RPGaDay: Good characterisation

It is day 25 of RPGaDay, hosted by BrigadeCon and the question is: What makes for a good character?

RPGaDay 2016

In media like novels, film, tv shows, and other prepared performances, you get the ability to form a character which you control how it will be presented throughout the story. While working on the character, you will make changes to that character through the editing process. Once the product is complete, your character is set and thus it easier to make a good character. You don’t have such for a role-playing game.

In a rpg, you are performing and developing your character as you play. You can establish a basic framework of the character at the start which will change as you play. This is a good thing. Most RPGs are all about change. You have a set parameters of your character and you modify it as you play and/or you change the game environment by your decisions. With that in mind, a good character is one which helps to bring about this change.

Now, you don’t want all sorts of game. If you bring entropic change then you will have a chaotic mess in the end. While destructive action can be fun in one shots, you will find it difficult to sustain it in the long term play. The game Fiasco engages in fun destructive play as your characters makes poor life choices and events spiral out of control. The game is designed to being one-shots. Posthuman Pathways is another fun one-shot where you de-construct a character from have four distinct traits and you lose one. In my experience from Posthuman Pathways, you start with decent characters and end up with despicable alien characters. I have played a game where my character was a jerk at the start and ended up being a strangely decent character.

In long term play, you wish a character which builds to the story. A good character will wish to form relationships with other characters. You will want to form goals to accomplish over the immediate goal of survival. You character might wish to change the environment by building something or altering the status quo. A good character will have character development  which can be gaining power as most rpgs do it or personality development.

You can have an editing process in your rpgs. I do it in my game. If someone tries a character and a mechanical choice doesn’t work how they felt it should, we will change the character. For ex: Erica was playing Medrash, a dragonborn runepriest of Bahamut. The runepriest fits best for support characters and as Erica was playing Medrash, she wasn’t enjoying the mechanical role. She was trying to do stuff with Medrash which the game was fighter her. Erica is very enthusiastic player who enjoys actions and damaging stuff. She needed a character which encourages that. We talked about the core stuff which Erica liked to keep of Medrash. She wanted to stay a dragonborn and divinely attached to Bahamut. She wanted to stay in plate armour. This left her with paladin and blackguard. Due to her aggressive site, she chose blackguard. We remade her character with those rules and we describe Medrash as a paladin with rage issues.

Thus, a good character develops over time. You will starts with a rough concept and as you play, you will shape them. In the end, you will have a great character with stories to share with your group.

What do you do to help develop a good character?

RPGaDay catch-up part 3: Days 10 to 12

Welcome back to my RPGaDay catch-up. With this post, I’ll be caught up on the questions.

This year, RPGaDay is hosted by BrigadeCon.

RPGaDay 2016

Day 10: What was the largest in-game surprise you have experienced?

I find this question strangely difficult to answer. As I improvise alot in my games. When I take the GM role, I merely set up situations and see them evolve. I am constantly surprised by what happens next which is in a way a cop-out.

Speaking to Brenda, she helped me remind me of an event that surprised me. For her, she was surprised that Princess Stasi was a succubus. My story is from a RPGA living campaign named Living Jungle.

Living Jungle was an organized play campaign set in Malatra, an isolate jungle environment in the Forgotten Realms setting. You were members of tribes and it had a rich atmosphere. I played Zwanlo of the Simbara tribe, a warrior mystic who was brave. In AD&D 2nd edition terms, I was a human wizard and I charged into combat at level 1.

On one adventure, we had to make a choice between saving the life of Bengoukee, a great and wise shaman who would lead our armies against the enemy or the life of spirit of the lion who would fight the tiger in the mystical realm. Zanlo had come to respect Bengoukee and didn’t wish for him to come to harm and as a member of the Simbara tribe, he worshipped the spirit of the lion. He believed that both should be strong and thus as a faithful servant, he offered his own life as a sacrifice. This felt natural and wasn’t the surprise. What surprised me was others in the party joining me in their offering. I think they thought I had seen a different angle where they might gain much when really, it was just a noble sacrifice that Zwanlo was making. The DM, Scott Delahunt, ruled that our sacrifice would mean that we would love a level which I felt was just. The other players got angry at me for having their characters lose  a level. I found it funny that on my record sheet, there was a negative value of how much xp gained. Scott later told me that if no one else had joined me that Zwanlo would be dead as I expected.

Day 11: Which gamer that you have played with has most affected the way that you play?

I would say my best friend from high school, Miguel Gervais, had the most effect on the way I play. He introduced me to D&D even though I had been playing “Livres dont vous êtes le héros” (Choose your own adventure books) and TMNT & Other Strangeness. Most of my previous experience was learning the game and showing to others. Miguel brought me to a group who had experience to the game. From there we tried a bunch of stuff and experimented with the rules. We weren’t afraid of changing stuff and go silly. I still remember his milk mage for one of our comedy April fools games. He set me on the path to try out stuff and learn from it. I continue to try stuff and learn. I’ve also learned so much since we made so many mistakes over the years.

Day 12: What game is your group most likely to play next? Why?

There’s various ways to interpret this question. Each leads to a different answer. The next time my regular group meets, we will probably play Dungeon World. I suspect we won’t have quorum for a game of Questers United, our D&D 4th edition campaign, and thus they will play the small group which Questers United send to tie up loose ends. I’m experimenting using 2 different systems for the same setting and have them interact.

As an aside, if you are a fan of D&D 4th edition and wish to join a campaign, please contact me. We’ve made modifications mostly from 13th Age. Questers United could use a new member probably from another plane or prime material world. If you wish silly fun and fight dragons, let’s talk.

On August 20th, I will be the Keeper for a Call of Cthulhu 7th edition demo using the A Time of Harvest organized play campaign. While this isn’t my group, it is a game that I’ll be playing next.

Finally, after Questers United campaign ends, I think we would be most likely to play Night’s Black Agents, the Dracula Dossier campaign. I have it and saw it win a bunch of Ennies at Gen Con. My best friend, Christine, finished reading my copy of Dracula Unredacted. I’ve listened to actual play podcasts about it and thus it excites me.

I asked this question to Brenda and she thinks Fate because everyone but her likes it. While I find Fate a fun system, I don’t have the spark of excitement to play it.

What game are you excited to play next? Is it an old game, something you saw at Gen Con or announced recently?

RPGaDay catch-up part 1: days 4 to 6

I’m back from my trip to Gen Con 2016 which currently occurs every other year since 2012. I had a fun time. I played a few games, saw many products and met several people in the rpg industry. I bought a variety of games mostly rpgs but some board games too. I will doing a 3 part catch-up for RPGaDay. Today will be days 4 to 6. Tomorrow will be days 7 to 9. Friday will be days 10 to 12.

RPGaDay is hosted by BridageCon this year.

RPGaDay 2016

Day 4: What is the most impressive thing that you can remember another player’s character doing in a session?

As I take the role of a GM most often, I have seen many impressive things. I am amazed by my group of friends and their wonderful antics.

Over a decade ago in my Beta Pictoris campaign. It was a fantasy game where a group of adventurers crash landed on a distant work and got involved with the civilizations upon it. We played Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition and the player in question was my best friend, Miguel. He played Captain Angus Ragnarok and he had written on his character sheet, cursed with living. He had lost his family, lost his crew, and any tragedy that befell him and others, he was the only one to survive. We had no mechanic for it. It was merely flavour. It was part of the character’s background and we never thought it would carry over to actual play. Yet, it did. One of the most impressive was when the party was thrown into an arena by monstrous humanoids. Ragnarok or more commonly known as Raggie had 1 hit point left which meant any significant blow would take him out of the combat. Miguel decided to charge the monstrous humanoid horde so the group could escape. It was a foolhardy maneuver but if you aren’t up to taking risks, why are you an adventurer, right? When I rolled my attacks against him, the monstrous horde kept missing. He lived. One of our friends, Yasha, couldn’t believe it. He thought we cheated. He thought that I fudged the die rolls. I did not. He only believed me after we did a mock fight of Raggie versus a bad guy. He witness all our rolls. He saw the start of the fight go well for the bad guy. Almost bringing Raggie down but didn’t. Suddenly when Raggie was low on hit points, the dice turned around and he had the upper hand. Yasha was surprised and stunned. We had no rules for it and it was simply luck but it happened.

Day 5: What story does your group of players tell about your character?

Our group has many story. That’s what happens when you play for a while. I’d say the story which returns from time to time is that of Princess Stasi.

Princess Stasis was a devious trick I played on the other players. She was the daughter of the Lord Benn, a militant noble with a strong army. Questers United learned that Princess Stasi had been captured by goblins and were blackmailing Lord Benn to attack the king or else his daughter dies. To save the kingdom, Ser Pelaios, the patron of Questers United, asked them to go rescue her. Right, simple damsel in distress. It’s your standard trope in fantasy adventure. Here’s my twist: Princess Stasi is actually a succubus in disguise.

Questers United went to the fort where the goblins kept Stasi. They bested the goblins as adventurers tend to do. They witnessed Stasi be very capable with a sword which they equated her being raised by a militant father. They didn’t take time to explore the fort since they were on a time limit. The king’s castle was under siege by the goblins and the blackmailed Lord Benn. They needed Stasi to break the siege. Thus they rescued the kingdom by having Lord Benn turn onto the goblins. Stasi was introduced to Pelaios, a knight of the King.

After awhile, they learned the Stasi was a succubus. They managed to piece it together and learn that she is Bryseris the succubus. They stopped her while Lord Amnon, Pelais was getting sickly. After defeating her, they wondered if there was a true Stasi trapped somewhere. There was a large background and evidence of Stasi’s existence. The devils of which Lord Benn is a pit fiend, used the suspicious to their advantage. They wanted to send Questers United to hell as a trap. They laid clues that she was there. Luckily, Questers United managed to figure out that Lord Benn and Princess Stasi were a pit fiend and succubus duo who alternated parent and child roles. Ser Pelaios would have been their next victim in their plot. Bryseris would have married Pelaios, conceived a boy, and then Benn and Pelaios would have perished in an “accident”. Benn would have become the boy to grow up. Questers United put an end to the plot.

Day 6: What is the most amazing thing that you know a game group has done for their community?

A few years ago, Peter Marshall, a friend and gamer, passed away from leukaemia. I still remember visiting him in the cancer treatment section of the hospital and at the hospice where he spent his last days. He was a member of Questers United and he gave me the miniature he painted of his character, Dhalen. Dhalen is still with the party as the pilot of airship which Questers United acquired.

After he passed away, Peter’s parents asked me to go through his games collection. We made a list and with other friends of Peter, we determined to have a sale and all proceeds would go towards research for a leukaemia cure. We priced the books. We recruited other gamers. We advertised. Honestly, we didn’t expect to raise much funds. I expected a few hundreds of dollars. I was surprised when we were able to give over a thousand dollars to charity. Folks came and bought books. They even made donations. Any remaining products was bought by a local vendor.

Thus ends part 1 of my RPGaDay catch-up.

RPGaDay: Favourite game session within the last year

Welcome back to my RPGaDay entries. This year, the event is hosted by BrigadeCon.

RPGaDay 2016

The second question is best game session since August 2015.

According to my RPG Geek account, I’ve had 44 game sessions since the 1st of August 2015. I played 25 different game systems and the top 3 most played are: Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition (9 times), Dungeon World (4 times), and Fate Core (4 times). I’ve played many great games and it is hard to choose.

The games which I remember the most are my D&D 4th edition since it is part of a campaign starting in 2008. The group is full of friends and we laugh a lot while we play. I remember when the adventuring party, Questers United, were at a festival for Pelor and some gnolls took over a dormant volcano. Thought magical communication, the gnolls threatened to ignite the volcano if the realm didn’t bring sacrifices. Gimrid, the smart ass dwarf, talked back to the gnoll leader and thus a time limit was imposed.

Questers United decided to get there way before the time limit and found a guide who knew a short cut through the Shadowfell. They had to follow the path else wise they could get lost. Unfortunately, along the path, a coven of Death Hags were camping. Part of the group went to negotiate. Please note that Questers United love to negotiate even though they are very much a physical party. They are blunt but they get results. While negotiations, they learned that the death hag would love to get a pure soul for their collection which Gimrid has. Bane, the gnome revenant chaos sorcerer tried to convince Gimrid to give his soul to get the coven’s help but the dwarf stubbornly refused. The hag gave Bane a bone to communicate in case they changed their mind. The group arrived within the volcano.

They faced a patrol and learned the gnoll leader was heading towards the heart of the volcano to ignite it anyway. When you are a nihilist gnoll who worships Yeenoghu, the demon of ruin, you always follow up on your threats of annihilation. Questers United rushed towards the volcano centre where they found the lair of a sleeping volcanic dragon and the gnolls preparing to wake it up. If the dragon woke up in an angry mood, the volcano would erupt and destroy the whole realm.

Questers United and the gnolls fought near the sleeping dragon. It was an epic fight where they lost their guide to a storm of teeth. Don’t worry! A dragon under the guise of a high priest of Bahamut offered to raise their guide for the simple cost of godhood but that’s an unfinished story. During the fight, the dragon was going to wake up until Medrash, the dragon paladin of Bahamut with anger issues, used their best dad voice and said to the dragon “GO BACK TO SLEEP!” In the end, the dragon did wake up and Questers United convinced it to kill the gnoll since it was bother its sleep.

Now, Questers United had to deal with the fire giant army invasion who planned to use the volcano as their base. That finished story is for a different time.

What is your favourite game session within the past year? Do you play a game with me that you enjoyed? Let me know in the comments.

Finally, a local student is having a thesis on tabletop rpgs. If you wish to help them, please fill out this simple survey.

 

The Sceptre of Seasons

During the age of creation, the seasons were a chaotic event. The primordials ruled the seasons and changed them on their whims. Certain parts of the world might be summer while others would be winter or spring. At any moment, the season could drastically change. The various races on the world struggled to survive and tried to appease the primordials with limited success. They prayed and offered sacrifices to hopefully calm the abrupt changes. Their prayers were answered when the gods declared war on the primordials.

During the Dawn War, Moradin crafted the Sceptre of Seasons as a weapon of control. He wished a magical artifact to wrest control of the seasons from the primordials. Deep in Mount Celestia, he forged the sceptre out of residuum infused iron and added four precious stones for the four seasons. He chose emerald for spring, ruby for summer, sapphire for autumn and diamond for winter. He engraved the symbols of air near the emerald, fiery symbols near the ruby, earthy symbols near the sapphire and watery symbols near the diamond. Those elemental symbols connect to each other and indicated a transition or transformation. The Sceptre of Seasons proved effective to counter the powers of the primordials in charge of the seasons. After defeating the primordials, Moradin returned to his other works of craft. The Sceptre of Seasons was given a place of honour in Moradin’s vaults. There it stayed for centuries and forgotten.

At the end of the dawn war, four deities shared rule of the seasons: Corellon; Pelor; Sehanine; the Raven Queen.They didn’t have full control over the season and merely managed it. They sent several enjoys to Moradin’s court to get the Sceptre of Seasons but he ignored each envoy. His standard response was that he was too busy with his craftwork.

Being an adventurer, Avandra was curious of all forgotten places. As Moradin’s vaults had many forgotten chambers, she loved visiting his realm in Mouth Celestia. She arrived unannounced but Moradin didn’t care as he was too busy working on his other projects. One day, Avandra explored Moradin’s vaults and found the Sceptre of Seasons. She found it a beautiful work of art and loved the magical transitions of the elements. She took it out of the chamber and discussed with Moradin. Moradin remembered his fine workmanship. He felt it did its work and was uninterested in managing the Sceptre of Seasons. He told Avandra she can decide what to do with this powerful artifact. Corellon, Pelor, Sehanine and the Raven Queen learned of her exploit and desired it to increase their control over their season. They approached Avandra with their claim to the Sceptre of Seasons. She negotiated a pact where they would share the sceptre. Each deity would have the artifact for a limited time before handing control to a different deity. Avandra would be responsible for moving the sceptre from one deity to another. The pact was ratified in front of Erathis who put the clause where if the pact is ever broken, she would gain control over the Sceptre of Seasons.

When a season is about to end and another begins soon, Avandra leads a caravan to take Sceptre of Seasons to the next deity. A variety of creatures and adventurers join this important caravan. In the natural world, various towns and cities hold festivals to entice the caravan to pass by. It is viewed as a great blessing to provide shelter for the caravan. Of note, Bahamut sends some dragons, dragonborn and knights to escort the caravan. Bahamut believes in the sanctity of this pact and endorses the caravan.

The journey from realm to realm is a perilous one. It can face many challenges until the Sceptre of Seasons is safely within the confines of a deity’s realm. Kord holds seasonal competitions to select a champion. This champion has the task to challenge the caravan in honourable combat. Whoever wins the combat gains control over the Sceptre of Seasons. Since the creation of the pact, no champion has won. They are getting bolder and closer to achieving that goal.

Asmodeus sends armies of devils to trick or wrest control of the Sceptre of Seasons. Bahamut’s forces usually faces Asmodeus troops. In the past, Bahamut requests help from Moradin and Bane to face Asmodeus’s troops. Moradin sends troops to protect his work of art. Bane sends mercenaries which Bahamut pays at the established rates. Currently, Bahamut sent requests to Bane for his rate and no answer was given. Does Bane have a new master? With recent alliance between Asmodeus, Bane and Tiamat, the caravan might be at risk.

When the caravan briefly travels through the natural world, the fauna and flora ambushes them. Melora believes in the freedom of the Sceptre of Seasons. She sends her natural creatures to take the Sceptre and lose it in the natural lands. Nature itself should control its own seasons. There are rumours that some of Melora’s creatures were experimented on. The church of Vecna sends some of their strange experiments to infiltrate Melora’s servants. They wish to “free” the Sceptre of Seasons and “lose” it too. Honestly, they wish to know where the Sceptre of Seasons will be so they can secretly control the change of seasons for their foul ends.

Although Gruumsh, Orcus and Lolth have their owns reasons to desire the Sceptre of Season, mostly due to jealousy, their cooperation is strange to behold. Gruumsh wishes to wrest control of it from Corellon and then spread untold destruction on the natural world. Orcus wishes to wrest control of it from the Raven Queen. Lolth does not wish her old flames, Corellon and Sehanine, to own such items of power. Each of them have received dreams where they take the Sceptre of Seasons and bring it to a far place. Their pride have refused to admit that Tharizdun might be sending those dreams. Tharizdun believes that destruction of such a powerful artifact might release him from his prison.

As a desirer of all things, Tiamat wishes to add the Sceptre of Seasons to her hoard. With it, her dragons could rule over the various seasons. She has designs to have five seasons based on her five heads. The standard: Spring; Summer; Fall; Winter and the fifth season would be Death. Her draconic servants show up during the caravan trail to seize the Sceptre of Seasons. Since Asmodeus and Tiamat have their alliance, one wonders how will it get strained if they acquire the Sceptre of Seasons which they both desire.

Yeenoghu, the Prince of Ruin, sees the destructive power of the Sceptre as something he can harness. At random times, his gnolls attack the caravan causing lots of damage. He doesn’t care if the Sceptre gets damaged. The Yeenoghu cult have a plan to corrupt the Sceptre through a powerful ritual. This corruption will make the seasons harsher than before.

The archfey Prince of Frost sees the Sceptre of Seasons as his means to transform the world into eternal winter. He is plotting to court the Raven Queen in order she keep hold of the Sceptre of Seasons for longer and hopefully give it to him as a wedding gift. As the winter in the Dreadlands is lasting longer than usual, is it the Prince of Frost’s plan coming to fruition or is it the white dragon, Ice Queen, expanding her sphere of influence?

Where is Avandra and her caravan at this point in time? Is she lost, trapped and distracted with another quest?

RPGaDay: Favourite house rule

On August 24th, the topic of the day is my favourite house rule. I had to scratch my head for this one. I had to think which things we do were published rules or one which the group thought of. I’ll have say my favourite house rule is advancement in Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition.

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First, we use advancement as a pacing mechanic. Originally, we awarded experience and when the group accumulated enough they would level. Then one session, several members of the group were comparing experience to learn where they are at. We award the same experience to the whole group whether you were there or not. We found out that everyone had a different number and I, with the role of DM, hadn’t tracked how many experience points they should have.

We had a discussion if folks are interested in tracking experience points and most didn’t want to. They just cared when they would level up. They didn’t wish to have a game-able experience system either. Thus, we established we just wish a pacing mechanic. We decided to level the characters up after a certain number of adventuring sessions or when a significant event happens in the narrative.

This freed me up rather than plan out specific encounters, I could vary the difficulties and didn’t need to concern myself with experience points award for social encounters.

Additionally, when the PCs level up, we are flexible for retraining. If a player is really not enjoying their character, we prefer to redesign the character to fit what they wish rather than they being stuck with it. This rarely happens in the Questers United group. Originally, Erica who plays the dragonborn Medrash, decided to do a rune priest which is a support character. As she was playing, she wanted to hurt stuff and wasn’t enjoying the supportive role of the rune priest class. She mentioned that next time she makes a character, to remind her to play a striker role to do lots of damage. I suggested to her we can completely change Medrash to be a striker role. She told me the core concepts of Medrash that she wishes to keep and within those parameters, Medrash became a blackguard of fury. Honestly, a Paladin with rage issues fit the character more than the Rune Priest class. Now, she is having fun with the character in a mechanical way.

Another part of advancement we changed is applying the inherent bonuses rule for magical items. This is an optional rule from the Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 which replaces the enhancement bonuses from magical arms, armours and neck slot items with a level based bonus. I like that optional rule since you don’t have to give a specific weapon, armour or neck slot item every five levels. I can give a wider variety of items to the group.

What house rules do you have in your games? How did it develop?

RPGaDay: Favourite rpg setting

On August 21st, the topic of the day is my favourite rpg setting. I’m going to tackle this in two ways, favourite setting designed by group and favourite rpg setting. For favourite setting designed by the group, it is my current game of Questers United. My favourite published setting is Dark Sun by Timothy B. Brown, Troy Denning, and Jerry Oltion.

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I’ve been playing the Questers United campaign for 7 years and this means much. I wouldn’t be playing it for so long if I didn’t love it. The game started with smell elements which I brought and has evolved over the ages. While playing, I learned to ask questions to the other players which contributes to the world building. Additionally, I grab published material from all over and add them as ingredients to this world. I keep coming up with other ideas which would be great campaign in this world. I would love after Questers United reaches 30th level, we would return to the setting with new characters. I just wish my notes were better taken and organized.

I got Dark Sun as a Christmas gift when it came out. It was my first published campaign setting I ever got and I still enjoy it. Technically, my first rpg setting book was an Test of the Samurai by Rick Swan, an Oriental Adventures scenario (my first rpg book) which I tried to play like a Choose Your Own Adventure book. The Dark Sun boxed set was a complete region with multiple cities, special rules for characters, unique monsters, and many opportunities for heroic stories.

Dark Sun is a post-apocalyptic sword & sorcery setting. An old magical war reduced the area to a wasteland and now tyrants rule city-states with priests who impose order. This is a terrible world where many evil or opportunistic individuals have gained power. I found this world needed saving and perfect for heroes to take the task. The setting even has a secret group of do-gooders known as the Veiled Alliance to help oppose the tyrants.

I played several campaigns which were cut short due to the unfortunate bane scheduling. I’d return again to Dark Sun and even try it’s spiritual successor, Dragon Kings. I love how it shines a light on the protagonists and encourages them to be heroes so they can be different from everyone else. I love the harshness and how you must work together to survive. I once played an encounter where halflings ambushed with slings and agony beets. Agony beetles are tiny 1 inch long beetles who sap psychic energy in a painful way from the middle of the victim’s back. A lone individual cannot remove the beetle due to them wriggling in pain and must rely on a friend.

I love how Dark Sun makes halflings frightening. I love halflings and often hear folks make jokes about them. In Dark Sun, halflings live in the forest and eat anything other than other halflings. Yes, they’ll eat humans, elves, dwarves, etc. Most folks say Athasian halfling are cannibals which is not true as they don’t eat each other.

What is your favourite rpg setting? What made you fall in love with it?