a head spin but what was interesting was that the God did obey its own principals and ran fair games but in question was the morality of doing so of course, so as a character one is forced to take a view as well as action. 


A bit like a rough whisky I think it was a matter of piecing together the flavours afterwards but I would gladly give it another go to get a bit more of handle on the universe. Oddly it remind me of some of the Tolkien back story with respect to Valinor, the land of the Gods, where enormous power sloshes around the little people and it becomes a struggle for the various overpowered Gods just to keep the world in one piece purely as a side effect of their own nature. It's a fascinating scale up of issues over the usual day to day and hack and slay.



Don't remember a casino in Lord of the Rings tho to be fair.


Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Dungeoninium Dragonus


Always a sticky point having someone on zero hit points. The D&D technical session last week saw a zombie attack take one of our elves down to a whisker. The history of zero is an interesting one and we must be fortunate that we did not inherit Roman mathematics as having to roll a DXX would be a somewhat lopsided affair given that one of the facets would have to read XVIII. The ancient Romans had this problem themselves of course and whilst they played AG&G - Advanced Gauls and Greeks - they did at least abbreviate their options on their D20s, but the zero never did add to their accomplishments.

5e is wonderfully simple in principal but this also means its quite stark in places and whilst I tried to buy a little flexibility on behalf of the character, there was little point, the rules are extremely clear. To be fair, all the party members with any sort of healing or medicine completely failed to make any positive expectation for the patient, so the tense and  necessary death saving throw was made at the 50/50 chance of getting into more trouble. Passed.

The zero is a special case as one is held at the border of consciousness or unconsciousness and if it was a proper scenario it would have been a wonderful opportunity for some visions or insights and possibly a bit of astral travelling; all hail Planescape. However it was a training session and whilst the players were patient, we went over the death and recovery rules quite meticulously and interesting to be taught about the short recovery rules where you gain a point of health every 1d4 hours which sort of worked out as by the time the party were shoveling random herbs down his throat the character was just blearily coming round.


In other games both the Exalted and Phoenix Dawn continue to go bodly which means that despite the seasonal summer lulls, we have actually been driving three games worth of players on a regular basis for some time now, if interest continues to grow, we may have to think about starting to worry about the possibility of maybe occasionally running a 4th game by the time Winter is Coming (bring back Song of Ice and Fire campaign will be printing badges soon). We shall see.





Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Number 6


As GM Krzys was on shift last week I had the impromptu opportunity to shuffle onward in my DnD5e training as the little module I fabricated on the back of an envelope nears its completion - I don't think it would quite qualify for a kickstarter as I feel would need a much better envelope - possibly a padded one. It was a slightly inebriated shock to me as I had though that everyone was either in the Warhammer or Exalted but an unholy 7 players piled into GM Max's game whilst I became dimly aware that there were a few others left over such that I could also run. Had I been less absent minded I would have worked all this out and not asked Max to give birth. All credit to him though for shouldering such a large group and including everyone who turned up, albeit my fault entirely.


The optimal number of players in a roleplaying game is an often touted conversation and varies between systems and GM opinion of course - whilst I can run with 3 keen players happily with an NPC, 4 is optimal with a 5th easily added. 6 is pushing it and 7 turns into a PowerPoint slide show from the late nineties when one adds too may graphics. The issue here is to always bear in mind the player experience as even with the best will in the world, not enough attention can be given to each player in a timely fashion. With even the most disciplined flow of mechanics, once you are into a round by round sequence, there is no avoiding a slow down, and people will feel the momentum suck from the play as time dilation takes effect where one can age more rapidly than those around you. My best advice for player, if you see a game with 5 or 6 people, stop, look both ways and don't be number 7. For a GM don't be a prisoner of your own mind, it may drive you insane.


As for the 5e training I feel happy enough with the system now to run proper as with the correct preparation for a scheduled game, a lot of the details will iron themselves out and the additional familiarity having run a few session have begun to round out my corners. What is a surprise to me is that I am getting quite an interest in the wider system and reading around the Greyhawk setting in general. Moreover I have fond memories of the acclaimed and original Darksun setting and although it portrays an arid and bleak world, there is a lot of inherent respect for characters that can survive such a dying realm. The temptation to migrate the system to 5e is quite compelling and I am not the only one:

https://www.reddit.com/r/DnD/comments/31y843/dark_sun_5th_edition_players_handbook_v20/