Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Burning Wheel Thoughts So Far

I received Burning Wheel as a gift and I slowly working my way through the book.  I have fixated on one idea so far -- using Burning Wheel type concepts to aid in Pathfinder/D20 character background generation. Character background generation has always been a difficult concept to get normalized across the different players, and I think a structured rule set could really help this, not by limiting the possibilities or strongly driving the mechanic, but by giving some structure to the details that are sometimes overlooked by the mechanic.  In particular I feel the following items have been treated poorly in d20/Pathfinder style games:

  • Contacts -- Hooks to other characters and NPCs is always difficult to normalize.  Rarely do I get references to negative relationships, which is disappointing.
  • Weaknesses and flaws -- Having a low strength score just isn't the same as having a weakness or a flaw that defines the character
  • Life Backgrounds -- Yeah, you can say you grew up on a farm, but where is your farming skill, ya big faker?
  • Beliefs and Goals -- Why are you here?  What are you doing?  What is your hook to the rest of the party?  So many of the characters just show up and they don't fit in but they get adopted by the party for no reason.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Holiday Special Edition Pathfinder

So to celebrate the holidays, I hosted a special game at the local game store with a holiday theme.  We had five players, a ton of sugary snacks, and a +3 fruitcake of bludgeoning.  The group all rolled d20s to determine the order in which they would pick characters from the collection of level 15 pregens I had prepared.  Everyone picked a character they liked.  Then, I directed them to give the character to someone else in the spirit of holiday giving.

One player was late, so I picked a class to give him.  He was very happy with it.

So the party consisted of:

  • Jinglewood McGarvin, a Tengu Gunslinger with a double barrel musket
  • Marco the Vain, a half-elf summoner with a dragon-like eidolon
  • Mavery the Ghost, a female Drow Rogue / Shadowndancer
  • Triton the Brave, a Samsaran Cleric
  • Binks LaForte, a Blue (goblin) Wilder (Psionics)
The party started out in Mirabar, a dwarven mining town.  There someone inquired after them in the bar, looking for an adventuring group to find a lost shop owner named "Saint Claus".  He apparently was a gnome that had "Enlarge Person" perma-casted on him.  He was taken from his shop of elven craftsman that helped him build various gnomish contraptions for the town.

Upon investigation, the party found the elves happy to have the old fat man gone.  He had been dragged out of the shop and into the mountains.  The party followed the trail.

The first encounter was 10 yeti.  It was a nice warm up.  The summoner found out how to kill things quickly with the dragon.  The blue goblin learned the effectiveness of his black dragon breath.  Mavery stayed in the shadows and sniped and backstabbed.  Jinglewood got off some serious shots.  Triton engaged in serious melee.

The next stop lead them into a cave where a local black dragon lived.  The Merovingian, as the locals called him, negotiated with the adventurers, understanding that a fight would not be in his interest.  He was able to negotiate passage with the group for 10000 gold, which the party didn't like, but that they paid anyway.

In the next room, with various platforms giving the room some interesting terrain, a group of Rakshasa ambushed the party.  Spells flew, with PCs blasted by lightning.  Black dragon breath went flying again.  Various spells flashed, healing was needed, and the dragon ate well.  The goblin even ran under the dragon and stabbed a bag guy in the knees.  Gunshots pierced the tunnels and echoed.  Shadows were deadly.

And finally the party found Saint Claus and a Balor named Krampas.  Saint Claus joined the fight but imploded only a couple of rounds into the fight.  The blue was messing with time as the rest of the party blasted away at the Balor.  The gunslinger was even able to shoot the whip out of the Balor's hand.

The Balor was a tough fight.  His attacks really hurt the party and losing Saint Claus was a big problem.  Fire stomr I was saving for the big finish, but I was one turn off on its use.  It would have killed some PCs; it may have TPK'd.  Unfortunately, I didn't use it in time and the Balor died on the double-attack by the blue with Ultrablast.  The group resurrected Saint Claus and headed back to the factor to celebrate.  He gave them gifts and had a merry time and vowed to remember their deed each and every year by sharing gifts with the people.

It was kindof a hokey plot and very combat-centric, but it was fun.  Everyone got to play with something new and interesting.  What more could you ask from a quick 4 hour session?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Friday Night Pathfinder: Moving into the Keep

Most of our session Friday night was spent dealing with new characters, new riches, and the new keep.  Ally the Gnome Sorceress is dead and replaced by Sandra the Half-elf Summoner.  Muroki the monk also has replaced Zirul.  Oh, hmmm... the group has no cleric now.
Don the Magnificent took a crack at interrogating the two bandit prisoners.  Even with dominate person, Don wasn't able to get much information.  The two prisoners were new to the bandit group, knew of a hidden cave that the bandits used but not its location, and knew that there was only a week to the Forgebar Dwarve's attack.  He threatened to kill the prisoners, but one of them recognized the markings of the order on the cavalier's shield.  She called on the cavalier to let her go and he made it happen.  Meanwhile the giant who previously been under dominate person was now eating while sitting on the sliff ledge in the underground cavern below the castle, happy, for now.
The cavalier dug through the treasures and came up with enough gold to have someone pick him up a vorpal greatsword in Waterdeep.
The ranger and cavalier went hunting and looking for a mount without issue, but found no mount. They did find a monk who was convinced to join their cause.  The cavalier went to Don and had him bring back his horse.  They were happily reunited.  (This could be the cavalier soon:  http://www.dorkly.com/comic/47540/skyrim-the-dragonborn-rides-again )
Kyriani Agrivar, the lady they previously met at the nearby estate (and who Corrail knows is a hidden lord of Waterdeep) showed up on a two-wheeled cart with another four wheeled wagon behind.  Sandra, the half-elf summoner road by her side, as her servant guided the wagon up and into the keep.  The wagon was left behind with unloaded crates of food and supplies.  Kyriani indicated that Sandra had skills the group would find useful and she would help them prepare for the upcoming attack.  Kyriani also gave notice that they had time for a trip to Waterdeep before the attack.
So Don and Sandra headed for Waterdeep.  Sandra was recruiting for guards.  Don was gathering supplies and looking for defenses for the Thornhold.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Saturday Night Pathfinder: The Goblin and the End

An OOC (Out of Character) report:

There was a new player tonight.  I found out at the end of the session that he was playing an overpowered NPC with ability scores all pretty much over 20 and a level higher than anyone in our group.  WTF?

After a character death last week, one of our existing players had to rebuild a character for the session at the table.  This was the goblin.  I helped him do a good build -- a rogue that fit with the high dex of a goblin.

It turned out the old character wasn't really dead, but was being pieced back together at the local temple.

There was weird plot line that the new bard dragonrider tried to introduce about a beautiful woman asking about the goblin.  There was no info to let it influence anything or even for it to make any sense.  WTF?

The bard dragonrider told us that Kooper was mauled by a bear.  We found the bear dead (how can a town that can't defend against golbins end up killing a bear?)

Crayla went and saw Kooper at the temple.  Unfortunately the rest of the party didn't seem to add anything to the knowledge about Kooper acting weird.  The end result is Crayla believing that Kooper got drunk and stupidly got himself killed.  Had she gotten more of a 'not right in his head' vibe, she would have blamed the goblins and their master, but that didn't happen.  I was disappointed.

The goblin got out and started running around town.  he eventually ended up in a group watching the party break into the glass factory.  The other two spotted him while Crayla was breaking in.  This time they were following a note which indicated Ameiko was at the glass factory (and she hadn't returned).  They didn't mention seeing the goblin until we were headed inside.

So Crayla, in the one move of the night I felt almost good about, shouts to the crowd, "There's a goblin the crowd."  The goblin gets trampled, spotted, fascinated, captured, questioned, and then dropped off a cliff.  He took minor damage, got out of the manacles, and followed us.

Once inside the glass factory, we get to the hallway beyond the room and the goblin is peeking at us.  Crayla, now enraged at this goblin whom they can't seem to get rid of, charges after him and goes into melee combat to kill the goblin.

The bard and Pleon are trying to work through some reason to not kill the goblin who is pleading for his life, but there is no reason.  The goblin has nothing we need, is an evil killer, and is just another goblin out of the hordes of goblin we expect to have to kill.

Crayla as the character and I as the player have to be the bad guy and kill the other player's new character.  There is nothing fun about it.  The GM just hung the new player out to dry.

So now, after the goblin is dead, Kooper comes back.  Kooper still isn't Kooper, but rather this Sargeant Henson that now has a vendetta towards the rest of the group for sending him to see the bear.  I see where this is going, I don't think I want any part of it anymore.

I am really disappointed, because I saw a number of things I didn't like about the scenario that played out:

  • Two players needed characters -- one got an overpowered NPC in the middle of the story, and one got a character that wasn't fit into the story at all and was pretty much destined to die.
  • The GM didn't tell us the new player was playing an overpowered NPC.
  • The GM didn't seem concerned that it wasn't a fun session.
  • The new goblin character was only fit to overlap in areas that I was filling in with Crayla.  Half way through the session I realized Crayla had nothing left to offer the group, between the goblin and the overpowered bard dragonrider both outrolling her on all her skills.  What's the point to have a character that never gets to shine.
  • When it came time to kill the goblin, the other players did almost nothing despite the fact that there was no in game reason not to kill him.
I don't think I am going to play in this game anymore.  I was stressed out the whole game and felt so bad when we got to the end.  This isn't why I roleplay.

Thinking more about this episode brought me back to this video from Emergent Play.  For me, forcing one PC into a position where they have to kill another PC was an abuse of comfort zones.  I knew killing the other player's character was going to be a bad situation and could lead to animosity between players.  I told the GM in advance that I thought this was a bad idea.  I let the other player involved know I thought this was a bad idea and that the GM would have to insert something into the scenario to make it feasible.  For me, it was out of my comfort zone and I certainly was expecting a 'nobody gets hurt' scenario.  Instead, the GM pushed comfort zones and let people get hurt.  I don't know if this was intentional or not, but certainly a reaction to the players stating they weren't having fun, shouldn't have been "this is just character growth".  It shows a complete disregard for the GM's responsibilities to the players.  To some degree, this situation forced me to quit the game to ensure PC vs PC fights didn't continue and didn't ruin any friendships between the players involved.  Sad, but true.

Friday Night Pathfinder: Taking the Keep

The party checked out the the Thornhold, a great keep set on the side of a mountain.  They were given a map with a secret entrance.  Felix and Corrail crawled down the cliff and into a drain tunnel.  Invisible, they followed the tunnel past a one-way mechanism (that they disabled) into a cell.  Through the drain grate, they could see the cell's occupant, a ratfolk archaeologist named Byron.  Byron talked the two into escorting him into the tunnel, though he was wary of climbing out.  Corrail and Felix checked out the rest of the cell area and could peer out into a main chamber that opened out onto the cliff face.  There they spotted two large giants, sitting and eating.

They returned, taking Byron along, and getting back to the rest of the party.  They diced to split into two groups.  Elliot, Ally, Zirul, the Tiger, and Yuri would hold back for a frontal attack, while Don, Corrail, and Felix would go in through the tunnel and try to take out the giants.  Once inside Don worked his magic on one of the giants as they were spotted by them.  One giant went after Don.  The other Don conviced to fight the other.  In the end, Don't giant won and became a friendly member of the group.

Outside the rest of the group were spotted and started to attack.  Two battle mages on the front towers cast fireballs down on the group.  The blast killed Zirul, Ally, and the Tiger.  The cavalier and winter wolf charged in through the front gate toward the Behir.

Meanwhile the party from below charged up into one of the rear towers.  The rogue fired off with his bow at the bandits below.  Don dropped three beads from his necklace of fireballs below and killed most of the bandits, the bandit lord, and the behir in one strike.  This happened just as druids from the forest appeared to assist.

The party took the keep and started digging through the plunder in the dungeon below.  They found a rod of resurrection so perhaps some could be revived.  One of the remaining bandits under interrogation let the new owners know that a Forgebar Dwarven attack was expected at any time.

Now the group gets to prepare their keep.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Getting out of a Slump: Advice for the Unexcited GM

I was reading this article over at Gnome Stew this morning and started thinking about the dreaded slump.  I think all GMs find themselves in a state where the excitement just isn't quite there anymore.  Along those lines I thought I would share the strategies that have worked form me.

  1. Take it up a notch.  This, by far, is the strategy I am most likely to deploy.  Instead of putting together a set of encounters, lather, rinse, repeat, try planning something totally different.  Take one of those crazy ideas you have been saving for later and use it now.  Intense, crazy, unexpected scenarios not only recharge your own skills, but they can bring a new sense of life to the players that is contagious.
  2. Take a break.  When you have a slump, sometimes you just need to take a break.  A break, even a short one, can give your own creativity and imagination time to catch up with you.  During the break, I suggest lots of reading of both RPG and non RPG materials.  Even movies and old TV series can become an inspiration for what you might want to try next.
  3. Be a player.  Turn the table around and be a player for a while.  I find my recent Pathfinder game where I am a player does a lot to refocus me to a whole new view of the game.  As a player, even a linear set of expected events can become rich and interesting if the characters are interacting in creative ways.  As a GM, this inspires me to pump up my NPCs a bit.
  4. Write.  When I really need to get myself thinking in the right way again, I sometimes turn to writing.  By focusing (or maybe not focusing) on a story I control completely, I can explore some new aspects of character and plot interaction that might inspire me to get back into my games.  And, if not, writing in itself is a useful thing.  My novel is about half done now.
  5. Engage your players.  When you're in a slump, its time to talk to your players.  What they want in the game may surprise you and might challenge you in a way that you didn't expect.  See what they have to say.
  6. Fiddle with the Formula.  When things get boring, fiddle with the formula.  Your group might not want to change systems, but maybe you can pick up an aspect of another system and adapt it to your game.  Personally, I am itching to get the materials for Burning Wheel (for Christmas or my birthday, maybe?) so I can learn enough to maybe run Burning Wheel (not real likely) or at least pick up some of the ideas and integrate them into my Pathfinder games.
  7. Hit the Reset Button.  When things get old, a new start can do a lot.  Stop your old game, reschedule to a new day, pick up some new players, grab a totally new scenario (maybe even a new system) and see what happens.  There are bound to be some new and exciting things that emerge.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Monday Night Pathfinder: Resurrections

Kroop was quick to split the crew and get the Celestial Kyte away.  With Sandara as captain, the Kyte made for the squib, the bodies of Kyte and Durgen brought along.  Sheena, Victaerus, and the Druid were part of the Kyte's crew.  The plan was to get the Kyte repaired, supplies and crew for the Zelbinion, and find someone to help repair the magic aboard the Zelbinion and perhaps help strengthen the defenses of the Celestial Kyte.

Arrival at the Iceflow Squib was a bad sight.  The outer walls was in shambles, the old ruins, temple, and inn were in flames, and dead bodies of townsfolk and frost giants littered the town.  An ugly gunman with a handmade musket watched from the tower as the Kyte docked.

Giffen, the Aquarvan (Crocodile Man) barbarian jumped shipped, hysterical at finding his old squib friend Rickety Hake dead by the squib dock.  Sandara grabbed Victaerus and headed to the remaining temple -- a temple of Besmara.  Inside, three priests from the other temple fought with the Besmarian priestess as they tried to take possession of the remaining temple for their own, now homeless, flocks.  Sandara got permission from the priestess to bring her crew in, ignoring the protests of the other priests.

Sandara rounded up the crew and had them carry Durgen and Kyte to the temple.  The strange gunmen watched and waited.

Kyte was brought into the temple where preparations began immediately to resurrect her.

Durgen's arrival caused a stir, the three other priests immediately protesting bring a half-giant into the temple after the town was half destroyed by a frost giant onslaught.  Guards gathered and the crew tried to push their way into the temple.  Outmanned, the Druid had Durgen's body laid down and cast upon him reincarnation.  His body disentigrated as ashes that swirled and set into a new body, a dwarven body, naked and whole, and Durgen came back to life as a dwarf.  Durgen awoke with quite the stir, accusing the druid of having shrunk him.

Kyte awoke too, and Sandara provided them both with gold and told them to get some rest.  A large chest was placed near the front of the temple, an offering to the temple.  The crew was given leave and told to meet at the Kyte in the morning.

The strange human gunman, Jerico, made his was to the barracks, chatting with a small furry hamster hidden in his coat pocket.  There he knocked on the door, talking first to a guard, and then to a shiny-armored paladin that headed up the local militia.  For his contribution in bullets from the tower during the frost giant attack, he requested payment.  He was given 100 gold, not even enough to cover his ammunition.

The next morning found Sandara ordering everyone to get to work.  Kyte and Sheena were off to visit the old Wizard's privet island.  Victaerus was off to hire crew.  The druid found his water control a good fit for helping get the Kyte into drydock.  As he watched her being built, he noticed a tree nearby the squib, and with Sandara's permission, had it installed in place of the lost main mast, alive and intact.

Kyte and Sheena found their way to the old Wizard, strange things afoot as usual.  The wizard agreed excitedly to join them to visit the Zelbinion.  Victaerus gather new crew including the strange gunman.

In his impatience, the wizard fast-forwarded time a bit to when the Kyte was fully repaired and the crew was ready to get underway.  The Celestial Kyte looked as good as new with the new living main mast and a gun deck fully stocked with cannons.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Saturday Night Pathfinder: The WTF Episode

This post was made by an omniscient observer:

So the party of 3, Pleon, Crayla, and Kooper, dragged the goblin in manacles back to the Sandpoint jail.  They healed him with a potion and gave him a thorough questioning.  Really all they found out was that he was from Thistletop (clan of goblins?  a mountain name?) and who his chief was.  Kooper went psycho when he mentioned the word clan and nearly killed the goblin.  They left the goblin in bad shape, unconscious and nearly dead.

Crayla asked uncaringly for gold from the sheriff as the party was leaving the jail.  He brushed her off, telling her he was talk to them later, choosing to instead focus on his duties to calm the hysterical wife of the man the goblin killed.

The party gathered and went on to the glass factory, trying to break in.  No such luck on Crayla popping the door locks.  Kooper tried setting the door on fire and breaking it down, but was too drunk to do any good.  They headed back to the Rusty Dragon.

At breakfast, the sheriff reappeared with 1000 gold in hand, payment for the goblin captured and something more.  He wanted them to chat with Shalelu, an elven ranger and trader who knew of the goblin tribes.  They showed up at the town hall and made a typical clumsy impression with the mayor.  Kooper was a bit of a disruption and didn't really want to listen to all the talk anyway, so he left.  Crayla and Pleon got a lot of information about happenings.  The sheriff was going out of town to get more guards, Shelalu was going to keep track of the goblins, and in the mean time, the party was going to protect the town and keep the townsfolk feeling safe.

Crayla, Pleon, and Shelalu went back to the Rusty dragon and talked with Kooper eventually joining them.

Crayla takes leave to rest so she is ready for another assault that eve on the glass factory.  Pleon is out and about researching and gathering items.  Kooper is in for another adventure entirely.

Kooper, drunk and disorderly, finds his way to the Kujitsu estate and eventually to an herbalist with a cure for his drunken state.  Unfortunately, with his sobriety, he forgets the last many years of his drunken life, and starts wandering the streets as Sergeant Jason Henson who has no idea where he is, why he looks so old, or what is going on.  He runs into Pleon and Pleon assumes his amnesia is a side effect of a drinking binge.  Crayla and Pleon eventually go to the glass works as planned with Kooper nowhere to be found.  (Kooper has checked into another hotel, has gotten a shave and haircut, and is trying to figure out his life.)

Kooper comes upon Crayla and Pleon trying to break into the glass works and jumps in to stop them.  Crayla spars with him in words, also assuming he is terribly drunk.  Eventually Pleon is able to get a Charm Person spell to take hold of him as to avoid an armed conflict.  Kooper / Henson rambles on about missing his friends, so Crayla suggests he visit the stable where is pet grizzly bear is kept.  After all, that seemed to be his friend when they arrived.

This is where it all takes an odd turn.  Since Henson is looking for his fellow soldiers and knows nothing of the bear, a trip to the stable isn't what he needs.  He finds the bear there, covered in 4 day old blood from the goblin attack and somehow assumes this creature (who is stabled and presumably tied up) killed his soldier friends.  He attacks the bear, the bear attacks back, and Kooper/Henson ends up dead.

Crayla and Pleon don't even know what happened yet.
As a player I was pretty well shocked at this outcome.  It seemed like there were several other options besides attacking the bear, though we all play our characters to our own choosing.  

The replacement character as it was left at the end of the session was going to be the goblin left locked in the Sandpoint jail.  I am afraid this is only going to end badly too, for the following reasons:

  • The goblin is evil and has killed a man in Sandpoint already.
  • The entire town and party is anti-goblin after the first goblin attack.
  • Crayla will blame Kooper's death on the goblins and their manipulative unknown master.
  • Crayla has been trained by druids / rangers that goblins are a chaotic blight on the land and they should be killed.
  • The goblin doesn't have anything that the party needs, since they already have a guide to where his tribe is (and a map!), they know who is in charge of his tribe, and he doesn't know who the unknown manipulator is.
  • Crayla may even be desperate enough to try to get additional help from her organization.
  • As things now stand, Crayla would attack goblins on sight.
So how could the goblin become part of the party?  The only thing I can assume is that an external happening would force it -- aka. railroaded.  What if our guide to the goblins was killed off or disappeared (we still have a map!) ?  What if our party's bosses told his to take him?  

I get this strange vision of Frodo, Samwise, and Gollum on a rope, venturing through the crags of Mordor, only instead with Crayla and Pleon instead dragging a goblin on a leash.  Where is the equivalent of the ring to tie the second group together?

I could see a different possibility if the goblin weren't already introduced as a bad guy (remember Deekin in Neverwinter Nights?).  Even if there were some fundamental change of heart in the goblin, I don't see anyway that Crayla would accept it, especially since Kooper's death is going to be looming over her.

Next Saturday is going to be tough on Crayla.  I need to figure out how she will react to Kooper's death -- that seems like the key.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Monday Night Pathfinder Pirates: Frost Giant Patrols

The Zelbinion made landfall in a fjord in the treacherous, icy north.  Unfortunately, the fjord was under patrol of three ships of frost giants that inhabit the area.  The Zelbinion spun to broadside the giant's ships while Durgen ducked behind with Celestial Kyte.  The gunnery crews slowly moved all the cannons to bring a full set to bear on the incoming ships.  The giants fired off ballistas while the cannons pounded back.  Caster brought flames down on the giants. The druid destroyed one ballista with fire, while Kyte set fire to the incoming ship.

Two of the smaller ships fled, while the largest, on fire, drew close into the Zelbinion for boarding.  The officers faced 6 Frost Giants themselves, as Durgen left the Kyte to help the fight aboard the Zelbinion.  The Frost Giants pounded away on the officers, forcing Sheena below to snipe at them and getting Durgen and Kyte both killed.  Finally, Kroop enabled the blade barrier, and the constant slicing of blades drove the giants from the ship.  Surprisingly, Victaerus, the 16 year old girl with shield and sword held her ground against the giants, even as the druid fled to water and then swam up through the air to continue attacking the giants' ship.

Until next time...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Saturday Night Pathfinder: Sandpoint Days 3 and 4

A brief report from Crayla:

  • I found out a lot at the local brothel.  The Kujitsu family is an interesting bunch with some dirty laundry.  The old man and wife had a half-elf son (both of them were human).  He was sent to the orphanage; the mother was kept away.  The father later pushed her off a balcony.  They have a duaghter who was a former adventurer and now runs a local inn.  The family made their money locally through glass making.  Also I got the name of the goblin tribe expert.  Man, I wish she were back in town about now.  Sheriff says several more weeks.
  • The drawback of the brothel is now that Kooper visits there all the time.  He is just one vice on top of another.
  • Met up with Mr. Foxglove who paid us a bit for saving him and took us hunting in the Tickwood.  We were able to take down a wild boar and a dire boar fairly easily.  It got us a feast back at the Rusty Dragon.  Foxglove was all over me with complements and free drinks.  The evening got interrupted briefly by old man Kujitsu who came to try to drag his daughter away.  He was drunk and left after she walloped him with a big ladle.
  • We checked the Kujitsu estate out with Pleon's assistance.  I didn't mention the robbery portion of the heist to him.  We got 300 gold thanks to a nice distraction from Kooper.  Pleon got me in nice and invisible.  There were guards about but we made a clean getaway.  I also grabbed some contracts for Pleon to look through -- looking for who knows what?  Follow the money, so Kujitsu is a place to start.
  • We stopped by to visit the sheriff and got paid for our little skeleton job.  100 gp is nothing to sneeze at.
  • We got to go grab a goblin that had holed up in a house.  Pleon worked his voodoo and got him to surrender.  Fairy dust or no, I slapped manacles on him and we took him back to the jail for questioning.  He still has my arrow in his shoulder and I really want it back.  I wonder how much yanking it will take to get him to take me to this 'longshanks' in charge.
  • Once this goblin thing is over, we need to head to the glass makers -- I think Kujitsu probably has his money mostly there.  We've drained the local invisibility magic dry, so I guess I am sneaking on my own from here on out.
  • 4 days gone and I think we've got some time to go.  I was really hoping to get back to the home plane to show off the breach in the guard for the dragon eggs before they hatch.  I'm not sure that is going to happen.

Who is my Character and What do they Think?: Fantasy Edition

Playing a fantasy character true to their nature is a difficult undertaking.  Living in modern times gives us a background that isn't well suited to playing an elf ranger or a dwarf miner or a great paladin.  We would be much better to suited to play some hero from our own type of world.

Still we can rise to the occasion if we take just a few simple things into consideration.

A character has limited experiences.  In our modern world of technology people are exposed through print, broadcast, and other types of media so we can have a general idea of life throughout the world.  We can define normal by the media, and a large number of people can have very similar ideas.

In the fantasy worlds we play in, media is limited, and in some places, nonexistent.  The definition of normal is limited to what our characters know -- perhaps locally, perhaps only in their own household.  The only religion they may know and understand is that of the local temple.  Anything outside of this norm may be completely foreign to our characters, especially is they come from a small village or a remote area.  Animals of another climate region may be as foreign to our characters as aliens would be to us.

A character frames the world based on their own experiences.  To try to understand new things, a person frames new things in terms of their own experiences.  Things different than what is expected may be considered at best, strange, and in extreme, abnormal or wrong.  For this reason, as we play our characters, especially when examining other PCs or NPCs in the game, we need to reflect their own expectations into their interpretation of the world.  This colouring of the interpretation is very fundamental to interaction.  Though as children we all dream of finding another person exactly like us to view the world with, as we mature we realize that ultimately relationships are not based on our similarities but rather based on our understanding and patience with the differences we all have when looking at the world.  We look at the world through experience-colored glass and role playing should include that.

A character has needs and motivations that span a wide spectrum.  Flat characters are driven by a single motivation.  We've all run into the NPC driven solely by greed, vengeance, or even just pure evil.  Real people aren't like that.  A real person, and similarly a well-played character, is driven by a spectrum of desires spanning lots of things.  Gaining social status and acceptance, overcoming loneliness, trying to find security, trying to make up for past sins -- all of these things may play a role in motivating a single character.  It is the interaction of these multiple goals that can really make a character jump off the character sheet.


Lets take a single character as an example.  I am currently playing Crayla, a female half-elf ranger , on my Saturday night game.  Crayla grew up without her mother and with father gone most of the time.  She had 10 brothers who treated her badly.  She failed her druid training and fled using her ranger skills when she was old enough.  She fled to a large city where her caustic nature left her with no friends and more trouble than she could handle.  Eventually she joined up with a hidden organization dedicated to preserving the planes of existence.

Crayla has two sets of very different experiences.  In growing up, she lived in a remote area with only a druid grove nearby.  She had no model for observing the interaction of men and women (for example, between her mother and father).  She had no model for family beyond the conglomeration of brothers she had.  She had no model for caring relationships.  Her interaction with the druids seemed pointless since it required patience she could not attain and ultimately resulted in disappointment.  The interaction with her brothers was primarily a "take what you can get" kind of scenario.  She has no basis to understand altruism.  Her father was probably a breath of fresh air to her with stories from his journeys.  Though he probably exaggerated the good and dismissed the bad, the stories he told to Crayla filled her mind with a picture of life beyond, perfect and pulled out of reality.  It is not surprising that she chased those dreams.

In the city, Crayla found a harsher reality in the people.  Not only were they not watching out for her as back home, they were now actively hostile towards her caustic nature and trying to exploit her for their own gains.  Her lack of experience provided her with no basis for talking to another person and making any connection.  Though in the city she could see this happening all around her, she was an outsider and unable to participate in social interaction without disaster.  Fighting evolved from a useful skill back home to a primary method of social interaction in the city.

The decision for Crayla to join an organization was a lengthy one.  She had trusted no one, and had no reason to.  Ultimately the choice to trust the new group was only out of necessity due to other consequences closing in on her.

Because Crayla doesn't trust anyone, theft came easy to her.  She didn't connect with people, so taking something from them didn't bother her conscience.

So that's all the background, but what does this mean to Crayla now?

  • Crayla will reflect all of the aspects of her brothers in people in her life.  She will expect them to be mean, selfish, cruel, greedy.
  • She will not do something for nothing and may become hostile towards those that expect it.
  • She will not trust easily or at all.
  • She will be awkward when trying to connect honestly with people.
  • She will be in a constant state of lying and bluffing and be good at it.  She will know how to avoid conflict in order to take advantage of others.
  • She will not relate to other people's pain or loss.
  • She will value people around based on how much they make her life easier.
  • Being away from a crowded household with her brothers and away from the city will increase her anxiety from simple loneliness.  She won't understand this, but will seek out people and crowds to alleviate this.
  • She will distrust authority and generally associate magic with this, because of her experience with the druids.  She probably won't trust magic and see magic users as haughty and arrogant.
  • She will prey on weakness in everyone around here, attempting to always get an upper hand.
But most importantly, Crayla will have new experiences, and those should change her, for better or worse.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

So what's a Behir?

Check out the stats here:  Pathfinder PRD Behir

Friday Night Pathfinder: Goblins

So the party started into the Sword Mountains, leaving Waterdeep behind and following their "new" guide Marlowe and keeping a watchful eye on the map they picked up in the city.  Up into the mountains, Felix, the rogue, spots two goblins and says 'hi'.  They run off.  The group continues on, and with the cavalier out in front on his horse, the rogue is too late in spotting the trap.  A sonic trap goes off all around them.

Then goblins appear... lots of goblins.  72 goblins.  Goblins with crossbows.  Goblin shaman casters.  Goblin dog riders.  Goblin spearmen.  Goblin infantry with swords.  They were crawling out of holes in the ground.  They were appearing on the cliffs and rocks above.

(To simplify tracking of 72 goblins, I had them attack mostly in groups, and I gave them only 1 hp.  If you hit, you kill.  On the board, they were represented by goblin miniatures with a die next to them keeping track of the number left in each group.)

Oh let us count the ways of killing goblins:
  • Corrail used his bow and Arrow eruption to kill groups of 8 in two rounds.
  • Elliot, the cavalier, tramping goblin riders with his horse, and scaring them off a cliff.
  • Don the Magnificent tossing a bead off the necklace of fireballs into a group of them and dominating one of them into getting killed by another.
  • Yuri the winter wolf blasting goblins with his breath weapon.
  • Ally blasting the goblins with fireball and smacking them with a quarterstaff.
  • Felix shooting them with a longbow and stabbing them with blades.
  • Zirul stabbing them with his blade.
It was a massacre of the goblins.  They messed with the wrong party.

Afterwards the group explored nearby estates where Corrail was looking to deliver a message.  The first estate was found burnt to the ground and the occupants killed by some sort of medium creatures.

The second estate was damaged but secured by a woman, to whom Corrail was delivering a letter.  The magical, half-drow woman gave them a new chore -- to go to the Thornhold and drive out a bandit group that had taken it over.  Oh, and they have a Behir.  Oh, and also giants.  
So for next time I need to have the keep and keep maps ready to go.