Friday, April 28, 2006

Neitherworld Frustrations

The more I work on the multiple-player/one-character model for Neitherworld, the more I become convinced that it isn't feasible to meet all of my gameplay goals for that model. At this point, I am fairly convinced that I cannot write a game in which all of the players portray the same character unless either (1) the players take competitive roles toward one another or (2) there are constantly players who are sitting on the sidelines (though this might rotate). Neither of those are appealing to me. The third alternative was to share the GM-role between players who would otherwise be on the sidelines, but this isn't a playstyle that I'd be likely to enjoy, and I also suspect that it would devolve into (1).

I be a DM

So, last night I ran my first-ever d20 game. It is a campaign I've been planning to run for my housemates and unofficial household members for awhile now.

I think it went well. I framed it around a small trade caravan - as it seemed a good way of keeping the PCs together and forming a bond between them. I had a few pacing issues, but I don't think that they were apparent to the players until I admitted to them - mostly the issues were in my own head. The game was moving at a decent pace, but when planning the game I hadn't really expected to focus on several scenes that the players seemed interested in... so we didn't get nearly as far as I expected.


Wolfgang, the scout, who is leading the expedition. He's utterly broke and none too happy about it. He likes to swear in Goblin - it is a language made for expletives.

Alexis, the half-elven tinker, who is under orders from her guild to take some strange objects (including what looks like a full plate armored boot for a giant) to a small town.

Hezkhe, the druidic savant, who joined the caravan because it would cross the Giant's Stairway, a series of 50' high steps carved all the way up a mountain - a sight that she was excited to witness.

Isaac, the fighter/barbarian who left the big city for the frontier. He killed a tree. With a greatsword. That he threw. (He was aiming for a hobgoblin bandit, but the tree was in the way.) He came along because he heard Hezkhe talking excitedly about the stairs, and thought that they might be neat to climb. or something.

NPC-wise, so far, we have one NPC who could (and almost certainly will) turn into a recurring villain and an NPC merchant with whom I think the PCs are in a love-to-hate relationship. I'm curious to see if they heal him of his crossbow wound. We also have another merchant and her... boy. The relationship between the two seems curious and, maybe, a bit disturbing.

Next Session: Stairway to Heaven

Monday, April 17, 2006

d20 Tweaking: Hacking Classes

So, in the game I am about to begin running, I have four players.

One of them had a solid concept. He was toying with playing a Ranger, but didn't see his character as a spellcaster (much less a divine spellcaster). I showed him the Scout class. He was hooked.

Another wanted to play a tinker-type character with some spellcasting. If the game were set in Eberron, I'd have shown her the Artificer, but it isn't... and the Artificer is very focused on Eberron. She could have played a Wizard, but even with a high Intelligence score a Wizard isn't going to have many skill points to toss around at Craft abilities. A Bard? Closer, but most of its abilities don't mesh with the concept.

A third wanted to play a naturalist/scientist type. A druid seemed the most logical choice, but she didn't see her character as a shapeshifter.

The fourth went through a few concepts, but she settled on a nontraditional Fighter/Barbarian (a guy from the city who went off to seek his fortune and became a thrillseeker - the sort who, today, would be into extreme sports).

So, what did I do about the middle two? I made shit up. I figured that neither of these concepts were so strange that they deserved to be unsupported, especially considering the wild proliferation of classes that do exist in 3.5.

I designed a Tinker class. This is something I'd actually been working on anyway (in part inspired by conversations with her). It took the bard as a base, replaced sonic/song spells in the spell list with craft-based spells, and replaced bardic music with item-crafting abilities. Easy enough.

I created a Druidic Sage variant of the Druid, with no Wild Shape abilities, but with some extra knowledge-based abilities.

Easy enough.

Catching up and a new beginning

It has been awhile since I last posted. That doesn't mean I've been idle:

1. I've been working on an article for the Silven Trumpeter. It will focus on addressing moral issues in rpgs.
2. I've been setting up the groundwork for the D&D campaign that I'll be running for my roomates/extended household. More on this below.
3. I've been making a Reaver Daiklaive. I don't know why. Perhaps I'll post some pictures soonish.

So... the D&D game. I'm nervous about it. I haven't run a D&D game since 2nd ed... probably over 15 years ago. I've run other things since then, but I'm worried that my GMing style (I'd characterize it as fairly hands-off. I tend to focus on setting up conflicts and then letting players act as they will.) won't be conducive to an enjoyable D&D game.

Why am I running D&D as opposed to Exalted or Unknown Armies or Sorcerer or Wraith or... anything else?

Part of it is that one of my players (who has been roleplaying for about six years now) has always wanted to play in a D&D game, but has never managed to do so. Making her happy would be good. Part of it is that I love tweaking d20 rules, and running a game will let me playtest a few ideas I've had. Part of it is that I do actually have a fairly compelling (to me at least) campaign idea, and I'd like to see how it comes out... and it is fairly D&D dependent.

I'm nervous right now about the first game (this Thursday evening). Beginning a campaign always has a sort of a forced feel to it, and there is a lot that can go wrong. About half of the players are playing sort of jack-of-all-trades type characters - will D&D support a game in which there isn't much niche protection? At least one of my players has requested that this be a relatively combat-light D&D game. Do I really need to start the game off with combat? (My current plan is to throw a fight in there and leave it up to the players whether or not they want to get involved. It is possible that some will and some won't.) I plan on baiting the big hook for the campaign in the first session (though it won't be clear what it is) - what if they don't take it?

All of my questions will be answered soon enough, I suppose.